iPhone letdowns

In July, iPhone 3G was released, with a product hype the web world hasn’t seen in a long long time. It’s a nice little product, but in my opinion, there are some fundamental flaws.

The camera

Let’s start with the alleged “camera”. The iPhone has a 2 megapixel camera with no autofocus, and definitely no way to record video with it. This is in par with what the other cell phone manufactures were offering back in about 2005, and it doesn’t just baffle me, I think it’s a disgrace to release a new cell phone with such a poor camera.

If I were to buy a new MacBook Pro, the equivalent were if it came with 128 MB of RAM or perhaps a 1 Ghz processor. Really, Apple, what were you thinking?

No FM radio

To me, the lack of FM radio is a big drawback. Again, all other competitors can offer in their products, but Apple just stubbornly won’t. The most annoying argument against radio goes something like this:

Why would you want radio, dude? Just buy/download the music you want, it’s like an iPod, man.

Personally, I like listening to the radio, since it’s much more personal with people talking, any random music can come up, music that I might not own or didn’t even knew I wanted to hear. It’s the ultimate unpredictability, and what I love. Therefore, arguing that everyone have to own all the music they’re listening to is just bullshit, and pretty much out of sync with the times of today.

Of course this is due to Apple having the iTunes Store and wanting to sell more music, but still, it’s a well-requested feature. Anyway, iPhone owners, you’ll never get FM radio, mark my words.

Pricing & subscriptions

Mandatory subscriptions

Not sure if it’s Apple being just plain naive or widely disrespectful against their customers, but the completely up-the-wall mandatory contracts/subscriptions in almost every place where the iPhone has launched is ridiculous. What it shows is that they just don’t care about people actually already having subscriptions or catering to people’s needs.

They must also be a 100% uninterested in the company market as well. Companies naturally already have subscription deals with great fees and terms, and for them to completely drop this and just to get an iPhone is just not very likely at all; especially since, incidentally, Apple seem to have made it a sport to have deals with the most notorious cell phone subscription providers in every country they have launched.

Pricing talk

When Steve jobs presented the new iPhones, he stated that they would cost $199 respectively $299. It was implied that on top of this, there would be a subscription fee, but in my book, in the few places were they’re sold without any contract obligations the price is around $600 and up.

In that case, the prices Steve mentions are totally wrong. The only way they matter is that it is the internal price of the iPhone, but since it will never, under any circumstances, be the price for the end customer, why even bring it up (except it being a good lie for marketing purposes)?

When I work as a consultant, I think I’ll tell my company to write offers to clients that I will only cost $10 an hour. Lots of customers will of course be interested, but maybe just a tad disappointed when it turns out that on top of this they have to pay the consultant-actually-showing-up fee of a $150 per hour…

Breaking the law

There a a lot of people trying to get iPhones without subscriptions, and they’re definitely open for breaking the law when it comes to importing, jailbreaking and cracking the iPhone to get it working (just look at the first version of the iPhone; Sweden was riddled with it although it wasn’t even sold here).

I think it’s preposterous that people adapt so much to the company selling the product, instead of looking at companies actually showing them the decency of offering them what they want and actual options.

I’ll probably not get one

With these arguments in my mind, I will most likely not get me an iPhone. I’ll be completely honest and admit that the iPhone definitely has some nice features, and that it is overall a good product, but with such shortcomings as mentioned here, it becomes insufficient for my needs and wants.

App store is nice, and it’s interesting to see how how lots and lots of web sites adapt their presentation for iPhones (although weird, given the worldwide low market share for iPhones), but Apple have to deliver more and better than this to catch me in their net.

Posted in Apple/Mac,iPhone,Reviews/tests,Technology |

22 Comments

  • [...] Random Feed wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIn July, iPhone 3G was released, with a product hype the web world hasn’t seen in a long long time. It’s a nice little product, but in my opinion, there are some fundamental flaws. The camera Let’s start with the alleged “camera”. The iPhone has a 2 megapixel camera with no autofocus, and definitely no way to record video with it. This is in par with what the other cell phone manufactures were offering back in about 2005, and it doesn’t just baffle me, I think it’s a disgrace to release a new [...]

