iPhone Hater? Apple Hater? Or Just a Complete Nutjob with an Absurd Sense of Entitlement?
This week, Apple released slightly-revised new versions of the iPhone and the iPod Touch. The only change is increased memory capacity: 16 GB for the iPhone, and 32 GB for the Touch. In a news article about the updates, one commenter said the following:
I decided - after the iphone pricing initial debacle, where I paid $600 for the 8GB model, which then dropped to $400 after 2 months, and now is being replaced by a 32GB [sic; actually 16GB] model for $500 - that I’m never ever, again doing business with Apple. The iphone will be my first and only ever Apple product.
You can sort of understand his frustration, but the fact is, anyone who buys any kind of technology has to deal with this, whether it’s a TV or a DVD player or an MP3 player or a phone. For virtually anything you can buy, the price will always go down over time, and a newer better version will always be released. Does this guy honestly think that Apple has an obligation to never change its prices and never improve its products once they sell one to him?
And this sentiment is not uncommon in forums where people are talking about Apple products. There are lots of people who get really upset when Apple lowers its prices and when Apple releases improved products. Any rational person realizes that it’s completely insane to be mad at a company for doing those things, which every single company does.
Another commenter in this particular thread pointed out Matthew 20, in which the owner of a vineyard hires men to work in his vineyard. He goes out into the street and offers the men some work for a certain amount of pay, and the men agree. The owner goes out into the street again every few hours and hires more men, who also agree to work for a certain price. At the end of the day the owner is paying the laborers, and it turns out that he pays all the men equally, even though some have labored all day while others only for an hour.
Quoting Matthew 20:
But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
It’s not every day that you see biblical parables applied to iPhone sales, but the lesson is certainly spot-on. When you agree to buy a product or sell your labor at a certain price, you are not automatically entitled to the benefits of a different agreement that happens later, just because you decide that you like the new agreement better.
As for me, I just wish Apple would have bumped the iPhone to 32 GB instead of only 16 GB. SecondRotation will give me $240 for my current 8 GB iPhone, which means I’d have to pay $260 for the new one. I would do that in an instant for a 32 GB iPhone, but for only 16 GB, it’s harder to justify. I’d love to have 16 GB in my iPhone instead of just 8, but since my MP3 collection is about 35 GB, a nice 32 GB iPhone would put me much closer to being able to fit my whole collection on it.
GPS vs. the iPhone's Locate Me Feature
The latest free iPhone software update was released a few weeks ago, and one of the new features is a "Locate Me" button in the Google Maps application. When you tap the button, it uses triangulation / multilateration from cell towers and wifi hotspots to determine your location on the map:
Out in the country, it’ll usually be relying on cell towers, and its accuracy is within about 1 mile. In urban areas with lots of wireless routers, the accuracy improves to the 50-100 feet range. That’s pretty impressive for a free update to a device that lacks a GPS chip.
The main advantage that GPS has over the Locate Me feature is accuracy -- which is certainly a big advantage in many cases. But if you’ve ever used a GPS device, you know that it requires a clear view of the sky, and therefore doesn’t work at all indoors, nor in the woods under tree cover for example. And it often takes 30-60 seconds or more for a GPS device to display your location. The iPhone’s Locate Me feature wins big in these areas: it takes just a few seconds to work, and it works outdoors, indoors, in the woods -- anywhere there’s a cell phone signal, which nowadays is virtually everywhere.
It’s likely that the iPhone will get a GPS chip in one of its next hardware revisions, simply because most phones and cameras are going in that direction. In the iPhone, the GPS chip will become a third source of location information, making the Locate Me feature even more useful. But for now, for owners of the iPhone v1, the Locate Me feature is a pretty sweet upgrade, and you can’t beat the price.
Hit Me On My iPhone
Hilarious, though probably less so if you don’t recognize the dude as "that guy who does all the iPhone guided tour videos." The best part is the final 15 seconds.
Macworld 2008: iPhone Updates and More
For Apple fans, Christmas comes in January, at the Macworld Conference. Yesterday Steve Jobs took the stage at this annual event to give his keynote on the state of Apple and the new products and services that the company is releasing. Apple nerd that I am, I maintained radio silence from the time the keynote started (noon eastern) for 3 agonizing hours until the video was posted online, to avoid hearing or reading any of the news before I could watch it firsthand. (You can watch the video here, here, or here.)
The main impression I got from this particular keynote is that Apple right now is a company firing on all cylinders. There was no single earth-shaking announcement like the iPhone from last year; instead there were four slightly smaller and relatively disparate announcements that show Apple is quite busy in several different areas.
The big new product is the Macbook Air: a laptop so impossibly thin -- sixteen-hundreths of an inch at its thinnest -- that it fits in an envelope. It’s got a full-sized (and LED-backlit) screen and a full-sized (also LED-backlit) keyboard, but no CD/DVD drive and almost no ports. Probably most impressive is that the Macbook Air has 5 hours of battery life, compared to 2 hours or less for many other tiny notebooks.
