iPhone Hysteria

By John Welch

June 05, 2007

The iPhone is the Paris Hilton of the tech world, producing a continuous echo chamber of hype. But there are several tangible issues to consider.

Ah, more iPhone news, and of course, the Internet is a-twitter over it. Apple has now given us a release date (June 29th), and a series of commercials showing off the iPhone. Of course, this is feeding the echo chamber that's been set up around the iPhone, with the usual two camps forming: "It's going to be the best thing since breathable air!" on one side, and "It's going to be the greatest failure since the Titanic! Jobs is going down!" on the other.

Of course, everyone's forgetting the...minor issue that no one knows what's going on yet. The Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference is happening in less than a week, and you can't buy one until the end of June. So the idea that the iPhone will be better or worse than current devices is based on specifications, some video, and speculation. Of those three, only one is trustworthy. The other two are too limited to be of any serious use, and in the case of speculation, less reliable than asking the cat.

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For example, the, (to some) simply huge issue of "Apple's not letting third parties develop software for it, it's doomed" is, quite literally based on nonsense. First, neither Steve Jobs, nor anyone at Apple with any authority has said this. What they have said is that they're going to tightly control any third party developer access.

Note that "tightly control" and "not allow at all" are not the same thing. While I'm sure that to many, they are almost synonyms, my own experience with unfettered third-party applications on a phone makes me less...positive about that idea than many. For example, my personal phone is a Sprint PPC-6601. Nice phone, big screen. However, thanks to a third party application (Newsbreak as it happens), there were times when the phone part of my phone wouldn't work. In fact, regular times. It would happen after I had a call drop for whatever reason. I'd try to redial and the instant I hit the button, I'd get a popup saying the call could not be completed as dialed.

The only ways to fix it were to reboot the phone, or, bounce the radio stack by putting it in flight mode and then taking it out of flight mode. Of course, the latter option had the fun benefit of immediately dialing the number I'd been trying to call and giving me just enough time to say "Wait, phone's being dumb, I'll ca-". Note that the OS hadn't crashed, but the phone was unable to function as a phone. When you're talking about something you bought as a "smart" phone, that's unacceptable. But hey, it's a small price to pay for the benefits of unfettered third party development, right? The situation with the Palm OS is even worse, since you could get poorly-written software that would send the phone into a constant soft reset loop. Joy. Luckily, in my case, deleting Newsbreak has fixed the issue completely.

Not that it's just third party software. The Camera on my 6601 pushes the screen backlighting up to max, but when I quit out of it, or even switch out of it, the brightness doesn't fall back to what I had it set at. Nice, watch my battery die. The story on other phones seems to be the same. Razrs that crash when you try to use the supplied AIM client, and I've heard similar on the Symbian side. Unfettered third party development is a nice theory, but thus far, the implementation has been lacking. So really, I've no problem with Apple moving slowly here. I know I'm a fogey, but I really get snippy when my phone won't work because my newsreader is eating all the resources. That's not A Good Thing.

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