I’ll be honest, Steve Jobs’ introduction of the iPhone in January set my nerd sense tingling—at first. It appeared to have every feature I’ve ever wanted in a smartphone: a massive touch screen, good phone functionality, portable IM and email, a world-class media player, and a decent cellular data connection.
Of course, there’s a problem with the iPhone (there always is with Apple gear). For security reasons, Jobs doesn’t want the iPhone to be an “open platform.” Users won’t be allowed to run third-party apps, because they could, theoretically, bring down the cellular network. This is shocking news because there are thousands of third-party applications available for almost every phone on the market, not just smart-phones. To date, there have been no network outages caused by poorly written phone applications. Sure, a bad app might crash your phone, but the networks are robust enough to survive poorly written apps.
If this is true, the iPhone will be more of a dumbphone than a smartphone!
Third-party hacks are what make smartphones smart. There’s a free (or at least cheap) app to rectify any platform’s shortcoming as well as apps that add crazy-advanced features that phone vendors would never include. My favorite applet automatically switches my phone’s profile based on the cell tower it detects. Specifically, it switches my phone to silent mode when I arrive at work and cranks the ringer volume up when I get home. That’s exactly the kind of functionality iPhone users will miss out on.
Longtime readers know I’m a big fan of Apple’s operating system and applications. There’s not much I’d like to see more than an openly available version of OS X, so all PC users can enjoy the power of Apple’s operating system. However, I’ve long contended that Apple intentionally builds shoddy hardware. It’s easily scratched and the batteries it uses seem to have an approximate lifespan of just four charges.
Here’s the secret: Apple’s not the enlightened, consumer-friendly company its marketing department would like you to think it is. Look at the iTunes Music Store. Apple ties the songs sold at the iTunes Music Store to its player. Apple’s “you can play our songs anywhere you like as long as you use our hardware” Fairplay DRM scheme—which it won’t license to other vendors—completely removes the customer’s choice once he’s built a music collection. I’m concerned that the iPhone is just going to be another Apple monopoly designed to lock you into Jobs’ proprietary platform. Like any good drug, trying it seems relatively innocuous, but pretty soon you’re hooked.
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