TiPb Asks: Do you want more variety in your iPhone hardware?

iPhone 5 to have metal back, less than 4-inch display?

On last night's iPhone Live podcast we discussed the just announced Samsung Galaxy S II models and what, if any, challenge they may pose for Apple's upcoming iPhone 5. One of the big differences is that, while iPhones are pretty much the same on every carrier around the world (Verizon iPhone antenna and firmware version being the only current exception), Samsung Galaxy S phones have varied a lot from network to network.

Some have keyboards and others don't. Some have bigger or smaller screens. They often have completely different casings from one carrier to another. Some carriers work out deals to take out Google Search and put in Microsoft's Bing. Some pre-load carrier-specific crapware. Maybe some will one day have Amazon Market instead of the Android Market -- like the JooJooPhone!

The bottom line is, with an iPhone you can buy one on pretty much any carrier you want, or unlocked directly from Apple, hook it up to iTunes (or soon, iCloud) and get your iPhone just the way you left it -- same apps, same interface, zero learning curve. The price we pay is that everything is the same. There's no variety.

With Samsung and some other Android devices, you can change things up as often as you're willing to switch networks or get a new phone. You get almost endless variety but you may have to re-learn interfaces or re-buy apps.

I prefer Apple's approach. I don't want the cognitive load that comes with carrier-specific hardware and software. I want the device and the OS to get out of my -- and my apps' -- way. But I definitely see the appeal of changing things up, of having phones as fashion.

Would you like to see a different iPhone on AT&T compared to Verizon? Square on one, round on the other? AT&T iPhone 5 vs. Spring iPhone 4 II Epic 4G? Do you like the single, iconic iPhone the way it is or do you think it's time for Apple to let carriers mix things up?

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Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, co-host of Vector, Review, and Isometric podcasts, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Dow.

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Reader comments

TiPb Asks: Do you want more variety in your iPhone hardware?


I'm not sure what you mean by re-buy apps. That's never been a problem I've run into with the several androids I've had.

It's FUD..I was going to call this out too. When she said "you may have to re-learn interfaces or re-buy apps."
I pretty much stopped taking her serious. Android is generally the same..swipe down for notifications, swipe sideways for other homescreen, tap and hold in a textbox to change keyboards, etc.

Case? But your covering up your white unicorn. Jail break? Sure its great for techies but what about every day users? People who just want a smartphone with out bunch of fancy stuff?

I feel there should be more options, but not to let the choice of carriers get in the way of those options. Say my carrier is sprint, but I want a square white iphone that only at&t has instead of the rounded black one that Sprint carries (all hypothetical of course), I should not have to switch carriers to get the style I want. Basically, Have a couple different styles available, but make them available across the board.The only interaction I want (well not really) with my carrier, is that bill every month.

News flash: you already have them! It isn't as far reaching as Android but you have them without a doubt, otherwise my iPhone 3G wouldn't be behind the curve.

That is not fragmentation that is being replaced by a new model. Upgrade. Fragmentation is 2 phones with different screen resolutions, processor manufacturers, feature sets, etc. The Droid and Droid 2 are not fragmented devices. But the Droid 2 and Droid X are fragmented.

It absolutely is fragmented. 3Gs is 2 years old and not the same as iPhone 4. Mostly, iPhone 4 is different between AT&T and Verizon [hardware and OS].
There is fragmentation whether you accept it or not. Ask a non-fanboy iOS developer. They'll admit it.

Here Sting7k and iWebDroidBerry7: http://www.droidsector.com/blog/2010/12/02/android-and-ios-fragmentation/.
That's from an iOS developer calling out the fragmentation:
Just today I read, on an Android blog, the following quote:
“In an iOS world, you only have to write code once and know it is optimized for every phone that’s been sold.”
Bahahahahaha. Yeah right. I do iOS development, and let me tell you, fragmentation there is a huge problem. First off, there are different OSes on different devices.
I'm a dev and coming from a dev perspective so if you don't agree...fine. I'm not going to try to convince you guys by any means.

@fastlane "It's already been explained above by others. No sense in my repeating it."
You mean by me above? :-D You're right.

personally "fragmentation" is nothing i care about. I'm a users and not a phone geek either. I just go buy a phone. The fragmentation thing is more of a phone geek issue then an average user issue to me. I've never heard it mentioned outside of tech blogs. My friends never mention it when they mention phones or buying a new phone. So deep down i think whether there is or isn't "fragmentation" it only a major problem to a tiny minority of phone buyers. To most people outside of tech phone geek circles they don't know what it even means.

