iPhone

Android steals from iOS

[Google Engineer] Morrill said. “The problem is that there is no good UI for it. One of the core Android principles is that you never need a file manager. Ever. We wanted to avoid the obnoxious ‘sneeze and a file picker appears’ syndrome of basically every other OS. Local data that apps know how to handle should just be magically available within the apps, or stored in the cloud. You shouldn’t have to go spelunking on your SD card to find data.”

Really?

You’re claiming that file managers go against a core Android principal. Yet almost every Android phone produced has one.

The iPhone hasn’t had a file manager since day one. It has never had an SD card slot even when users asked for it. They made that choice for a reason, and it led to a simpler phone.

I don’t mind if you steal ideas from other companies, but don’t pretend that was your intention all along.

My week with Android

I can already hear the Android fanboys yelling.

“You weren’t using the latest Android device!” “Each Android phone is different!” “You are an Apple fanboy!”

It’s all true. But this review is real. I used a Nexus One for one week while abroad, and this is as unbiased of a review as you will get out of an Apple fanboy like me.

Many parts of Android are straight ripoffs of iOS. That’s ok. Many things are very different. But some aspects of the Android made it completely unusable as a phone. Other aspects made me want to throw it against a wall.

When the iPhone came out in 2007, it wasn’t perfect. It didn’t have 3G, apps, and it was only on AT&T. But it was a perfectly functioning phone.

From my week of using a Nexus One, heavy on calls, SMS, web, and maps, here were my biggest annoyances:

  • I could never hear the ringer or feel the vibrations. So I basically missed every single call and text.
  • Notifications like missed calls were hidden away in the notifications bar. So I missed those as well unless I explicitly checked. I love hitting the power button on the iPhone and seeing missed calls/texts/notifications.
  • Battery life was horrible. Didn’t even come close to lasting a day.
  • WORST: When typing, I often hit the “Home” button which lives just below the space bar in the keyboard. Most agravating thing EVER to constantly be taken home.
  • Hated the permanent back button. There’s no context to what “back” means. Especially when it would take me to other apps and the home screen. It’s usefulness was random.
  • When I was about to depart Paris by plane, I couldn’t remember if I had already switched the phone off. So i tapped the power button. The phone proceeded to boot. Grrr. On the iPhone, you hold power to turn it on. Tapping power or home will light up the screen if the phone is already on.
  • Inability to put the phone on silent without turning it on and using the touch interface.
  • Poorly thoughtout UI. For example, this screenshot:
  • On the left we have an unlock icon and an arrow point right. So if I swipe to the right, the phone unlocks. Cool.

    On the right, there’s a speaker icon and an arrow pointing left. So if I swipe to the left, the sound turns on. WRONG. In this state, the sound is already on and swiping turns it off. Grrr.

  • Generally poor responsiveness, inaccurate geo coordinates in maps, difficulty using two fingers in maps.

It’s all about the polish

For the past 20 years, I’ve been convincing people to buy Macs. There was a point a few years ago when Windows had “matched” everything the Mac had. My argument became tough. “But it just works on a Mac.”

Android is now at the same place vs the iPhone. The feature set looks identitcal, but the level of polish and usability is nowhere close. Explaining this to someone is nearly impossible. You have to use it.

Apple will keep adding cutting edge features like Siri, but the real win is that the iPhone just works.

Use Posterous at Graduation to Create an Instant, Collaborative Event Photo Album

Before you hit the ceremonies and post-grad party scene, make sure your iPhone is photo-ready with the best iPhone app for group celebrations. Posterous for the iPhone lets you create a event photo album to which everyone attending your event can share, instantly and effortlessly. It’s perfect for graduation because all the photos are showcased in a beautiful archive for later viewing.

I wish something like Posterous had existed when I was in college. Every class I was in, every dorm I lived in, every group I was a part of had an email list. But it was a dumb list serve, and I have none of those emails today.

How cool would it be if today I could:

  • View the photos everyone took at each dorm I lived in
  • See the old handouts and assignments from the classes I took
  • Relive the memories from all the amazing basketball and football games I attended

It’s 2011 and it’s still too hard to share photos together.

But we’re getting there. You can use Posterous for the iPhone to create a collaborative photo site based around a location. Very cool for an event like graduation! Check it out.

More info is here.

Why does Android get credit for being disruptive? It’s not.