The second new product is the Time Capsule: a wireless router with a built-in 500 GB or 1 TB hard drive, primarily meant to provide simple automated backups of all the Macs in your house via Leopard’s Time Machine backup feature.
Incidentally, the heart of the Time Machine backup system is its dated backups, which allow you to "go back in time" through all your data and access/recover files from one day ago, two days ago, a week ago, a month ago, etc. This is based on and made possible by the fact that on Unix filesystems, a single file can be accessed through multiple different filenames known as hard links. So you effectively have a full data backup from each previous day, week, month, etc, but the amount of space used is only that required by one full backup plus the incremental changes between the backup dates. That’s the magic of hard links: a single file on disk can appear to exist multiple times, once in each backup folder. All of that to say this: when I was working as a system administrator and programmer in a bio lab at Penn State in 2004, I created a backup system based on exactly this same concept (which neither I nor Apple invented) using just BASH, cp, and rsync. It was used to back up not only OS X, Windows, and Linux systems but also even Mac OS9 systems. This was 3 years before Apple introduced the same technology in Mac OS X Leopard. So, I win.
Apple TV + iTunes
The third keynote item was the rebirth of Apple TV. Originally released about a year ago and since described by Steve Jobs as just a hobby for Apple, the Apple TV hasn’t been a smash hit: they haven’t released any sales figures for it, and yesterday Jobs admitted that -- along with Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix, and others -- Apple had missed the mark in getting internet-based content into the living room. But Apple TV "Take Two" fixes most of the shortcomings of the original: it doesn’t need a computer, it has a much-improved interface, it supports HD content, you can buy iTunes content on it directly, and you can now rent movies on it. To top it all off, these new features are all available as a free software update to existing Apple TV owners, and the price of the Apple TV has been cut from $299 to $229.
The fact that iTunes now offers movie rentals is at least as big a deal as the Apple TV update. Apple is currently receiving a small beating from the record labels, all of which are now offering their music as DRM-free MP3 files through Amazon’s music store, but withholding the DRM-free versions from Apple for their iTunes store. And while Apple has been offering movies for sale through iTunes for a while now, the selection is slim because Apple has only secured deals with a few movie studios. But with the new rental feature, Apple has signed up every major movie studio -- no small feat. Apple is far and away the leader in digital distribution of music and movies, even with the aforementioned handicaps, so having every studio on board with rentals would seem to cement Apple’s position.
As an Apple fan and general geek, I’m fascinated by all of these things. But most likely I won’t actually buy any of them. I don’t really have a need for a super-thin notebook because I don’t travel much, and when I do, I’d rather have a more full-featured notebook than one that’s exceptionally thin. Time Capsule is cool, but I run Linux on most of my systems, and I’m a data freak so I already keep multiple backups of all my files. The new Apple TV and iTunes stuff is awesome, but I’ve recently discovered TiVo and don’t know how I ever lived without it for TV shows, and I’m extremely happy with Netflix for movies.
I guess that whole issue would come down to price: we currently pay ~$90/mo for cable+TiVo+Netflix, so would we be able to get the same content for the same price or less with Apple TV and iTunes? We mainly watch 4 shows: 24, Prison Break, The Office, and Heroes. Each episode is $1.99 on iTunes, so 16 shows per month would be $32 per month. Then throw in say 6 movies per month -- with Netflix, it’s unlimited, and our usage varies pretty wildly -- which at $4 each comes to $24. So the total with Apple TV + iTunes would be $56: a fair amount cheaper than our current bill. However, with the TiVo, I’ve now discovered a few more shows that I would really hate to give up: How It’s Made, Most Shocking, Shockwave, Mega Disasters, and World’s Most Amazing Videos. Adding all of those in would certainly push us past what we’re currently paying. And I just checked the iTunes store for The O’Reilly Factor and it doesn’t appear to be available there; that’s certainly a deal-breaker.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’m excited about all the new stuff Apple is doing, but at the end of the day, none of the aforementioned stuff affects me. The fourth thing Jobs presented, though, certainly does: iPhone updates.
Apple released iPhone firmware v1.1.3, which contains a few new features. The most exciting thing to me is the update to the Google Maps application. This includes a new "Locate Me" feature that uses cell tower triangulation/multilateration to determine your current location and show it on the map; not bad for a phone that lacks GPS. The Maps update also includes a new "drop pin" feature, which lets you stick a pin anywhere on the map (and drag it around) and then make it a bookmark, get directions to/from it, etc. Both of these new features make it far easier to map routes, since you don’t have to type anything in for one or both of the route’s endpoints. The Maps app also now includes the hybrid view, showing satellite imagery with roads and locations overlaid on it. Frustratingly and ridiculously, though, it STILL lacks a freakin’ scale bar! I can’t believe there’s actually some meathead at Google or Apple who thinks the scale bar should be left out, and that this glaring omission somehow gets past all the other engineers and execs.
The iPhone update also includes the ability to rearrange the icons on the home screen, and to add bookmarks to the home screen from the browser. These bookmarks also remember the zoom and pan state of the browser, which is really useful; for example, I visit weather.com for the detailed weather forecast since the iPhone’s built-in Yahoo weather sucks, but since weather.com has about 9 miles of ads and other crap at the top of the page, having the iPhone automatically pan to the forecast within the page is really helpful.