It isn't even for phone geeks. It is for developers and something, typically, held over Androids head by iOS folks. Sad but true.
This is nothing more than a talking point. Fragmentation is nothing new at all.
You're 100% correct though. Consumers don't care.

No way!... I appreciate very much iPhone's consistency across networks particularly when traveling internationally. With previous cell phones, despite having a plan with international voice and data roaming, there was always a functional glitch which randomly made the phone not to work. Since having an iPhone no problems on this respect.

Assuming Apple worked out this problems what does that have to do with alternate versions with keyboards or a 3D screen for example?

I'm fine with the way Apple do things regarding the iPhone. I'd rather they focused on one piece of hardware and made it the best they can rather than maybe spreading themselves thinly on 2 or more varieties. I know the size of Apple they can bring more people in but still think with just focusing on the one variety of iPhone it will be better. There's plenty of ways to customise these phones with cases etc and I really couldn't pick what to lose if there was going to be 'an entry level' iPhone.

"You get almost endless variety but you may have to re-learn interfaces or re-buy apps." - You don't need to re-buy things, there all connected to your account, and as for re-learning interfaces just install your favourite launcher, looks and works exactly the same between devices.

Maybe I want to. What does it matter to you if I reply? That's right it doesn't. Learn to deal with it

Re-buying apps, when moving to a different platform, that one has already purchased on another platform, is not too complicated for myself, or Georgia, to understand. No re-learning of the whole App Store process is required.
You're eyes are half close in your photo. Perhaps that's the problem.

Insults. Great. Another reason why kids don't need to be on the internet. Or at least mature sites for people who.cab afford Apple products with out the help from the parents. Isn't your mommy calling you? It's pass your bed time.

As nice as iPhone's industrial design is, its strength is what it does and not just how it looks or works. Agree with cardfan: get a case if you want to change up the look. And get more apps if you want more features.

Definitely not, I like the way the iPhone is the same across all borders; same hardware, same software to all. That's what makes the iPhone so great. I think if you want that variation, then you'll simply go for Android, or Blackberry, or Windows phone. Plus, technically, there are two different models out at the same time too. Right now its the 4 or 3Gs... soon it will be the 5 and the 4....

One more thing: Apple's iDevices are just the tip of the iceberg. Little portals into the larger infrastructure that Apple has been building since 2001 (iTunes + iPod.) Yes, they show off Apple's world-class industrial design, and yes, the hardware is the first thing the wannabes copy. Because it's the easiest thing to copy.
The hard thing to copy is the infrastructure. Hundreds of millions of iTunes accounts + terabytes of audio, video, and e-book content + ~450k apps + seamless interoperability of iOS and OS X devices + unified smartphone and pad OS (+ iCloud soon) etc. And that's why the wannabes are failing. You can't just build all that up overnight.

But when it comes to choice, some may want something other then a puny 3.5" phone with just a grid UI.

I like my iPhone the way it is. I wouldn't mind them updating iOS to give a newer feel. But all-in-all i prefer the simplicity of iOS and its hardware.
Example: I handed my mom my iPad the other day (she has ZERO experience with apple products) and within minutes she was using it with little problems.

You mentioned a great point on the iOS update schedule. I really wish they would do 2 major updates per year now. There are still too many gaps in iOS from Android and BBerry and its time to stop holding onto key upgrades for 12 months just to get something like a notification panel.
I also think that apple is profitable because they reduce options and focus on the experience. Slight changes in design between carriers mean NOTHING to most consumers. The experience is what counts and that is the main reason people buy iphones. Changing design would just increase costs, reduce scale, and offer almost nothing in terms of experience.
Just my two cents...

This is not something I ever think about. Lots of people drive the same car I do and wear the same color jeans I do so what's the big deal if their phone looks the same as mine too?

I don't think that you ever have to re-buy Android apps. Your Android Market account is linked to your Google account, and all of your purchases can be re-downloaded onto any authorized device. Same goes for the Amazon App Store, although it's obviously linked to your Amazon account. Neither or those are carrier- or device-specific.
Edit: I've switched Android devices a million times, but never carriers. If I'm wrong, please correct me.

I'm going to switch from my Android phone to the next iPhone (hopefully on T-Mobile) later this year. While I like being able to choose from dozens of high-end devices on every major carrier, the fragmentation that results is a major annoyance. Getting support is horrible and often ends in hours of message board reading and risky experimenting. But, my biggest pet peeve is the horrendous amount of bloatware and the inability to remove it without rooting and potentially voiding your warranty.
After some of the headaches I have suffered trying to get my Android phone to work correctly, I welcome a closed, but stable, ecosystem.
I disagree with the notion that Android makes you re-buy apps. I have never had that happen.

