The least impressive thing about the iPhone is that it’s a phone

[Photo: At the Macworld expo, the throng of pilgrims paid homage to the iPhone. Detail from photo, below]

Just spent three hours wandering around the Macworld Expo floor. Here’s a quote I over-heard from more than one person at the massive Apple display area. “I wish they’d just sell a version without the phone.” Me too. It is a beautiful little piece of composite material running OS X with wifi and a touch screen with cute two finger dragging commands. It’s totally envy-drool stuff. It has all sorts of patented (“more than 200 patents,” said Jobs, what seemed more than 200 times) technologies that allow it to do things like go from vertical to horizontal display when you turn it sideways (something that is hard to explain but brings a smile to you when you see it). It also is a $500 Mac that will depend on a “cloud” model of data storage. The idea is that you store all of your data on the web — Google and Yahoo! were both on stage and will, certainly, both have their versions of such solutions. Think of a version of Flickr/iPhoto integrated into it, for example.

That it’s a cell-phone, so what? Yes, I’ll probably be an early adopter, but I doubt I’ll use the Cingular service. (Perhaps this is merely my bias against all things phone-like coming through. Perhaps it’s just because I think talking on the phone is enough for a cell-phone to do.) Indeed, I think the Cingular’s CEO presentation today served as a great metaphor for how odd the juxtaposition of “cell phone” and “Apple product” is. He presented boiler-plate “great partners” cliches from note cards, for god sakes. It’s worth tracking down to view it as a parody: “Hello, I’m an Apple CEO.” “Hello, I’m a Telco CEO.”

What’s more: Why should I have to be a Cingular customer to use iPhone’s phone? Not that I’m a fan of any cell-phone service, but I have a longterm, businesswide relationship with Sprint that I’m not going to unravel no matter how cool the iPhone is. I have several people interwoven with the Sprint relationship and it would be crazy to blow that up. Anyway, why should Apple have an exclusive deal with only one cell-phone provider? It would be like them offering TV show downloads on iTunes from only one network or music downloads for only one record label. Great for a novelty, but longterm success comes from having the most options possible. If they want to start out with Cingular for technical reasons, fine. But the deal that was announced today sounded like an exclusive, longterm relationship. That’s crazy. The more I think about it, the more I think I won’t be purchasing an iPhone until there’s no phone on it and it’s called iPod II or something.