Archive for the 'iphone' Category
Friday, December 5th, 2008
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
There’s been a lot of hullaballoo about the BlackBerry Storm over the last couple of weeks. David Pogue, normally so mild mannered, used his print column to lambast the device from several different directions. Another example of the kind of critiques that have been going around is here.
Pogue’s column generated a fair amount of both commendation and condemnation according to his latest blog post, and understandably so. He seemed unusually vituperative about the device compared with his normal even handedness, and you sensed a certain amount of annoyance at the way Verizon Wireless refused to acknowledge the bugs in the device and that this annoyance might have colored the rest of his commentary. At the same time, many users (including me) seem to have experienced similar problems and he gave their frustration voice.
All in all, I agree with some of what Pogue said but don’t feel quite as strongly about it all as he did. I like a number of things about the device:
- the exterior is very attractive - both front and back - the black glassy finish over the front looks nice and sleek and the brushed metal finish on the battery cover adds further class. Feels more solid than the Curve and a number of other recent BlackBerries.
- The user interface is also attractive, although the default Verizon red is a little offputting. The new wireframe icons that debuted with the Bold and continued with the Flip are here too and look pretty good on the whole (although downloaded applications still use the same logos they always have, making them look out of place among the minimalist native ones)
- The email and other PIM functions BlackBerries are famous for are still first class.
But there are a number of problems with the device, too, and the main one is the implementation of the touch screen. I’ve never understood why anyone thought tactile feedback was a useful thing with a touchscreen. If tactile feedback is your thing, then you should really buy a device with a keyboard. If you like touchscreens you don’t get tactile feedback and that’s just fine. What does that tactile feedback do for you anyway? If you hit the wrong key on the virtual keyboard (or more likely in the Storm’s case, select the wrong item in a menu) the feedback is the same - the same clicky sound you’d have got if you hit the right key or selected the right menu item. The Sprint Instinct tried to solve the same perceived problem in a different way - with “haptic” feedback (little vibrations confirming virtual key presses) which was just as useless and also a little distracting.
RIM has made the mistake of assuming that people who want a touchscreen are actually closet QWERTY keyboard addicts. Even if they pretend they’re willing to forego the keyboard they really want a clicky feel afterall - they’re just in denial. No. They actually prefer the flexibility of a keyboard and have made a deliberate decision to do without the clicky keyboard, thank you very much. If I wanted both a touchscreen and a keyboard I’d have bought a Treo.
I had the same issues as David Pogue as regards using the virtual keyboard and the touchscreen in general. Coming from the iPhone (which is my main personal device) the two-layered touchscreen (selection via regular touch, action via hard push) was unintutive - I kept finding myself wondering why things weren’t happening after I had clearly touched the screen as indicated by the on-screen highlighting on the object touched. Admittedly, one would get used to this after a while, but it also takes considerably more effort to push the screen down to the point of clicking compared with other touch screens, which would get old quickly and tiring soon after.
Then there’s the portrait mode implementation of the virtual keyboard, where the device uses the Suretype keyboard layout instead of just a more tightly spaced QWERTY layout as the iPhone does. This is frustrating for those of us who don’t regularly use suretype or other predictive text keyboards. And using the keyboard in landscape mode takes up so much of the screen as to be useless too.
RIM should have realised that, in other areas too, other touchscreen phones - especially the iPhone - have now defined the expected user experience. In Google Maps and the web browser, multi-touch commands like pinching are now the norm on other devices, but not on the Storm. You double-click (as with the iPhone) to zoom, but have to hit the back button to zoom out again (never would have figured that one out on my own). As with the Bold, where this also annoyed me, even perfectly visible links can’t be clicked on until you’ve zoomed into the page - an issue you don’t have with the iPhone where precision finger clicking can be done when in full page view of a webpage.
The acceleromter-powered screen rotation is either much too slow or much too eager - taking ages to turn when you rotate the device very deliberately but constantly switching to landscape mode when you so much as look at the device at a different angle. I don’t know how RIM has managed to create both problems at once but they have.
