Remember geeks, iOS wasn't made for us

Now that Google's Chrome browser has hit the App Store, there's renewed consternation in geek circles over iOS' inability to set something other than Safari as the default web browser.

The same thing happened when Sparrow for iPhone was released, yet couldn't be set as the default email client.

And when/if Google Maps for iOS comes to the App Store, no doubt many geeks will complain about the inability to set it, rather than Apple's iOS 6 Maps, as the default location handler.

We geeks don't just want to use things, we want to control how we use them. We want to be able to tap web links, or email addresses, or location markers, and have them open in something other that Safari or Mail or Maps. We want to launch Siri and have its natural language interface populate texts and make appointments and place calls in something other than Messages, Calendar, and Phone.

But here's the thing -- iOS isn't now, nor has it ever been, made or meant for us geeks. And we knew this from the start.

The iPhone, and later the iPad, were made for:

  1. Steve Jobs.
  2. Regular people, who make up the vast mainstream market.
  3. Reticent people for whom previous computing devices were inaccessible and/or off-putting, who round out the vast mainstream market.
  4. Enterprise and education people, who make up the bulk-buying market.
  5. Geeks, who make up the niche influencer market.
  6. [...]
  7. Richard Stallman

When iOS 1 (iPhone OS 1.0) was released, it had almost zero geek-friendly features. Forget no multitasking, it had no third party apps. No cut, copy, and paste. No push. Nothing even remotely confusable with power features.

We knew this.

But we were charmed by the multitouch capacitive display and the delightful user interface, and so we threw aside our hyper-functional if frustrating geek phones and lined up in droves to buy it.

And then we started complaining.

We married the hot chic (or dude) who couldn't cook and, as soon as the honeymoon was over, we started wondering why there wasn't any dinner on the table.

Never mind it took 2 years for cut, copy, and paste. Never mind we have the App Store, we don't have side-loading. We have Pandora and TomTom and Skype, we don't have desktop-style multitasking. We have FaceTime, we don't have quick settings toggles. We have iCloud, we don't have document attachments. We have Siri, we don't have widgets. We have Notification Center, we don't actionable notifications. We have kiosk mode, we don't have multi-window mode. And we'll have Passbook and Starbucks cards and movie tickets, we won't have arbitrary NFC access.

It's the same reason I'm not getting my Files.app. And it's the same reason why, year after year, geeks feel iOS preview events like iOS 6 at WWDC 2012 are underwhelming, and while jailbreak remains popular to this day.

We're not Apple's target. We're a side benefit. We're icing.

iOS 6 roundup: Maps, Facebook Integration, Passbook, Siri enhancements, and more

Now I'm not saying we shouldn't complain, that we shouldn't keep pushing for just exactly the geek features we want. John Gruber should. Matthew Panzarino should. And I sure as hell will.

We should all absolutely keep every geeky feature request we can think of on Apple's radar. But we should understand what the priority of those features will be on that radar.

We should understand that iOS doesn't power geek devices made easy enough for mainstream users to employ. It powers mainstream devices made compelling enough that geeks want them as well.

One day, Apple may just enable default app selection on iOS. They'll figure out which stock apps they will and won't allow to be changed, and a way for App Store apps to identify which stock app(s) they can replace, and they'll handle the negative comments when non-Nitro browsers aren't as fast, or email clients don't have or didn't license push, or telephony providers drop calls.

Apple will get around to what we want when they can spare an engineer to both implement it and hide it from mainstream users, and provided it doesn't conflict with any of their more important priorities.

And we knew that when we picked it up.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