Another small item in the update allows the iPhone to send SMS messages to multiple recipients simultaneously; Jobs made no mention of the
much- seldom-requested iPhone MMS support.
And of course, the iPhone can now play video content rented through iTunes.
All of these new features were delivered for free to existing iPhone owners like myself, which may be the best part. I’m just so happy that this device I purchased is continually getting more useful, as opposed to getting more and more obsolete with each passing day.
Finally, Jobs touted the iPhone’s impressive sales figures: 4 million sold in its first 200 days on the market, or about 20,000 per day. In its first 90 days the iPhone captured 20% of the entire smartphone market, making it #2, behind only RIM BlackBerry. The fact that the iPhone surpassed all Windows Mobile smartphones in just 90 days on the market is particularly funny in light of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s comment -- after the iPhone was announced but before it was launched -- that the iPhone would get "no significant market share."
Massive iPhone Price Drop
Apple announced their new iPods today, including the iPod Touch, which is basically the iPhone without the phone: same form factor with huge touch-screen, wifi internet, and web browsing. They also announced the ability to download songs and ringtones over-the-air from the iTunes store to the iPod/iPhone.
But the REALLY big news is the unexpected and unusual price drop on the iPhone: the 8 GB model that I bought for $600 a couple of months ago is now just $400. The smaller 4 GB model which had been $500 is now discontinued, but while supplies last, you can get one for just $300. Don’t expect those supplies to last very long.
Delete File From Trash in OS X
Is it really not possible to delete a file from the trash in Mac OS X, aside from the "Empty Trash" action which deletes ALL its files?
I’ve posted a set of miscellaneous photos taken this past July. Well, they’re not that miscellaneous; mostly they’re of Cheshire. But they were all taken with the iPhone.
The iPhone is probably the single greatest, coolest, most useful product I’ve ever owned. But it’s not perfect, and here are the things that are bugging me most about it.
Maps application has no scale bar. This is just retarded and inexcusable. Why in the world would they not put a scale bar on the map? If you want to know approximately how far apart 2 points are, too bad. The only way to determine that is to create driving directions between the 2 points, but 90% of the times when I use the map, I’m not using the directions feature.
The iPod has no elapsed time/percentage indicator.
You simply have no way to know how far into a track you are, and no way to seek within a track, all of which is especially bad for podcasts, which are often an hour long. UPDATE: if you tap on the album art while a song/podcast is playing, an elapsed-time bar appears. I’m glad to have found this, but it should definitely be done more like the controls in the Photos app: they should be displayed by default, and then fade away automatically, so you know they’re there if you need them.
iPhone fails to revert to EDGE when WiFi is not responding. If you’re connected to a WiFi router, and that router’s internet uplink fails for some reason, the iPhone is no longer able to communicate on the internet. It should then automatically revert to the EDGE connection at that point, but it doesn’t, because its connection to the WiFi router is still fine. But of course that connection to the router is useless if the router itself can’t connect upstream to the internet. For a few weeks I was having trouble with my cable internet connection -- something not uncommon with residential connections -- and the only way to get iPhone to communicate was to manually disable its WiFi to force it to use EDGE instead.
Some applications don’t rotate. One of the great features of the iPhone is that if you turn it on its side, the whole screen automatically switches from portrait-mode to landscape-mode, and vice-versa. But this doesn’t happen in all applications; it happens in Safari (the web browser), but not in the maps app nor the mail app, for example, despite the fact that it would be just as useful there. And even in Safari, it won’t rotate while the on-screen keyboard is displayed.
Yahoo! weather sucks. The iPhone’s built-in weather app is gorgeous and very useful, but when you want more details on the forecast, the link within the weather app goes to Yahoo weather, and that’s not customizable. And the Yahoo weather web page is just sucky -- it shows basically no more information than the iPhone’s weather app itself: just an icon and the high/low temperatures. For example, on one recent day Yahoo’s weather web page showed nothing but a giant black raining storm cloud -- the same thing the weather app showed -- whereas weather.com had much more detail: it said there was a 30% chance of scattered storms.
The keyboard’s auto-correct feature is annoying and counter-intuitive. While typing a word, the iPhone is constantly trying to guess what word you mean -- even when you’re not misspelling anything -- and it displays its best guess on the screen in a small bubble just below the word you’re actually typing. Fine so far. But to accept the iPhone’s suggestion, you don’t tap the suggestion itself -- the word in the bubble -- instead you tap the spacebar. Tapping the word in the bubble dismisses it, canceling the suggestion. The word in the bubble does have a small "x" at the end of it, but come on; if that’s not counter-intuitive, then what is? Tapping the word should accept it, not dismiss it. One case where this really bugs me is when I’m trying to type "NJ": the iPhone suggests "hi" as the correction for this, and when I hit the spacebar -- because "J" is the last letter in the word -- iPhone then changes my "NJ" to "hi". Completely retarded.
