I find it strange that people can have discussions about politics and even religion without getting upset and almost coming to blows, but mention whether an upright vacuum cleaner is better than a cylinder vacuum, or whether a Mac is better than a PC, and not only do people come out of the woodwork to express their opinion, they hold those opinions as fundamental values about how the world works and their place in it! So I find I’m experiencing a certain trepidation about writing about the iPhone because I know everyone will want to share their views – including members of the flat-earth society, people who have been abducted by aliens, and (this is the largest group) people who’ve never used an iPhone. But anyway, here goes…
Do I want to buy an iPhone? What are the reasons for and against making this one purchase. And this is more than a mobile (cell) phone purchase – this is a lifestyle purchase. This is not a phone to ring home on and say you’ll be there in 20 minutes; this is a phone to pull out of your pocket at meetings and watch people’s reactions to the fact you have one. There’s the me-too types, who immediately expose their iPhones to public gaze. There’s the me-never types who have made a choice not to have an iPhone and want you to know that’s what they’ve done. They could have had an iPhone if they’d wanted – they say. And there’s the group that looks longingly, know that you are a special kind of person because you have bought an iPhone – or certainly, that’s what the Apple marketing team would like us to think!
So what can an iPhone do that makes it so special? And I feel safe asking this question in a blog rather than a room full of people because I’m not going to be stuck in the corner with someone who acts like this is a religious revival meeting. I have only one sentiment for these over-enthusiastic proselyters – you didn’t invent the phone, you only bought it!
Anyway, to answer my own question, it makes phone calls, connects to the Internet, takes photos, and more recently videos, and makes it very easy to put those photos on the Internet – Youtube etc – and it plays music. Plus – and this is an incredibly important plus – it has gadgets, lots of gadgets. These are what make the iPhone so special. There’s a gadget that’s a compass (now how many times in a day have I needed to know which way is north). There’s a gadget that’s a spirit level (same comment), a gadget that’s a four-inch ruler (ditto). There’s also gadgets for connecting to Facebook, for getting Sky news, for a map of the London underground system, for seeing how many people have swine flu near you, for where you are flying over on an aeroplane, for identifying any tune that you can hear, for crushing bubblewrap, for recipes, etc etc. I love seeing a map with a dot showing exactly where I am. The gadgets are the things that turn the iPhone into something that you can use for every situation, whatever you’re doing.
Or does it? Well no. For a long time, I have used my phone as a way of taking documents to meetings. PDFs, Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets are the lifeblood of meeting. I could take PowerPoint presentation, but they usually go on a memory stick that I plug into a laptop at the far end. But for minutes of meetings and letters etc, I have gone paperless. I read the appropriate section of the document on my phone. I can’t do that with an iPhone. There are some Office apps in the AppStore, but there isn’t a Microsoft Office app. And before you start talking about the war between Apple and Microsoft, let me remind you that Office first appeared on a Mac. The other big real life problem is that iPhones play MP4s. There’s a good reason for it, but my collection of TV programmes and films are stored as AVIs, which won’t play on the iPhone, whereas they do play on my current phone. So how can I amuse myself on long train journeys? I could jailbreak and install something that would play AVI files, but I don’t feel I should have to do that.
And the other reason I don’t like it is iTunes! I thought we’d got away from nanny-knows-best software. I have to copy everything into iTunes before I can use it on my phone. Are we living in a fascist state? Can you imagine the anti-just-about-everything response you’d get if Microsoft tried to get away with that! I’m told that you grow to love it. Mmmh!
So, my primitive brain is sold on the fun part of owning an iPhone, but my intellectual brain knows that it’s not up to the job of being a business phone. I will wait until Version 4 comes out with all these gaps plugged, and then I will probably get one. As long as I can have it using the mobile network I want to use, and there’s a user-friendly alternative to iTunes.