122 Comments
  • I agree completely.
  • I totally disagree. This is the worst written, all-misleading story I have ever read on this website. So disappointed. Do you really think that Sparrow and Chrome aren't written for regular people? Common!
  • You completely miss the point.
  • yep he did. amazing.
  • Wow, here's someone who doesn't see the bigger picture... probably ever. Fail.
  • I've been saying all along that Android is not made for consumers in mind - it was made for geeks so naturally I agree with this article. Too many people don't know why their Droids become slow, laggy, or apps crash constantly - it's something Leo Laporte reported on his show many times. Apple avoided the mess, but it confounds geeks who love it too.
  • and to your point i think Google has been trying to de-geek many aspects of android by streamlining things, add a some sheen the menus to make it more appealing to the regular people. I can honestly say, i passed on the G1 and waited for the Palm Pre simply because i thought at that time Android looked ugly with it's flat icons and it's flat, no shine look. Now in hindsight i wish i'd never touched that palm debacle but point is this article resonates with me because i'm very much the "regular person" and i have very few geek tendancies. I have tinkered with computers but that was 100% because i couldn't afford to buy a new one.
  • Read the article again
  • IBoy, you miss the point.
  • i read this one:
    The iPhone, and later the iPad, was made for:
    1.Steve Jobs.
    2.Regular people, who make up the vast mainstream market
    3.Reticent people for whom previous mobile devices were inaccessible and/or off-putting, who round out the vast mainstream market.
    4.Enterprise and education people, who make up the bulk-buying market.
    5.Geeks, who make up the niche influencer market.
    6.Steve Ballmer.
  • Am I crazy or are many of the things Apple is doing with ios the same things Microsoft did in the 90s with Windows and got sued (couldn't change default browser, using private APIs to make IE better than other browsers)? If I recall, Netscape prevailed and MS almost got split up into multiple companies over it... Am I wrong in my comparison? It seems so obvious to me.
  • A little crazy. Can you install Internet Explorer on a ChromeBook? How open is a Kindle? Can you run PS3 games on an Xbox?
    Microsoft abused a monopoly position, which is illegal.
    For example, if I say you can have my OS for $20 with my browser, or $200 with the other guy's browser, and your business depends on my monopoly OS, that's a problem.
    Apple has no monopoly in mobile. You can buy an Android device if Apple displeases you. (i.e. people can vote with their wallets and let the market decide.)
    Arguably, carriers have historically locked down phones far more than even Apple has.
    If you go to an Italian restaurant and they refuse to sell you Chinese, and you want Chinese more than you want to eat at that restaurant, walk out.
  • I don't know if I agree with your point here. Sure you can buy an Android if your iOS device displeases you, but we've seen with Apple's aggressive use of their patents that they're trying to limit your choice there as well. If you don't see this as abusing a monopolistic position, what is?
  • How is aggressively protecting your patents abusing a monopoly? That's your legal right and it's a legal right given to all of Apple's competitors.
  • Apple is not abusing their power, they are protecting their assets. You don't see Apple suing Microsoft. For what it's worth MSFT is at least trying to create their own product and not bluntly copy Apple and say look at me. Now let's rewind the clock a little. Samsung delayed the release of their Galaxy when the IPad 2 came out so they can retool it and copy all the new features. They admit it themselves. It takes Apple years to create a product but it only take the rest of the industry 3 months after apple ces out with a new product. Anybody can create a new product if you have all the UI code and tweak it a little bit and cry foul when the law comes knocking at your door.
    Though I am not a big MSFT fan but I applaud the direction they are going with their tablet. Rather it succeeds or not, at least they are not copying Apple right out of the box. Google=thief.....end of discussion.
  • Apple is not abusing their power, they are protecting their assets. You don't see Apple suing Microsoft. For what it's worth MSFT is at least trying to create their own product and not bluntly copy Apple and say look at me. Now let's rewind the clock a little. Samsung delayed the release of their Galaxy when the IPad 2 came out so they can retool it and copy all the new features. They admit it themselves. It takes Apple years to create a product but it only take the rest of the industry 3 months after apple ces out with a new product. Anybody can create a new product if you have all the UI code and tweak it a little bit and cry foul when the law comes knocking at your door.
    Though I am not a big MSFT fan but I applaud the direction they are going with their tablet. Rather it succeeds or not, at least they are not copying Apple right out of the box. Google=thief.....end of discussion. Those who disagree should look in the mirror and asks yourself, if you invent something will you let somebody steals it from you and make $$$$$ out of it and hide behind the opensource theory.
  • Not sure this needs to be gone over, but you seem to suggest that Apple shouldn't protect its Brand, or IP? That they should allow others to shamelessly imitate their products? Maybe I misread your statement.