  • Andreas says:

    I dont want to be the one that doesnt agree because I think you're right but even if it had better camera and radio there will always be some people saying "Nice, but can it do X?" or "This is heavy but does it have the Y feature?" Just like in the world of open source software…….

  • BARTdG says:

    <q>If I were to buy a new MacBook Pro, the equivalent were if it came with 128 MB of RAM or perhaps a 1 Ghz processor.</q>

    Come on, Robert, a camera is in no way as important to a cell phone as a processor to a notebook. I've had cell phones with a camera since 4 years or so, and haven't even made 30 photos.

    Apart from that, I agree with you on most things. Mandatory subscription and battery life were my main reasons that I decided to get an iPod Touch instead (get MobileFinder from the AppStore and you 've got yourself 32 GB USB storage).

  • Andreas says:

    THough as an amateur photographer i can tell you that the resolution of 2 megapixel is enough for web-use, which is what the iphone is made for. Its geotagging pics automaticly with its gps so you can send them to flickr or smugmug directly and the images will appear on the map right where they where taken. The salesmen often says to customors who doesnt have any idea of cameras and just want to take nice pictures that the higher megapixels the better. This is wrong. The higher megapixels the larger prints you can make of your photos. Who prints photos anyway these days?

    Though its a shame it doesnt have autofocus. Jeez.

    Keep in mind, photography is the art of painting and capturing the light. If you focus on that you can make great pictures with any camera.

  • I must say I'm very happy with my iPhone and I'll try to explain just why:

    It's not really about the features. Most features are also present on other mobile phones (sometimes even in a better form, as you say in your article), although some features are, on the other hand, much better than on other phones (think about the Internet browser (Safari rocks the socks off most other mobile browsers), the App Store and the built-in iPod).

    But no, it's mostly about the user experience. When I first bought my iPhone, I spent the entire evening playing with my new gadget. Playing, not thinking. Not once did I have a hard time finding out where a certain command was or how a certain feature worked.

    For some reason Apple manages time and time again to provide such an elegant, simple user interface that just works. I've always been a fan of Nokia's interface design, but Apple just tops it.

    But, nonetheless, I think you bring up valid points. Not necessarily points that affect me personally (I don't use my phone's camera a lot, and I'm the kind of person who wants to own the music he listens to ;)), but definitely valid points.

    After using my iPhone a couple of weeks it's obvious Apple still has lots to learn when it comes to mobile phone development, but with what I've experienced I have good hopes. I'm confident Apple will keep releasing software updates to make their product better. They're gonna have to, because it certainly isn't perfect yet. Beyond the points you bring up in your article, there's for instance the following: no horizontal keyboard whilst typing texts or emails, no deleting individual texts (you have to delete the entire conversation with a certain contact), and try to install a ringtone without paying for it!

    But, as I said, I'm confident Apple continues to improve their product, and to me it's already a breeze working with it, I wouldn't want to go back!

    By the way, mine was only € 50,- together with a 2-year subscription. Considering the way and frequency I use my phone that's not too shabby.

  • Martin Hill says:

    Contracts are not mandatory in a lot of countries around the world. Here in Australia Optus sells the iPhone contract free as just one example.

    As far as radio is concerned, ever heard of Pandora or the other streaming Music and radio services for the iPhone? They allow you to receive radio or straight new music channels from the other side of the planet which isn't a bad alternative. Of course also being able to subscribe to any of the 60,000+ free audio and/or video podcasts on the iTunes Store or from iTunes U on demand and when you want in whatever area of interest you decide really does leave the poor old static-ridden AM/FM trannie in the dust.

    I agree on the camera issue to some extent but with the proviso that cramming more megapixels in to a camera which still has such a tiny lens is not going to make as much a difference as you might hope.

    On pricing, Apple mentioned the up-front cost, because that is all people ever criticised about the original iPhone while they ignored the industry-leading price of the unlimited data plan. Some people are just never satisfied.

