iPhone and the Lessons of the Freelancer

During my days on the west coast, I was playing with a percussion ensemble under the direction of a guy named Artie Storch. Artie was a stereotypical New Yorker and he stuck out like a sore thumb. His brand of no-nonsense diplomacy (or lack thereof) was a massive switch from the social norms of the Bay Area.

One thing he had done exceptionally well was to cobble together a very successful career as a freelance musician. While extolling the nuances of such a career choice he brought up a very apt piece of advice for any industry: if someone contacts you for a job that is even slightly outside of your comfort zone and you have doubts about your ability to do the job well, you are professionally obligated excuse yourself or offer a reference to someone who can.

Here we are many years later, and the world’s abuzz over the iPhone 3G. I have several friends that are waving theirs in my face every chance they get. I admit they are pretty impressive – it seems the age of “wearable” computers is really here. Every time I call my friends with one of these phones I seem to get dropped, or have trouble hearing them. Perhaps it’s a symptom in my local market, but at that price point I have to say I’d be furious. I would easily pay triple the cost of the iPhone for any phone that made phone calls and didn’t drop them, without exception. That’s what I want from a phone right now.

It doesn’t really matter if this questionable performance is the fault of Apple or AT&T. The point is people are very excited about this product and the reality is falling short of expectation in a core area of functionality. I am a loyal Apple customer, and I use a fair amount of AT&T products but I am not rushing out to buy one just yet. The day we hear all those annoying performance issues are solved, I’ll be the first one beating down the door of Apple’s online store.

I think the lessons of the ethical freelancer apply here too. Should Apple or AT&T “excused themselves” from the task? Apple is really the only technology company able to come close to realizing the goal, and I can’t imagine AT&T saying “we think you should call these other people.” No, I think this version is so close that we’re just about there. But being so close makes it all the more frustrating. Don’t offer any more enhanced marketing functionality until you get the phone part right.