  • Its called business.
  • Amazon forces you to buy their hardware to fully utilize their prime service.
    DOJ DOJ DOJ.. monopoly monopoly!
    They are all doing it to some extent. At what point does a company own the rights to their hard work, and at what point do we tell them they have no right to control their environment.
    I'm not even sure I agreed with telling Microsoft it couldn't package in its own browser. Seriously...?
  • First monopolies are not always illegals. So scream DOJ all you want but Justice will just tell you, merely being a monopoly isn't enough.
    Second point on the browser litigation. There was a whole lot more to the case then simply saying they couldn't include their browser. Microsoft was forcing people to take the browser in what is called "bundling" and preventing others companies like a HP as an example from contracting to with companies like Netscape to include their browser. They were improperly using their power to interfere with contracts in other business. They were telling companies you can only get windows if you don't deal with other browser companies. There's were complicated antitrust issues involving the improper use of market power. These were by definition anti-competitive practices. Not simply a case of "you can't package your browser."
  • Patents, are by design, government granted monopolies allowing inventors to reap the benefit of their inventions for a limited period of time. To complain that patent litigation is monopolistic...that's the whole point!
  • So I agree with you to a point Rene. Yes MS did abuse there monopoly status in desktop operating systems in many ways, but was bundling a browser with their OS necessarily one of them? In my opinion no, but other legal entities did see it and now that is the precedent.
    Thanks to Android, Apple does not have a monopoly on the the mobile phone space which is the only thing that saves them from the many anti-competitive things they do with their control over IOS. Had android not taken half the smartphone market then I do believe that the iPhone would be close to monopoly status in that area even if a number of its features never never had to evolve to compete. the difference is in the tablet space. In the tablet market Apple very much has monopoly status and they are very close if not already abusing that via itunes. The fact that itunes is the only method of managing an iDevice, in this case the iPad, they are essentially forcing users into using itunes as a storefront for music, movies, books, and magazines. Now you might say there is nothing stopping a user from downloading from amazon and adding to their library or any of the other options out their, but that also was one of the same defenses for MS with IE. Why would the average user, who you openly say the iDevices are made for, look elsewhere when they have an integrated store front that they are required to interact with just to manage and get data onto their device? In most cases they don't. Add to the fact you aren't allowed to even consider other market places for things like apps, because it's not allowed by Apple is very very close to monopolistic behavior. The comparison to consoles that I have seen used before to counter this fails also (at least for now) in that you can buy games from any retailer that chooses to sell them and are not forced to go through Sony or MS if you want to play a game on a console.
    Now as for how litigious they have become, well, I can't really blame them for 'protecting' their IP especially after they got smacked down so hard in the 80's by MS. What I can do is continue to voice my opinion against the patent office and granting of overly generic and obvious patents to Apple. I will also not recommend or ever purchase another Apple product (no matter how nice the aesthetics are) until Apple stops the litigation and goes back to what they do best; polish existing ideas and make them work very well with other Apple devices. You may call it innovation, I call it the natural evolution of hardware and software backed by very very well done marketing.
    I realize I diverged off on a couple topics there, but it's been a long day and I am tired. Considering this is iMore I fully expect the loyal Apple supporters to express their own opinions on these topics.
    For full disclosure I am a current Android user, although considering WP8 when I am compelled enough by the hardware running it; I have owned the iPhone3G and iPhone3GS (the later which my sister now uses) and currently use a nano and have on old iPod Video which still works nicely for media backups. I have never been a fan of Apple software, but have always loved the polish on their hardware.
  • yes bundling was. And part of it was an interference with contracts with computer makers preventing them, if they wanted to sell computers with windows, to not have netscape or any other browsers as preinstalled software. That's anti-competitive actions and was illegal.
  • I agree with Rene here. Use common sense. No one is forcing you with a knife to buy an iPhone (I hope so!). I personally use an iPhone for my business and personal use. When I want to get geekie, I go out and buy an android, mess with it and ultimately I end up back to my iPhone for its simplicity. Also, when I travel, I don't trust any other device besides a an iPhone. It is a proven device.
  • I didn't know MS employed thugs to force people to buy Windows either. Microsoft was trying to point to Linux and Macs too to say they were not a monopoly.
