September 20th, 2007
This past week, Apple announced it will partner with mobile carrier O2 for its UK iPhone release.
The day of the announcement, users using the popular Mac browser, Camino, received the following message when visiting O2′s iPhone promotion page:
Error message in Camino Browser when visiting O2′s iPhone Page
Your browser version is out of date. Would you like to upgrade it now for a better user experience? (Highly Recommended)
This message showed up in every version of Camino, including the latest version. When users clicked OK, the site automatically brought them to the download page for a different browser, Netscape 9.
For those users visiting the site using Safari, the browser supplied by Apple on OS X (and on the iPhone), the page failed to render correctly, leaving critical navigation unreadable.
O2′s iPhone Page, seen from a Safari Browser
There are a couple of interesting points that arise from this.
First, this certainly argues the importance of using standards-based implementations on your pages. Gone are the days where we can count on 100% of the users using the same browser.
A product like the iPhone will naturally attract folks who are active Apple product users. On Apple’s OS X, Firefox, Safari, Camino, Flock, and Opera are all popular browsers. In Windows, the various versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox dominate, but others like Flock and Opera have found their niche audience.
If your pages don’t render in all these different browsers, you’re going to substantially reduce the quality of the user’s experience, potentially turning them off of your site, your products, and your brand.
Second, this brings up an interesting question about how much control Apple can have over the experience of their product when they have major partners like O2 and ATT. Apple’s success has always come from carefully crafting the experience customers have, from the marketing materials, to the packaging, to the customer support of the product.
Yet, in the mobile phone world, Apple can’t work alone. They have to work with established businesses — major players in the space with established business practices.
Apple initially approached Verizon for their US carrier, but Verizon declined the opportunity because they didn’t feel they could meet Apple’s demands on service. Apple settled with with ATT, but the seams in the relationship are very apparent. (One doesn’t have to look much farther than the 100-page bills ATT delivers, showing every data file transferred with a $0.00 charge.)
It’s hard enough to create a successful user experience when you can control every aspect of the customer interaction . Can Apple (or anyone else for that matter) create truly amazing experiences when they need to work through partners? That is yet to be seen.Tweet