I’ll stop complaining there - I actually like the device a lot, and a lot of its foibles just take some getting used to. But it really feels like RIM was making a device for reluctant touchscreen users instead of touchscreen enthusiasts, and as a result has rather handicapped what could have been a much more compelling device. Instead of trying to reinvent the full-screen touch device, it should have recognised that Apple defined that space with the iPhone, creating certain expectations, and that the best BlackBerry could do was match the iPhone for ease of use and design and improve on it with all the stuff BlackBerries do best. Instead of which, they’ve combined a sub-par interface with those BlackBerry goodies and come out behind the iPhone instead of in front of it, at least for this user.
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
So I just posted from the iPhone app and although I now have a shiny new post on the site it’s clear that the app is a little glitchy (see screenshot). For some reason the app first posted an item with little title and text tags before posting my real post. In addition it seems the app doesn’t handle ampersands (&) very well. We’ll see if it does better when publishing…
(now posting from the keyboard - much easier)
It seems the ampersand didn’t cause a problem after all - just shows up funny in the categories list and in the “write” mode in the application. But the screenshot worked fine - not many options for how you incorporate an image like that - how you want text aligned, whether you want it linked to a larger version etc - but it’s probably best to keep things simple in a mobile app.
And no mystery tag post this time around, which means it was a one-off - I’ll have to test it on my other blogs to see if it happens every time you first use the app on a blog or if there was just an error somewhere this time around. At any rate, another useful application from the App Store - and best of all this one’s free, as many of the best ones are…
For info, this was the mystery post that showed up (which I’ve deleted to avoid clutter and confusion) - also viewable in its original format in the screenshot above:
July 22nd, 2008
Update: glad to see I wasn’t the only one with this problem: the venerable TechCrunch, no less:
Link apparently since removed, at least from the TechCrunch homepage.
Thursday, July 17th, 2008
Hurrah! WordPress finally released their iPhone app today, which was heavily trailed by WP. This is a test post that I’m writing using the app. Thank goodness for the auto correct feature on the iPhone which is preventing this from being an utterly tedious experience. I can’t imagine writing a long post on here but it will be great for the occasional short post on the run. Here goes!
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008
So, I stood in line with about 100 other people outside my local AT&T store just under a week ago, in order to be one of the first to get my hands on the 3G iPhone. It was hot, and we were lined up down the side of the building in which the AT&T store is housed, which had a bright white wall, nicely reflecting all that heat back onto the waiting hordes, causing a nice sunburn and considerable discomfort. But, in the end, I got one, and almost the model I wanted - they ran out of black 16GB models just before I got inside, so I got a white one instead.
So was it all worth it? Well, as one man standing behind me in the line (possibly a Rabbi - in the center of the picture below) said:
You have to do something insane once in your life!
And that was more or less my opinion too - I don’t often stand in line for these things, but once in a while you want to be part of something like this. I sat out the first round - no 3G, stuck on a Verizon contract, don’t buy version 1 of anything and so on - but wasn’t going to do the same this time around.
I love the device. It’s a fantastic experience, and certainly the most fun I’ve ever had with a new phone. To date, I’ve downloaded and installed 23 applications, requiring four home screens altogether on the device (I have a separate one for web clips). I did have activation problems on the first day, along with everyone else, although they were relatively minor and solved by the evening.
I’ve read a lot of articles denigrating the iPhone in pretty strong terms over the past few days - two examples. The thing that strikes me about these articles is that they seem to assume that the iPhone is taking over the world. The Lifehacker article is titled, “Why You’re Better Off Avoiding the iPhone” and the other suggested the iPhone is going to kill the Internet.