    -Mart

  • Adam Dempsey says:

    The camera is one of the main things that annoys me as well, as well as some other stuff I covered here -> http://demp.se/y/2008/08/18/14-things-that-annoy-

  • mikey says:

    the fact that there was a camera in the first iphone was the stumbling

    block that prevented me from getting one. cameras are verboten

    at my place of work (as well as many other businesses that deal

    with proprietory and sensitive items).

    so, the camera had to GO!!

    luckily, the iphone 3G was actually designed to come apart

    and removing the camera was a piece of cake!!

    work is happy and i'm happy!!

    (i've got a real camera which doesn't have any of the limitations

    of the tiny cell phone based cameras.)

    and about forwarding email, mine seems to be able to do this.

    haven't had to figure out mailing lists yet, since i don't ever forward to

    a list.

  • Dave says:

    Nice article.

    As with any device, different people look for different things. Many people live the iPhone, but personally I need a phone that has at least all the features of the phone I had 5 years ago (Nokia 7610). For example I want to:

    Record videos

    Listen to radio

    Send / receive MMS (picture messages)

    Set any MP3 as a ringtone

    Carry spare batteries with me

    Send a text to 2+ people (I've heard the 3G iPhone can do this now!)

    Copy and paste

    Write software on the phone, for the phone

    Run programs in the background

    Send photos with Bluetooth

    Transfer files to any PC without special drivers

    On the other hand, the iPhone has a superb screen and great usability. It's crazy what people will buy just because of the Jobs effect.

  • Lars Gunther says:

    @Martin Hill

    When I listen to the radio it is usually sports or news I want. FM-radio really is the best option. Especially when you need to pay for ever byte one downloads.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for your comments! I do appreciate you keep it on a reasonable level, I was afraid of some iPhone fanboy comments; my bad, I should know my dear readers are above that. :-)

    Andreas (in reply to your two comments),

    Oh definitely, some people will always complain, no matter what. What I wanted to cover were things I really think they failed that shouldn't be problems on newly released phones.

    In regards to the camera: 2 megapixel is sufficient for some web-use, but I really think people want the option for more. And the amount of megapixels is only resolution, but looking at megapixel quantity in conjunction with lens quality and manufactures, the iPhone is far behind the other cell phone vendors.

    And, just to mention it, getogagging and uploading to photo services are also provided by iPhone competitors.

    BARTdG,

    I know, it was to provoke. But to be more serious, I do think that the camera and its quality in a cell phone becomes more and more important.

    Harmen,

    First, let me say that you (and everyone else) who is happy about the iPhone, I'm glad for your sake. I don't want to try and persuade anyone, I want you to be content with your product.

    The iPhone is indeed about overall user experience, where it has had enormous success and set a new standard for other cell phone manufactures to follow suit. I'm just disappointed that you can't get that together with the best hardware and single features, which is somewhat I'm ordinarily used to getting from Apple.

    Martin,

    I'm not sure where contracts are necessary, but my impression has been that there are only a few countries where a contract isn't necessary (basically, countries where the law prohibits Apple from only offering such deals).

    Streaming radio is of course an option, but most subscriptions don't have a flat rate, and also, there's the risk of gaps, less quality etc. FM radio works fine for the rest of the world, and we're not talking about a lot of electronics here to make it work.

    Absolutely right about megapixels, and it's just one of many factors in getting a better result.

    I'd still say that the pricing information is completely irrelevant, however.

    Adam,

    Cool, thanks for sharing!

    mikey,

    Man, I can promise you I have never thought about from that perspective! :-)

    Dave,

    Completely agree about the wanted features. The lack of copy-and-paste with the iPhone is just a joke. But yeah, for some people user experience is everything, where others want better stand-alone features.

    Lars,

    Absolutely!

  • bruce says:

    well, you know what I think about the iphone. But you know what pisses me off even more than the iPhone? People who make iPhone-only sites.

    As Eric Meyer says "STOP IT. Stop it right now.