The phone silences incoming audio without warning when the battery gets low. Specifically, when the battery gets down to 20% remaining and you’re on a phone call, the incoming audio suddenly goes silent, until you hit the "Dismiss" button that has popped up on the screen; but there was no audible indication that you needed to interrupt your phone call and look at the screen, so you assume that the call was just dropped. When you’re on a phone call, you’re not using the screen, so why in the world would the low battery warning come up as a visual alert instead of an audible one?
Battery life indicator gets stuck at "full". Occasionally, the battery indicator will get stuck at "full" and stay there for days until the phone dies, with no warning. You have to power the iPhone off (hold down the home and sleep buttons) and then back on to cause the battery indicator to show its real status.
Inconsistent or missing Home/End functions. In Safari, you can tap the top of the screen to auto-scroll to the top of the web page. But tapping the bottom of the screen doesn’t auto-scroll to the bottom of the page. And in the mail app, both the top and bottom auto-scroll functions are missing.
No real cache in Safari. When using the back button, the previous page loads just as slowly as it did the first time.
iTunes fails to monitor media folder for new files. Not an iPhone bug, but related: iTunes does not monitor your music/video folder for new files that you’ve copied in or files that you’ve deleted. I guess the idea is that you shouldn’t be adding or deleting any files except through iTunes itself, but that’s just stupid. There are plenty of cases where you’d want to add media from other sources, for example in my case my media is managed on my Linux system, and I only copy it to my Mac so that my iPhone can have it. Anyway, in iTunes, you can click File > Add to Library and re-select your media folder to cause iTunes to re-scan it, which will make it pick up any new additions, but this is a pain (takes 15 minutes with my ~7000 file collection; iTunes has to re-do all the album art, etc) and it doesn’t automatically remove deleted files -- you still need to go through iTunes and do that manually.
UPDATE (20070823): Bookmarks management in Safari is very buggy. Upon clicking the Edit button, some bookmarks are draggable, but others aren’t. You can’t drop bookmarks into folders. And if you try to rearrange too many bookmarks within a short period (say, 5 within 30 seconds), the display gets all messed up, some go missing, some get doubled, etc.
UPDATE (20070825): iPhone sometimes fails to sync with iPhoto. Not sure if this is an iPhone bug or an iPhoto bug, but sometimes when you connect the iPhone to your Mac, iPhoto just won’t recognize it, no matter what you do (reboot, restart iPhoto, reboot the iPhone, etc). This wouldn’t be a huge problem if there were a "Sync with iPhone" button in iPhoto, but there isn’t, so you simply have no way to get your photos from your iPhone to your computer. The only workaround I’ve found is to take a new photo with the iPhone, then reconnect it to the computer; this seems to force iPhoto to recognize the iPhone (even though I already had a bunch of new photos on the iPhone that iPhoto didn’t yet have).
All of these are software issues, so this bug list is also my iPhone wishlist: here’s hoping that one of the next software updates will fix some or all of them. And despite these issues, some of them very frustrating, I’d buy the iPhone again in a heartbeat.
Full-screen Video Interruptions
Kim and I have been downloading the TV show "Heroes" in iTunes and watching it on our TV. This is on my Mac Mini system, using Apple’s DVI to video adapter to display the video on the TV, which works quite nicely.
But today, right in the middle of watching one of the episodes in full-screen, iTunes decided to pop-up a dialog box saying "Thanks for using iTunes. Would you like to back up your collection?"
Frankly, if I wanted this kind of brain-dead and annoying behavior while watching a video, I’d use Windows or Linux to watch it, where the overall experience is nowhere near as seamless and polished. I expect that kind of thing on those operating systems; I expect more from Mac OS X.
On every operating system, there should be a flag that any application can set, which would tell the operating system "I’m in full-screen do-not-disturb mode", the effect of which would be to prevent anything from popping up in front of the application. I’m surprised that OS X does not have such a mechanism, especially in the tightly-integrated environment of iTunes/QuickTime, where all the running code should know that there’s a video playing.
Why the iPhone is Great
There’s a lot to love about the iPhone, but arguably its most important, most alluring, and most magical feature is its screen and interface.
I showed the iPhone to my brother Brian last weekend, and I think it’s safe to say that he was blown away by it. He seemed most impressed with two things in particular: first, that pretty much the whole interface is draggable, flickable, or tappable, making it not only simple and intuitive to use but also just plain fun; and second, that when you turn the iPhone on its side, it automatically rotates the entire interface (say, the web browser or the photo you’re viewing) to be taller or wider depending on how you’re now holding it.
While most iPhone owners are overwhelmingly happy with the device, there is no shortage of iPhone haters. One of the most common anti-iPhone comments is that it’s "not new", that other devices have been doing the same stuff for years now. That’s technically true in some ways: some Blackberry and Palm devices for example are able to do email, browse the web, and make phone calls, although most people who have actually used the "web browser" on those kinds of devices will readily admit that it’s not like the "real" internet.
But even if we grant for the sake of argument that there already were existing devices with the same feature-list as the iPhone, the fact is that the iPhone is far superior to them because its interface is far superior to theirs. What Apple has brought to the game here is not so much new features -- though there certainly are some -- but a new design that makes all of those features easy (and enjoyable) to use. It’s something that you can’t really appreciate until you actually pick up an iPhone and use it for a few minutes.
