Why most iPhone users are not jumping ship

August 10, 2009
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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.

3 Responses to Why most iPhone users are not jumping ship

  1. August 10, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    My biggest complaint about the “Smart Phones” (me being a Palm Pre owner) is they do great PDA stuff; but suck as phones… For those considering the Pre over the iPhone, here’s my short list of complaints, in order of personal irritants.

    From a pure phone feature, and my biggest complaint, the Palm Pre does not support “voice to dial.” A feature my “dumb phone” did really, really well. But let us not stop there; my “dumb phone” supported “voice memos” and “video recording;” both are features missing from the Palm Pre.

    A step further… I should be able to record my call on a smart phone (was not a feature on my “dumb phone”) but if I could replay the list of things my wife wanted me to pick up at the store, it would save me a lot of pain and suffering (which is why I used the voice memo feature on my dumb phone). But my short term memory problems are not Palm Pre problems… yet…

    Limited apps available on the Pre (not a huge issue, they are coming); but there is no legitimate reason, other than how the dollars flow, to hold back on releasing a cornucopia of applications converted from an html/Java based platform to Web OS… And to the the credit of the “Homebrew” team, they have 60-70 apps and growing; but remain a 3rd party and require a bit of tech knowledge that my admin won’t take the time to learn, least anyone else… My fear is, Sprint wants their piece of the pie, thus we will have to wait until the backoffice systems support a billing mechanism; which is sad. I would rather we (Palm Pre owners) have access to purchase from Palm directly or other supported 3rd party biller. I’d rather not have to see it hit my Sprint bill. And just because I understand the business model, does not mean I have to like it.

    So, now that I’ve slammed the Pre… here’s what I like about it.
    It is slick at Multi-tasking. I do not get interrupted if a call comes in. I don’t lose my place if I take the call. I can ignore the call and keep working on my email (usually to the caller). The interface is easy to navigate. The Sync to the Cloud concept, (Synergy) is also very cool (and by far the best feature of the Palm Pre); and supper cool if you’re a Google user; (my only caution is, clean up your Gmail contact list before adding the account to your Pre). The web browsing is very cool; as the multi-tasking supports opening more than one browser window at a time (but still doesn’t fully support Adobe Flash). I don’t own an iPod; so I don’t know much about the media sync and I don’t really care to know; I loaded all my MP3s without an issue (other than I have poor taste in music); Pandora works so well, I’m considering re-wiring the car to use it as my source of music and drop listening to AM radio altogether… It connects to a PC as a USB drive; and seems to support some of the encryption methods I use on my work PC. And lastly, it’s very “hackable” and with the “sync to the cloud” if I F’it up… I can erase and restore without a problem (except the time it takes to reload my 4 gigs of data/music/movies).

    I’m not anti-iPhone or even anti-Apple. I’d love to have a nice Powerbook and iPhone… but it’s my parsimonious life style and limited disposable income that hold me back… Which is why I ended up with the Pre, because Sprint is far cheaper than AT&T and for my area, and the area’s I travel, coverage isn’t an issue. Plus I like that Sprint is “testing” WiMAX. I hope there’s an upgrade path… “winkwink”

  2. Ivan Notsagood
    August 16, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    For me, the primary features of a “phone” are voice, text, MMS and bluetooth modem … the iPhone doesn’t score so well in those categories.

  3. August 17, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Indeed, Ivan. If those are important to you, then the iPhone is a bad choice (as I note in the blog post). Although I disagree wrt to “text” – the iPhone is a fine device, in fact a really good device, for SMS and email “text”.

    At one time I thought MMS and bluetooth modem and similar features were big items for me too and that’s why when I first got the iPhone (primarily to develop apps), I planned on continuing to use a high-end Nokia N-series phone and only use the iPhone as a second/test/development phone. Over time, the rest of the utility of the iPhone overcame these limits (for me) and I ditched the N-series instead (making it the second phone, just for tethering etc., which I now seldom do anymore, and I get by just fine without it).

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