The top 10 problems with the iPhone 3G

10 03 2009

The mobile phone market is a tough place to be for manufacturers and operating system owners but the Apple iPhone certainly made a splash when it launched in mid 2007 and has gone from strength to strength with the 2nd “3G” version of its phone.

If you read my previous article, The top 10 problems with Windows Mobile you’ll know that I have been using an iPhone 3G for the past 9 months and quite liked it but Apple doesn’t get it all their own way.  This article looks at what really bugs me about the device.

1.  Where is the Battery and sd card!?

The battery in iPhone is not user replaceable and this is probably the biggest issue I have with it.  All you need to do is use the GPS along with google maps for a few hours and you can easily run the battery down to 1/4 full.  at Rugged and Mobile I’ve been tentatively starting to offer the iPhone into some small enterprise customers but the battery often fails the usage requirements of needing to run for a full 2 days and there’s no way round it.  I also have a worry about the life of the battery because it’s nowhere near the newer range of HTC and Nokia phones.  I know you can replace it but it does add an extra cost and does affect the lifespan of the device.  In this and its iPod relatives should be on shaky legal grounds as their batteries should be readily disposable in the EU for environmental reasons.

This follows true for other expanding accessories like memory.  Whilst 8 or 16Gb is enough for most, will it be in 1 or 2 years time?  Whilst the consumer on the street will probably buy the next hardware revision to cope with the latest advances, will businesses have the ability to follow the same 1 or 2 year cycle?

2.  To be Capacitive or not to be Capacitive!

The screen on the iPhone is of the capacitive type.  To those non-techies it means you need to use it with your bare finger as it detect current/capacity difference where it is touched and is at the heart of its multi-touch ability.  Other screens, especially those found in Microsoft devices use a touch screen where pressing the screen is detected.  I do like the iPhone screen but it does mean that anyone wearing gloves can’t use it.  Its annoying at best when you’re snowboarding and need to call your friends but for anyone hoping to use the device whilst wearing protective glove wear its a no no!

3.  Why can’t I hear my music!?

A2DP is the bluetooth streaming protocol that allows your phone to stream true stereo sound to anything via bluetooth.  Whilst most phones are now incorporating this the iPhone is left lacking which is a big surprise considering its beautifully integrated iTunes software.  It was rather embarrassing watching my friends cheap nasty Sony Ericsson phone connect seamlessly to his BT car stereo whilst my iPhone failed miserably!!

4.  Non proprietary connections

Whilst most other manufacturers are signing up to the USB standard, all Apple products remain using the proprietary Apple standard.  Don’t get me wrong, it works and it works well but it also means that you have to replace all your accessories if converting into the iPhone world and can be a big barrier to entry for some.  It’s also quite annoying that despite being a loyal customer in the iPod world, everything seems to change from version to version, forcing me to upgrade my cables at great expense for no apparent reason in my eyes which is always a worry for the iPhone.

5.  App Centre,

I think App centre is a good idea for the users it typically serves but Apple does need to do more on the other side of it.  App centre is hard to get your application into and even then its an issue getting exposure.  I have heard stories of being subjected to totally un-policed review spam like slating from competitors and when App centre is the only place you can get your applications to the (legitimate) users then it could all be done better.  It’s no surprise that the Jailbreak cracked community is more than twice the size of the legitimate one.

6.  Device openness

Again I understand that the jailbreak community gets round this but there are big parts of the iPhone that are hidden from developers.  For instance you can’t run any applications in the background which renders a lot of alerting type apps impossible.  We run a great GPS location portal at Rugged and Mobile and the iPhone has a working client presently being tested, however unlike other phones that can have a very slim client running on your phone in the background, the iPhone requires that you have the application in the foreground.  As soon as you check your email or answer the phone, the tracking stops.

7.  Developer process

If you want to develop iPhone apps then you have to get an Apple PC.  This means that I have had to buy a Macbook, train myself and my .NET programmers up on using it aswell as having a whole set of new issues when networking and troubleshooting it.  The message here is that when I learnt Java for OS60 it was pretty easy to convert because I just installed the required SDKs and tools on my PC and got on with it.  With the iPhone you have to go solely with Apple meaning learning the hardware, the operating system and the tools.

