Tag Archives: iPod Touch

The iPad and me

There’s a million posts around about the iPad today, and there will be a  million more tomorrow. My reaction is simply that I’ll be buying one, because I’m a geek, and that’s what I do.

As for whether it’s good or bad, game-breaking or Apple-breaker, that I’ve yet to learn.

I learned with the iPhone never to judge Apple products until I’d  had them in my sweaty paws. As a dyed-in-the-wool BlackBerry user, there was not way I was going to get an iPhone. Not a chance.

However, as a general nerd, I felt duty-bound to experience the interface – so I bought an iPod touch. Within two weeks, I’d bought an iPhone. Having used the interface  on the touch, there was simply no way that I was going to not have that lovely interface on my phone. It made my perfectly-good BlackBerry feel like something from the 19th Century.

So, till I actually have one in my hands, I’ll refrain from too much comment. People who judge Apple products by looking at the spec sheets simply don’t get it.

(Image by MarketingFacts)

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Come, gentle readers: Help me buy a new phone (Part 2)

Having vented about my frustration with the iPhone, it’s time to look at the other two contenders: Android, and Palm Pre.

Android

Ahh, the gentle, warm embrace of the Googleverse. Who could resist? Well, me for a start. While I like some of Google’s apps, I tend to sneer at them a bit too. Outside of search, a lot of their technology is… well… actually pretty lame.

Android, though, seems to be gathering some momentum. Every phone maker other than Apple seems to either have or be planning an Android phone. While the first lot of Android phones were more than a little clunky, the next wave looks a lot more appealing. And the hardware is finally up to the speed of the iPhone and Pre. Certainly, hardware development on Android is outpacing the iPhone.

And – wonder of wonders – Android multitasks. Yes, this means you can end up running too many apps at the same time and consigning your battery to an early grave, but as I previously said, that should be my choice to do if I please.

What’s bad about Android? Mostly that the number of applications is, at the moment, small. But as John Gruber pointed out, what matters is not the number of apps, but the quality. Sadly, there are few stars in the Android app world, at least not yet.

However, does this matter so much to me? After all, I have a perfectly good iPod touch which can run most of those lovely iPhone apps. And having a separate media/games/stuff player makes sense for me: I want my phone to have enough battery left to do real work, like email, calls, and, erm, Twitter. Running out of battery and missing a call because I played Championship Manager till my eyes bled would be a bad thing.

Sure, it’s less convenient to carry two devices – but it’s really not that big a deal for me.

Until I have one of the newer Android phones in my hand, though, iPhone will be a safer bet. I know iPhone, it’s good points and bad. Android is less-known territory – and that, on its own, makes me err towards iPhone.

Palm Pre

I want to love the Pre. And there’s a lot to love about it. The fact that apps are HTML, JavaScript, and so on makes me happy (and no, before you say it, they are not “web apps like on iPhone 1.0″. If you don’t know why they aren’t, go read a book or something.)

The screen is lovely. The pebble shape is lovely. The charger thingy that works without wires is lovely, like a little bit of magic.

There’s only one problem: the keyboard blows. Badly. I’ve tried it and I know damn well that I would just not bother typing anything longer than 140 characters on it.

That, on it’s own, is probably enough to rule out the Pre. Sorry, Palm.

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Come, gentle readers: Help me buy a new phone (Part 1)

Within the next month, my contract with o2 runs out – and that means it’s new phone time. However for the first time since the release of the iPhone, I face a serious choice: do I stick with iPhone, or not. Here are the runners and riders.

iPhone 3GS

Let’s be clear: I like the iPhone. Compared to everything that came before it, it’s a wonderous thing of amazement. There’s the responsiveness. You touch it, it responds, and you almost purr with pleasure. Yum. This thing was designed by someone who really, truly understands that the most important thing about a touch interface is how it responds to being touched. Sounds obvious – but try any one of the competitors, and you’ll quickly see how few companies have really got this fundamental point.

But… I’ve run into some walls with the iPhone. Things which actually have begun to drive me what can only be described as “batshit crazy”.

First, multitasking – or rather the lack thereof. I cannot begin to describe how painful the lack of multitasking is. I’ve used an OS with multitasking that I’ve forgotten what computing was like before it. Or rather, I had forgotten it – until the iPhone.

Using iPhone is like taking your lovely new MacBook Pro, ripping out Mac OS X, installing System 6, and disabling MultiFinder. But still letting you run the powerful lovely apps you’re used to. Just one at a time. It’s dark ages computing – and I’m bored of it. The novelty has worn off. I can multitask – why can’t my phone.