Back in January 2010, following Google’s much-hyped Nexus One unveiling, I wrote a post entitled: Apple And Google Just Tag Teamed The U.S. Carriers. In it, I argue that the biggest part of Google’s announcement wasn’t any one device, it was the new model they were putting out there. Google’s ambition to sell devices directly to consumers would build upon the consumer-friendly mobile foundation laid by Apple with the iPhone. Under the new system, consumers would go to a website and click on the phone they want, click on the carrier they want, and boom, they’re done. This was going to change everything. It was going to be beautiful.

Then something happened.

While Apple (some would say stubbornly) clung to their exclusive agreement in order to continue to bend AT&T to their will, Google backed down. When it became clear that the Nexus One was simply not selling, Google seemingly panicked and went running with open arms to the carriers.

Somehow Google’s Android inserts itself into the conversation around cell phone innovation and breaking free of carrier control. Yet I fail to see what Android has really done to help.

When the iPhone came out 4 years ago, the entire industry changed. Here’s what the iPhone brought us for the first time:

  • A phone you could purchase directly from Apple at full price with no contract. This model ended up failing as consumers wanted the contract subsidy on the device, but Apple was the first to try to decouple the phone from the carrier.
  • No carrier influence in the operating system. My iPhone experience is exactly what Apple wants it to be. AT&T can’t add or remove apps or even put their logo on my phone.
  • The phone gets OS upgrades automatically from Apple through iTunes. The iPhone was one of the first with upgrades that user’s actually took, and it all happens independent of AT&T, through iTunes.
  • Although you sign a 2 year agreement with AT&T when you get an iPhone, Apple has negotiated so iPhone users can get the new iPhone each year. With cell phone technology moving so quickly (and with so many fanboys like me), I really appreciate this from Apple/AT&T. Two year upgrade cycles are unreasonable.
  • (I think) the iPhone is the first phone that is 100% pixel identical on more than one carrier. We’re not talking about “almost the same.” I can choose to get an iPhone on AT&T or Verizon and the phone itself doesn’t change in hardware or software.

With Android, I struggle to see what Google has done to make the cell phone market better, or to reduce the hold carriers have on us. The few things I can come up with are:

  • They provided a good OS for free to all handset manufacturers. This is great since most handset makers had crappy software. It means phones have more functionality and more consistency than they had before.
  • Android is a great, open developer platform. It lets people build software without a gate keeper (Apple).

Other than that, it seems Android suffers from the same issues other cell phones do. The carriers control the software and experience that ultimate ends up on the device. The carrier controls upgrades for software and hardware. There is a ton of fragmentation in the space. There is confusion for users. 

I see how Google tried to change things. They tried to sell the Nexus One direct and tried to bring consistent hardware and software to multiple carriers. But none of this has played out.

At least today, I’m not sure it makes sense to talk about Google in the same breath as Apple with regards to innovation in the mobile industry. Google promises a lot (free WiFi in San Francisco?) but delivers little.

The iPhone on AT&T is like putting lipstick on a pig

In fall 2009, Verizon was pummeling AT&T with a series of “map” ads, claiming that AT&T’s spotty 3G network was to blame for poor service. Even if AT&T had wanted to respond with iPhone ads, Apple would have refused. “We would have been letting them use the iPhone to put lipstick on a pig.”

Wired repeatedly tries to blame Apple for AT&T’s network problems. Steve Jobs refused to cripple YouTube on the iPhone. Apple didn’t advertise for AT&T. Apple wanted tethering. Apple used nonstandard chips. All these things caused the AT&T network to collapse under load.

AT&T: it’s your network and you need to get your shit together. Don’t blame the iPhone for your issues. The iPhone works great in other countries off your system, and you have done nothing but ruin the experience for us here.

AT&T has raised prices, killed unlimited plans, and simply not kept up with the demand on their network. These days, I actually use the Skype app to make calls when I’m at the office. My iPhone fails as a phone because of AT&T.

AT&T has become a mere toll-taker on the digital highway, an operator of dumb pipes that cost a fortune to maintain but garner no credit for innovation or customer service. Meanwhile, the likes of Apple and Google will continue to pump out products that push the limits of what the carriers can provide, training customers to use more and more data.

 
Oh boo hoo. This is the way it should be. Let me pay AT&T (or another company) some amount of money for a data feed and then let me do anything I want with it. The old system where carriers have all the power is coming to an end.
 
Decouple the devices from the service. I want to see data providers battle and innovate to bring me faster and cheaper data. And device makers innovate to use that data feed in great ways. Let innovation in phones come from companies who can innovate.
 
