Yesterday Steve Jobs showed off Apple’s long-rumored mobile phone. The iPhone combines cell calling with a widescreen video iPod and WiFi-driven Internet communicator. It will change many games.
It will certainly improve the growth of mobile marketing. Apple truly understands how to provide pleasing user experiences, so I suspect that the iPhone’s broad, 3.5 inch color screen will make viewing video and web-based email not only easier, but fun. And the ability to browse your voice mails the same way you do emails will certainly add to the calling experience. Other cell phones would have to struggle to catch up if this interface resonates with users.
But another game-changer will be in movies on demand. David Denby wrote in this week’s New Yorker about how the tiny screen is changing the big screen. Hollywood is scrambling to adjust to a new type of movie viewer, one who is “platform agnostic,” and really doesn’t care if a film is projected in a theater, played from a DVD or downloaded in some form. This person is still in the minority, however. Denby explained that the tiny hand-held video players are fine for movies about talking heads, but the blockbuster, action/adventure films look sad and flimsy. They also strain the arm of the user, as you work to support a tiny player in your hand. Or you have to loom close to it as it rests on something, placing your body into some rather uncomfortable contortions.
The iPhone won’t change this film-viewing limitation, or reduce the crick in your neck. But it will add a new reward to the early adopter — a cool, hand-held analogy to the ever-growing home theater flat screen TVs. It will be perceived as the biggest little screen in town, and will make hand-held screen size an important bragging point.
Denby ends his analysis by speculating that dreary, uncomfortable multi-plexes will have to respond to this tiny threat in a way that can benefit every type of movie-goer. They may have to reinvent themselves, offering amenities and settings that once again make watching a movie in a theater a pleasure . If this comes to pass, no small part of the reason for these innovations will be from the iPhone and its nascent imitators. Many theaters, according to Denby, will even have ushers, to personally remind audiences to turn off their game-changers before the lights dim and the feature begins.