Same here. They give you a 15 minunte return window as well. but all the apps I bought off the Android market (around 10 so far) get the same "purchased" tag as the Apple App store.

Thunderbolt not getting an update is not fragmentation. That's a device behind the curve, period.
I don't expect anything from my 3G at this point, it is a relic. I prefer the knock-off of older hardware, death to full backwards compatibility [it stifles forward progress], but see my response to Sting7k...fragmentation exists in the iOS world.

@mindsigh You are correct...you do not have it right.
Here is what I said:
"It isn't as far reaching as Android but you have them without a doubt, otherwise my iPhone 3G wouldn't be behind the curve."
See my other comments for a further explanation.

As a developer, it's a logistical nightmare having to deal with different configurations, different features, different chipsets and speeds, and ensuring your app will run properly on all of them. Apple nearly leveled the playing field and that's why it's so popular because the variation is minimal or acceptable.
I just touched upon the Android platform just so I could tap another audience and it's absolutely ridiculous on the other side.
I bought a Samsung Galaxy S 4G and I was dumbfounded on how many different models they've made, and for what? Even different carriers have the same device, but with slight variations in shape or features (i.e. nixing the front camera). Buying specific accessories (i.e. cases, skins, screen protectors, etc.) and wondering if the manufacturer and/or the carrier will release a firmware update becomes nothing short of an unnecessary scramble. Who gets Gingerbread, why does my home screen differ from the next Android device, why is there so much varied bloatware on the device?
It really irks me how companies like Samsung and RIM really manufacturer everything from an engineering (or idiotic, or no) perspective and never from a design perspective. Even within the same BlackBerry Bold series, for example, the microUSB port is on the left side for the GSM version and on the right for the CDMA. Samsung places the microUSB port on the top of the phone, making dock connectors impossible unless you want to put it upside down.
On the other side of the coin, the iPhone has always had the vibrate/ring switch and volume control on the same side, the sleep/wake on top, and home button in the bottom middle. Whether you upgrade from any generation of iPhone, you'll instantly feel accustomed to where and how everything is, and that's the way it should be.

I can't stand seeing the same device under different names and with different configurations on each network. It is really annoying.
Samsung should have went with Samsung Galaxy S II. That's it. Stop right there and keep the device the exact same across the board [minus carrier requirements like CDMA vs GSM].

Well if Apple did do this the worse you have to worry about is screen sizes. I'm suire everything else will remain.
The problem is when people upgrade they don't always upgrade to the same model

Thx for the clarity.
I doubt the Amazon push statement though. There are very few exclusive Amazon Appstore apps vs Google Market apps.

I'm in the f**k no group. I like my iPhone just the way it is and prefer it to stay that way regardless of what carrier, country, etc.

I would love to have 2 variations. The regular iPhone and one with a slide out keyboard. No one will agree but I still like physical keyboards.

Age doesn't matter. I got my 70 year old grandfather on a touch screen phone. Granted he presses hard on the screen but he likes it.

when are we gonna get at least an announcement of an event? I'm so fricken tired of waiting. I don'thave an iphone but i've been waiting more then a year for a launch to switch. I'd have expected a press conference early september so i expected we'd hear of an even by now. Maybe i missed it but after well over a year waiting and a crappy dieing app-less webos phone i'm so ready to switch.

Sorry to change the subject here but My home button over the last few days is getting worse I can be pressing it for minutes before it does anything does anyone reckon that apple are sending out signals from there end so were that fed up of it we can't wait for the next iPhone to come out thats my theory sorry bout grammar I'm British lol

Don't speak for everyone just because you have no grasp of the English language, i'm British, infact no, i'm English !! .. As for your signals from Apple part, that's just retarded, i'd safely bet the problem is a faulty home button, nothing more, nothing less.

Well obviously I'm a thick retarded Brit wiv a faulty home button then sorry to offend you.

If you search around, erratic home buttons are a very common problem with the iPhone 4. Most likely, Apple did not anticipate just how heavily that button would be used after they introduced their take on multitasking.
Take it to an Apple store -- after a bit of discussion, they replaced mine.

All four of my iPhones had faulty home buttons. The 3G was the worst, and the iPhone 4 is second to it. You'd need a hammer and spike to make the 3G home button respond.

I prefer to see the same options across carriers, but I would also like to see Apple have 2-3 iPhones available at one time. I think there is enough room for personal preference in things like screen size or even LTE. I would also like to see Apple provide more iOS customization options. Bury them deep if needed, as most people will want the pure "out of my way" experience.

