A note of interest to committed readers to All About iPhone: I didn’t actually own a Mac until about four months ago. Not that owning a Mac is a prerequisite to owning an iPhone, but the two do go rather well together.
The thing I wanted to talk about here though was my enormous appreciation of Apple’s hardware. Until one owns a Mac or Macbook or iMac or iPhone, you can’t really understand the apparent fanaticism of Apple fans. Yet, once bought – at roughly twice the price of the equivalent spec PC (in the Mac’s case), the difference is obvious. It was like scales falling from my eyes when I handled my first (loaner) Macbook last spring. And then bought my own Mac Mini. And iPod Touch. Apple’s hardware is (more or less) uniformly excellent. With a capital ‘E’.
Not that their software is shoddy. Oh no, Mac OS X is quite an achievement. As is iPhone OS ( a cut down OS X) in its own quirky little way. But, during compilation of my last Phones Show, it became apparent that, in my eyes at least, there’s something of a disconnect between the flagship excellence of Apple’s hardware and the flagship-wannabe patchiness of their software. But before branding me as a ‘heretic’, read on…
You see, I had two spots planned for The Phones Show 74. One was my six-monthly ‘Top 5 phones in the world’ feature. The iPhone has been in the top 5 since I started the feature. So, obviously, I rate it very highly (although not number 1 ever, it seems – shock, horror!).
Yet my other spot was ’10 things I hate about’ and it was the iPhone’s turn to be vented at. And, surprisingly, I found it really, really easy to find my ten things. In fact, I had to cut down the list from about 15 to fit the narrative. Here’s an edited-down version of my on-video list, for your interest (watch the show to see the more animated, verbose version!):
- No multitasking. Having most apps close down every single time you want to do something else makes for a slow and cumbersome experience overall
- Basic, non-focussing, non-flash camera
- No video recording in the camera. Did I mention the camera was basic?
- No Flash content is shown in the browser
- Poor battery life, and you can’t swap in another battery
- No Copy and paste. I had copy and paste on my Psion and Palm PDAs in the mid 1990s, for goodness sake
- Email doesn’t seem to be proper IMAP. When forwarding an email with an attachment, the iPhone downloads it. And then sends it out again
- No multimedia messages. And you can’t email photos at original size either, everything is automatically and silently resampled down to VGA
- You can’t forward text messages
- There’s no file system. So no local Office applications. No saving of attachments. No downloading files. Etc.
The interesting thing though is that, bar the camera specs (arguably just number 2 above) and possibly the battery life, almost all the above gripes can be fixed in software. So, although I hear all the iPhone fans around the world chanting about great the iPhone is and although I agree with almost all their reasons, it doesn’t mean that I’m blind to the bits that are Missing In Action.
When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone and famously referred to it as ‘5 years ahead of any other phone’, what he actually meant was ‘5 years ahead of any other phone when we’ve finished writing all the bits you’ll need, but it might take a while….’ The danger is that the iPhone’s arguably substantial lead over the competition in terms of interface and simplicity and App Store is being gradually eroded as time goes by (multi-touch, capacitive screens, redesigned UIs, software markets, and so on)…
So yes, the iPhone’s hardware, like all things Apple, is designed and built to a high standard. And of course we all love the iPhone’s software. As far as it goes. It just doesn’t go far enough yet. I can see the enormous potential of what Apple has created and yet I find myself frustrated. I shouldn’t have been able to find so many thing that I ‘hated’ about it so easily. Not at this stage, motoring into 2009.
iPhone software. Love it. Hate it. [mmmmmmpphhhhh]
PS. In case you think I’m picking on Apple, bear in mind that I regularly take all the other manufacturers and their phones to task in The Phones Show. I almost invented a new spot, ‘100 things I hate about…’ for some of the recent Windows Mobile-based offerings!