Interface design is one of Apple’s chief strengths, and considering how awful most portable device interfaces has been, it was an obvious move for Apple to enter this market and wipe the floor with them. It’s interesting to note that the iPhone comes with no manual at all; that’s how intuitive and easily-discoverable all its features are. My old Motorola i760 cell phone has no features and it still came with a manual that was a half-inch thick.
iPhone vs Super Old Cell Phones
I dug up my ancient Nokia 6161i phone (circa 1998) and updated my iPhone photo set with new photos that include it for comparison.
...Update: September 25th 2009: AT&T has now enabled MMS for iPhone users on their network. Technically it’s no longer summer, but better late than never I guess.
One feature that the iPhone doesn’t have is MMS. You can send SMS messages, which are just plain text; but there is no native support for MMS, which is basically SMS plus pictures. However, since the iPhone does have full email support, you can still use MMS by sending email (including photos) to the recipient’s cell phone number @ their provider. Here are the addresses for AT&T, Nextel, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon:
More are listed on the Wikipedia page for SMS gateways.
I can’t think of a good reason for Apple/AT&T to not include MMS support in the iPhone, so my guess is that it just wasn’t finished in time for the launch, and Apple will add it via a software update in the coming weeks or months. Some of the missing features make sense -- for example AT&T wouldn’t want there to be a chat client because it would eat into their SMS revenue -- but I don’t see a similar logical reason for leaving out MMS.
PCmag Hates the iPhone
PC Magazine has some serious iPhone hate going on. On their current front page, there are 6 negative items about the iPhone:
Will the iPhone Be an iNightmare for Business?
The Anti-iPhone Solution
Cranky Geeks: iPhone: A Recipe for Failure?
Any Phone Can be an iPhone
Apple iPhone Exposed: How we secretly an obtained an iPhone, reviewed it all night, and found some serious flaws.
Apple iPhone Launch Reveals Phenomenon (in which John Dvorak makes fun of iPhone line-waiters)
There’s 1 neutral item (but this is just copied from Think Secret):
Inside Apple: Getting Inside the iPhone
Then there’s 1 positive item... about iPhone accessories:
10 Awesome iPhone Accessories
Then there’s this last item, which seems partially positive but is ultimately negative:
Apple iPhone: Fun, Fabulous, Flawed
This one contains all kinds of dumbness:
put simply, it isn’t a very good phone. Call quality was the worst we’ve heard on a high-end device in years
...and their testing apparently consists of just saying "it sounds teh suxorz." Compare this with wirelessinfo.com’s review in which they actually perform tests on the audio, and then conclude things like "compares extremely well to other phones", "performance...was very good", and "overall, the sound quality is very acceptable".
It’s complicated to dial
...because it has the exact same dialpad that phones have had for decades? Or because, since the iPhone is a multifunction device, you have to hit the "phone" button to put it into phone mode? If that’s complicated, what the heck are you doing writing a review for a tech mag?
difficult to send text messages on
...despite the fact that just about every other review has praised its iChat-like text-messaging interface?
the iPhone Internet experience is loads of fun. It’s not quite "the Internet in your pocket," however. It displays HTML pages gorgeously (even over EDGE!)
...because the speed of the connection has ANYTHING to do with the aesthetics of how pages are displayed?
The internet is hardly "loaded up" with Java; quite the contrary, Java is rarely seen nowadays on web pages, thankfully, since web-embedded Java applets were never anything but clunky and ugly.
Flash is the one item in this list that actually makes sense, but the most popular Flash destination on the internet is YouTube, and Apple convinced YouTube to convert their proprietary Flash content to standard H.264 video, specifically for iPhone and AppleTV. Many internet users, including myself and apparently Apple, are fed up with the clunky non-native proprietary mess of plugins like Flash and Java that have plagued the web thus far, and the move to standard formats like H.264 can’t happen quickly enough.
Anyway... here are the 2 cell phone items from the front page of PCmag that aren’t about the iPhone:
Video Review: Hot Slim Phones
Sprint’s Most Powerful Smartphone
Quite a difference in tone there.
I never read PCmag; it just happened to come up as I was browsing news.google.com today. So maybe it’s common knowledge that they are an anti-Apple publication (they are called "PC" Magazine after all). But you’d think they’d at least pretend to try to hide such a glaring bias as this.
PS - here’s a screenshot of the hate-filled front page:
This is one of my favorite screens on the iPhone:
Incidentally, it’s pretty hard to take good photos of the iPhone screen. I don’t know if my 6-year-old camera is just having trouble, or what, but in this shot, on the green of the battery and near the top of the 2:46, there’s some distortion that might be a moire issue, or else I don’t know what... but it’s not there in real life.
On Sunday, Kim and I went down to the Apple store in King of Prussia and I got an iPhone. Despite people lining up outside the stores for hours and even days before the 6 PM Friday launch (including Philly’s mayor John Street), most Apple stores were still well-stocked with iPhones by Sunday, and I had no problem getting mine. We walked into the store and it was a mob scene: there must have been 100 people in the tiny ~1500 square foot store. If I had wanted to check out the iPhones that were on display, I would have had to wait for quite a while, because people were three-deep around those displays.
