Sunday, August 05, 2007

Reality sinks in (a little) with the iPhone

It's no secret I've coveted an iPhone since before its introduction. I, too, fell under the Jobs Reality Distortion Field, and I fell hard. The only thing that kept me from running out after an iPhone like a zombie after fresh meat was Apple's decision to use AT&T Wireless as its provider. That, and the fact I'd already been blinded by geek dementia over shiny new toys, and paid the price.

Now part of my willing acceptance of all things Apple springs not from the iPod, but from their more established computer lines of late, especially after Apple switched to Intel. I've watched half the Orlando SPARTA office use Mac notebooks in their day-to-day work, and I've seen the nearly-effortless way they've produced quality work, day in, day out. Of course part of the success is due to the quality of the people involved, not just the Mac. But what I've seen in this office just goes to reinforce what I've seen in the past (especially at Time Warner's Full Service Network before it was shut down), and that is highly creative people are most creative with the Mac. So shoot me.

But it appears that there may be a few flies in the iPhone ointment, at least with the first release. And after my absolutely piss-poor experience with the Nokia 770 (another first release), I have fostered a tiny but mighty skepticism about very portable technology, no matter who manufactures it. That means that no matter how much I stand there drooling over my shoes at the sight of the iPhone, there is this little daemon inside screaming that you can have my credit card when you pry it out of my cold dead fingers whenever it sees anything like the $600 iPhone.

So it is with some gleeful delight (schadenfreude, perhaps?) that I read Dwight Silverman's less-than-glowing review after he spent a month using the device. I didn't find his critique of the Safari browser on the iPhone all that surprising. I know that use of Safari is a mixed bag with the Mac crowd, with many of them prefering Firefox or Camino over Safari. My daughter, who has an iMac of her own for school, had Firefox installed on it within an hour of turning on her iMac for the first time. Firefox may not be perfect, but it works with a lot more sites than Safari appears to, whatever platform it runs on. I was surprised when Apple released Safari for Windows so that nascent developers for the iPhone could use it to test their Ajax widgets targeted for the iPhone. If Apple were really serious about using open standards, then anyone could use Firefox as well as Safari to develop content for the iPhone, not just Safari.

Another big minus against the iPhone which I have, and which Dwight touches on briefly in his article, is the sealed-in battery. Regardless of how long the battery lasts, the fact you have to send it in to Apple to have it changed (for $80) as well as pay for a loaner (another $30) is a ludicrous feature for a $600 device. Every major electronic device in that price range has a replaceable battery. Of all the cellphones I've owned over the last 17 years, every one had a replaceable battery and not a single one had problems with that fact. And there were a few times I was glad of the ability to swap out the battery. Like the original Mac, this is yet another example of design esthetic (Job's) outweighing engineering practicality.

But Dwight's review isn't all that harsh. He finishes his article with this piece of advice:
If you weren't one of the early possessors, but you're considering buying one, wait for the next version. The iPhone has a lot of potential, and it will surely influence what other phone manufacturers do. But for now, you're better off using something else if you're serious about getting your data on the go.
I'm curious to see how many folks with follow this advice. Apple has stated it intends to sell one million iPhones in this quarter, by the end of September. By comparison it took seven quarters for the original iPod to reach this number, and it took Microsoft from November 2006 to June 2007 (seven months) to sell that many Zunes (and Microsoft's Zune has dropped like a rock since then).

In any event my credit card is safe from the iPhone, at least until the next version comes out.

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