The iPhone is a stunning device. It’s astonishing to me that not only does the iPhone live up to the majority of the hype but also that Apple got it so right on the very first try. Handset manufacturers everywhere better be very very embarrassed. Some have been making phones for 20 years, and their phones still lag far behind Apple’s Jesusphone.

The iPhone has many virtues the most important is it’s user interface. The interface! The pure slickness of the interface is superb and smothered in smooth GUI butter. The brilliant, colorful, clear display makes the whole phone look like one big candy bar of sweet silicon-based goodness. It’s a marvel to see. There are other fine features too such as the multi-touch and the intuitive yet surprising implementations in many of the apps. For example, you just need to play with the maps application. It’s slicker than anything else I’ve seen.

Sure, there are some flaws and shortcomings on the iPhone, but I think most of them can be fixed with minor and inexpensive hardware additions or software updates:

  • I’m just not convinced that the touchscreen virtual keyboard is going to hack it for power users. There’s not enough tactile feedback to give the user the confidence to whiz through a text message. Though there are audio cues when a keypress is logged and Apple smartly made it so the keystroke registers when the finger is lifted (rather than pressed), it’s still an inferior functional experience than a normal button-based keypad. I do have faith that Apple can improve this, but it may take a lot.
  • Limits on communication flexibility. No MMS, no multi-recipient SMS, and no IM (what?!). My guess is all of these will be resolved by Christmas.
  • Weak external speakers. When it rings, it just doesn’t sound as clear and nice as it should. It was easy to get the speakers to distort the sound.
  • Weak camera. “So, what complements an awesome photo viewer and top-notch screen? Oh, I know, a sub-par camera! Stick one of those suckers on there.” It seems that was the design philosophy at that stage of iPhone development.
  • Proprietary speaker jack. The user is forced to use official earphones rather than any hundreds of other normal headphones. This is a mistake (though a very profitable mistake) that many other handset manufacturers are finally figuring out. It’s lame to see Apple, who is so user focused, start down the wrong path right out of the gates.
  • Closed system that only allows approved 3rd party apps and web-based apps. This is fine just as long as Apple has the coolest stuff out there. But there are a lot of functional apps that will never make it to the iPhone because Apple chose to lock everything down. I believe Apple will lose this fight and will eventually switch to a more open development environment. This will probably occur either when a very competitive phone comes out that’s more open or the consumer mind-set finally sees the mobile phone as a computer in his or her pocket. I think we’ll see the former scenario first, but the second is inevitable and ultimately will be a more powerful force in the market.

All of this being said, would I buy an iPhone if it could be reliably unlocked? Almost definitely. The thing is amazing and will hopefully revolutionize how mobile phones are made.

Oh, and here’s some irony for you. UGH.

Taste my bitter tears

Unrequited love often turns to bitterness. Sometimes even a foul bitterness that can only boil up from the evil brew festering deep within man’s black heart. Such has my love for the iPhone become. How fickle is my nerd heart!

The iPhone is absurdly expensive if you factor in Cingular’s outrageous data and voice charges. Look, I don’t care if the iPhone can double as a totally excellent girlfriend, I’m not paying nearly $2000 a year for a stupid phone. For that much money I’d rather get an oQo 2, which I’m not going to get. By the way, T-Mobile’s data charges are significantly cheaper than Cingular’s for pretty much the same network in terms of speed unless you’re in one of the few select markets with 3G already. Of course, the iPhone itself will become cheaper. I’m sure within a year there will be several models and only the top end will remain obscenely expensive.

Cingular’s exclusivity contract is rumored to end in 2009, and after head-scratchingly stupid comments like these I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple refuses to let Cingular sell their phones after the agreement expires. When a president of Cingular is crowing that they made The Steve, a man who caves to neither Big Music or Big Movies, bend to their wishes, I have to be extremely skeptical of both the veracity of his claim and his ability as any type of dealmaker. Saying the other side did all the bending is, well, poor diplomacy at best. Also, calling people who unlock phones “bad guys” is almost insulting and shows a lack of regard for users who pay money for their toys. Unlocking phones is legal, and there’s no reason they should be disparaging somebody who only wants to legally use their device on whatever carrier they choose.

So with this being said, maybe in a couple of years, when the iPhone is less of a gold-digger and stops hanging out with that a-hole of a boyfriend, Cingular, my love for it can be renewed. Until then . . . I’m using a Motorola RAZR out of sheer spite.

(links via MobilityBeat and /.)

Moving past the pain

“Cingular-only” Shock Syndrome is wearing off, albeit slowly. I’m still embarrassingly depressed over it. I’ve never had a gadget make me so emo. What makes it even more depressing is that early rumors about the Gadget-that-won’t-be-mentioned (GTWBM) claimed that Apple and T-Mobile were extremely close to inking a deal, but at the last minute the deal fell apart. Who knows what happened there, but it adds more salt to my already excruciating nerdpains.