I don’t care that I might do terrible things – like making my phone run at less than optimal Jobs-dicatated performance. It’s my phone – treat me like a grown up and let me do it.

Multitasking is the big beef, by it’s by no means the only one. There are plenty of elements in the iPhone which are half thought out, or just plain half baked.

Take email. Like a lot of people, I have work and personal email accounts, and I check both a lot. And on the iPhone, the elegant, minimal iPhone, it takes four taps to get from one inbox to the other. By happy coincidence, that’s the same number of taps it takes to type “suck”, which is what the iPhone’s email client does.

This “make ‘em tap” approach is elsewhere, too. Tethering, for example, takes five taps from Home Screen to turning on, and the same five if you want to turn it off – which is, of course, what you should be doing. This should be on the home screen, but it’s not. It’s almost like the developers were so pleased with how well tapping and scrolling and touch generally worked, that they decided to make you, the user, do more of it so you’d appreciate just how responsive the interface is.

Worse yet, no developer other than Apple can create the simple app to do it, because that is a Part Of The OS Into Which Only Apple Is Allowed. Thou shalt not mess around with those bits, sayeth Steve.

And that’s a great example of the other great flaw of the iPhone: developers cannot fill in the bits which Apple doesn’t do right, if it means digging into some bits of the system. Leaving aside the fact that the App Store is broken, what developers can do is firmly in Apple’s control, and the company keeps tight reign on where they’re allowed to poke. Want the ability to link up an external keyboard to your Mac? Can’t have it – not because developers don’t want to make one, but because Apple won’t allow them to do it.

But… having said all that… the iPhone is still my front runner. Why? Put simply, because it’s the path of least resistance. I have lots of Apps, which I like, and I’d need to install and run some of them on my iPod touch if I didn’t have an iPhone. And that touch interface really is seductive. So for all my complaining… maybe iPhone is my best option.

In part two, I’ll look at the two other contenders: Android (of some kind) and the Palm Pre.

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Scoble is right about iPhone users. But the game isn’t over yet

Robert Scoble has a post up about why Apple’s key advantage is the breadth of the app store. And he’s right – but the game isn’t over yet.

85,000 is the headline figure, and what it allows Apple to leverage is a classic “long tail of usefulness”. For me, 99.99% of those applications are (to me) useless crap that would have no bearing on whether I stick with iPhone. Unfortunately for everyone else, that still leaves 8 or 9 apps that act like heavy anchors, dragging me back to Apple’s platform.

But suppose Nokia, Android, or whoever got the developers of those apps to port them to their platform? Great! They’ve won me as a customer. But the problem is that this is a long tail: maybe four or five of those would be common ones, but three or four would be ones which only me and a relatively few other people wanted. So the actual base of applications that are “must haves” would be much wider, in the low thousands at a guess. That’s a long way from Robert’s claim that you need all 85,000, but it’s still a pretty daunting number.

And the experience of Apple in the 90′s, when the Mac was on the back foot, proves that it’s no good having “equivalent” applications – once people get used to having app X, they want app X, not app Y which does pretty much the same thing.

However, there’s a catch: it’s worth remembering that most people haven’t bought smart phones yet. Smartphone penetration remains comparatively tiny, and in the biggest growth markets for phones (Africa, BRIC) it’s still dirt-cheap simple phones which are driving the growth.

And people are used to buying phones on hardware features: the best camera, for example, is a big influence. That’s why Apple has been advertising with “there’s an app for that” – raising a flag for the one big advantage they have. But until you actually use a phone which is infinitely malleable via applications, it’s hard to appreciate why it’s so cool. So it’s not a totally easy sell.

(As an aside, this is the reason why the iPod Touch is so important: it’s a “gateway drug” for the app store. You might not buy an Apple phone, but you might replace your old iPod with the touch… and then find that you love the apps. At which point, you’ll buy an iPhone next time.)

So the game isn’t over yet, and there’s plenty still to play for. But Apple has a head-start, and if I was a betting man, I’d place my money on the iPhone. Essentially, it’s Apple’s lead to throw away – but, as others will no doubt point out, Apple has thrown away leads before.

(Update: John Gruber’s written an interesting response to this, and I’ve written a further response posing what I think is an interesting question: What happens when there aren’t 100,000 apps on the store, but one million?)

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