Apple should design mobile phones, Macworld Online readers say, but the company cannot afford to avoid the mobile market, readers warn.

In a recent poll, Macworld Online asked: “How far should Apple go in the mobile phone market?”

With Apple’s iTunes and iPod leading the digital music industry many believe the company needs to establish a foothold in the mobile market.

One voter wrote: “Apple certainly need to have some involvement in the mobile phone market as that's where the 'iPod killer' is most likely to come from”.

The poll attracted 1,870 votes, the largest group of votes (37 per cent, 693 votes) urged Apple to “Design mobile phones”, while 536 voters (29 per cent) want Apple to put iTunes on Motorola and other phones.

Apple and Motorola are now expected to launch their co-developed iTunes- capable phone in the UK at next month’s V Festival.

’V for victory?’

The phone’s debut has apparently been delayed on several occassions, with many reports suggesting the partners have faced difficulties signing-up networks to support the handset.

Because the iTunes phone takes its music from the computer rather than downloading tunes using the mobile network, carriers see no profit in providing the device.

Instead, carriers are launching their own music download services that support their mobiles. These services are expensive (£1.50+ per track), and the user experience can suffer when in an area with patchy network access.

The situation has led some analysts to suggest that Apple will have to launch its own mobile phone network in order to bring its technologies to the mobile space. But is this a good idea?

Mobile money market
A voter wrote: “At the moment, the stumbling block appears to the the network operators and their financial interests. Apple might be very tempted to launch a network of it's own, piggy-backing on one of the existing ones and re-thinking how we use our mobiles.”

Just 351 voters (19 per cent) agreed, choosing to the poll option recommending Apple to “create a mobile network.

Meanwhile, 79 voters (4 per cent) recommend Apple pursue an exclusive relationship with Motorola (“Just put iTunes on Motorola phones”). Finally, 11 per cent (211) of voters don’t think Apple should get involved in the mobile market.

Apple’s design excellence

One reader warned: “I struggle to see how Apple could compete with its own phone. Industry reports expect mobile phone sales to reach one billion this year, but warn of a lot of vendors going to the wall. Analysts say any vendor making less than ten million units a year will struggle to hit the market price.”

Another reader countered by pointing out Apple’s potential market advantages: “Apple's legendary industrial design would be perfect for the mobile phone market. An iPod-branded mobile phone would be a very attractive proposition, especially if they get all the associated PDA features nicely sorted and make it a functional business tool as well as an entertainment device.”

Anndra wryly observed: “I must admit, when I am asked ‘Should Apple design mobile phones?’, the question I actually hear is ‘Do you want a mobile phone that works properly?’

Anndra then referred back to 2004 when Apple’s head of industrial design, Jonathan Ive, delivered a speech at the Design Museum: “I saw the frustration on Jonathon Ives' face when somebody asked him about mobile phones during his presentation at the Design Museum. I'd love to see all that frustration and creativity let loose.”

The Mac mobile?

Blogger Wayne Smallman dropped in to the debate: “Apple has a fantastic amount of value to add and an enormous volume of product design experience to bring to the mobile phone market,” he observed.

Smallman looked ahead to the opportunities inherent in applying Apple’s technology excellence to the mobile market: “.Mac, iSync built into the Mac, Safari bookmarks, Address Book, music from iTunes, your photographs from iPhoto and GarageBand letting you create your own ring tones and some spare storage to lug around a few iWork files to & from work.”