Fortunately, I had been getting psyched about the iPhone for at least the past six months, so I didn’t need to play with one to know that I wanted to buy it. I just walked up to an Apple store employee and asked, "Do you still have 8 GB iPhones in stock?" He said he thought they did, and sent someone into the back to check; he came out with my iPhone, and I was out of the store in under 5 minutes.
No one knew for sure how many iPhones Apple was going to have available at launch, hence the thousands of people lining up 6-12 hours in advance across the country to make sure they got one. It turned out that there were plenty of iPhones, at least at most Apple stores. It was a different story at AT&T stores -- the only other place that iPhones are available -- with most of them selling out the first night. All told, the estimates are that Apple and AT&T sold over half a million units during the launch weekend.
I’m not sure why I didn’t go out on Friday night to try and get an iPhone. I guess I wasn’t 100% sure that I was going to get one right away, plus the word was that it was a hassle at AT&T stores, and the closest Apple store is an hour away from us. But then as I read various bloggers saying that it did indeed live up to most of the hype, I caved.
One of the ways that Apple is redefining the cell phone business is that the account activation process is handled by each user individually, at home, over the internet, using iTunes. You don’t need to spend an hour in the store with some clueless salesman getting stuff set up. There were reports that some people who were already AT&T customers initially had trouble with the activation process, but for most people it was quick and easy: it took less than 10 minutes in my case.
Apple also managed to get AT&T to offer a plan that’s actually reasonable: $60 per month for 450 minutes, with free nights & weekends (and including rollover minutes), and unlimited internet access. Many (most?) other smartphone data plans are $80-$100 per month, often with only limited internet access, and severe overage charges.
The iPhone itself is amazing. It’s so thin, so solid, so industrial, the screen is huge and gorgeous, and the interface is so simple and useable it’s like a dream. The decade-long nightmare of horrible cell phones is finally over.
For me, the combination of the real internet, email, and Google Maps in a portable device is just priceless. The fact that it’s also got a cell phone, a camera, and an iPod, plus that it’s gorgeous, only make it more compelling.
The screen is about twice the resolution of most standard computer screens, which means that text as small as 5-6 pt is crisp and totally readable. When browsing the web, though, you only need to double-tap on the portion of a page that you want to read (for example the main content column) and the iPhone automatically pans and zooms that area to be full-screen, with nice large text. Scrolling up or down, and panning left or right, is as simple as dragging your finger across the screen.
There are a few things that need fixing: there’s no way to select/copy/paste text; you can’t save images (or any files) from websites; you can’t upload files to websites (the Browse/ChooseFile element is grayed out); the Google Maps app lacks the little scale image in the lower-left corner; the on-screen keyboard doesn’t always rotate into wide-screen mode, sometimes forcing you to use the narrower version of it. But all of those are software issues, and since the iPhone is a computer running Mac OS X, Apple can (and will) simply issue automatic updates via iTunes to fix them.
I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the iPhone is probably the coolest product I’ve ever purchased. I can’t put it down, and when I finally do, Kim picks it up and can’t stop playing with it.
Here are some iPhone photos including side-by-side comparisons with a couple of my old phones.
June Is My Lucky Month
Look what just came in the mail from Nextel:
It’s pretty much your typical here’s a special deal that’s only for special customers like you (er, along with every single other customer we have, whom we also sent this letter to) which will allow you to get huge savings of $70!!OMGFTPBBQ off a new 2-year contract regularly priced at $1680 and PLEASE STAY WITH US AND DON’T JUMP SHIP FOR THE IPHONE COME JUNE 29TH! -type letter.
Fat chance, Nextel.
Apparently it was 2 years ago this month that I signed my 2-year agreement with them, and of course this month the iPhone will be released. The iPhone ads are quite salivation-inducing, especially in light of the fact that every cell phone I’ve ever owned has been basically garbage, including my current sucky Motorola cell phone: call-making ability is only adequate, interface/usability is without exception awful, and ability to do anything else is nonexistent.
The $500 iPhone price tag seems steep at first, but when you consider the total cost it’s pretty much negligible. My current phone cost me $200, and with my "$60/month" plan which of course costs me $70+ each month, the total cost for the phone with service is $200 + $70x24 = $1880. So the iPhone with a similarly-priced plan would be $2180, which is a difference of only 16%, and is actually only $12/month more overall when you consider the cost of the hardware as part of the 2-year contract (which of course it really is: the "free" or cheap phones that we get are of course paid for over 2 years as part of the service plan).
Twelve dollars per month is so worth it that it’s a no-brainer when you consider what you’re getting: the old phone could only make phone calls, but the new phone also has:
-full internet capabilities on a decently-sized screen
-a sweet Google Maps front-end (GMaps being one of my favorite things ever which you know if you read my blog)
-a decent digital camera
-photo-displaying abilities (again, the big screen makes all the difference)
-the ability to use WiFi internet connections
As I’ve said before, its 4-8 GB capacity will be far too small for my ~40 GB music collection, but I’ll upgrade in a couple years when one that large is available, and in the meantime I’ll have all those other awesome features which I didn’t have with my cell phone before.
