Why most iPhone users are not jumping ship

I’ve been meaning to write this post, long before TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington threw a tantrum and “Quit The iPhone” and before, Steven Frank, the well know Mac developer, who co-founded Panic, wrote on his blog “The iPhone ecosystem is toxic, and I can’t participate any more until it is fixed.” He says he will be buying a Palm Pre. For my part, I’m not planning to follow in their footsteps any time soon.

A lot of things are not perfect with the iPhone, to say the least. One example is the “phone” part of it. If you’re a person that really likes to use their mobile phone for, say, talking to people, you know, not typing, but with your voice, and listening to the other person with your ear, you might want to play with an iPhone a little before jumping in.

Besides that minor detail, here are a few other areas where iPhone users suffer:

  • Incompatible (or limited) Bluetooth support
  • No MMS (to be fixed in the future for newer phones at least)
  • No Flash support in the browser, meaning many sites cannot be used from the iPhone
  • No multitasking – it doesn’t support more than one application running at the same time

And of course one of the biggest practical limitations of the iPhone is being locked to a carrier, AT&T in the U.S. For many people, this means switching carriers and for all of us in the U.S., it means accepting AT&T coverage and performance, which for many people sucks.

And then there’s the whole battle of the App Store that triggered Arrington’s response and a firestorm across the net (among geeks that follow such things at least, but even carried somewhat by the mainstream media):

It seems that in more numbers than ever, consumers are speaking out against AT&T’s network problems and developers are complaining about Apple’s and AT&T’s inconsistent policies on which applications get approval.

– The Washington Post

Yes, as an iPhone user, we accept a lot of flaws with the phone and service. But guess what? Even with these flaws, the combination of iPhone device and Apple and AT&T service still kicks ass over everything else. Many people seem to think Apple iPhone users are too stupid to realize what they’re giving up. I disagree. While there may be users in that category, for many of us, we know what we’re giving up, but we’re willing to do it, because the alternatives are even worse, far worse in most cases. [I’m going to qualify this in a few specific ways. One is if you talk on the phone a lot (I don’t) the iPhone limitations hit a lot harder and you’d probably prefer a different phone. Second, if you really, really, really need a hardware keyboard, for emotional or whatever reason, then don’t even consider the iPhone.]

As an example of a user that has issues with the iPhone but isn’t going anywhere, consider Dave Rosenberg of cnet who writes a mostly scathing review, and then concludes with:

All that said, I’m going to stick with it for now. The interface, utility, and functional possibilities are just that good.

That pretty much sums it up. However, all this said, Apple still needs to use this episode as a reality check. The iPhone has a global marketshare of only 1.9 percent. The competition is heating up, big time. Apple has a bullseye on their back, with the entire industry setting their sights on displacing them. For the most part, this is Apple’s game to lose. Apple needs some humility here (not something Steve Jobs has ever been known for). They could be knocked off their pedestal if they go too far. For some, like Arrington (and Om Malik before him), they have already crossed that line. For many of us, we’re not blindly following Apple wherever they go, but weighing the options, and, for now at least, staying with the iPhone, but keeping an eye open to the alternatives.

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