Will Gen Y Love The iPhone?

Apple has excited its base once more with the long-awaited announcement of the new iPhone/iPod that will be available in June. The online edition of The Wall Street Journal did a "hot or not" poll Monday wondering if iPhone will be another iPod or a Newton, Apple's pioneering PDA that failed. The results were overwhelming on the positive side. David Pogue's initial reaction in The New York Times was glowing.

Of course, I have come to trust the instincts of the next generation on all things music and media -- and that includes whether it comes to judging traditional media or cell phones. Some people seem to have a problem with this, but I don't. I got my rude awakening when I joined the faculty at USC and witnessed first hand how this generation feels about its media. They are a hot barometer of future success.

I got an email from one of my former students after Apple CEO Steven Jobs made his San Francisco presentation and he said, "we called it" and call it his music industry class did back in 2005. About fifty percent of the class then said they wanted a dual device that could be a phone and an iPod. They even mocked one up as a class.

I took a follow-up poll today among 50 students and the sentiment is the same. Half of this generation seems to want an all-purpose music/phone device and the other half wants to keep it separate. Apple knows this. That's why iPhone fits nicely into the iPod family. Nothing is clunky. It's not a Motorola phone with tunes packed in -- it's an iPod phone.

And, Jobs is pricing it like an iPod. This phone won't cannibalize the iPod. It will co-exist with it. For $499 or $599 depending on storage capacity a consumer will dig a little deeper into their pockets for a lot more.

But, there are concerns.

One of them is Cingular. Cingular is not Verizon and some of my students did not like the fact that Apple did an exclusive deal with one carrier. They had expected better from Apple. And this could be a bit of a problem as some who are inclined to want an iPhone are disinclined to want to switch to Cingular. We'll see.

Battery life is a concern. Can a heavy user -- a heavy user of an iPod -- also be a heavy user of an iPhone and have enough juice left to exercise that killer app called making phone calls? The word will get out after the early adapters line up for their iPhone this summer, but it's still a concern. Five hours of mixed use sounds like a lot compared to current options.

Some were concerned about Apple's reputation for -- how should I say this -- questionable quality. Many have had problems with Apple products -- the screens, the batteries, even the computers. But others expressed confidence in their Apple products sayings they have never failed them.

There is also an apparent resignation to the planned obsolescence of Apple products and for that matter mobile phones. They aren't built to last. They are built to be replaced by something cooler with more features. These representatives of Gen Y don't necessarily like it, but they understand how the game is played.

Making the Apple operating system available on the iPhone is a clear winner with Mac users. Another stroke of genius. The design and operation is pure Apple and Steven Jobs continues to play to his base when he unveils new products. An Apple is expected to be hip, sleek and intuitive and they are.

So unlike Microsoft's recent debut of the Zune music player, Apple's soon to be released iPhone has taken the market by storm. It's everything and more to its target market -- not less than expected.

But this is only one small step.

Gen Y'ers concerned with too little storage capacity probably will see larger models by next Christmas and they won't be cheap. As some of my students point out, each subsequent edition of the iPod got better and they expect the same to happen with the iPhone.

From where I sit, Apple has a winner with the next generation.

By the way, some of my radio friends were disappointed that the Apple iPhone does not contain a radio feature. How could it? Steve Jobs only deals with what's hip and radio is not hip right now. He didn't fail his audience even if radio is failing its audience.