Also, WWDC is next week and Steve Jobs’ keynote will be at 1 PM eastern time on Monday. MacRumors and Engadget will be live-blogging the event, during which some interesting secrets about the iPhone and/or other Apple products will likely be revealed.
iTunes on Windows
Steve Jobs was interviewed last night at "D", the All Things Digital conference. Best line:
We’ve got cards and letters from lots of people that say that iTunes is their favorite app on Windows. It’s like giving a glass of ice water to somebody in Hell.
Since I run Linux I don’t have much use for Mac OS X nor Windows. But I used to be a Windows user, and unfortunately I still need to keep it around because of friggin’ IE, and I can say that it’s certainly the closest OS to Hell that I’ve used. I also need to keep a Mac OS X system around because of friggin’ Safari, and we’ve now watched quite a few episodes of The Office on it, and it really is quite a joy to use. iTunes really is pretty sweet, it’s awesome to be able to download a whole 350 MB TV show in 8 minutes, and the interface for the video player is totally lickable.
Update: check out the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates interview. I’m only halfway through it so far and it’s been really interesting. (Note: the video embedded in that page is just the prologue; scroll down for links to the rest of the presentation [i.e. the actual interview].)
It’s easy to make fun of Apple for having such a small share of the computer market -- I’ve done it myself a few times -- but when you look at revenues and profits, it becomes clear that Apple is not only wildly successful, but arguably more successful than many of its competitors, especially considering its market share:
While Apple is cited by Gartner and IDC as selling around 5% of all the computers in the US, it isn’t obvious that Apple’s 5% share is the cream of the market; it’s actually worth more than the same or larger percentage of shares held by rivals.
There were 9.8 million Macs sold in the last two years, up from 6.2 million in the previous two year period. Those numbers don’t compare with the stunning volume of PCs shipped by HP and Dell--which each sold 38 million PCs in 2006 alone--but Apple’s profits do.
In the forth quarter of last year, HP and Dell combined sold 10 times as many PCs as Apple in the US, earned 5.5 times as much revenue as Apple, but together only ended up with 2.2 times as much net income as Apple.
In other words, Apple earned nearly half as much net income with its 5% share of the market as HP and Dell together, with their combined 55% share of the US PC market: $1 billion for Apple vs $2.2 billion for HP and Dell together!
In the final quarter of 2006, Apple earned $7.1 billion in revenue, compared to Microsoft’s $12.5 billion in total revenue. Yes, that’s right, Apple brought in more than half as much money as Microsoft, despite Windows owning 98% of the PC market.
Even stripping Apple of its iPod revenues, which PC pundits love to do, the company still earned $4.4 billion on its Macintosh business, over a third as much as Microsoft brought in from its entire Windows, Office, and server operations combined. Apple’s 2% of the PC market doesn’t seem so small anymore.
Of course, Microsoft actually lost a lot of money on all of its consumer electronics products, so looking at profits, Apple earned $1 billion compared to Microsoft’s total $3.4 billion in profit.
Apple Delivers the iPhone
They have done it. Apple today unveiled the iPhone, which is actually the fulfillment of two long-running Apple rumors: it is the "true video iPod" because the ~entire face of it is a screen, and it is the iPod + cell phone as well. It also has a 2 megapixel digital camera built in. On top of all that, it actually runs Mac OS X and includes the Safari browser and an email client supporting POP and IMAP, and it runs on cell networks as well as wifi connections. This thing is a huge dream come true for many, many geeks and Apple fans alike.
Some of the coolest features:
-multi-touch screen allowing you to operate the iPhone using 2 fingers at a time, so you can pinch/stretch items like photos and windows to zoom them
-orientation sensor so when you turn it sideways, the display automatically shifts
-location awareness built into the integrated Google Maps application
-ambient light sensor to save power by adjusting display brightness; proximity sensor to automatically shut off the display when you move the phone to your ear
...and many more.
Of course they would have gotten abysmal battery life (and would have had to make the thing too thick) if they put a hard drive in it, so it’s all flash-memory based. This is better anyway, but the cost of flash memory means that for now the iPhone is only available in 4GB abd 8GB models, for $499 and $599 respectively, assuming a 2-year contract with Cingular. In a year or two when there is a ~40GB model available, I will be all over this.
Oh, and Apple: please, please release a Linux version of iTunes!
Happy New Year!!
Yeah yeah yeah, 2007, whoopdeedoo... just bring on MacWorld already!
I don’t know when I became such an Apple fan, but I can’t wait to see what new products are released at MacWorld next week. Will it be the long-rumored "true video" iPod, or the even-longer-rumored
iPhone Apple Mobile Phone?