    The fact that optimizing pages for an iPhone makes the development of such specialized pages attractive in no way excuses lockout of other users. I might be willing to entertain the argument if the iPhone’s browser were some specialized non-web contraption. It’s not. It’s a full-fledged XHTML+CSS+DOM browser that happens to lag a bit in some implementation areas and won’t run some plugins."

    Why do the iPhone fans go moist at iPhone-only sites, yet berate those who who made "This site optimised for IE5.5 at 1024x 768 resolution"?

    iPhone-only sites are almost certainly the primary cause of web-transmitted willy cancer in the world today. And that's a fact.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    bruce,

    Oh man, I couldn't agree more. It's such a waste, and for the most of the time, completely and utterly uncalled for.

  • bruce says:

    willy cancer? or iPhone-only sites?

  • Chris says:

    Robert, first: nice new layout. Didn't notice until now :-)

    I think that the camera and FM Radio aren't really important for a mobile.

    The camera: I use cameras on mobile phones only to take pictures of the people in my address book. If I want to take real pictures I take a real camera. They are always better. And I don't want to pay for complicated optics in my phone.

    The FM Radio: Are you serious? I don't know how it's in Sweden but in Germany I can chose between crappy, more crappy and even more crappy radio stations. So podcasts or web radio is what I really want. FM sucks. On web radio or podcasts I can chose what to hear and not only shitty AC.

    So this would be no reason for me.

    There are a few other things Apple could have done better:

    - The battery is crap. My phone is about 4 months old and the battery does last less than 24 hours stand by.

    - Can't send contacts via sms to other phones.

    - Can't flip the keyboard to wide format in applications where I type a lot (sms and mail)

    - No clip board (not really important, but would be convinient).

    - Could be more responsive.

    Inspite of these drawbacks it's still the best phone I ever had (though I would never buy one, it's form my employer). And I'm no apple fanboy (I have a real computer ;-)).

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Chris,

    I think the reason we have cameras in our cell phones is that people do think its an important feature. And, more importantly, it's nice being able to take a decent picture even if I didn't bring my real digital system camera; that one I don't bring with me all the time, the cell phone I do.

    Totally serious about radio: it beats podcasts or web radio any day. Sorry about lack of decent radio channels in Germany. :-)

    The drawbacks you bring up are certainly valid, but the difference is that, except for the battery, they are software issues which could easily be updated; the things in my post are rather larger issues that I'm sure Apple just won't see to.

  • [...] I now own an iPhone and must reconsider what I wrote in iPhone letdowns. [...]

  • The Camera? No FM Ra says:

    It's interesting that the first two 'missing' features of the iPhone that you mention are the least relevant to the core of the platform.

    You're comparison of the phone's camera to a Macbook's RAM is boneheaded to say the least.

    You're seriously arguing that the iPhone, a device whose primary function is to make phone calls, is as dependent on a good Camera as a laptop is on having enough RAM??

    Give me a break, that's an iPhone hater right there and the mark of someone who hasn't spent any real time integrating the iPhone into their lifestyle and workflow.

    And FM Radio? Again a useful feature, but at what cost? Why doesn't the phone have TV Tuner as well??

    Disclaimer: I do have an iPhone and am an Apple Fanboy. I do believe that Steve Jobs is the second coming. Peace!

  • Robert Nyman says:

    It's pretty basic, really. All the competitors can offer those features without any problem, and I rather respect when people can accept that the iPhone does have a number of flaws as well.

  • bladephone says:

    i am neither a fan or a hate of the iphone the day i boguth a itouch i knew i had to get the iphone so i returend the itouch so i can buy an iphone but little did i kno the iphone comes with its pro's and cons the good things about this Hefty little gadget is that it is basically a smart phone things that regular phoens can't do it can do but when compareing the camera on the phone it cant send picture messeges in text while a regular phone can and than again there are its pros and cons a phone cant come with everything "I jsut hope Apples gives a update to the phone with out haveing to purchase the new cell phoen all over again"…..

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