Let’s tone that done a bit, shall we? For starters, Apple sold a total of 1 million phones in the first weekend and has since been largely sold out. Compare that with Nokia, which sells more devices than that every single day of the year, and you are quickly reminded that Apple does not dominate the mobile device market (or even the smartphone segment). Secondly, no-one is being forced to buy an iPhone - you have a choice about buying it as you do with every other device out there - and as a consumer you will weigh the pros and cons as you would with every other device. If you don’t like the relatively “closed” ecosystem and approach to applications, you don’t have to buy the phone. But, if you want the design, interface, web browsing, ease of use and so on and think the closed application environment is a small price to pay, then you’ll want to buy it anyway.
The most alarmist and hostile stuff I’ve read comes from the Free Software Foundation, which seems to have a definition of “free” which is much narrower than most people’s would be. But again, it seems to somehow assume that Apple has some kind of monopoly and that everyone is somehow tied into the Apple model whether they want to be or not. The Apple DRM approach in particular has come in for a lot of criticism, which is funny since it’s done at the behest of the record companies rather than any particular agenda Apple has. In order to secure for itself a strong position in online music sales, it acceded to the requests of the record companies to provide adequate copyright protection for their music. As the record companies have become more enlightened in their approach, Apple has begun releasing music in non-protected formats. But again, you have a choice - Amazon, Rhapsody, Napster and plenty of others offer alternative models for purchasing digital music online, and files bought from all those companies will play on iPods and iPhones.
Overall, I think Apple is adding a lot more to the mobile industry than it is taking away, and on a personal level I love the device and especially the ease of use of the device itself and the process of adding applications and media to it. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea - the FSF recommends the Free Runner, which strikes me as being an utterly uninspired (and uninspiring) device. But whatever floats your boat - and that’s the real point here: you have a choice. Stop moaning about the way Apple does things, and find a company that does things the way you like, and buy their stuff instead.
Monday, March 3rd, 2008
I’ve just spent the last couple of days at CTIA (see yesterday’s post). I wanted to present some thoughts I’ve had during that time.
Firstly, it’s been interesting to see the shadow the iPhone casts over everything even though Apple isn’t visibly present at the show. Sprint’s big announcement was around the Samsung Instinct, which is a clear iPhone competitor. But the devices on display were running beta software which was glitchy and slow, and it was clear that - though they have some nifty features - these devices are not a match for the iPhone. AT&T itself had another device which mimics certain aspects of the iPhone - the LG Vu - but it is another poor match for the device on everyone’s minds. Of all the things that people love about the iPhone - the design, the UI, the browser, the ease of use - none of them are matched by most of the devices on display here, even though the manufacturers of those devices have been making phones for far longer than Apple. The Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 showed the most promise of any device I saw at CTIA, but won’t be launched for several months.
And AT&T appears to be keen to cement the thought leadership the iPhone deal has given it. Its announcement that it will deploy Microsoft Surface tabletop computers in some of its stores will further up the cool factor for AT&T and put more pressure on its competitors to find ways to compete. I haven’t seen much from AT&T’s competitors that can match it in terms of providing differentiated experiences on devices or in stores. (I have to admit that throughout the Surface presentation I was thinking about this YouTube video which I first saw a few months back - “take that, Apple”).
I discussed managed mobility services with several players at CTIA, and found broad consensus in several areas. It seems clear that the next several months will see launches from major players including both AT&T and Verizon around managed mobility services, and that a range of factors are coming together to create a fertile environment for uptake of these services. The complexity I have referred to previously in the enterprise mobile arena is creating demand for these services. And technology is now available to enable the supply side, both from specialists like Mformation, Sybase and Nokia/Intellisync and from RIM and Microsoft. Launches in the next few months from those two big carriers and increasing uptake over the next year or two should follow.