I’m not even really necessarily in the market for any of the things that Apple will potentially be releasing, but Apple’s gadgety design powers are just so awesome. And two recent articles on RDM make me especially hopeful about the prospect of finally, for the first time ever, having a cell phone that doesn’t suck. I mean honestly, cell phone service, features, plans, contracts, and especially interfaces totally suck in the US, and it would be awesome if Apple could manage to do to the cell phone industry what it has done to the music industry over the past 5 years -- which is to say, break the backs of the giants in the industry and give consumers something they actually want.
More New Get-A-Mac Ads
PC: What’s your big plan?
Mac: I might make a home movie, or maybe create a website, try out my built-in camera; I can do it all right out of the box. So what about you?
PC: First I gotta download those new drivers, then I gotta erase the trial software that came on my hard drive...
Mac: Let me know when you’re ready to go.
PC: Actually, the rest of me is in some other boxes, so... I’ll meet up with you later.
These played fine under Firefox/Linux, but skipped horribly for me on Firefox/Windows. In case you have that problem too (or if you just hate inline videos like I do) here are direct links to the ads:Out of the Box Touche
Apple Throwing Its Weight Around
Apple has been in trouble lately in Europe, because the songs they sell on the iTunes Music Store are locked by a DRM scheme that makes them unplayable on any Digital Audio Player except the iPod. When the average Joe goes into Best Buy, he can purchase any one of a bewildering array of makes and models of DAPs, of which the iPod is only one; but if he purchases one of those non-iPod devices, then the songs he buys from iTMS won’t play on it. That’s stupid, and I know at least a couple people who’ve been in exactly that situation, so I can see why governments or trade groups are mad at Apple over it.
But according to a recent article on Ars, Apple may also be in trouble in Norway for a different reason:
Quoting Ars Technica:
Norwegian law provides a "cooling off" period after a purchase, during which the consumer can opt out of a transaction and return the merchandise for a full refund. Needless to say, there’s no cooling-off period in iTMS’ terms of service.
Now that’s really stupid.
This is 2006. You can’t just take old laws that applied to physical goods and slap them onto digital transactions without considering the differences between the situations. In particular, digital goods (like music files, video files, and computer programs) are fundamentally incapable of being returned. That’s because there’s no way to guarantee full return of a digital product; the merchant has no way to be sure that the consumer has deleted the original file, or that he hasn’t made any copies of it.
In general, I’m a big fan of the whole idea of return policies. But when the product is instantly available with just a few mouse clicks, when it’s something that you’ve most likely already heard before, and when it costs 99-freakin’-cents, then I think that 1) the consumer needs to show a little restraint and take responsibility for his actions, rather than having a government force companies to give him a "cooling off" period, and 2) anyone who’s pretending that it’s a big deal to not be able to return a 99-cent song needs to just stop pretending.
New Apple Ads
Apple introduced some new TV commercials on Monday and I think they’re pretty funny. You can watch them on the Apple website.
It’s kind of annoying how they present it as "The Mac vs. The PC" when it’s really about Mac vs. Windows. I run a PC, yet none of the PC-based problems mentioned in the ads affect me at all, because my PC runs Linux, not Windows.
But other than that, the ads are good -- they’re funny and they’re pretty much completely accurate.
Well, I finally went crazy insane and bought an Apple computer.
The Mac Mini is actually pretty cool, mainly because it’s so small. But in any case, I needed a Mac system so that I can develop and debug web pages in its Safari web browser, and that’s basically all I’m going to use the Mini for.
Within a few days of having it up and running, I was able to spend some time getting FileChucker to work properly in Safari, so it now works in all modern browsers.
Of course, a couple weeks after I buy the thing, Apple releases a big update to the Mini, most notably including the switch from the old PowerPC architecture to the x86 architecture: the Mini now runs either an Intel Core Solo chip or an Intel Core Duo chip. Other fun upgrades include:
...built-in 802.11g and Bluetooth support, 4 USB 2.0 ports, gigabit Ethernet, analog and Dolby Digital audio out, DVI video out, two slots for RAM, and 512MB of PC2-5300 DDR RAM (to go with its 667MHz FSB)...
So that’s kinda stinky, but on the other hand, it’s cool to have one of the last PPC-based Macs too. However, I wouldn’t mind having the increased performance of the newer units:
Steve Jobs claimed that the new Core Solo Mac mini is anywhere from 2.5 to 3.2x faster than its PowerPC 7447 predecessor...
But that’s OK. As I said, I’m not going to use the system very much anyway; I’m just glad to be able to have a system running Safari to debug web applications on.
I really need a Mac Mini. Why? Because at $499 it’s the most inexpensive Mac OSX system you can get, and because I need a Mac OSX system to do web development on Apple’s Safari browser.
Since Safari’s browser market share is so small, I have always generally written it off as not worth my time to make sure that my webpages work properly in it. But as I’m doing more and more web work, and I now have one product in particular that is generating a lot of interest, I’m getting more Safari/Mac users that want to use my products but can’t.
But I don’t really have $499 to drop on some new hardware right now. There are some less expensive deals to be found on eBay, going for $150-$200 currently, but they’ll probably be a lot closer to $499 in a couple days when their auctions end anyway.
Anyone have a relatively new (OSX, 10.3 or better) but used Apple system they want to part with?