SYDNEY—Whether you think it's the ultimate geek gadget or the most over-hyped device in history, the iPhone is certain to shake up the Australian mobile market.
In January 2007, the Apple iPhone was unveiled at the Mac World Expo in San Francisco, and released for sale five months later.
By the end of the year, it was available in Germany, France and the United Kingdom, making its way into the hands of more than six million consumers.
From a sales perspective, the iPhone has been a huge success, particularly for a company that was more accustomed to making computers and portable music players.
Around the world, iPhone envy resulted in thousands purchasing `unlocked' iPhones to use in their home country. Estimates suggest there are several thousand iPhones in Australia, and as many as 200,000 operating in China.
Robin Simpson, telecommunications market analyst at Gartner Australia, believes the iPhone's success is due to its user interface (UI), something other manufacturers have been reluctant to tinker with.
"Apple had a unique opportunity because it didn't have a legacy UI to support, unlike other mobile phone manufacturers," Mr Simpson said.
"They didn't have to worry about any previous UI that their loyal users would want to see continue."
Mobile phone manufacturers, such as Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Samsung have long-established UI, which many users appear to have become accustomed to.
But Mr Simpson argues that the loyalty shown by users has more to do with fear of the unknown, rather than a show of support.
"People are loyal to mobile phone user interfaces because they are so terrible," he said.
"It takes you a while to learn it, and once you've learnt it you don't want to change, so you stay with the same phone company."
The success of the iPhone is not just restricted to Apple. For mobile phone carriers it has the potential to boost revenue through increased data usage.
"There have been reports from T-mobile and O2 in Europe, and more recently AT&T (in the United States), that anyone who has an iPhone uses an order of magnitude more data than any other phone in their portfolio," Mr Simpson said.
"(For carriers) that proves it's a desirable device to have."
However, the current version of the iPhone uses enhanced GSM, known as EDGE or 2.5G, to download data over the mobile phone network.
Most Australian mobile phone users are connected to the faster 3G network.
Therefore, potential users and mobile carriers will be hoping that the Australian version of the iPhone will be 3G-enabled.
Analysts believe that Apple CEO Steve Jobs will unveil a 3G version at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference during his keynote address on June 9 in San Francisco.
While Apple remains tight-lipped on the issue, Mr Simpson believes anything less would be a "PR disaster".
"I really don't believe that Vodafone would have signed up 10 countries, neither would have Singtel if it wasn't going to be 3G.
"There is too much riding on it for this from a PR point of view for them not to do it."
What is certain, is that Apple will release a new version of the iPhone's firmware, which is expected to make it a viable alternative to Windows Mobile, Palm and Blackberry powered phones.
"The version two firmware that is coming out in June finally gives enterprise IT the kind of control they want from the phone, making it a safer thing to hook up to their network," Mr Simpson said.
"That and 3G will make it a highly desirable device for enterprise."
The iPhone's impact is also expected to go beyond the mobile phone market.
The success of Apple's portable music player, the iPod, made the company's online music store, iTunes, the world's largest and helped boost sales of its Macintosh computer range.
"(Analysts) talk about the `halo' effect," Mr Simpson said.
"People get exposed to the iTunes user interface on the PC and think that's not bad. "They realise Apple make a nice user interface and so they begin to explore. IPhone will only help to extend that."
Other companies will also benefit as they market add-ons such as protective covers, headphones and docking stations for the iPhone.
"There will be a whole range of devices and a whole ecosystem that will grow around the iPhone," Mr Simpson said.
He also believes more software developers will head towards Apple.
"I think we're going to see a slew of software applications," he said.
"The development platform for the iPhone is the same as that of Macintosh. It's another example of the ecosystem Apple has created."
Mobile phone retailers are also excited by the iPhone.
"There has been a lot of buzz about the iPhone," Allphones product general manager Ron Bhamgara said.
He believes the iPhone will sell well in Australia and could impact upon the sale of other mobile manufacturers.
"There will be a certain amount of impact," Mr Bhamgara said.
"It's a new product so you would expect to be some market reaction to that."
With more than 21 million mobile phones in the country - one for every Australian - Apple will be relying on consumers to replace their current handsets.
"In Australia, we're pretty much on a two-year replacement cycle, so there's a reasonable amount of phones turned over each year," Mr Simpson said.
"Anything in the order of hundreds of thousands (of iPhones sold) would have to be a big success."
For the moment, Australians know that the iPhone is coming and it will be offered by Vodafone and Optus.
Telstra has remained quiet on the issue, but it's just a matter of time before the telco also joins in on the party. And despite repeated calls to Apple Australia, the computer company "declines to comment".
So, it just remains to be seen exactly when, what and how much it will cost.