The Continuation of Apple's iPhone Shortcomings
Continued from 'The Apple iPhone: 10 Significant Shortcomings'….
- Carrier- and application-lock: Apple and Cingular must have missed the late November 2006 memo wherein the Library of Congress approved a copyright exemption (more from Ars Technica and MAKE) that allows DMCA circumvention for "cell phone firmware that ties a phone to a specific wireless network". I have mobile service through T-Mobile, so I'm not an iPhone candidate unless I'm a "bad guy" (in Cingular terminology) who figures out how to unlock the device by myself. And Jobs' explanation for the Apple-gated (thereby potentially excluding Office file viewers, for example, and VoIP) iPhone application allowance, that "Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up," is equally laughable, not to mention technically indefensible. In reality, it's nothing more than an unfriendly-to-consumer but lucrative-to-company extension of the FairPlay DRM lock-to-Apple strategy.
- Large size: I think Pocket PC Phones are too bulky, both to stow in my pocket and to hold up to my face. I'm also not a fan of wired or wireless headsets, and I therefore prefer the Smartphone approach. But Maury, and plenty of other folks, find the larger iPhone-like form factor and headset approach palatable. So this is admittedly a personal-taste nit.
- No tactile keypad: Time and time again, touchscreen-only user interfaces with 'floating keypads' have been panned by potential customers and have therefore been unsuccessful in the market aside from in narrow market niches. Will this time be different? I'm skeptical.
- Low-res camera: An only-2 Mpixel camera? On a $500-$600 phone? C'mon
- No expansion slot: The operating system (which may or may not be OS X as Jobs touted during his 'reality distortion field' keynote), gobbles up 500 MBytes' worth of the 4 or 8 GBytes of flash memory built into the phone. Installed applications consume even more, and let's not forget those all-important music tracks and video clips. Run out of memory? Too bad, buy a bigger-capacity phone. There's no memory card expansion capability for you.
- Insufficient between-charge operating time: Apple's documentation claims up to 5 hours when talking on the phone, playing back videos or browsing the Internet. I believe 5 hours of talk time, which is in and of itself low compared to competitors products. And I 'may' believe 5 hours of video playback time, given that the unit is flash memory-based and given the track record of the company's firmware upgrade-based improvements here on the first- and second-generation video-capable iPods. But I don't buy it for a second with Internet-based functions, EDGE- and particularly Wi-Fi-based. Anyone else who regularly manages email, fires up a web browser, or does another Net-centric function on a device with a small battery will, I think, agree with my stance here. And, revisiting my earlier embedded-battery point, realize that Apple's operating life prognostications assume a brand new battery.
- Unoriginality: Admittedly, this may be my most controversial argument. Go back and look at any of my past Pocket PC and Smartphone writeups. Look at any of the devices now available from carriers. Now realize that many of them are now selling for free-to-sub-$100, subsidized under the exact same contract terms as Apple's $500-600 iPhone. Windows Mobile-based devices, as well as products based on Palm, Symbian and alternative operating systems, have for years been doing what Apple's promising its iPhone will do in….around six months from now. Phone? Check. Audio playback? Check. Video playback? Check. Internet access? Check. Wi-Fi? Check. 3G data? Check-plus. Bluetooth? Check. Camera? Check. GPS? Check-plus. I could go on (but I won't). Some folks are even claiming that Apple blatantly stole from an LG phone design. Granted, Apple may have advanced the state of the art to some degree, in some areas, in an evolutionary manner, by virtue of its large touchscreen and other factors. But is the Apple iPhone revolutionary? That's quite a stretch.
So what do you think, readers? Have I been too harsh on Apple? Or are you similarly unaffected by, and unimpressed with, the hype? Here's what Steve Balmer thinks.
And here's the Slashdot debate. Shoot me your opinions in the comments.