When Pigs Fly! (Day 7)

SteveJobs_KoolAid My view of Apple has long been one of the “Kool-Aid Factor”, with Steve Jobs selling you something that you neither needed nor necessarily wanted.  I’m convinced that Mr. Jobs would gladly saw off your leg and sell it back to you – at a profit to himself, naturally.  Some of that stems from my long-held anti-Apple bias, but also from what I’ve seen from him over the years – namely, not a whole lot other than a slave-driver mentality and a “be the best no matter what the cost” work ethic.  Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs is probably both neurotic and slightly genius, though he’s done wonders for Apple Computers.  No doubt about it.

Anyhow, enough of that.

So, it was just over a week ago that, after much sweat + toil + tears, I switched to an iPhone and blogged about the experience.  After a few more days, I blogged again.  It’s blog-a-mania!  Part of me wishes that I would’ve had nothing but hassles and problems with the iPhone.  (That’s the anti-Apple part of me, if you hadn’t figured it out.)  The other part of me just wanted to have a phone that I could be happy with, and the iPhone seems to have satisfied that, for the most part.  Honestly.  I don’t have a lot to complain about, and the complaints that I do have are pretty nitpicky.

IT’S ALL RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS

unicorn-rainbowThat heading is a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course, but my experience with the iPhone over this past week as been overwhelmingly positive.  It turns on when I want it to, checks my email, browses the web, takes pictures, connects to wifi, makes calls, ends calls, uses my Bluetooth headset (without hassle), and so forth. 

As well as those other things, it turns out that I’m “messing with my phone” less than I used to, and I mean that in a good way.  With my Android phone(s), for instance, I felt like I was constantly fiddling with things – settings, volume, killing apps, freeing memory, and so on.  I felt like I was doing more work than the phone was doing, which gets old quickly.  With the iPhone, though, I’ve really been more focused on what I *do* with the phone, rather than the phone itself.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE DETRACTORS

Well, I guess I was one of the detractors, wasn’t I?  Truth be told, I rarely had anything bad to say about the iPhone itself.  My beef was (and has long been) with Apple as a company, and thus my unwillingness to use their products. 

Yeah, I heard that <snort> in the background.  The irony is thick.

There are a few things that folks have knocked the iPhone for over the years:  lack of  multi-tasking, closed ecosystem, no physical keyboard, uncustomizable, lack of “copy & paste”, dropped calls, battery life, no removable battery, lack of Flash support, and others.  Let’s hit on some of these issues.

  • Multi-Tasking:  So, the iPhone does NOT have true multi-tasking as we understand it.  If I’m watching a YouTube video, click the Home button, make a call, and then go back to the YouTube app, I’ll find that I’ve been bumped out of the video back to the select screen again.  The real question is this:  is that a problem?  Both Android and Windows Mobile (6.5 and earlier) have real multi-tasking, which is often touted as a “feature”.  In my experience with both platforms, though, it really ended up meaning that the user needed to work at keeping the apps killed or under control.  In fact, one oftaskiller[1] the first apps I would install on Android is “Taskiller”, with it set to ‘kill background apps’ – and this was just to keep the phone running reasonably snappy.  Sound familiar?  I’m basically trying to emulate what the iPhone does by default.

    When it really comes down to it, multi-tasking should be used in scenarios where it makes sense.  How many things can I really do at one time on my phone?  If I can do more than one thing, is it sensible to prefer that over snappy system response?  Personally, I don’t think so.  I’m also hearing that the upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series will “multi-task” similar to the iPhone.  They’re being pretty much worked over for making that choice too, but I think it’s the right one – at least for now.

