Chris Alexander

On Engineering

The iPhone: Verdict?

19th November, 2009

Following my recent mobile disaster and rapid (yet cheap) recovery (#1277), my boss Nick (@nickhalstead) was happy to loan me a first generation iPhone (yes, thats the one with 2G internet only) to tide me over until I sort out something decent (I’ve had to spend a lot on a new car (#1332) recently).

But first of all it was jailbreaking and unlocking for me - twice for each, in fact. First time to actually get the device working and running its 2.0 firmware, followed by the whole process again to get iPhone OS 3.0 rocking the device.

There’s lots of cool things about the iPhone, and lots of stuff that make me really want to go and find someone from Apple to interrogate them on what exactly they were thinking.

The Good

Well we all know the iPhone was a revolutionary device. Touchscreen, full web browser, SMS conversations, built-in e-mail (don’t moan, Blackberry owners - the early Blackberries don’t count as they were pretty much useless) - so many things that we expect from modern mobile devices, and that were brand new in the original iPhone.

Today, the device is still a joy to use. The touch interface remains intuitive, and while the 2G may lack some of the features of its considerably fancier 3G and 3GS siblings, this one is the one that came before them all.

That doesn’t let it off for some of its shocking omissions.

The Bad

2G. The name says it all really. The internet connection that was second-fiddle at the time to the emerging 3G connectivity, and today it seems I could get a faster connection by whistling bits into the microphone. Its so slow that TweetDeck, the Twitter iPhone app I happen to have because I didn’t have to pay for it, complains at startup that the internet connection may not even be there. It may as well not be to be honest, so as to not get my hopes up.

The camera is also tragic. But then there’s a lot going on in the iPhone, at a time when Apple couldn’t necessarily get its hands on the smallest and most efficient chips at the prices it wanted.

The Ugly

I had to unlock the phone so that I could use my existing T-Mobile sim (which is a pretty sweet deal at 600 mins + unlimited texts and internet at £20/mo), so I thought I may as well jailbreak it while I was there. Without jailbreaking the iPhone is essentially useless.

Not being strange or anything, but I expect a phone with a decent processor like the iPhone’s to cope with doing more than one thing at a time. As a matter of fact, it can - its just that Apple won’t let developers access the way of doing it. So one app install later on the jailbroken device, and you can run any app in the background. Nice!

This leads me on to another thing - apps. I could write for weeks about how stupidly retarded I think Apple’s app approval process is, and how I loathe the numerous ridiculous decisions that Apple have made regarding apps that have stifled the dev community and put developers in the position where they have to spend time writing superb-quality applications without any guarantee or certainty that any users will ever see it. But I won’t do that because it would break the number one rule around me on the internet - don’t ever discuss the App Store. Ever.

The End

So, in conclusion, I would like to summarise thus: the iPhone is a sensational device. Mind-blowing. Revolutionary. Game-changing.

Well it would have been without the ridiculous policies and interferences of Apple, AT&T, O2 and the other major carriers that signed exclusivity deals with Apple for any iPhones, and the people who had the potential to make this the best device in the world for many years to come.

Instead they screwed it up with their corporate bullshit, retarded policies, restrictive and cost-prohibitive contract and device pricing, and general dulling of the experience. And that’s why I could never own an iPhone.