Yesterday, I spent a bigger chunk of time than I care to admit trying to get my wife’s 3GS iPhone back in working order after a failed attempt to upgrade to the iOS4 operating system. Luckily, we got it working without having to send it in to Apple and without spending the $199 they told her she had to spend to get it running again.
My first issue is with iTunes. We don’t keep iTunes on our home computer because it is huge, buggy, and invasive (it wants to make a second copy of all our music files, which is duplicative and fills up the entire hard drive), but in order to install this OS upgrade, we had to do it. My daughter had already installed it so that she could make some changes to her iPhone (yes – we own two iPhones), and had a ton of issues with backups, etc.
Why can’t I just upgrade the iPhone operating system OTA (over the air – no wires, no interface)? I am paying AT&T something like a few grand over the life of my contract for access to cellar bandwidth, so I should be able to do this sort of thing, right?
I personally am an Android user, and while I am not going to claim that Android is perfect (it’s not), the user experience seems to be a lot smoother. Their platform is a lot more open, their hardware partners are a lot more diverse, and I believe their app store/marketplace is much more diverse and a whole lot cheaper. And my upgrades come regularly and they come OTA – automagically and easily.
Googling on the topic of OTA, I found an interesting article on ZDNet written about six months ago, before the release of iOS4; the author was making a list of the features he was hoping to see in the latest iPhone operating system. Those are: multithreaded third-party apps, OTA, voice input, free navigation, Google apps, widgets, more robust menubar, hotspots, and video calls (he doesn’t even bother to ask for Flash support, removable batteries, or memory card support). By my count, iPhone users only got one (or maybe two) out of nine of those features. Eeew.
If you read the comments, you see a lot of grousing about Apple by people of all walks of life. The one quote that sums it up for me is,
Actually no, I wouldn’t be happy if Apple just copied all the features of the Android OS, because that would bring it up to status quo. Apple needs to innovate and move ahead of Android if it wants to be a market leader.
I still find it surprising to hear Apple apologists defend Apple at every turn. (emphasis mine)
The upshot is that I think Apple builds much greater hardware than they do software, and the fact that as a user you have to sign up for both whether you want both or not, is bad. It used to be worse, with the carrier (AT&T) specified/required as well, but luckily that one aspect has changed recently.
I hope the recent leadership change at Apple will indicate a willingness to continue the advance (albeit slow) in the direction of openness on their hardware/software/platform strategy. They are too innovative a company, and too good a competitor in the overall mobile device industry, to be relegated to small market share because they have such a closed and restrictive strategy, or because they are biting off more than they can or should chew. That strategy will certainly hobble them.
- Android Grabs the Smartphone OS Lead, Passing Nokia’s Symbian (dailyfinance.com)
- Android topples Symbian as world’s most popular smartphone operating system (dailymail.co.uk)
- An Open Question: Is Open Source Better? (scientificamerican.com)