“Openness” appears to be becoming the new “convergence” in that it is a term everyone seems to feel compelled to insert into every pitch and keynote despite the fact that it means different things to different people. AT&T still appears frustrated that Verizon has got so much attention for playing catch-up with the GSM world: as Ralph De La Vega (head of AT&T Mobility) put it today, “we were open before open was cool”. But he also suggested AT&T now views Android much more favorably than it did at first, ironically because Android will be “open” to AT&T’s branding and applications in the device UI, rather than being restricted to just Google and open source software. I’m hoping the open thing will soon blow over at least in the form of hype, and that we’ll start to see some significant real moves towards openness. Android will be important to watch when it launches - Texas Instruments is demoing two Android devices here - but it can’t be the only game in town.
Carriers need to get better at explaining that they already offer openness on the RIM, Windows Mobile and Palm platforms, where users get unfettered access to the Internet and the ability to install their own applications. But they also need to find ways to extend that openness all the way down the portfolio for those customers who want that. And they need to stop pretending that “choices” and openness are synonyms. Just because you give your customers a choice between two hand-picked applications does not mean your approach is open. Allowing them to pick the application they want regardless of whether you have endorsed it is. And carriers still have some learning to do in this department.
Overall, the show is as always a nice snapshot of a point in time for the wireless industry. But I hope that by the time the Fall show rolls around we’ll have moved forward in all these areas - compelling devices, managed mobility and openness in particular.
Tuesday, February 5th, 2008
Of late, I’ve just been struck by how frequently new software development work is being done for the iPhone - whether it’s LinkedIn’s new mobile interface, Gmail’s latest mobile updates or Remember The Milk’s mobile features. All this is being done for a device with 2% or less of smartphone market share, and which is the only device with its OS. Compare that with other mobile operating systems like Windows Mobile, Symbian, RIM’s OS and even Palm and they all dwarf iPhone’s share.
Now, if I were a developer, I imagine I might quite enjoy the challenge of developing for such an attractive and highly-functional platform. But in doing all this, these developers are tying up finite resources in developing a platform which will serve only a small fraction of the userbase of their web services / sites. And although not all these companies’ mobile development resources are going into iPhone they often seem to launch for that platform first, and roll out the newest and best features there first too. Admittedly, this is partly because the iPhone is a much more capable platform than its competitors, but even so these companies are alienating the 95% plus of their users who are not iPhone owners but do want to use their mobile devices to access their services.
Now, I’m speaking here mainly as a non-iPhone-using mobile user. I resent some of this at a personal level, but that’s neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things. The larger implication is that those other mobile platforms need to take notice of this trend and do something about it. Apple hasn’t released the SDK for the iPhone yet (though that’s imminent) and it has a tiny market share, but even so developers are paying attention and prioritizing iPhone development. This should tell those responsible for other operating systems and device platforms that they have some serious catching up to do in order to attract that kind of energy and attention. Just think what will happen when the iPhone actually has significant market share…
Apple has finally announced higher-storage versions of the iPhone and iPod Touch. Irritatingly, whereas some people were expecting them to allow the iPhone to catch up with the iPod Touch on the storage front, they simply maintained the 2x difference between the two (the new iPhone has 16GB, but the new Touch has 32GB). And of course still no sign of a 3G iPhone any time soon.
The storage and WWAN speed are the two biggest barriers to adoption for me personally, and combined with the high price (16GB for $500 plus a two-year contract) are still, I suspect, the biggest barriers to adoption for the iPhone in general. Add to that the carrier tie-in and anyone not on AT&T but in a two-year contract with another carrier is also unlikely to switch unless they have money to throw away. 30GB would just about cover me for storage since I’m a current 30GB iPod user.
One assumes this will just keep those “missing” iPhones sitting on stock room shelves for even longer, since few people are going to want to buy the lower-storage versions now - perhaps the price will come down to shift the inventory.
We also checked out the Mac Book Air in our local Apple store a few days ago - it is indeed impressive, and has that elusive cross-the-chasm charm that appeals to complete non-technophiles like my wife. But she was also able to quickly grasp its shortcomings when I explained the lack of optical drive, more than one USB port and so on. A niche product for sure, but an awfully good looking one.