Counterpoint: Apple's iPhone 3.0 Software

Daniel made a very cogent point in the previous article, articulating the spectacular advantages Apple has in the smartphone sphere. I would like to offer however, a counterpoint to his article. Although I do agree with many of the points he has made in his article, I would just like to supplement with some thought-nuggets that may serve to complement his views.

1) Apple’s Closed Ecosystems

While Apple has made an incredible effort to open up their OS to outside developers, remember that this only happened later on in the development cycle with Version 2.0. Version 3.0 is a completion of this opening up but this is something that we must remember of Apple, their first instinct is usually to protect rather than allow the world to take and play with. Apple’s famous paranoia may have been toned down at the moment, with seemingly every other application being allowed, but there are still restrictions that come with a closed market, there are still things that the iPhone will not do unless hacked. Much of these have been removed again with 3.0, but I wonder if history should serve to teach us a lesson here. I think tethering (using your phone as a modem for your computer) in particular is one that is quite interesting, it will not be enabled unless the carrier allows it. Most other phones have such capability out of the box. Why not the iPhone? And why only allow it now, with carrier approval?

Another problem with a closed ecosystem, is that it usually takes longer for features to get implemented. What shocked many people is that copy and paste took so long to deliver. Seriously. 3 software iterations to get right what any other phone has in its first iteration. Not impressive. Albeit Apple had to work out the technicalities in the first place but that is hardly an explanation. I could go on. But there is a bit of light shining here. The wait is over. Apple will bring all these toys now and we can bask in the glory that is Apple. The only questions I want to raise here is: What of the future? Will all things continue in the same vein or will it progress slowly but surely.

2) Apple’s very particular worldview

Apple makes amazing products. Everyone knows that. Perfectly engineered, gorgeously designed, brilliantly conceived. But sometimes that genius throws out something completely Heh? The latest iPod Shuffle is one of those design decisions. The thing about Apple is, and it is probably something the Fanboys *myself included* love is the very esoteric way in which they view the way tech should work and how humans should work with tech. You either LOVE it to bits, or hate it but buy it anyway because that’s the only thing that works, and you somehow fit your life around it. The iPod is an example of such tech. It works because it is so simple, but let us be honest, it is also radically different from any product out there. No one else can emulate it with such precision and perfection. The iPhone is yet another example of such design ideology. No one can make it work like Apple, and no one has succeeded so far because it’s just so far out of everyone else’s design ideologies. The only thing that even comes close is the Palm Pre; and that’s from an Apple Alum!

3) Apple’s Self Confidence

Apple knows what it is doing. They know they basically rule the market and their arrogance shines through their products. They don’t need to offer cutting edge, or even top of the range. Their survival is based almost entirely on one thing and one thing alone. Design. Apple has built it’s empire on design and this works in the world where everything is built overloaded with stuff. Simplicity triumphs in such a world because it’s simply less taxing on the brain to use a product. This can serve as a foil however, when Apple has a bad product, because they will try to fix it no matter what. Even if the fundamental conception is flawed.

I believe that Apple will continue to survive, even thrive in these times. I just want to point out some of the longer term struggles Apple may have and how it should attempt to deal with these issues.

  • Great points, but I actually disagree that these points are relevant.

    The point wasn’t just the fact that there was an ecosystem, but the fact that so many people are eager to be part of that ecosystem because there are so many iPhone users, many whom bought the iPhone because of that big ecosystem.

    Average consumers don’t care about what Apple has prevented from entering the App Store. All they know is that there are quite a few great apps (thanks to the TV commercials). Even some gadget lovers I spoke too aren’t aware of Apple’s ridiculous and mysterious policies.

    And as for developers, they’re not going to stop trying to get into that ecosystem even though they know there’s such a huge risk that their application is going to be rejected. They may hate it, but because of it’s effectiveness once their apps get through, they’re not going to stop trying, just like why Singaporeans keep buying Toto and 4D, though the chances of an app getting in are higher. As long as thousands of people try and force themselves into the app store, and with 90% of them going in, plus the fact that these numerous apps are all congregated in one single easily accessible location allowing users to see that the app store is growing, how “closed” the ecosystem is at this point is irrelevant to the average consumer that makes up the majority of iPhone buyers.

    I believe that Apple didn’t plan for this virtuous cycle to happen, but they saw what they needed to do to help this cycle become possible, thus the amount of time they took to make 3.0 a reality. In fact, I dare say that many of the features they put into 3.0 was a result of the people’s reaction to the Palm Pre, and in order not to let Palm have that slight advantage, they (I believe) reluctantly put in the time to add those features (such as copy and paste) in. That’s probably why they took so long.

    Sure, Apple is very protective, but when they realise that there’s a demand, they have time and again reluctantly do what their consumers want. Allowing native 3rd party apps was a great example, and boy was that risk they took worth it.

    In reference to the Shuffle mess-up they did, I can guarantee you that the next shuffle will be fixed, just like that mess-up with the 1st-gen iPhone’s headphone jack.

    Apple may be self-confident, but they’re not stupid.

  • You make a very cogent point Daniel. And yes I think my article was more obliquely related to the Cycle than anything. It wasn’t meant as a criticism of your ideas rather a complement as I tried to make clear in my first paragraph.

    But let me point out that over the long run, things will change. Who knows what it’ll be like a few years down the road. That’s my only concern. Apple can fail because they’re so different from everyone. When these differences don’t play out as they have been to Apple’s strengths, Apple will slip down a notch.

    I guess what I’m saying is that these are the long term implications, something that Apple will have to be aware of in the future.

  • Never took them as criticisms, just continuing the discussions 🙂

    But you’re right. Many things can change. As unexpected as it was for Apple to become so successful today, they can fall just as unexpectedly. Apple has to be more careful with what they do and release to make sure that they can pick themselves up quickly should they fall.

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It has long been said that no good deed goes unpunished, and Daniel must have been really good in his last life, because he is now inflicted with having to manage our former International Correspondent, Jerrick Lim. On his way to a career in the law, Jerrick has spent some time in the United Kingdom, giving him an appreciation of such delights as Rhubarb, Pimm's and cold grey weather. Jerrick deals with many aspects of technology, but favours such aspects as Aviation, Portable Devices, and Automobiles. He also fancies himself a gamer but has not finished a game proper in a long time. Email Jerrick at: jerrick at tech65 dot org or visit his personal blog
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