8.  Lack of software

It has been almost a year since the launch of the 3G iPhone and yet still no TomTom, Skype, Live Messenger and a plethora of other main stream applications are still missing.  For me, TomTom or an equivalent, is often an essential tool businesses either want available on their users phones or integrated into the applications we provide.  I simply can’t provide this with the iPhone.

9.  Cut and Paste

I’m not entirely sure why but iPhones do not let you cut and paste which is really annoying if you want to use it for true data entry.  I’m not getting drawn into the soft keyboard debate here, I certainly managed to adjust to it and can easily write long emails using it, but the lack of cut and paste leaves me way short on productivity compared to my HTC Touch Pro when sitting on a train composing documents or blogging like this!

10.  Operator lock in

In the UK, O2 is the only operator you can get an iPhone through.  This poses an immediate issue when selling into businesses here and its never good for us users because it allows Apple and O2 to keep prices up and to control the market.  O2 in fact have been pretty good, they are great for business but the fact is I am sure it would be better all round if Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone got a look in.  It would be really interesting to see what “3” would do with the device too.

There’s no question that right here and now, the iPhone is everything to a lot of people and it shows in Apples bottom line and the fact that a certain Microsoft programmer (mentioning no names!!) loves his iPhone.  The above list however is by no means exhaustive.  If anything it’s biased towards the business side of the phone and leaves out things like the poor camera, no video, MMS and lack of HSDPA, all vital in a web 2.0 world where uploading and sharing data is king.  However the shiny Apple gets by how it is for now.

There’s no doubt though that Apple’s competitors won’t let this pass for long and Apple will have to continue to innovate and lead which is something they’re historically not so good at doing.  The next few years will be very interesting indeed.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

The top 10 problems with Windows Mobile

8 03 2009

So Windows Mobile (WM) 7.0 is no longer just over the horizon and making us wait as long as 2010 before we finally see it released is now a reality. Whether you put your faith in v6.5 or not, Microsoft has clearly got troubles with the tiny OS and is taking its time to get the next version right.

I have a confession to make before I go on. Despite being a Microsoft Mobile bod first and foremost, I’m going to admit that my main phone the past 9 months has been the iPhone 3G. At first it was just too hard to ignore as a tech freak! but over time nothing has come close to it on an everyday level and my Touch Pro has been quietly relegated to USB 3G modem status!! In fact I’m so impressed with Apples dev offering too that I’m now a dev partner with Apple and just about to launch a suite of apps as well as bespoke offerings into the Apple market. Have I been swept up in the Apple wave too?

Anyway what this means is that I feel better qualified to write this article and you can bet your life there’ll be an Apple one soon!!!. So let’s get back to the original question of the main problems of WM and what Microsoft needs to get right in its next release.

1. Interface, Interface, Interface!

Microsoft has historically taken a business enterprise approach with its phones. Why wouldn’t it with its ready made army of server and desktop customers? However whilst WM has focused on things like Exchange integration and how similar it is to use as its big brother Windows operating system, the competition has seized the opportunity to make their phones usable in the way phone users use them. Have you seen the WM today screen? I couldn’t understand how WM6.1 made it better to be honest and lets face it, using WM is nowhere near as pleasurable, intuitive or easy as an iPhone, Nokia or Blackberry.

2. Make the right gesture!

Gestures and accelerometers have definitely been the thing the past 2 years and WM has completely ignored it! Manufacturers like HTC have valiantly tried with Touch-Flo but have simply not kept pace with the competition. Gestures don’t solve everything but they go a long way to making a phone easier to use and fit the way a phone user uses a device much better. WM definitely needs a way to engage the user more by using different kinds of user input techniques.