  • Closed Ecosystem:  Yeah, the iPhone ecosystem is shut tighter than the Bill Gates’ estate.  Apple has always maintained strict control of their devices, and the iPhone is no different.  I wouldn’t expect this to change until Apple sees it really hurting their bottom line.  Until then, they get to call the shots on what people see, what people use, and (for the most part) how well it works.  I don’t agree with this standpoint, but I don’t disagree with it either.  It is what it is.
  • No Physical Keyboard:  Apple certainly chose this for aesthetic reasons, but the truth is that their virtual keyboard works great.  In fact, I can probably type faster on the iPhone keyboard than I could on my old T-Mobile Dash.  I’m annoyed when trying to access ‘symbols’ to type, but even that works out over time.
  • iPhoneSnoreUncustomizable:  Truth is, *every single iPhone* looks the same.  Sure,  it might have a funky case on the outside, or a wacky wallpaper on the unlock screen, but past that they are identical: a wall of colorful icons.  You can move the icons around, as I have, and even choose to have none on  your homescreen, but hardly anyone does that.  An iPhone looks like iPhone.  Is this an advantage?  Sure.  Apple knows what every iPhone user is going to have in front of them, so supporting it – both for the end-user *and* developer – is much easier.  The down side?  Well, it’s a bit boring.  In the Apple world, we would all have walls of icons, brushed metal status bars, and screens that suck into the trash can like a Ghostbusters gun.  I’d like to see Apple take their mastery of the UI world, and put it toward giving the end-user some real, creative control.  Now *that* would be amazing.
  • Cut & Paste:  This functionality was added with the release of iPhone OS 3.0.  It’s handy and all that, but (honestly) I rarely have a real need for it.  Glad to have it, but the world wouldn’t end if it wasn’t there.
  • Dropped Calls:  Mud has been slinging since day one on the issue of the iPhone dropping calls regularly.  Since my buddy Andy has seen about an 80% decrease in this behavior since jailbreaking and moving (back) to T-Mobile, I’m going to pin this issue primarily on AT&T and their bloated network.  That said, I *have* noticed that my iPhone drops signal more quickly than my previous phones, so there is something there that Apple should own as well.
  • Battery Life:  I’m calling this a relative non-issue.  With most options turned on by default – push email, wifi, Bluetooth – every phone I’ve used has had pretty poor battery life.  The iPhone has faired as well as, if not better, than the MyTouch3G.  Figure out what you *need* to have on, and then turn off the rest.  Dialing back the “push email” to check every hour or so will definitely help with battery life.  Do you really need to have email *instantly* sucked down to your phone when you’re working at your desk – in front of your primary email client — for 8 hours per day?  Yeah.  I thought not.
  • Lack of Removable Battery:  I hear that the next iPhone *might* have a user replaceable battery, but I’ll believe it when I see it.  In the meantime, the geniuses at Apple have to replace the battery for you – and at a significant cost.  That sucks.  Thankfully, the iPhone batteries appear to hold up pretty well, and most people I know go through phones so quickly it probably doesn’t even matter.
  • iphonewithflash[1] Lack of Abobe Flash Support
    Steve Jobs claims that adding Adobe Flash support would absolutely ruin the blemish-free iPhone experience – both in performance, and in battery life.  I call “lame”.  Let users choose to run Flash if they want.  Personally, I don’t really care.  I find *most* Flash-enabled websites to be obnoxious, but “choice” is nice.  You know, choice?

THAT’S ENOUGH FOR TODAY

Alright.  Let’s stop beating this worn-out piñata and call it a day, shall we? 

All in all, my iPhone experience has been very good so far.  Not perfect, mind you, but very good.  I’ll rant about some of those things in a few days.

Thanks for reading.

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4 Responses to “When Pigs Fly! (Day 7)”


  1. 1 Matt Swann March 24, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    I’ve really been more focused on what I *do* with the phone, rather than the phone itself.

    That sums up the Apple experience pretty well, both on the iPhone and on the desktop. Good interaction design is frictionless — you don’t switch from “I’m accomplishing something” to “I’m working with this interface”.

    It’s also what pleases me so much about Windows 7 — it gets out of the way and frees me to get work done instead of wading through confirmation dialogs, taskbar pop-ups, etc.

