LK’s pennultimate iPhone rant

I saw this pop up on the WordPress Dashboard and thought it would be a great springboard for why I hate the iPhone in general.

While it’s been called a smartphone, the iPhone is, for all intents and purposes, a dumbphone for people who want to look smart by comparison.  The original iPhone didn’t support third-party applications and was more closed than even Java-based phones, which can still install programs.  Only by hacking (which voided the warranty) could people install programs on their phones.

The original iPhone was also severely over-priced.  For $699, you could have an 8 GB iPhone (carrier-locked, no less), whereas for $650 you could have an unlocked Nokia N95 8GB  (with US 3G).

To put the cost in perspective: The Nokia has a 5MP autofocus camera (over the iPhone’s 2MP fixed focus one), it records video in VGA (640×480) at 30 frames per second (the iPhone doesn’t shoot video), it uses GPS and aGPS to give turn-by-turn voice guided directions (the original iPhone didn’t have GPS), it’s able to install programs that significantly alter its performance (again, no third-party apps on the iPhone), and it has a removable battery, for crying out loud.

Fast forward to the present.  The iPhone 2 comes out with…pretty much the same features.  Oh, sure, there’s 3G and GPS this time, but what else is there that’s different from the old model?  Applications, for another thing.  OK, we’re doing better.  But the trail runs cold right there.  Same camera, same interface (an awesome interface, perhaps, but not different in any way), same non-existent video camera, same non-removable battery, same design, same same same.

The two major (and, really, only) additions to the iPhone 2 is one of the reasons I’m so amused by everyone’s lust over the thing.  Sure, GPS is still a relative novelty at this point (though nearly every N and Eseries device from Nokia has had it since the inception of the N95 2 years ago), but for people to go gaa-gaa over 3G?  That’s not the funny part—the funny part is that the first one didn’t have 3G, the second one does, and so in order to get data speeds approaching 21st century standards, you essentially have to buy the same product twice.

What cracks me up about the iPhone is, in going with the article I linked, the fact it has to be “activated.”  What is this?  Verizon?  Why the hell do you need to “activate” a GSM phone?  You pop the SIM Card in and start making calls.  This notion of activating is backwards and silly to say the least; if you don’t activate it or the servers seize up and fry before you’re able to log into iTunes, you can’t use your phone.  Sorry, try again later.

Activation with the original iPhone was stupid (yeah, like it really prevented “illegal” unlocking), but doing it again with the iPhone 2 is downright moronic.  They’ve got third-party apps (one of the things employees looked for in “illegally-modified” iPhone 1s since it was a trip-switch for a warranty void) and apparently legally required to have unlocked models in some European countries, so what Apple is trying to prevent people from doing by requiring activation is beyond me.

What annoys me most about the iPhone is not the iPhone itself, but people who like the iPhone and are extremely biased in thinking the iPhone essentially created civilization as we know it today.  People will look down on phones simply because it is not an iPhone.  The other phone could have a 10 MP camera, record video in 1080i, burp the baby and make grilled cheese, and they would ask, “Is it in iPhone? No? Well, then it probably doesn’t sync with iTunes, does it?”

The funniest personal example I have is when someone asked me about my phone.  At the time I was using my N95, so of course I went into the whole speech about the 5MP camera, the video recording, GPS, WiFi, et cetera, and how I don’t own an iPod or a digital camera or anything like that because it’s all contained in my phone.  They listened to me speak, but in the end asked, “So does it have a touchscreen like the iPhone?”

Of course I said no, because it doesn’t.  S60 3rd Ed. doesn’t support touch.  But that was enough to turn this person off of the entire device.  It doesn’t have a touchscreen like the iPhone does, and because the iPhone is perfect, any phone lacking one of its features is not worth my time. Even though the other device more than makes up for it in its other features.

People are obsessed with the iPhone, it seems.  It’s made it into mainstream news media.  No phone I can remember has gotten a media presence like the iPhone.  It’s made it into Omaha’s newspaper, for crying out loud.  Omaha, a city stereotyped as being a place people regularly ride cattle to work and cut their lawns with machetes, has full-size newspaper articles about a phone, if popular opinion is to be believed, invented the touchscreen.

Don’t get me wrong…given that I love cell phones, I’m glad to see a cell phone get into the mainstream news.  But I wish a more deserving phone would have also made it in.  When Nokia released the US 3G version of their N95, I didn’t see any articles about that.  It was the same price or lower and does a whole hell of a lot more than the iPhone—so why didn’t print media outlets pick up on that?

The easy answer is that the iPhone is available on an AT&T contract and the N95 isn’t.  Americans—and here is where I get into my anti-carrier rant—know only the phones available through their carrier.  No more.  And if the carriers had their way, they’d probably forcibly prevent American consumers from knowing about other phones.

Americans think the iPhone is the greatest thing since pockets on pants because they don’t know any better.  They don’t know there is an entire unexplored world of phones just on the other side of the ocean.  The only phones they know about are the ones advertised on TV and available in the store.  Even modestly-priced European phones blow the iPhone out of the water and several miles inland, and the thing is, only a slim minority know that they exist or how to use them.  (You’d think it would be easier for people to comprehend, given all you have to do is buy a phone on Amazon, stick your SIM Card in, and start calling people—you don’t have to deal with any of the clueless employees at the store.)

Therefore, Americans are led to believe the iPhone really is the most advanced cell phone ever to hit the market—sadly buying in to marketing buzzwords like “revolutionary,” which is just a euphamism for, “Not that great, but people need to buy it anyway”—even though it’s lacking key features common on practically all phones 2+ years ago.

“But the 3G iPhone comes in both black AND white!”

Yes.  Yes it does.  And it syncs with iTunes.

On a positive note, there are two things that are good about the iPhone and iPhone 3G.  The first one disproved the long-standing theory that Americans were entirely unwilling to pay more than $50 for a cell phone.  Part of the reason why so many of the phones available from carriers are crap is that they think their customers are not willing to exchange currency for a new phone, so as a result, a whole ton of low- to mid-end junk has been dumped on America’s doorstep since manufacturers think that’s all we are willing to get.

When the iPhone was released and cost no less than $500, people were aghast that they were actually being bought.

So that’s a good thing.  Hopefully in the future phone manufacturers will be more willing to give us more high-end stuff.  I think we’re already seeing the first signs of it with the HTC Touch Diamond, the LG Dare, and the Samsung Omnia, rumored to debut on AT&T.  Plus now Nokia is releasing many of its top-end phones with US 3G and selling them over here unlocked, which is of course excellent for people like me.

The second is a personal one.  Because the iPhone 2 is mass marketing 3G data, AT&T has been kicked in the butts to deliver 3G to more markets, Omaha included.  So if it weren’t for that, we may have been skipped over.

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2 Responses

  1. Interesting read, LK. I too am annoyed at how asinine our system is with regard to equipment/carrier tie ups. Talk about reinforcing monopolistic tendencies. Thankfully the iphone has paved the way for true smartphones ala those in Japan and Korea.

    Then again, there’s this:
    http://www.wired.com/gadgets/wireless/news/2008/06/japan_phones

  2. Hello, I am fellow Omaha-ian! And sadly, I am also one of those people that you described in your article. I heart my iPhone.

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