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iPhone coverage dissected

iphone.jpgI may not agree with John C. Dvorak often,/ but in this case, I have to agree with his latest editorial. iPhone buzz is out of control. Now I know, with a company like Apple, it’s easy to be quickly categorized as an Apple fan or an Apple basher. So let’s take the New York Times latest review of the iPhone. Their article has been linked in countless blogs and touted as “fair” by both sides. They have an actual unit, and have been testing it, and are writing a review of the actual phone, unlike 99% of the hype articles that we find in the media these days. Yet let’s see how even they have a tinted view of the whole phenomenon.

It starts with this quote: “The iPhone is revolutionary; it’s flawed. It’s substance; it’s style. It does things no phone has ever done before; it lacks features found even on the most basic phones.” I knew about the basic lacking features (no removable battery slot, no MMS support, no Java support, etc) but it does things no phone has ever done before? That’s news to me. Let’s read on: “once the phone goes on sale this Friday, you won’t sign up for service in a phone store, under pressure from the sales staff. You will be able to peruse and choose a plan at your leisure, in the iTunes software on your computer.” That can be good or bad. It’s less stressful to pick up your plans at home, but I can just see the nightmare all the CS calls will be. Now at least we know why an iTunes Music Store subscription is required.

“Better yet, unlimited Internet service adds only $20 a month to AT&T’s voice-plan prices, about half what BlackBerry and Treo owners pay.” That’s good news for future iPhone users. We knew a data plan would be required but the fact that they will be getting a special low price deal is good. Of course one has to wonder why a Treo or other smartphone user on AT&T should have to pay more for the exact same data plan.

“On the iPhone, you don’t check your voice mail; it checks you. One button press reveals your waiting messages, listed like e-mail. There’s no dialing in, no password” That’s a great improvement. But let’s face it, the iPhone didn’t invent that. The reason phones don’t do that is because the technology for this has nothing to do with the phone itself, it’s all based on how the network operate. The reason the iPhone can do this is because AT&T agreed to install special servers to convert voice mail into digital audio files then push the files to the phone. This is already possible with third party services, but it will be integrated and out of the box on the iPhone because of the unique partnership AT&T agreed on, not because of new technology breakthroughs.

“The Web browser, though, is the real dazzler. This isn’t some stripped-down, claustrophobic My First Cellphone Browser; you get full Web layouts, fonts and all, shrunk to fit the screen.” This is one of the major points the hype focuses on, and this review takes care to talk about it. Of course the fact that this browser is doing exactly the same thing as Opera Mini has been doing for a week, or that the S60 browser has been doing for more than a year, is nicely forgotten.

“Free live traffic reporting, indicated by color-coded roads on the map.” Again, I thought this was a review of the iPhone? This is simply one of the many features that the Google Maps mobile Java applet has had for a long time. This is exactly the type of buzz that makes it so easy for people to be taken into the hype. Mixing features of the phone with things that other third parties provided, such as the network or Google.

“There’s no memory-card slot, no chat program, no voice dialing. You can’t install new programs from anyone but Apple; other companies can create only iPhone-tailored mini-programs on the Web. The browser can’t handle Java or Flash, which deprives you of millions of Web videos.” I think this fairly describes the negatives that the phone has. To be fair, no mobile browser supports Flash and that isn’t the fault of Apple but the simple fact that there is no port of the Flash application that supports web based files yet. However the fact that no third party applications, not even Java applets, can be installed, is a design decision from Apple, for better or for worse.

“The two-megapixel camera takes great photos, provided the subject is motionless and well lighted . But it can’t capture video.” That’s surprising. While a 2MPx standard phone video never looks great, at least the feature is there on other phones, and people who really want to take videos can, even on phones with low end VGA cameras. I don’t know why the iPhone can’t take videos when the vast majority of phones have been able to for years, but it seems like an unnecessary lack of feature.

“The New York Times’s home page takes 55 seconds to appear; Amazon.com, 100 seconds; Yahoo. two minutes.” This is another surprise. Yes, EDGE isn’t the fastest around, but I use EDGE myself and I browse the web. I never get anywhere near those speeds. I can load most web sites including those inside of 30 seconds on a full featured browser. Now to be fair I’m not on AT&T, so I don’t know if the issue is with the phone’s software or the network, but those speeds don’t seem right to me.

“Apple points out that unlike other cellphones, this one can and will be enhanced with free software updates.” Another piece of twisted reality from Apple PR. Most smartphones can be updated, that’s called a firmware update. You usually connect your phone and click on the update button on your PC software. Some phones can even be updated over the air, from the phone itself.

I think their conclusion nicely displays why the iPhone brings out such strong emotions amongst many smartphone users: “But even in version 1.0, the iPhone is still the most sophisticated, outlook-changing piece of electronics to come along in years.” So after showing that the iPhone brings absolutely no feature that isn’t available in other phones, but lacks many basic features that most phones have, it somehow deserves the title of the most sophisticated piece of electronics in years. Right.

In the end I think the iPhone will be a big success. As with most Apple products, it looks sleek and easy to use. This review did confirm that the software mostly delivers, and typical Apple users will most likely be satisfied. But let’s be very clear, the iPhone isn’t any type of revolutionary device, and doesn’t provide any brand new technology, but brings restrictions that we should be moving away from in this day and age, not going head first into, such as network restrictions, and imposed contract plans. It will probably bring a lot of users into the world of mobility, and provide a pleasant user experience to many people who were frustrated by their current device, and I can respect it for that. But the hype is ridiculous, and the amount of twisted facts completely unnecessary. Shame on Apple for that.

 

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