Traditionally, when you went to purchase a cell phone you had a few features to compare but it all boiled down to the price of the phone, price of the service and ultimately network coverage.
This method of evaluating a purchase -- looking at the actual costs -- has been greatly complicated by the introduction of the iPhone and has made it much harder for consumers to choose anything other than the iPhone; even at the expense of the ability to make a phone call.
Since its debut the iPhone has been one of the most popular phones to hit the market with 16.4 million sold in the first three quarters of 2009 alone and a 17% market share. This popularity has led to the creation of an increasingly popular app store and a thriving secondary market to fix the phone's shortcomings and provide users with more cases and accessories than all other phones combined.
All of these factors add up to an incredible additional cost for consumers who choose a different device. Even the users of Android Operating System and Google's Nexus One have large costs to choosing a phone which has more than one button and is missing an Apple logo.
Take for example, a user who purchases a Motorola Droid on Verizon's network. This individual may have purchased the Motorola Droid for Verizon's coverage, the replaceable battery, open source software or one of many other reasons which some would argue create a better device at a lower price, but in doing so the costs are much greater.
He's immediately lost access to millions of aftermarket accessories, approximately 100,000 apps and the use of iTunes to purchase music, movies and TV shows.
Some of the costs, like lost access to accessories, are theoretical. But not being able to purchase TV shows through iTunes means that users of other phones will need to spend time converting TV shows they record on their own or illegally download them, which is time consuming and can be incredibly costly if caught.
Users are fortunate that the music marketplace has evolved to the point that users of any device can purchase songs for a similar price but this same access and competition on pricing and availability hasn't reached the same level for movies and TV shows.
There's nothing wrong with creating an insanely popular product like the iPhone, whose popularity is enhanced by the secondary market that exists to fix its faults and enhance its use.
But the untouchable nature of the iPhone may prove detrimental to the market. In the long term if no real competitor emerges not only will the iPhone become the only real choice, but the costs to choosing another device will increase and Apple will have less incentive to innovate and create amazing products.
Now more than ever we truly need a phone or device to usurp the iPhone, or at least give it some damned good competition. Without a real competitor consumers will continue to face high costs for choosing anything other than the iPhone and that's a marketplace where everyone, iPhone fans included, lose.
Why the iPhone needs competition