“It Just Works”

This is going to be the last I’ll talk about the iPhone on here, at least until the next major software upgrade. Frankly, at this point, talking about it anymore would be just like, well, cuddling.

My buying advice, for what it’s worth: if you don’t already have one, don’t buy one. You’ve already survived the opening weekend hysteria, so you’ve got the willpower to wait until all the kinks are worked out. There will be a slew of point releases, followed by hardware releases, and version 2.0 will undoubtedly be better.

I still think the thing is plenty cool, and I don’t regret getting it at all. But I had the perfect storm of buyer incentive going on: the Apple monkey on my back, it came out a couple days after my birthday, the price worked out to be 7 shares of Apple stock, my contract on my old phone just ran out a couple of months ago, the battery had already run out, etc. If none of those apply for you, I suggest you wait.

This is definitely a version 1.0 device. “It just works” doesn’t ring true like it does with Macs; there’ve been plenty of occasions when it just doesn’t. The iPod and web browser and mail app crash pretty frequently — it doesn’t harm anything, it just stops playing music, or takes you back to the home screen. When you sync up again, iTunes presents your crash logs and the now-standard “would you like to send valuable feedback to Apple?” dialog box.

You can’t use it for more than a couple of hours without coming up with a list of improvements. It’s neat, but it would be even better if….

And have I mentioned that Apple doesn’t support third-party development for it? Because they don’t. One trivial app that is far from necessary but would be really convenient to have: an equivalent of Vince Lee’s LunchMaster, that could bring up a list of restaurants in a neighborhood, filter them by price and food type, and even choose a random one for you if you wanted. With the iPhone, it could even jump to the corresponding yelp.com entry if you wanted more info, let you call the restaurant, and get a map. But to do any of that, you’d have to have an internet connection, and it’s just not worth it.

On every single one of the ten billion blog posts, message board discussions, and articles written about the iPhone, there’s always, always has one of these comments:

My [existing cellphone type] didn’t cost that much, and it does everything the iPhone does! It’s not as pretty, but it’s functionally the same. There’s nothing revolutionary about this!

Which is completely missing the point. My RAZR phone had a web browser, camera, and media library. I never used them, because they were such a pain in the ass to deal with. A feature that never gets used is not a feature.

That’s why Apple keeps winning and gets away with charging so much for their stuff: because they’re one of the few companies that understands that. It’s not just translucent window borders, and it’s not a GNOME or KDE front-end on the UNIX filesystem, and it’s not Windows Mobile or, God forbid, the Motorola cell phone interface. It’s knowing how people use a device and then making that easier.

When you go to the settings menu on the iPhone, there’s a button that says “Phone.” Press it, and there’s a screen that says “AT&T Services”. And then there’s a screen that shows you all the different kinds of billing and usage information, as well as the corresponding dial code. Apparently I could find my used minutes at any point, even back when I had a RAZR, by dialing *646#. I never knew I could do this, so I never did it. That’s exactly where Apple wins.

0 thoughts on ““It Just Works””

  1. Hey Chuck, if you visit a website with a link to a hosted-on-the-internet Mp3 file, and you click the button, what does the iPhone do with it? Does it download it? Does it play it? Does it add it to your music library? What about mp3s attached in email?

    Just curious.

  2. I tried both in the interests of science:
    1) From a web page: It plays in the web browser’s embedded QuickTime viewer, which didn’t surprise me at all. Safari tries to do the same thing on a Mac.
    2) In e-mail: it just shows you the attachment without the ability to preview it or do anything with it, which did surprise me.

    The iPod library is pretty much walled off from everything else on the phone, you can’t make any changes to your library on the device itself other than making a single On-the-Go playlist. You can’t even do the stuff that would benefit Apple, like go to the iTunes store and buy songs over the phone.

  3. Thanks for the update.

    I went to play with the iPhone at the Apple store but got trendyphobia when I saw big crowd huddled around them. I didn’t want to look like I was part of the masses so I instead pretended I was looking for a way to extend the video cable of my Cinema HD monitor. I didn’t find anything for that, by the way.

  4. Dude, if you’re so afraid of looking like a follower that you can’t even check out an iPhone in a store, then you’re clearly not Apple material. Sorry to break it to you, but I’m just trying to help — what would happen when you’re out on the street in San Francisco and you’re one of a dozen other guys of the same age and general demographic, and you hear the “marimba” ringtone, and every one of you reaches for his iPhone at the same time?

  5. Chuck, if you were Apple material, you would insist that telltale make its games available on the mac platform. Then you can play it on your iPhone.

  6. Heidi, keeping mind that this is my personal blog and I don’t speak for Telltale: I could insist on it all I wanted, but it wouldn’t change reality. We’ve got a very experienced, very capable, but very small team, who are currently supporting two series (Sam & Max and CSI) and development of S&M Season 2. Porting a videogame to a different platform isn’t trivial.

    I’ve said plenty on here about how I’m a fan of Macs. And there are plenty of Mac users around the office. We like Macs, and we’re aware that a lot of the fans have requested Mac versions of the game. And I’ll point out that Mac users aren’t completely cut out as it stands now — I played all the season 1 episodes (and worked on a few of them) using a MacBook Pro under Boot Camp.

    As for not being able to play it on the iPhone, that’s all Steve Jobs’ fault.

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