Monday, July 12, 2010

more apple bashing - sorta

i don't hate iphones as much as i might have led to believe in this blog. i hate many things about them (their fans, blind followers, seriously missing features, their fans, again - you're getting the idea). but looking at things from a wider perspective, a longer-timed one, the iphone has done to the modern mobile phone what nokia had once done to the digital mobile phone. with a couple of exceptions, the world has seen year after year of innovative mobile phones coming out of finland. they didn't always have the best phones around, but looking at the history, they've consistently delivered high-quality, innovative phones. the exception to that are the us (they were drowning in prehistoric motos) and japan (who have phones form 2014, today)

the iphone, of course, isn't a phone. it's a mobile application device that happens to have a phone function. think of the ipod touch, or the ipad: they're iphones without the "phone". the apple line of mobile application platforms has certain things in common: funky user interface, cool effects and capabilities and a relentless focus on the user experience. more importantly, it has fueled the mobile device innovation (intellectually, technologically and financially): if you can think of it, there's probably an application out for it. so the iphone literally changed how we think about mobile application devices: they're not mobile computers (think windows mobile and shudder), they're not phones with apps (think nokia), they're not email with a phone (think bb): they're something different altogether. they're iphones.

so why do i hate the iphone? well, there are a few things that make my cringe and never allow myself to buy one. the first is the simplest: the asshole jobs, and his minions. don't get me wrong, i appreciate his innovation, but i hate his black sweater and his attitude. it's not that he understands what people want, it's that he argues with them when they disagree. copy-paste, multi-tasking and video conferencing are functions he originally claimed that people don't really need, then he introduced them as "new" features. to be honest he's smart to do that: he realizes people are sheep and the minions will take his word for gospel. despite these being available on nokia ages ago, on the iphone they became "cool".

second, the less personal but more relevant reason: the iphone business model. apple has complete control over their phones and everything surrounding them, including the applications. they can decide what applications can be developed or not, and thus limit what developers can do. they are actually notorious for refusing certain apps or censoring others, with no clear guidelines other than jobs' whims. working with apple is bittersweet: the potential for money is great but so is the potential for risk. well fuck em. but there's more. how many models of the iphone are available for sale right now? one. apple, the iphone master, controls everything about their device. a high-end, expensive device, which has applications only they control.

then android came along. here was a platform that was just as cool (though admittedly far less mature), but it looked at things differently. first: the os was open source, which means that anyone was free to modify or make changes to it. second: open hardware, which means that anyone can build an android device (even tablets like android better). third: anyone can develop anything, including shit that changes the layout. in fact, they have a new development platform that allows the average george to build apps. everything was free except the hardware. how cool is that? when google's nexus one came out people were wondering if it was an iphone killer. it wasn't. it wasn't meant to be. it was meant to highlight what an android device could be - should be. it was a statement about how innovative platforms can look like.

so where does that leave us? well, i will refer you to two points in the past. the first: apple vs. microsoft. apple insisted on building computers that they controlled in. microsoft, on the other hand, just did windows and told everyone: get your own damn hardware. what that resulted in was macs that were consistently functional and well-built, but were expensive and "unique", but windows machines that were flexible and highly configurable. sound familiar? ms ran windows on every piece of hardware it could find: that created some slow machines, shit machines, but it was accessible. anyone could buy a windows machine. people still buy macs, but despite what you see in the movies, they're only used by either pretentious iphone owners or graphic designers. the second point stops at the largest seller of mobile devices by far. not apple or google or bb: the humble nokia. despite all the jazz around all the other handsets, nokia sells more than all of them combined. four of the five top selling phones of all time are nokia devices. looking closely, you'll not be surprised to notice that the top selling devices are, above all else, cheap. and that's the other place where android will always be different: you can run it anywhere. you don't need to buy a beautiful piece of hardware to get it. even today, you see "low end" android devices. they don't have the fastest processors or 147 megapixel cameras, but they do allow you to run a lot of android apps.

over the next two years, i see things playing out as follows. first, apple will still remain an innovator, in technology and user interface concepts. second, nokia will put its ailing symbian os to sleep and adopt android for their devices. third, android will become the windows of the mobile world: though it might not only player out there, it will be dominant. i do not hate iphones but i won't buy them for the same reasons i don't buy a mac. history has taught me that.

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