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Don’t like the iPhone? Do as I did – don’t buy one

The iPhone launches in the UK in just a few weeks now, but I’ve already made my decision: thanks, but no thanks.

It’s not just because it runs on O2 rather than the T-Mobile network that I’ve been with since, well, before it was T-Mobile. It’s not just because it uses EDGE (and EDGE with crappy coverage at that) rather than 3G. It’s because it simply doesn’t do what I want to do, and largely because it’s a completely closed system.

Rather than go for an iPhone, I decided to go for a Blackberry 8800, which is the “stretched” version of the very lovely BlackBerry Pearl. Of course, it includes the usual BlackBerry instant email – which I’ve come to love – as well as a small but perfectly usable keyboard and GPS for satellite navigation.

The 8800 has highlighted for me why I think that iPhone, for all its lovely interface touches, is a fundamentally crippled piece of hardware which betrays all of the faults of a “version 1.0” product. The reasons that I’ve picked up on, though, aren’t the same ones as it’s been criticised for before, such as its reliance on the slower EDGE network (the 8800 is only capable of EDGE, too).

No GPS is a poor choice

To anyone who hasn’t used a recent smartphone with GPS, this will make very little sense. Before I got the 8800, I was very skeptical about how useful GPS would be.

Since I got it, though, it’s been about the most-used smart feature on the phone. Tying together the ability to grab maps off the internet, search for locations and businesses and show directions from the exact location you’re in is a killer feature. And, unlike the GPS in the Nokia N95, the 8800 doesn’t tend to take ten minutes to hook up to enough satellites to get a position.

What’s more, because developers have the ability to hook into a GPS, the potential for smart, useful and fun applications is pretty much boundless. Someone could for example, write an application which activated reminders depending on you location. Walking past Tesco – and your phone bings to remind you to get some milk.

It’s clearly a design compromise driven by battery life, something which Jobs is rightly obsessed with. Phone and GPS and hours of video playback won’t go into something the size of the iPhone.

But the iPhone is already a poor video player, lacking the amount of storage it would need to topple an iPod. While the 16Gb of the iPod touch is just about bearable, 8Gb just doesn’t work.

No instant email

Yes, I know you can use Yahoo to do sort-of instant email with the iPhone – but who wants to use Yahoo? Putting email on the same level SMS lets you forget that you’re not connected in a way which using web mail simple doesn’t. Webmail on a mobile sucks. The technology is there, Apple, and you even have your own mail service – so deliver me the mail.

No support for third-party hardware development

There’s obviously been a lot of attention on the lack of third party software development, thanks to Apple’s insistance that the phone be locked down “for security reasons”. This is obviously bull. The BlackBerry is certifed to connect to highly-secure networks, including governments, so there’s no reason why you can’t do it. I can’t imagine that even the most fervent Apple loyalist actually believes that nonsense.

But a side effect of this lack of accessibility to software is stifling third party hard development, too. I’m sitting here typing this on my BlackBerry, using an HP foldable keyboard originally designed for PocketPCs, but which I can use with my phone thanks to a third party driver. I will never be able to do this with the iPhone. The only hardware I will be able to use with the iPhone is whatever Apple permits me to use – which, almost certainly, means whatever Apple is making money on.

No installable applications

That software issue really, truly, relegates the iPhone to the second division of mobiles, and into the same “fashion accessory” territory as the Sidekick. Again, there is no technical reason why Apple has chosen to do this: the “network safety” excuse is just nonsense.

So overall, no – the iPhone is not for me. If the hardware was at least up the standards of other recent mobiles, if the platform were open, then yeah. But no.

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