  • Let me offer at least two facts that distinguish Apple's control of iOS from Microsoft's control of Windows in the 90s: First, Apple does not have monopoly market share in smartphones or even smart devices, nor does it have a degree of market share that would give it market power. One or the other is necessary for making a case of antitrust violation. Second, having private APIs and restricting default setting to certain of its own apps is only an actionable antitrust violation, if Apple does not have good technical and/or legally acceptable business reasons for exercising that degree of control. I think that Apple can offer good reasons for exercising its degree of control based on, inter alia, providing a superior user experience for mainstream users, preserving and maintaining the security model on its iOS devices, providing superior and problem free performance on its iOS devices, and last but hardly least, avoiding the tremendous expense of having to support every Tom, Dick, and Harry third-party app that would access iOS's private APIs if it published those APIs.
  • Oh yes: And, unlike Microsoft, Apple is placing such restrictions only on its own devices and not third-party devices. This and the foregoing would make it unlike that either the DOJ or a private party would prevail in an antitrust suit against Apple for the control of its iOS devices that you complain of.
  • Well, you can only buy a device if Apple hasn't used their influence to get it temporarily banned from sales...
  • The big difference was Microsoft made the restrictions on other peoples PC's, not their own. That is called an abuse of monopoly. Apple has every right to restrict stuff on their product. And expect the same with Microsofts Surface tablet.
  • @Dman: Apple didn't have (and still doesn't have) a monopoly on the cellphone market when it instituted its apps-not-allowed-to-be-on-iPhone policies. Microsoft was already a monopoly; if it had not been a monopoly, what it did would not have been illegal.
  • @Dman: Apple didn't have (and still doesn't have) a monopoly on the cellphone market when it instituted its apps-not-allowed-to-be-on-iPhone policies. Microsoft was already had a monopoly on PC operating systems; if it had not been a monopoly, what it did would not have been illegal.
  • I like how people justify their decisions to stick with a platform. It's cute. As for this guy, after 5 iPhones, I think it's time for something new. No one on the iOs side will miss me, but that's ok. Time to see what's growing on the other side.
  • I completely agree. Getting the Samsung Galaxy S III next week. I still love my iPad, but I am ready to have complete control of my phone again without always waiting for jailbreaks.
  • You do know you just gave up the control to get updates right?
  • I came from the other side. Great phones, great OS. But like you I got bored and decided to try something new. I'm loving my iPad, my iPhone, and my other Apple devices.
    I'm mostly a geek but right now I don't just feel like tweaking my phone anymore, or installing a new cyanogen mod rom or worrying about finding the perfect home screen configuration. I just want it all to work with minimal fuss.
    So for now anyway, I'm loving the Apple stuff.
  • Always laugh when someone says this.. because I bet you spend just as much time if not more playing and tweaking your iPhone.. Personally, I like things working out of the gate too.. but I also like to make sure I have more than one option available if I don't like the default :-)
  • This is exactly how I felt after having android phones for years. I just got tired of tweaking them. I am enjoying my iPhone and iPad quite a lot and best of all I spend more time now actually using my devices instead of tweaking them and getting them setup just right.
  • Same as me. I used to care much about my phone's theme, wallpaper, etc and tried to make it as cool as possible. Nowadays, I don't really care about the theme, wallpaper, ringtones, etc. Even now, I'm too lazy to set the things up. I'm moving from a no.5-type-of-person to no.2-type-of-person I guess.
  • I really don't understand this argument. You don't have to tweak the hell out of your Android phone, but the option is there just like tweaking the hell out of your iPhone by jailbreaking. I'm just curious what exactly didn't work on the Android or if it just that the tweaking was just too easy and tempting to pass up?
  • There's no argument here. I'm trying to say it's the preference of each person. I'm not against Android and Blackberry. I enjoy all, just iPhone fits the most in me. Since tweak-ability is not my concern, Android has no difference than iPhone to me.
  • Everyone is free to try new things... what I don't get is the people who insist on announcing to the world they are switching platforms as if it makes any real difference to us.
    Make a change, be happy, but don't think we give a flying F#)$*( what you do.
    But hey, if you insist... hope you love that Android, I'm personally sticking with iOS because its best but the #1 reason is the camera and the apps around the camera. Nobody can touch the iPhone in this category. Geek out all you want, but this will probably never change.
    There... make any difference to you? I thought not.
  • Or you can be like myself and have a bite of everything. I have an iPhone, 3rd gen iPad, Galaxy S II and a Asus transformer prime. While I feel the Apple products work way way better and a hell of a lot smoother. I enjoy both worlds and I'm hoping that one of these days Google gets there sh*t together with android. IMO android is still very beta hopefully jellybean will but and end to this.
  • I'm just waiting for Firefox.