I'd love to see at least some widgets and "skins" to choose from. HTC Sense 3.0 is a good example. They have themes but they also have skins that allow you to change lets say the black bars to blue or green

Yes. Fragmentation is a developer concern [not consumer] meaning a developer has to take multiple devices into consideration for one OS. That's why good devs like Aral Balkan have all of the iOS devices and versions. You have to test across multiple devices for iOS 4 because they aren't the same.
On Android...I doubt anyone owns all of them [way too many]. :-D It is a completely larger spectrum of devices [hardware, sizes, OS versions, etc] requiring you to lean on simulators and user feedback to address across multiple devices you do not have access to.
For the naysayers, I haven't compared Android fragmentation to iOS...just stating they both have it.

Winning the experience but android is in the lead with market share. Simply because people want choice

i really don't want a different screen size for the next iPhone 5. It isn't practical because developers will then have to support 4 screen sizes (original iPhone, iPad, retina, and the larger size) I think 3.5 is a little small but it is good to stay consistent. I also don't want Apple to have a lower budget iPhone because although it may reach out to more consumers, it will degrade the Apple brand. Plus, who wants to know they have a low model. $200 isn't that much for a phone for 2 years. If you can't afford it, then go to android or get the last model (which the iP4 will still be a great option for consumers once the iP5 comes out). I really just hope Apple stays consistent in delivering quality devices and not be consumer hungry wanting a larger market share. Just my humble opinion. Don't hate too much!
EDIT) I also don't want Apple to expand it to more carriers because that just causes more confusion if they move the buttons and what not) Having it on the two major carriers is enough again in my opinion

Who wants a contract for 2 years anyway, I certainly don't, the iPhone 5 will be outdated within 6 months so another 18 with an dated phone, errrr no thanks ... Thank the lord for 12 month contracts here in the UK, i'd rather pay more upfront and update regularly, especially considering the rate at which technology in mobile phones is advancing.

Just to be random and useless. The world outclasses Canada. Here, we're locked in for a whopping 3 years required to spend $50/month on plans and cannot upgrade until we've had the contract for at LEAST 2 years and when we do upgrade, we still have to pay the 3 year price for the new phone and renew for another 3 years totaling 4 years with a device that will be outdated in 12 months... It also costs roughly $4-600 (data plan included) to negate the contract if you've got more than 2 years left.
Point: Canada sucks, can't wait to move to the US and be rid of such "contract" robbery!

Degrade the Apple brand sure, but they can make more money off it due to these budget minded consumers. Also larger screen sizes seem to be the hip new "thing" now a days.
It needs to be on more carriers. Limiting to just two is just not right,

A cheaper model is welcome, but not necessarily problematic for developers.
Example : an Ipod Touch with phone capabilities (and 3G) : no GPS, no retina.

Yes, a native porn app known as A.E. And you can only launch it by using your apple ID. A guy can only dream right? A 4inch screen would make the viewing great with retina and hd

of course. They should just rename it to the iPad nano or iPad mini. (iPad nano = iPod touch and iPad mini a 7" ipad )

Oh and don't forget the multiple versions of the iPod Touch.
Again...this is a developer issue. Consumers could care less as long as their apps work.

Absolutely not. Unified hardware and software is one of the reasons the iPhone reigns supreme. Simple, powerful, usable. Leave it that way.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I really like the fact that there aren't 2 or 3 different models released at the same time. "the single, iconic iPhone ... " Word.

Choice isn't a bad thing overall. The ridiculous argument among nerds on tech blogs over "Fragmentation & my device is better than yours blah blah blah..." DOES NOT MATTER TO JOHN & JANE PUBLIC CONSUMER!
It's a phone people. They worry more about can I make & receive a call first & foremost. I think it would serve Apple well to offer a few different SKU's for the next iPhone. And of course launch it simultaneously on EVERY domestic carrier & it is a market leader from day one with no competition able to touch it.
Fact is, Apple has only themselves to blame for the rise of Android. If they had not gone exclusive to Cingular/AT&T & instead released on ALL carriers (yes I'm aware everybody but Cingular made demands & Apple said no), there would be no Android in it's present form. RIM would quite possibly be dead & only Microsoft would be viable with WP7.
Just my opinion so take it for what it is.

One of the major reasons Samsung vary their hardware so much is to reduce the litigation risk and its fall out on their marketshare.

One device to rule them all please! It's hard enough that we have to choose AT&T or Verizon, 3G + wifi or wifi only, 16gb or 32gb or 64gb, white or black... Crazy enough!