Wired: you think training customers to use more data is a bad thing? You think AT&T will have to raise prices continually to keep up? I call bullshit. Don’t try to make AT&T the good guy here.

The fact that people are using more data is a great thing. AT&T should rise to the occasion and give people what they need. They should see this as a time to get a ton of new customers and significantly increase revenue. Figure it out.
 
When building the iPhone, Apple innovated in every way they could and built the first true smart phone. If they had let AT&T cripple the device to keep network traffic low, they would have ended up with a dumb phone plus iPod.

FaceTime will be successful because you don’t need an account

One-tap simple.

FaceTime works right out of the box — no need to set up a special account or screen name. And using FaceTime is as easy as it gets. Let’s say you want to start a video call with your best friend. Just find her entry in your Contacts and tap the FaceTime button. Or maybe you’re already on a voice call with her and you want to switch to video. Just tap the FaceTime button on the Phone screen. Either way, an invitation pops up on her iPhone 4 screen asking if she wants to join you. When she accepts, the video call begins. It’s all perfectly seamless. And it works in both portrait and landscape modes.

This is going to change everything. I can’t wait to be able to do video calls with my parents, with Kate, with friends all over the world. iChat failed here because it was software. FaceTime will work because it doesn’t change the device you use or your existing behavior.

But lets deconstruct the software side of this for a second. Any phone can add a front facing camera, and any phone can add a Skype like application that does video phone calls. But how did Apple make it work out of the box, without accounts?

FaceTime currently works over WiFi only, yet it must use the AT&T network to initiate the connection. How else can my phone find and connect to my mom’s phone 500 miles away, using nothing but her phone number?

Leave it to Apple to go the extra mile. Any other company would have made you sign up for something new. But Apple focused on making the software great, and even had to do some custom integration with AT&T. That’s what will make it a break out feature, not just something for geeks. My mom and I will do a video call the first day we both have new phones.

At Posterous, we’ve always believed in avoiding account creation as much as possible. You can post without an account, and you can subscribe without an account. Accounts get in the way. Apple feels the same.

So how does FaceTime work? I guess we’ll learn more tomorrow, but it seems something like:

  1. Initiating iPhone contacts receiving iPhone using standard telephone protocol (using AT&T).
  2. iPhones communicate to determine if both support FaceTime and both are on WiFi.
  3. iPhones then create a direct peer to peer connection over the internet. The iPhones deal with all IP addresses, firewalls, NAT issues automatically.
  4. Participants can now do a video call over WiFi without use of the cellular network.

But users don’t know this is happening. It just works. And that’s what makes this technology truly amazing.

Kudos to Apple for making FaceTime an open standard. Skype, you suck. Hopefully we’ll see FaceTime added to other devices and networks and it becomes the standard for video chat.

Even when my iPhone is busted, Apple finds a way to bring me joy

My iPhone stopped functioning as a phone on Saturday. I could use the device on WiFi but couldn’t make or receive calls, texts, or 3G data. I’d like to blame AT&T for this, but it was definitely an iPhone issue.

Being without a phone is painful. I’m definitely over dependent on mine. I feel lost without it.

Getting my iPhone replaced couldn’t have been easier or more pleasant.

  • I went to the Apple Retail website and made an appointment to see a Genius. I hate the inefficiencies of standing in line (as I blogged about here). So this makes a lot of sense to me. 
  • I arrived at my scheduled time and walking up the stairs, I saw my name on the screen above the Genius bar as “next customer for iPhone.” I got a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. 
  • The Genius attendant greeted me by name and noted down my issue. Incredible. 
  • I waited just a few minutes before a Genius could help me with my issue. He ran some diagnostics, and then promptly said he would replace my phone. Wow. 
  • One of the great features of the iPhone is when you sync, it backs up the entire phone. So I was able to restore that backup to my new iPhone in just a couple clicks. It restored not just my contacts and email, but also my SMS history, my apps, all my data within those apps, even which web pages I had open in Safari. It restored my life.

Before phones got smart, losing a phone or replacing a phone meant you lost all your contacts. I still remember people on Facebook asking, “I replaced my phone. Please send me your number.” But the iPhone went further than just restoring contacts. They made it completely painless to get your life back in order when you replace your phone.

One thing on my phone that I love having: the entire SMS history between me and Kate from our first date until today.

Pastedgraphic

What other gems are hidden in SMS history? When I first saw Kate on the night we met, I messaged my friend Roy because I needed a wing man. We still have the proof.

This is why Apple isn’t just a company that makes products I use, but a company that powers my digital life and memories. Apple brings me joy.