Sprint's iPhone-killer: Hardly a killer Instinct?

Sprint's iPhone-killer: Hardly a killer Instinct?

One notable trend that emerged from last weeks' CTIA 2008 trade show in Las Vegas and one that has been going on for some time is the iPhone-look-alike contests that vendors are engaging in. It's no wonder when AT&T reports surges in subscriber growth and a number of surveys point to the fact that the iPhone is driving data usage.

Will vendors and their operator partners manage to take a bite out of the Apple iPhone pie?

The latest entrants last week were Sprint and Samsung, which introduced the Samsung Instinct. In June, Sprint is planning a huge marketing push around the device, which looks quite similar to the iPhone in terms of a touch screen and form factor. Sprint spent 9 months working in partnership with Samsung and other experts to get the user interface consistent with the iPhone, said David Owens, director of product commercialization with Sprint.

Sprint believes the Instinct has some primary differentiators over the iPhone: the fact that the device operates over 1xEV-DO Rev. A versus slower EDGE, a cheaper pricing point (close to $200) and features like integrated navigation applications.

Still, despite the improved features from competitors and even lower pricing points, it's awfully difficult to compete against an icon like Apple. The iPhone is doing what the iPod has done during the last five years: It is successfully tying a usability story into a fashion story. That ability gives Apple the power to take the attraction to the iPhone to an entirely different level that other handset vendors have difficulty replicating. 

It appears that vendors and operators will battle it out among themselves over who has the best iPhone look-alike device, but will have difficulty touching the iPhone itself. -Lynnette

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