iPhone's Tech Retreads: Today's Outrage - TheStreet

iPhone's Tech Retreads: Today's Outrage

Apple gathers features from elsewhere and repurposes them on its new iPhone.
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CUPERTINO, Calif. (TheStreet) -- To Apple's (AAPL) - Get Report credit, the iPhone's 720p HD video-recording capability, gyroscope and video conferencing were great innovations -- the first time, when Flip Video, Nintendo and eBay's (EBAY) - Get Report Skype featured them.

Given Apple's impressive display of repurposing during its iPhone 4 introduction, it's a wonder that the dateline above doesn't read "REDMOND, Wash." It's one thing to take an item and improve or simplify it for mass consumption, as

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

did (often to Apple's detriment) for many years, but it's another thing entirely to show off technology put to better use elsewhere and expect the buying public to be impressed.

James Rogers' iPhone 4 Review>>

That seemed to be what Steve Jobs had in mind when he made the video-chat application FaceTime his "one more thing" at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on Monday. He opined that video calls were something he "dreamed about" since growing up watching "The Jetsons," but they're something the rest of us have been living with since we were watching "The Hills." Skype has made Jobs' space-age dream come true since 2006. It has tentative plans to introduce a 3G-based video-conferencing service to mobile platforms later this year, while FaceTime wallows in Wi-Fi- and iPhone-only purgatory for the near future.

"But FaceTime is the only video-chat application on a mobile device, dude!" the fanboys scream from their lawn chairs in front of an

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

store. Yeah, except for Fring and Qik, which already offer voice chat on Android phones and -- despite Qik's recent

3G

troubles -- give competing products like

HTC

and

Sprint Nextel's

(S) - Get Report

EVO a half-year head start.

Not even six months after the

iPad

launch, this is what we're supposed to be bowled over by? Already existing technology and the prospect of Apple becoming the latest company trying to catch up to Nintendo's Wii by adding enhanced motion control?

Sony

(SNE) - Get Report

and Microsoft, which have trailed the Wii in console and software sales and are readying their Playstation Move and Project Natal motion-control devices for release later this year, were forced to drop their prices just to compete with the Wii and Nintendo's portable DS -- something the Pippin-plagued folks at

Apple

should keep in mind.

As for the apps and online offerings, even Apple's cornerstones are starting to seem stale. It's tough to argue with 10 million downloads, but when your boss is touting a

Netflix

(NFLX) - Get Report

app that debuted on other phones first, Zynga's Farmville played by anyone with a Facebook account and

Activision's

(ATVI) - Get Report

Guitar Hero app that basically duplicates a

Viacom

(VIA) - Get Report

Rock Band offering, the quality of these creations should matter more than the quantity.

Meanwhile, questions about a substitute for the defunct LaLa streaming service went unanswered, and speculation surrounding an iTunes that's decreasingly dedicated to music content was set aside.

It's hard to blame Apple for turning its showcase

iPhone

into a

HD Flip Video camera

and chase that

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

product's nearly 25% market share with retina-eluding pixels on its high-resolution stills. Despite the fact that its partners at AT&T seem both unable and -- judging by their recent unlimited access pricing reversal -- unwilling to support any data-based innovation on their wobbly 3G network, Apple needs to feed the fanboys red meat each summer. For nearly a decade, the tech world has turned to Cupertino for the next big thing, to a point where 570 Wi-Fi enabled journalists crashed Jobs' server on Monday just to report and live-blog about a device Gizmodo revealed months before.

Whether it's Jobs' theatrics drawing the media throngs or the bloggers boosting him onstage on an annual basis, only Apple is responsible when the product doesn't live up to its promise. Where the iPod, iPad and first iPhones were game changers, the newest iPhone feels like a prevent defense -- something used when you've got a lead and are playing just hard enough not to lose it.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.