I’ve owned an iPhone now for about 2 years and I’d be lying if I said I was an unhappy customer. With an awesome warranty, can’t-live-without-them apps, and the ability to jailbreak, the iPhone is undoubtedly one of the best smartphones currently in the market, and almost definitely the most popular. But what keeps it from being the best at everything it does? What keeps the iPhone from ultimate glory? Namely the fact that there are some issues with the way Apple wants to run the cell phone world.
This is the big one, the one that gets tech nerds together with their pitchforks and with good reason. You see, Flash is a standard for web design that is absolutely unavoidable nowadays. Disregarding our individual feelings about whether Flash is a memory-hog or “not the tech of the future” (to paraphrase Mr. Jobs), it’s still responsible for 95% of the web and the way the web works. Everything from games to animated websites to Hulu rely on Flash to provide a great user experience.
Try loading up hulu.com on your iPhone, you’ll get a nice little warning that you need to install the latest version of Flash, which the phone doesn’t support. Thanks to a lovers’ quarrel between Apple and Adobe (the company that makes Flash tools), the iPhone has gotten lost in the shuffle. It lives inside the “walled garden” of apps and Apple’s quasi-communist policies with regards to app approval.
The No Flash situation with the iPhone is in reality a fight between open and closed source development in a way. Flash allows the internet to create simple games, make movies, and distribute content all for free. If the iPhone had Flash, a lot of apps in the app store would be completely useless, especially some of the games that are found in the store. To this end, Apple has said it’s adopting HTML 5, a different web standard for movies and games, but that’s still a long way away from becoming a force in the web market.
While the 3G and 3GS iterations of the iPhone brought successively better cameras, the issue still remains that a simple digital camera has a better resolution than the iPhone camera. It’s hard not to feel taken for a ride when you consider that only the iPhone 3GS is capable of recording video while not jailbroken when you can easily use the 3G camera to record video. Furthermore, the lack of a front-facing camera for video chatting on the go is a real detriment to what could otherwise be a very big selling point for the iPhone.
Closed App Development
There is no polite way to put it, Apple treats the end-users of the iPhone like idiots. We’re constantly barraged by messages telling us the software we really want is dangerous, if we even get to download the app in the first place. The second biggest issue for the iPhone is really a problem found in the app store and the fact that developers can’t make apps that reflect what the iPhone-carrying populace wants.
We want mature apps, we want 3G-enabled apps, we want apps that can bypass Apple’s standard browsers and email programs. But as long as the apps are controlled by Apple we’ll eternally need to jailbreak in order to unlock the phone’s true potential. And as if that wasn’t enough, without jailbreaking the phone, you’ll never be able to download anything above 10 MB over 3G, a restriction specifically designed by AT&T to limit the amount of wireless network activity.
Maybe the iPhone has its problems because of Apple, or perhaps because of AT&T, but one thing is for certain, the iPhone could do with two things – competition and distribution on another network. Apple has been content to deliver old technology and old advances such as multitasking for a phone that’s supposed to be revolutionary.
On another network, like Verizon, it could open the doors for AT&T to finally upgrade its own network rather than limit our phones to try to bridge the gap between new smartphone users and an old network. This could also lead to more competitive pricing structures with the ridiculously over-priced, non-avoidable, $30-a-month internet service plan. Or maybe even a fully subsidized iPhone, rather than having to pay $100-200 every two years for the privilege of paying $30 a month to AT&T.
The iPhone is really an amazing product and a well-designed phone, but the few things keeping it from greatness are things that are not trivial. Specifically the lack of Flash and a closed-development app store keep the iPhone from being the absolute best. While we could (and usually do) jailbreak our phones, it’d be nice to have them working well from the get-go.