Saturday, July 12, 2008

It's all about speed

The iPhone 3G launched yesterday (breaking news from me as usual) and everyone is talking about the appstore and how it is not necessary to upgrade if you have the original iPhone since everyone gets access to the appstore. In the short term that may be true, but how often people use native mobile apps is still up for debate. Some of the websites that have optimized their sites for the iPhone (i.e. facebook, google apps, etc) have done a really good job. Of course, there are capabilities you can take advantage of with local apps such as use of the accelorometer, precise location with GPS but there can only be a few friend tracking apps or restaurant review apps that win the battle in the end. Everyone is going to focus their attention on a small percentage of apps that really make their lives better. Maybe I am wrong, but that seems to be how things go nowadays with everyone buying into the hype of a new platform downloading everything available and then a month later focusing on a small subset of what they used initially. I am already slowing down my rate of downloads on the appstore, but maybe I am just too old school!

The biggest feature of the iPhone is going to be 3G. People say it is only important for power users, but in the end the iPhone makes everyone a "power user" in the traditional sense because it makes browsing the web, and accessing online content so easy. Safari on the iPhone has made it easy to access almost all content (except Flash of course), but the biggest problem has been speed. It has been painful trying to get sports scores from espn, or check e-mail over the Edge Network. If 3G is truly 2 - 3 times faster on average than Edge it is going to be a huge win in the long run provided they sort out the battery life issues people are having. 

More importantly, most people discount the importance of speed to end users. If you look at Marissa's Google I/O presentation she talks about different experiments with search that yielded more information than the default 10 results, but took a bit longer to render and in the end users stopped searching as much. End users are impatient and as the infrastructure has gotten better (i.e. broadband, WiMax, etc) their speed expectations have increased. I was talking to some startups recently, and some of them released a buttload of new features over the past month that users were expecting but their traffic ended up dipping. The reason was their latency went up anywhere from 2 - 5x what it was in the past. Speed has always been important, but in an era where competition is intense, and users are just a url away from going to another site it must be one of the main features put into consideration within the design process. 

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