Webreakstuff blog

iPhone, on the thin line between love and hate

Like many others, I did a post about the iPhone after the Macworld Keynote. Why? Because I was excited about the possibilities a device like the iPhone could bring, particularly when coming from a company I share so many values with, Apple. After reading through everything that’s been said and written, however, I’m not as excited as I was, the reasons being outlined below.

Provider lock-down

If you want to buy an iPhone in the US, you’ll have to deal with Cingular. I’m not saying their service is good or bad, as I have no experience with it, but this forced contract doesn’t appeal to me as a consumer. I want to have the best combination of device and operator, not the combination forced upon me by one of these parties.

There’s also no word from Apple on how the device is going to market in Europe or Asia. We’ll have to wait, but I’m assuming we’ll see similar contract lock-downs to providers, or a dramatic price increase.

iPhone

Feature lock-down

One of the first things Jobs mentioned in the Keynote was that the iPhone runs OSX – I find that to be a gross exaggeration and clearly one for the eyes and ears of the press (it did get the crowd to cheer). The iPhone runs its own platform (sure, they can call it OSX as well), bearing little resemblance with Apple’s operating system.

The iPhone is a walled garden. It has what seem to be great applications and services, but Jobs himself said no third party would be allowed to develop for the phone in an interview with the NYT:

“We define everything that is on the phone,” he said. “You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore. These are more like iPods than they are like computers.”

Google Maps on iPhone

This is a grave oversight. Jobs announced the product as a revolution but fails in not realizing that the real value of the product is as a platform to build upon. Steve, we don’t want it to be like a PC, but we do want it to be like an Apple computer.

Ironically, Nokia seems to be going in the opposite direction – that being a good thing -, with their N700 (and now N800) mobile devices which anyone can develop apps for as they’ve made all the necessary tools available, free of charge.

The bottom line on this point is that without openness in the iPhone platform, it will just be another good looking device. You can just imagine the possibilities if your favorite developers could create applications for your new phone.

In conclusion

I must start by saying it’s still a remarkable device. It innovates in several aspects, and for those who need a phone that “looks good, works well”, you’ve got it. For those of us who were looking for a device we could work on and develop for to become an extension of our businesses, well… We’ll just have to keep on looking.

All this post, written on an iMac, wrapped up in a Macbook Pro, playing music from an iPod. I’m clearly a fan – but Apple doesn’t seem to listen to fans that often.

Photos by Niall Kennedy, released under a CC non-commercial license.

Related reading

Dave Winer has a very good post on this very same issue, as does Mathew Ingram.

9 comments
  1. Christoph says: January 14, 20074:39 pm

    I was really excited when I heard about the iPhone and I have to say that I still feel the same way, but more because I was looking forward to an iPod with a touch sensitive display.
    However, I can understand Apple’s point by saying that they don’t want their device to malfunction. But of course, as a developer, I wanna use my own apps on my mobile device (currently doing a project at college where we control the air condition and window shades via Bluetooth.
    Maybe they’ll change their opinion or they will at least allow some sort of certification for 3rd party software.

  2. Noah Winecoff says: January 14, 20077:58 pm

    I could understand having strict guidelines for software developed for the iPhone or maybe even give 3rd party apps a secure/limited access API so it couldn’t muck up much of anything, but still provide extra functionality. Locking developers out completely is not a decision I am happy about. I hope its not going to be that way.

  3. Thomas Aylott says: January 14, 20078:12 pm

    Apple is not dumb.
    I’m sure they realize the potential for 3rd parties to develop on this platform.

    There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the iPhone will be a platform and will run 3rd party software. The thing that I don’t know is when and how that will happen.

    Let’s wait until the phone is actually released, and after Leopard is actually released, and the next WWDC (which just happens to be around the same time as the phone will be released) and see what happens.

    I’m sure they have their game plan all set for this device.

    My guess is that we’ll get an SDK for developing iPhone widgets at first. Then they’ll strike a deal with some larger developers to release their software through iTunes.

    Just look at what they did with record labels. They signed up the big guys first, forcing them to conform to their rules. Then they went after the indy labels.

    Worst case scenario, iPhone will run lovely webapps.

  4. Scarlet Squirrel says: January 14, 20079:49 pm

    I just wish so many people would stop critizing Apple for a first generation product. And the very people doing all the critizing act like they don’t have the brains to figure out and realize that this is only the beginning of the product and not the end. Every current shortcoming of the phone can easily be addressed in future models which I’m sure Apple will release as time goes on and as Apple see’s fit – including bringing to market cheaper and more affordable models, adding 3G capability, allowing compatibility with carriers other than Cingular, expanded memory, the list goes on. I have no doubt Apple will follow the exact same business model as they did with the iPod, targeting only high-end users first, but as popularity grows and as economy-of-scale increases, leveraging this increase to bring to market lower-priced models having more features until you completely blanket the entire market from the low end to the high-end. This approach shuts out all your competitors and provides them no place to form a beachhead. You can be sure Apple will follow this same approach with the iPhone. I have no doubt that in only a few short years from now Apple will be selling ridiculously cheap iPhones, models having iPhone’s world-class user interface, but providing only basic calling capabilities and basic music playing capabilities and little else but targeted specifically at school kids and teens and priced at something like $149. Having one-touch capability to call home and special parental features like GPS tracking built in, maybe even having a companion product which comes with the iPhone unit which the parent can keep at home and offering only a single touch to see where your child is at any given moment, etc. The possibilities are virtually unlimited. Apple will sell hundreds of millions of these units in short order. And by the time Apple’s competitors even realize what is going on, Apple will have come to dominate and rule yet another market – once again. This is indeed history in the making.

    I keep hearing analysts saying that only the high-end phone makers need to be concerned right now. Wrong. Every phone maker from the high-end to the low-end of the market should be quaking in their boots because Apple is certainly coming and you can count on it, it’s only just a matter of time.

    So please stop critizing Apple for whatever shortcomings the iPhone may currently have. This is only a first generation product and not the end of it, and you can be sure every concern will get addressed as time goes on. You can indeed count on it.

  5. R Boylin says: January 14, 200711:27 pm

    From my readings it is definitely OS X. It’s not the PC version of course. Apple ennumerated many of the present OS X technologies as operational on the iPhone. Apple is not bound, as licensees are, to the “open” Darwin kernal contract terms. They will vet any 3rd party application and likely make it available from iTunes online. But that’s all in the future.

    As to this being a “platform”, of course Apple realized this from the start. It’s starting life as a phone because that market is 5 times larger than any other digital device and a key market for exposure to the Apple “experience”. By Chrismas ’09 you will have other choices in models and service contractors IMHO.

  6. ninthspace » The Mac OS X effect says: January 15, 200712:15 pm

    [...] Let’s get this Windows Mobile, Symbian, Palm, RIM Blackberry comparison out of the way. The iPhone runs Mac OS X. That’s not a cut down version of Mac OS X. It’s the full thing, minus the usually bundled applications that you wouldn’t need to run on the iPhone. It has been heavily optimised and sits in less than 0.5GBytes of flash memory. There’s concern that Apple won’t allow third party applications to run on the iPhone because of the possible disruption to the experience and the reliability of the device and of the Cingular network. The whole adoption of Mac OS X is a fundamental reason for this. [...]

  7. [...] Webreakstuff » iPhone, on the thin line between love and hate במחשבה שנייה, אולי האקסטזה הייתה טיפ טיפה מוגזמת (tags: iphone) [...]

  8. [...] Love/Hate the iPhone [...]

  9. Kredyt Mieszkaniowy says: February 1, 200812:29 pm

    Great BLOG. Love that Phone!

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