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Is iPhone WiFi preferable for cord cutters?

January 18, 2007

Does iPhone have a place as the second Web screen for cord cutters?

Alan A. Reiter of Camera Phone Report and Thomas Landspurg of TomSoft both left thoughtful comments on my “WiFi is more important than HSDPA for early iPhone success” blog post from last week.

Tom wrote:

My main point would be that the two places where you’re most likely to have WiFi coverage (the home and the office) are the two places you’re most likely to use a laptop or workstation for data access.

and Alan noted:

The two places you note where WiFi is free — home and office — are the two places you are least likely to use your cellular phone. This is especially true in the U.S. where cellular is much more of a secondary device rather than in many other countries where it’s often a person’s primary phone.

I understand their points, and I am sure for a lot of people they are correct. I do currently use a laptop for most wireless data access at home/work, but I foresee a more even split between computer and mobile device as the iPhone, or similar innovative WiFi-mobiles, come to market. Perhaps this is a difference in use cases, but for me I still see a big opportunity for a WiFi enabled iPhone at home and work.

Part of the reason that I noted those two free WiFi hotspots is that for me, my cell phone is my primary phone. In fact, it’s my only phone, for both work and personal use. So perhaps that magnifies its importance for me in the place where I spend the most time, home and office (ok, my office is a home office since I telecommute, but still). As a “cord cutter”, I break the mold of Alan’s “secondary device” mobile phone use case.

The other reason I noted WiFi support in iPhone is that I believe this device may shift the WiFi usage profile of its owners. I would love to use a device such as the Nokia N800 when I don’t feel like dragging out my laptop (reading news feeds on the couch in the evening, for instance), but I simply am not interested in a non-cellular capable Internet tablet. I have all the nationwide free long distance bucket minutes I could ever need on my cell, and good signal strength to boot, so why bother with VOIP for calling? Here I violate Tom’s “computer for wireless data at home/work” use case.

To me, this says there’s a third use case, one describing customers interested in maximizing their Internet capabilities with a second always available channel that supplements those times when they haul out the “big iron” PC or Mac. If it keeps its promises, iPhone’s 3.5 inch screen and Web browsing interface could solve my small, instant on, mobile Internet access device needs while maintaining my Nano‘s music chops and my phone’s call capabilities. Nerdvana.

It will be interesting to see just how many of us third use case cord cutting gadgeteers there are out there come June.

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