The GTWBM is an unbelievably amazing contraption. It’s feature set and functionality is beyond all but the wildest expectations. The implementation is gorgeous. Truly, truly it is the most perfect mobile phone this world has seen so far. You’ll note I’m using the prophetic perfect tense because I am that sure of it’s flawlessness. Not only is the GTWBM a beautiful feather in Apple’s cap it is also a huge blot of embarrassment for all the other phone manufacturers. Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, HTC, Palm, LG, Siemens, and Sony Ericsson together have been spending decades and decades attempting to make the Perfect Phone, but right now there really is no Uber Phone that completely dominates the market. The closest thing to that is the Motorola RAZR, which is extremely popular, but any RAZR user will tell you the same thing: it’s a crappy phone (I used one for two weeks and then couldn’t take it anymore). Now, Apple in its very first attempt makes the Phone that all the other manufacturers have been failing for decades to create. If anything I’m at the point where I’m in less wonderment about the dear and blessed features of the GTWBM and more in wonderment about the dismal failure of all other phone manufacturers. Were they not even trying? Did they not care? Were they just too stupid? Did they think they could keep getting by with mediocre features, glitchy functions, ugly UIs, and flaky reliability? What have they been doing with all their R&D?!

There are some puzzling things about the GTWBM. First is its name. Why on earth did Jobs pick that name when there’s already a phone with the exact same name, owned by a company much larger than Apple? In the most obvious legal move of the millennium, Cisco has already sued Apple. Cisco will win this, and Apple will be forced to change the name. So it begs the question, why the heck did Jobs even bother? Does he like being sued? Does Apple legal think they have a case they can actually win? You can read a response by a Cisco SVP here which gives Cisco’s side of the story. Even as an Apple fan, I’m inclined to side with him wholeheartedly. Naming the GTWBM as they did was just plain stupid. Especially since naming it the Apple Phone would give it just as much brand power and uniqueness to stand out from the crowd. Heck, most people will call it “that Apple phone” anyway. Indeed, I would even argue that using the name they did makes it less identifiable because every tech company and it’s parent company has some iProduct. iAnything is common and, unfortunately, boring these days.

Second, obviously and painfully, is the choice to make it a Cingular exclusive. Sure, Cingular is the largest mobile carrier in the US market with 58 million users, but that still excludes over half the rest of the US market from buying it. Why would Apple purposefully choose to reduce it’s immediate potential customer base by over 50% right out the gates, especially when it wants to hit a really aggressive 1% marketshare in the first year? Apple could have followed the European model for mobile phones: let the user buy an unlocked phone and then they pick which carrier they want to use. This gives the user the most flexibility and the greatest choice. Apple chose the limited, narrow-minded, and arguably archaic US model for phone distribution. Sitting in my IRC channel when it got announced, the vast majority of netizens were upset that it was Cingular only and not a single person was happy it was Cingular only. The most positive reaction was simply a glib defense of Jobs’s inexplicably limiting and frustrating business decision. I find it very, very hard to believe Apple will sell more GTWBM by going Cingular only. Sure, Cingular probably subsidizes the heck out of the thing, thus significantly reducing the upfront cost to the user, but I would bet many users, including myself, would gladly pay the full cost in order to use it on the carrier of his or her choice. I have two guesses why Apple chose to go with Cingular only. First, the cost of the GTWBM is so high (e.g. $900+) that only the most diehard Apple fans and tech geeks would even consider buying it, which forced Apple to partner with a carrier to get it subsidized. Second, Cingular paid out the nose to get exclusivity, meaning Apple got a huge chunk of change right up front for phones they aren’t even producing yet. Either way, I think it’s reasonable to assume that going with Cingular only somehow makes business sense for the immediate future, but I’d be astonished if it remains Cingular exclusive for more than a year.

With all this being said, I still hold out hope. I believe it’s almost a certainty that it will be hacked and unlocked, allowing it to be used on other GSM carriers. Also, there’s real good reason to hold out for version 2.0. 1.0 releases aren’t always a sure bet, as many bugs need to be ironed out, features don’t work quite as intended, and the newest technology isn’t included. For example, the GTWBM does not support 3G (mobile broadband basically), which will be de rigueur high-speed network standard in the US within a couple of years. Nobody will care about Apple’s thingeemabob in 2008 unless it is 3G, and I’m expecting by then there will be several different models and it will not be a Cingular exclusive. So, I guess what I’m saying is by the time the GTWBM is on other mobile carriers, it will be just hitting its stride, support true mobile broadband, cheaper, and even more perfect than what it is now.

Powerbook resurrection

Tonight I finally got around to replacing the drive on my dying Powerbook. I got a Seagate 100 GB 7200 RPM drive to replace the failing stock drive, but that’s not the important part. The important part is the pictures, so let’s get on with those.

First, Apple thought it’d be a fun thing if the user ever wanted to get to the guts of his Powerbook he should have to remove lots and lots of screws:

Then, to make it even more of a challenge, Apple decided to put some latches underneath the upper case over the optical drive that would firmly lock the case down. These latches would be supremely difficult to locate and unlatch. Most users in frustration will resort to gorilla mechanics and mar their cases. Kinda like this:

Then the user can see the guts of the Powerbook which look like this:

After installing the new hard drive and replacing all the screws, I found out I had two spare screws. Well, sorta. I know where they should go, but I’m pretty sure I accidentally swapped them with two screws inside the Powerbook. The screws I have left over are too thin for the threads to take hold, so they’re effectively useless. It’s always nice to have some spare screws around the house anyway.

So, after about 3 hours of jiggering and cajoling my dying laptop, it now has a new Mega Memory Storage Center. It’s happily installing OS X 10.4 right now:

In fact, in the time it’s taken for me to write this post, it has finished installing. Time to start doing software updates.