Kent's Weekly Rant: Episode 3
In all the years I have covered mobile technology, I’ve never seen any single device have such a polarizing effect, or invoke such heated emotional debate in the backwater bars and pubs of the online gadget community, as iPhone has. Make no mistake; there is no middle ground to stand on, no comfort zone. You’re either an iPhone lover or a hater. Many, if not most, outspoken critics love iPhone. But to some the very thought of casting an approving eye or complimentary remark on Apple’s beloved black slab is akin to publicly condoning Michael Vick’s dog fighting hobbies.
Well I say NUTS! to all the haters out there. The time has come to put this argument to rest once and for all. Let me illustrate why you should embrace Apple’s ambitious efforts and love , yes LOVE the iPhone.
Let’s start with the basics, or rather the greatest point of contention among naysayers. The one argument that rises above all others as the criminal indictment to iPhone’s irrelevance; My Smartphone can already do everything iPhone can do! Yes your phone can perform the same tasks, and also sucks bovine testicles in doing so. Feel better now? I do. See kiddies, this isn’t about what iPhone does or doesn’t do, but rather how it does it.
It’s a matter of quality vs. quantity. A beat up 1987 Chevy Cavalier with fuzzy diced mirror and muffler dragging behind on the pavement will get me to the corner grocery every bit as fast a factory fresh Audi TT. The difference is in the quality and the ride. I can sum up the term Smartphone in one word: Compromise. Today’s Smartphone platforms are based upon brain dead micro-sized embedded operating systems running primitive software that delivers an altogether crippled user experience. The era of the Smartphone OS is dead. Apple has just ushered in a new era in mobile computing; the age of REAL operating systems running on mobile hardware.
Take the user interface as an example. On a Windows Mobile Professional device I can peck away at the screen using a toothpick-sized stylus like a chicken with a broken beak, digging through a labyrinth of menus – searching in vain for some obfuscated feature. If I’m unfortunate enough to be using the “standard” edition, sans touchscreen, I can regale myself for hours on end by thumbing around a puny screen, launching application through a series of thumb gestures. Turning left, then right, then left, then up, then down again.
On iPhone - I just tap on any icon with my finger, and the application or feature is presented intuitively right in front of me. Hmm…which to choose?
Another example, screen reorientation. Switching to landscape view on iPhone requires virtually no effort, other than rotating the device clockwise. Whoosh! You’re in landscape. Performing that same task in Windows Mobile requires tapping the start menu. Going to settings. Now go to Screen settings. Select landscape option. Then tap ok. Rinse and repeat. Now, if I’m really clever I could shorten the process by remapping any available hardware button to the task, but not everyone is aware of that trick and making it happen involves a quick lesson in button configuration. Workable, but ever so sloppy from a design standpoint – the hallmark of Microsoft ingenuity.
Mobile internet is another testimony to Smartphone imperfection. Every mobile web browser renders standard webpages in the same manner by running HTML through a virtual paper shredder. Spitting out a confetti mass of pictures and text, all narrowed down into one indecipherable column. Jumping to any part of a page is truly a unique experience. More like a game really – a guessing game. Where do I scroll to find the text block I am looking for? Is it down here? Do I scroll sideways? And if so, do I scroll left or right? Bullocks!
With Safari you experience the full on internet, minus a few luxuries like Flash...but that's totally coming. looks around nervously
Now I don’t mean to single out Microsoft. God knows every Smartphone platform under the sun shares just as much guilt. And truth be told, I find many likeable qualities in Windows Mobile and believe the platform holds the promise of one day becoming something quite compelling. But that day won’t come until long after version 6 is a memory and project “Photon” is fired from Redmond’s torpedo tubes.
So what do my inane ramblings have to do with spreading this peace and harmony I spoke of? Only this. iPhone is far from perfect, as you anti-fanboys are ever so quick to point out. There’s no 3G support, it doesn’t do cut and paste, has no third party software support, suffers penis envy in the company of other Smartphones. Well it’s all true. But there’s also something insidious buried beneath that glossy fingerprint covered veneer: It’s a game changer. For the first time, someone has entered this muddled, underdeveloped market and forced every player to take software design seriously and rethink the mobile experience. iPhone’s greatest impact on the market will be making everything else before it look bad.
And believe me, every handset and platform vendor in the wireless industry is scrambling to develop a user experience on par with Apple’s. Many will fail, but the attempt to improve and innovate will benefit every user, in every camp. Slowly but surely, with each new release, Smartphones will get smarter and easier to use thanks in large part to iPhone.
When the industry's largest mobile phone maker humiliates itself in public display before the world, by unveiling a complete iPhone rip-off, in one brazen sloppy move, you can bet people behind closed doors and conference rooms are scared shitless. And that, boys and girls, is a good thing. We all stand to benefit from iPhone.