3. Daddy Cool!

This is always a touchy subject at best but Microsoft phones simply aren’t that cool! Just go to any social gathering and get your Qtek 8500 Star trek out or even your HTC MAX 4G as I proudly and often do and watch people just nod at you in a humouring manner!! Why is this? HTC makes some beautiful handsets and Samsung has really cracked into the high street with its Omnia products but why does WM remain uncool? The Blackberry Curve is anything but cool but every time I see a celebrity they’re using one which makes them cool (Doesn’t it!?). I think Microsoft needs to seriously spend some of their savings on re-positioning their WM brand. It can be done, just look at how the XBox team did it.

4. Get the hardware right.

Some WM phones run like a dream and some are so slow they really let the side down and despite WM solving a lot of issues for us .NET developers the implementation of it on different devices still differs. Add to this that it’s clear that the hardware requirements need to be tightened up and brought in-line with what the OS needs and you have a recipe for a mess! One great benefit of WM is that there are a plethora of applications out their ready to use but most of them still have inter device issues as well as lack of power problems because the device hardware is either under specified or implemented in a non standard manner.

5. Work with the operators

Having said the above, you can have a superb handset but if the operators cram too much of their own bloat ware into the OS then you’re dead in the water. Operators seem to fry ridiculous applications in to their device ROMS and insist on creating a bespoke the interface so that a device can almost look and feel like a completely different phone network to network?

Our friends on the XDA forums have proven time and time again how a clean ROM can make a huge difference to the performance of a WM phone. Maybe the operators need to learn a few lessons from them!

Give the user the choice or give them a ROM that will be useful and not impact the performance of the base OS.

6. Just Browsing!

With WAN becoming faster and cheaper every day more and more people use their phones for Internet browsing. I have to admit that Mobile Explorer just misses the point entirely when compared to Safari or Opera. Sure you can install Opera but the point here is that the common user that Microsoft desperately needs to sell into just isn’t going to install a separate browser.

Why not include some of the new features of IE8 into Mobile IE? Pasting portions of web pages into a feed like experience could be something new in the mobile market and could be the today screen answer? I don’t know, but what I do know is that they need to get IE right and fast.

7. The stylus is dead, long live the finger!

I’m not sure that this is totally true (I just thought of the title above and couldn’t resist using it!!). There is still a time and place for the stylus but again we have to stop thinking about the enterprise market and look to the every day bods on the street. Does a teenager really want to get her stylus out to text her friends and how does the 35 year old traveller Twitter away when his stylus has been lost somewhere in Laos!?

At Rugged and Mobile we face up to this problem every day. Van drivers, warehouse operatives and generally anyone who wears gloves either hates, can’t use or loses the stylus and it’s another example of how WM has been left behind by the competition and the consumer.

8. Standards

One thing that really got my goat this week was that HTC’s diamond and pro 2 have reverted back to the proprietary USB jack so I can no longer use my own headphones and other accessories (Again!!). It’s a real blow and did they not see how welcomed putting in a std jack in the iPhone 3G was at its launch event?

It’s the same with a whole host of other areas on WM phones (Think blue tooth for one) and its time that the device manufactures, operators and Microsoft pulled together.

9. Innovate not recreate

Microsoft needs to step back and stop applying its server mentality to its phone division. It has got to stop thinking about its phone as another device people use but as THE device people are using to connect and interact with. At Rugged and Mobile we always spend time with our customers so that when we write an application for them, it fits their users needs. It often means we do something we think is nuts but at the end of the day the user’s end up citing the very same thing as the best part of the solution. The lesson to learn? Listen to your users, listen to the market and deliver into them what they need in an innovative way. Stop thinking about mobile in a desktop manner.

10. Fortune favours the bold!

Any business understands that you do your research then you go for it. Microsoft needs to stop bumbling around and needs to really go for it. Get involved with cool events, build the brand into something to be envied and deliver on the promises by making WM devices robust, easy to use and packed with useful features of the moment that other phones don’t have or have even thought of!

I heard that Microsoft were playing with a speech interface for WM 7.0 and this is the sort of thing they need to be doing, assuming it works well. Something new and unique.

What ever happens WM 7.0 must deliver. I truly love the WM operating system and I really hope WM 7.0 ends up as something great and not a year old by the time it launches. It looks like Microsoft is taking its time to get it right so lets keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

In the meantime…….where did I put my iPhone….!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

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