Love or hate Apple, the creation of the iPhone signals a wave of change in mobile handsets for the US. It's important for us as marketers to identify what the major changes are and determine how we need to respond.
Here is my overview of what is different, why you need to know it and what you can do about it right now to make sure you're ready.
Web on phone will be fully functioning. One of the main challenges to any marketer trying to launch content on a mobile platform is the physical constraint that the technology puts on you. No Flash, No DHTML, No XML/XSLT, etc. Basically, you have to think back to what the web was like in 1999 and program for that. Screen widths had to be planned for the lowest common denominator at around 240 pixels (very small) and interactivity is at a minimum.
The iPhone delivers web content as you see it on your laptop. You can see the whole page, zoom in, click through links, listen to audio, see Flash video and do most anything else you can on the laptop. For average marketers, this is great. You won't have to reformat anything and you can be mobile. Smart marketers know that people on a mobile device will still look at content differently and there are tons of opportunities to reach people who are on the go. Advertising should change to be mobile-focused, content on mobile could be shortened or even provide niche content for mobile users. The possibilities are limitless. Opera has a new mobile browser that works similarly to the iPhone for all the rest of us.
Bandwidth. Even though the iPhone isn't available on at&t's 3G network, mobile bandwidth speeds are starting to catch up with land lines. I commonly use my phone as a modem to connect to the web and it's not completely unbearable. With some time you'll start seeing Wimax (wifi over cellular networks) and better speeds using the existing data networks. This shift is allowing the start of the move to multimedia on the mobile web. Look for more video and audio hooks in mobile web content very soon. iPhone also ships with WiFi support so the bandwidth is only limited by the hotspot connection you have.
Integration with digital life. The iPhone is the ultimate hook into the digital life because it allows for direct, quality integration with iTunes. People will stop carrying an iPod and phone and their music and video content will be with them all the time. Subscribing to a podcast can be done from the handset and downloads will be simplified with the iPhone. Once you download a music file it will sync with iTunes and you'll be able to listen on your desktop. Photos have the same integration and the iPhone's built in camera will allow for instant capture and upload wherever there is a connection. The phonerazzi are coming!
More powerful OS. Many of the mobile operating systems to date have been lower end processors built to save batter life, make calls and manage contacts. The iPhone brings a fully functioning operating system to a mobile device. Applications will be built for the device that can be used inside OSX for people with Apple computers.
Hooks into social networks. Many hooks into social networks will bring those networks right to the phone. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc. will all be available within a couple taps of the finger. Integration with YouTube will be the first major network with built-in access. You won't need to go through the browser for this, it'll be a link on the home screen.
Widgets to go. Widgets can be built on top of the OS just like Apple's Dashboard product. This means that you can deliver your content through a widget while the person is away from their computer. How would you change your content if you knew the person was mobile? [Hint, you should.]
Web2.0 ready. The iPhone and Safari browser will support Web2.0 standards and will allow for a more seamless experience. Look for Google's Web2.0-rich product line to have direct connections in the future to make the experience seamless (calendar, mail, reader, docs, spreadsheets and other productivity tools).
Motion sensors. What could you do with a device that detects when it is a) vertical or horizontal and b) when it is close to something? I've seen some pretty cool things built on laptops with this sensor technology. I'm sure the iSaber will be out of the box VERY quickly.
The iPhone brings us closer to the point where there is a full, powerful computer in the palm of our hands. You can expect MANY more phones to go down this path. Everything from the power/integration with media to the touch sensor to the look and feel will be copied. Other phones are already well down this path (look at the Nokia N95 or most recent Blackberry products).
The possibilities with mobile are endless as more and more of these high power devices are going to come out at more affordable price points. Once the price shift happens, the transition from mobile being the third screen to the second screen may legitimately occur. Marketers everywhere need to be ready for this.
UPDATE: The first line has already begun to form at the Apple flagship store in NYC. That's crazy!
UPDATE: Apple has a great intro video available on their site which I forgot to include when I posted this. Here is the YouTube copy.