  2. 2 Josh March 24, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Hmm, I haven’t found that I’ve needed to fiddle with my Android based Nexus One much at all. I will say that the automatic brightness control is worthless and so when I’m out in the daylight, it’s hard to see my screen. I was having problems with battery life, but I singled out the problem apps or functions and leave them off and I haven’t had a problem since, I can go a whole day without charging now; the biggest culprit I think was GPS, which is a shame because I really like using some of those always on GPS based apps, such as Locale or Foxy Ring. I’m probably not as intensive user as you are, which is why I was able to hold off on buying one for so long. I think that article I posted on FB hit the nail on the head though, Android has been a little bit rushed to try and catch up with iPhone. But yeah, I could definitely see ahead of time that the iPhone would be a smooth running, great UI product. I owned and used an iMac for four years and they definitely are strong on those points, though I found when a problem did crop up, the closed box/user friendly set-up made it very difficult to fix things that were wrong…kind of like the non-replaceable battery. That’s what I don’t like about Apple, too much hand holding, too user friendly, too much smug elitism…they offer a suite of online services much like what Google offers for free…for $100 per year. If you have a Macintosh computer, they update their OS with a major upgrade on nearly an annual basis and you have to pay to get it, as much as you would pay for a whole new OS. As time went on and I refused to pay for upgrade after upgrade, I would lose functionality with certain applications, I think I even lost use of iTunes at one point! I don’t know if they’ve solved this problem but the biggest issue that got me to go back to PC’s was the inconsistent integration with the web. I found myself using three or four different browsers on a regular basis to make plugins work on some sites, some that I visited regularly, sometimes I couldn’t get them to work on any of them. This was a couple of years ago, so maybe they’ve fixed this, but I would imagine it has more to do with the people building the websites for PC’s than it does the people building the browsers. So yeah, Apple makes nifty stuff, but like you said, I don’t really need it or their overinflated prices. It looks like Google has a long way to go to overtake the iPhone, but I’m rooting for them too. Maybe they’ll become as bad or worse when they get there, at which point I’ll start rooting for another competitor to shake things up.

  3. 3 Josh April 9, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Well, I’ve had my Nexus One for going on two months. I did run into a snafu with call interruption that I finally discovered had to do with a Bluetooth accessory disrupting my call signal at the beginning of an outgoing call. Now that I know what it is and how to get around it if I need to, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much. I’ve had some issues with the phone freezing on me when receiving a call, necessitating a removal of the back cover and the battery to reboot (no power button hold available). Even so, I helped my friend to find an app for his iPhone yesterday, spent a few minutes browsing the store and I have to say, I’m glad I have an Android, I just don’t like the iPhone. It’s bland, it’s constrictive and for all the bazillions of apps they have, I think the offerings on the Android Market are better (this coming from my limited experience, I admit). I’ve looked for apps for him a couple of times (I’m the more tech savvy of the two of us, I fix his computer for him and tell him about new apps he should check out and then I wind up downloading them for him) Yesterday I was looking for a GPS speedometer that he could use to help keep his speed in check, since he’s one ticket away from a license suspension (btw he’s 43 – lol) Of the speedo’s I saw (maybe that’s not the right way to phrase it) two or three were free and they were horribly rated and the pay versions didn’t seem to apply very well to the simple application of gauging speed and maybe even warning a driver of exceeding the speed limit. Android offers a few free and very well put together speedometers with some eye catching designs and one changes the color of the gauge ring when you exceed a pre-set speed limit. I’d like it to beep or something too, but it is still helpful. So yes, I acknowledge, this is a rather niche application, but when you’re comparing an Apple App Store with seventy nine trillion apps vs. the Android Market with about 20,000…you would think the bases would be covered in every niche out there for Apple…right? Apart from that, it’s pretty much subjective for me.


  1. 1 When Pigs Fly! (Day 44) « Y.I.P.C.A.N.J.O Trackback on May 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm
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