Wild iPhone Speculation
I got a reminder email from Apple today about the iPhone. It was pretty much the same set of features they've been talking about, but one thing stood out that I had not noticed before: they are going to require an iTunes store account for you to "activate your phone."
That really caught my attention, because I hadn't heard anything about how, if at all, Apple was going to change the process of buying and activating mobile service.
Today, you typically go to a phone store, pick out a phone, and then you sit at a desk while a sales rep asks you a bunch of questions, and you pick out what you hope is the right plan from a big mess of choices. Then you wait while they use a special web console or something to activate the SIM card in your phone, and they might even call some other person and do some kind of activation. It's annoying, and it takes 15 minutes if you are lucky. If you aren't lucky, it takes half an hour, and the sales rep screws up your plan, and you end up in horrible limbo explaining to the dumbass phone company why you shouldn't have to pay $3000 for your data plan, because you ordered the unlimited plan for $50 or whatever.
Since Apple is requiring iTunes accounts for phone activation, what are they doing?
Maybe they are going to radically simplify the purchase and activation process. Maybe you'll just buy a phone off the shelf, open iTunes, log in, type some activation code from the iPhone UI, check whatever service level you want and buy it. Then the phone activates a minute later. Maybe your iTunes account is then billed for the monthly charges? Gosh, that sure is one way for Apple to guarantee they get their cut of the subscription revenue!
Then, since your iTunes account is linked to your phone, it's of course super-easy to buy music and videos: and when you do, (one would think) that they could download to your phone as well as your PC at home. I am completely uninterested in phone music services for this reason: why would I buy anything that I can only listen to on my phone? Of course, it opens up other ecommerce items to, which make more sense for the phone than music: celebrity voice mail greetings; games; movie tickets; restaurant gift cards. The iPhone could become a major transaction platform, for anything that you might decide to buy when you are out and about, and waiting is a factor.
update: that's one bonus point for me! (in as much as they are taking some big steps to simplify activation. no points for the billing speculation.)