Let me start off by telling you I’m a pretty big Apple fanboy these days. I’ve been carrying a Mac laptop of one sort or another for the past 4 years or so now, ever since a coworker explained his purchase of an iBook as “it basically runs FreeBSD, dude; how can you go wrong with that??”..
He was right! As a long time Linux fan and career UNIX SA, how could I go wrong?
Since then, I’ve had an iBook, a Mac mini, a couple of Powerbooks, and I’m writing this iPhone rant on the Macbook Pro that you probably couldn’t pry out of my cold, dead hands. Oh yeah, I have an AppleTV
As a technologist, I drop large sums of money on new smart phones every few months. I can’t even begin to tell you how I started foaming at the mouth when I heard about Apple’s release of an iPod +Phone back in January!
How could such a visionary company get so much wrong, even with a first generation product?
The week before the iPhone release, my interest started to wane; the details were slowly slipping out and I wasn’t impressed. So where did the iPhone go wrong?
The device costs $600. Furthermore, it is unsubsidized by the carrier, plus commitment to a 2 year contract. 2 years is a really long time for someone who likes to stay at the cutting edge of tech.; A REALLY long time. How slick is that first-gen iPhone going to look in 12 months? Or maybe even 6? 2 years is a long time to drag along on AT&T’s slow-ass EDGE network. Even if you don’t have 3G near your home/work yet, what are the chances that you still won’t in 2009? Mid-2009, that is? Like a plasma cutting tool!
To me, a $600 device needs to have certain functionality, especially one released in 2007. Let’s go down the list (most serious to least serious deal-breakers):
- 3G support (WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING, APPLE??)
- Stereo bluetooth support (aka A2DP protocol). This is a major missing feature for a “multimedia smart phone”
- MMS support (not everyone is going to spend $600 on an iPhone to get the pictures you email them, Apple. Sometimes I like to take a quick shot with my phone and send it to my “low-tech” friends)
- Some sort of usable keyboard. I understand innovation and a slick UI. I don’t understand or condone spending 10 minutes to correctly type “google.com” into a browser window.
- Ability to unlock (without using hacker tools). Do you think I really want to give AT&T a kidney every time I use my data service in
- True 3rd party developer support. Why do you think Windows Mobile is so popular? Because you can buy (or obtain freely) anything it’s missing to make it suit your needs.
- Standard IMAP idle support, to do “push mail” with any 3rd party mail account supporting IMAP IDLE. Why would I want to use Yahoo mail when I have perfectly good IMAP accounts?
- GPS support
- User-swappable battery
I consider the first 4 to be fatal product design flaws for a $600 phone. These are things that can be done by phones for far less money. As much as I love to hate Microsoft, their mobile phone OS has reached a stage of maturity where it’s an excellent product. I currently carry either a Samsung Blackjack ($180, contract-free) or my brand new toy – an HTC Cavalier (aka S630) Windows Mobile 6 Smartphone. They both do all of the above.
For under $600 (including overnight shipping), I obtained the Cavalier unlocked and contract-free, it runs WM6, zips along with a 400mhz CPU, has tri-band (dual band US/Single band Europe) 3G, quad-band (worldwide) GSM/EDGE, plus WiFI. I can use TxtMan (free tool) for threaded SMS (just like the iPhone). I can send (and receive) MMS. I listen to my music via my stereo bluetooth headset on the train.
I can swap out my 2GB microSD cards for an infinite amount of storage. I stream my Sirius satellite radio subscription at CD quality or browse websites anywhere over the blazing fast 3G/HSDPA internet connection. I can use TeleNav Navigator or Google Maps with my Bluetooth GPS for navigation and directions. With the excellent Mark/Space “Missing Sync” product, my WM devices sync to my Mac even better than the iPhone does (built in drag and drop video conversion – something iTunes STILL lacks, Sync support for: Contacts, Calendars, Bookmarks, iTunes Playlists, Video, Call Log, Files, Notes, Photos, SMS, and Tasks.)
The verdict: If you’re itching for a powerful Smartphone, avoid the iPhone for now. It’s missing far too many features, something very unforgivable at its price point. Windows Mobile devices with a couple of additional (small) software purchases (Missing Sync, Flexmail 2007) make a very powerful and flexible package.
The Samsung Blackjack is a great phone at a great price, though it’s a bit slow if you multitask heavily (the 220mhz CPU doesn’t quite cut it for power users). The HTC Cavalier smokes at 400mhz, and is a great buy if you want a powerful phone. There is also the Treo 750 available if you want a touch-screen device, and it’s offered at a very attractive price from AT&T if you want to sign up for 2 years.