iTuned Out?

On July 24, 2008

I have been accused by some of my friends of being an Apple-fanboy. Well, you know what… they’re right. After getting rid of an HP-branded iPod that gave me nothing but trouble a few years ago I swore off owning another Apple product. The iPhone changed that and I now I wish I had wised up earlier.

Since making the jump to the iPhone last August I have become a huge fan of Apple’s products. I find them to be elegant, forward thinking and cutting edge. Most importantly, though, they work well for me.

So, yes, I am a fan of Apple’s amazing products. I love using my iMac. I love my MacBook Air and I like the power of my MacBook Pro even more. And my iPhone– well I like it enough that Dimitri, Ron and I started this site.

Yeah. I’m a fan.

BUT… That does not mean that I am not critical of Apple, their approach and some of the choices they have been making. In this post I want to break for a bit from the normal flow here on What’s On iPhone and talk about a few of my many (and increasing) frustrations.

A. Mobile Me

I think the ongoing Mobile Me fiasco, along with the multiple issues with the iPhone upgrade, including reduced battery life and some instability, has lost Apple some significant ground. No, Mobile Me has not hurt Apple as much as Vista has hurt Microsoft (yet), but it has cost ground none the less. Until now Apple’s products "just worked"… or at least that is how the myth went. Well, count one myth busted… shattered… dead… and buried.

Since upgrading to the 2.0 firmware my iPhone is not a whole lot more stable than my last few Windows Mobile devices. It makes me sad to write that but it is the case. I have not encountered some of the horror stories my friends have reported but before upgrading my iPhone NEVER crashed or locked up. Now it does.

The battery life now stinks. And before you comment that there is a price to pay for a 3G data connection please be aware that I don’t even have a 3G yet. Same iPhone, new firmware and reduced battery life. 

And don’t get me started on email. Thank goodness I have been on vacation since Mobile Me went live because the last two weeks have been a game of "email roulette". I don’t know from one minute to the next if I am going to receive my email or not. (And by the way Apple, you missed sending me my apology letter… Or did you send it via email? If you did please note that I am using a service known as Mobile Me and it is not very reliable right now.)

I’m sticking with my iPhone, warts and all, but my current experience certainly takes some of the bloom of the rose.

B. Secrecy

I love the whole cloak and dagger mystique Apple has created with the "we’ll let you know what we are up to when we are good and ready". I love the drama. Heck, even when I wasn’t using any of Apple’s products I loved following Steve’s keynote at MacWorld. But there is "tight lipped" and there is "secretive" and "arrogant". I think the line has been crossed.

Apple’s communication needs to be clearer. I don’t mean clearer regarding upcoming products. I would hate to see that go as I would would certainly miss the spectical. On other issues and plans however, better communication is a must. It shows respect for the consumer ad it builds loyalty.

And it isn’t like Apple doesn’t know HOW to do it. Apple handled the iPhone price-drop disaster rather well. A clear, open letter to early adopters was a bit of a salve for those who were upset (unjustifiably upset IMO). That, sadly, seems to be the exception, though, not the rule. The secrecy seems a bit over done these day. When developers who love Apple and are enthusiastic about creating apps for the iPhone resort to creating a website dedicated to the ON-GOING NDA they are under even after the apps are released, you know something funky is going on.

It kind of astounds me that Apple has played a huge and growing hand in the "always connected" communication era but is among the worst when it comes to communication and transparancy with their consumers. Heck, it took my buddy Doug forever to find the right button to contact iTune’s support the other night and he still hasn’t heard back from them!

Fact is, as Apple moves further and further into the mainstream I don’t think this decree of close-system is going to fly with the average consumer. At least not when it comes to MobileMe-type issues. Fanboys will put up with it. The rest of the consumer-base won’t.

C. Missed Opportunity

I’m starting to feel like Apple has thus-far largely missed an amazing opportunity. Two weeks ago the iPhone could have become THE mobile computing platform. It didn’t. Don’t misunderstand me, I love my iPhone and, even with all the warts, I am happy with the 2.0 Firmware, but it could have been SO MUCH MORE.

Where is the support for creating and editing documents? Where is the ability to use a bluetooth keyboard? Give me that and my iPhone paired with my APPLE Bluetooth Keyboard becomes an amazing portable office.

Even task management is an issue. If the iPhone is going to become a "work" device it needs great support for task-management. The free or low-cost task programs on the app store are limited as best. If I want real task management I need $100 to get OmniFocus on both my iPhone and desktop. Even Aria Touch, which looks amazing, isn’t cheap. 
The iPhone has a powerful (enough) processor, WiFi, Edge and 3G and a superb interface. Real bluetooth support and a bit more focus on productivity-related advances and it would have been AWESOME. Instead, we got the free Remote app which, while cool, reinforces the iPhone as media-player rather than extending it to become an all-in-one device.

Apple could have leapfrogged over the competition and turned the iPhone into both the ultimate work AND leisure device. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened. At least not yet.

So those are some of the things I have been thinking about lately.

Rant Over.

I need to get back to reviewing some apps for the site.