Aug 012011
 

In hindsight there is little doubt that the first iPhone paved the way for a whole new smartphone experience, and it is often attributed to have started the “computer first, phone second” trend. But when you analyze what it actually brought to the table you see that it its main improvement, (software wise) compared to what was available then, was the vastly superior web browser. Beyond the browser it was actually one and often two steps backwards in several important areas for a device that was presumably a “computer first”.

Both Windows Mobile and Symbian were [beyond the browser] much more capable and resembled more a “mobile computer”; sure, the overall performance on WM was abysmal and its multitasking, though present, was virtually unavailable to the user unless you installed some third party app. But with both WM and Symbian you could do and had “basic” features that you would take for granted in a “mobile computer”:

-real multitasking
-copy & paste
-a user accessible file system
-use you phone as a USB drive / drag & drop files between PC and phone
-user replaceable memory cards
-GPS
-installing applications from any source, as opposed to a single “app store”

Given all the features the first versions of the iPhone was missing, can you blame Nokia for thinking that the iPhone/iOS was not a threat to them? I myself classified the iPhone as a smartphone (just barely) only starting from version 4 of iOS, when it gained the limited multitasking – prior to that it was simply a “smart dumbphone”; heck, the “phone second” bit seemed to refer more to the missing basic phone features of the first iPhone (no MMS and 3G) than to it actually resembling a computer.

However, you expect a lot more from a “mobile computer” than from a “smartphone”, and as such both iOS and Windows Phone fall way short – there is absolutely no way you can classify either one of them as “mobile computers” out of the box (i.e. without jailbreaking/hacking it). That is one of the reasons I am excited about the Nokia N9 as it is currently the device that, by the looks of it, most resembles a computer in your pocket.

But in the [not] long run I do want a true mobile computer that will give me the same freedom and capabilities as my desktop computer, which I why I am looking forward to see what Windows 8 is all about as it presumably will truly bring the PC to the phone; of course, if MeeGo or Canonical could come up with something before or around that same time, then that would be even more interesting.

Jul 172011
 

The title of this post is a question I posed back in 2009. The conclusion was basically that I considered the iPhone to be a smart dumbphone. But then version 4 of iOS came out, with a host of new and crucial features that was enough for me to reconsider my conclusion and eventually even buy an iPhone to try it out first hand.

But after using the phone for a while now I have increasingly began to swing back to my original position regarding iOS, and yesterday an event occurred that really questions the iPhones’s “smartphone” status.

In relation to a purchase I made yesterday I had to show a proof of document. I then remembered that I have a digital copy of that document in my Dropbox account so I swiftly launched the Dropbox app on my iPhone and opened the document in question (a PDF file), and showed it to the sales woman. As any smartphone aficionado knows, it was very satisfying using the smartphone for something else besides your typical web browsing, video watching and music playing for once, and in this case something critical even. But then I was asked to e-mail that same document to the sales woman, which provoked a twinge of apprehension; anyone that has an iPhone knows that you cannot attach any files directly from the e-mail client, that functionality simply does not exist in iOS. Instead, you attach files by sending it from the application that contains the file. So for example, if you would like to e-mail a photo, you would have to go to the Photo app and and from there select “e-mail photo” (that is a truth with a slight modification: with specifically photos you can copy a photo and then paste it into an e-mail). Thus, the logical and only place where I would be able to send my pdf file as an attachment would be from the Dropbox app. Lo and behold, that option doesn’t exist in the iPhone version of Dropbox, which demonstrates an important/critical limitation with iOS, namely that it is up to each application to implement that [e-mail attachment] functionality, instead of it being a native feature of the e-mail client (of course that limitation is a direct consequence of not having any means of storing files directly on your phone and no user browsable file system, which means that it simply would not be possible to browse and select files from the e-mail client). So I literally spent a minute thinking how I might be able to solve the problem, and more importantly, solve the real need that I had at that moment. It then occurred to me that I have iCab installed (which, for those who haven’t heard of it, is the most powerful and best browser you can download on your iPhone) and that, just perhaps, I might be able to do it from there. So I consequently had to fire up iCab, navigate to Dropbox.com, log in to my Dropbox account, navigate to the PDF file, download that file and then cross my fingers and hope that iCab would give me the option to attach downloaded files to an e-mail. Fortunately, it did.

You might ask if I couldn’t have achieved the same thing with the native Safari browser, but the answer is no: Safari does not even have the option to download files. In other words, I was only able to solve the problem by 1) fortunately enough having iCab installed previously and 2) because it occurred to me to try attaching the file from there.

Now if this were an iPhone blog and I wanted to be gentle in my wording, I would probably say something along the lines of “my solution was an inelegant workaround”. But being neither of those I will call it for what it is: it is complete crap. Obviously a regular smart phone user, and even more so your normal iPhone user which is typically a non-geek would never have been able to solve that problem (heck, the only thing that saved me was iCab). And it also highlights the much greater issue with iOS and its limitations, and that I have been saying among my friends for some time now, namely that I don’t think the iPhone is really suited in an enterprise environment, which makes its increasing use there surprising and even questionable.

Some of you may have noticed, if you have read my “gripe-series”, that iOS is conspicuously absent so far. I can assure you that the reason is not because I don’t have anything bad to say about iOS but rather it is the hard time I am having in deciding exactly which feature is the one that annoys me the most; the woefully inadequate e-mail functionality in iOS would certainly be a top contender for such a post…

Jun 162011
 

Phandroid made an interesting affirmation yesterday, saying that iPhone users don’t really talk about smartphones with one another.

Not only do I agree with that, but I would even go further and say that vast majority of iPhone users are not interested in smartphones, let alone what the competition does. And as I have stated before I think that stems from the fact that the iPhone caught traction with the public when it was still a dumbphone, and thus most of its users were in reality dumbphone users. I have only met ONE single iPhone user who was supposedly interested in what is going on with the other platforms but you couldn’t expect much of any kind of decent and objective discussion with him, which wasn’t surprising given the statements from him of the kind “I love you Steve Jobs!” (yes, those were his exact words).

Whenever I try to engage in a conversation with “fellow” iPhone users about smartphones I am always met with either a sheepish expression (i.e. “I have no idea what you are talking about”) or simply disinterest. I sometimes even feel embarrassed when I use my iPhone in public as I don’t want to be labeled as that clueless, “just-another-iPhone-clone”, “follow-the-crowd” individual.

In contrast, my most interesting discussions have invariably been with Android users; so yes, I absolutely agree that Android users are much more prone to strike up conversation about smartphones and OSs then iPhone users. (But to fair, WebOS users have in even more in common, but that is simply because they are as rare as the Dodo….).