Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What would it take for me to buy an iPhone?

I may be the last standing survivor of the "old school," wherein my phone is mostly a phone, my iPod is a non-video-playing Nano, and my PDA is primarily a portable GPS and game machine that fills in as VGA-resolution video player and photo browser on the many excursions where I choose to leave my laptop at home. (Note that none of the three non-converged small devices listed above contain a camera; I use a real one, thank you very much.)

The mere fact that I have these three gadgets and gizmos makes me sound like an ideal candidate for a Blackberry, a Blackjack, a Treo, or a newly-announced iPhone (or some other converged device); but that makes the errant assumption that I don't pick-and-choose which device(s) will be carried for a given situation. Since my primary personal and work computers are both laptops, I don't actually use the PDA for so-called traditional PDA-type activities, such as maintaining my contacts and calendars, trying in vain to take notes at meetings, etc... Similarly, the "organizer" features and the stamp-sized photo-browsing ability of the iPod Nano are lost on me -- they don't get used, ever; the same is true of the truly bad games that came on the Nano, each of which have been played exactly once. I do occasionally check my Gmail account from my phone, but it's mostly to justify the fact that I'm paying a few quid every month for a minimal data plan. I access the Gmail app an average of 2-3 times per week. Did I mention that I don't have any games on the phone, or that I use the phone's network connection for non-Gmail things like news or weather less than once a month? It's slow, and the interface sucks.

So, with all that out there to set the context, here are a few key missing features that iPhone 2.0 will need to have in order for me to consider forking over the obscene chunk of change that 1.0 will be listed at, not to mention the --ahem-- massively-lube-requiring fees that Cingular requests for their unlimited data plan. The following incomplete wish list is displayed in no particular order:
  • > An actual, legitimate, "3G" (or beyond) data network connection, and the ability to "share" this connection via tether or Bluetooth. EDGE is slow and sucky for anything but the most casual use. If you want me to believe I can surf real websites with a real browser, give me a real connection. Granted, the iPhone 1.0 may well offer the ability to use it as a "modem," but it wasn't part of the announcement. This is a requirement for the version I buy. If I'm forking over service-provider fees for an unlimited data plan, I want to be able to use said plan with my laptop.
  • > Direct downloads from the iTunes Media Store. If I'm traveling sans-laptop and want a movie I can watch on the plane ride home, or other content I wish to enjoy while on the go. I should be able to take advantage of the fast data network connection (or an available WiFi hotspot) and download content straight to the iPhone while I'm doing the early check-in for my return flight. I would, of course, expect to be able to "reverse-sync" said movie/content to my iTunes library on the computer at home. With the iPhone 1.0, you need a computer to be the middleman, and this sucks rocks.
  • > An open API, an extensible OS, and a supported development environment for 3rd-party applications. If you want to replace my PDA, your platform had better allow me to acquire and load 3rd-party applications.
    • -> You can't think of everything that I will want to do with my iPhone, and will never be able to provide for all of my desires. My name isn't Steve Jobs, which means I didn't have the luxury of asking you to build-in every little thing that I may want in my device. I want to use the device how I want to use it, and I may not even know how I want to use it until after I've mucked around with it for a bit.
    • -> The first app that I want, assuming that OpenSSH isn't an included feature of OS X Embedded, is an ssh client with tunneling support. Since there isn't any Blackberry Enterprise Server pushing encrypted content to it, I want the ability to secure my own communications. Safari-lite had better support proxies, too... Otherwise, I'm gonna need Opera (the actual purveyors of the first "true mobile browsing experience" for all the Windows Mobile devices out there) or another 3rd-party browser.
    • -> A close second on my wish list would be a compelling moving-map GPS navigation offering. I don't need a built-in GPS receiver, Bluetooth is just fine. However, the Google Maps applet isn't good enough for me -- it's fine for static situations, POIs, and general overviews; but (unless I'm missing something), it doesn't provide the standard you-are-here triangle, auto-scrolling map display, and voice prompts that a GPS navigation app includes.
    • -> I would also like to be able to see how a diverse and talented "community" can make clever use of the multi-touch interface. I'd be willing to bet that freeware, shareware, and open-source game offerings, for example, would trump the dross that the iTMS offers for the video iPod.
    • -> If this functionality isn't present, then I will not consider the device, even if the price drops to $100. My current phone supports the mobile JRE thing, but otherwise it's effectively a closed platform. Closed platforms suck the nasty scum-ridden rocks from the bottom of the bog.
  • > More native memory, support for standard flash memory cards, and the ability to access media on those cards. I've got 8GB on my Nano -- and it has a low-dpi, low-res screen and doesn't play video. I shoot still photographs onto a 4GB CF card. If I'm supposed to put my life in my pocket, then I need more flexibility than the built-in 8GB can offer (I'd settle for 16 GB, but for $600 would prefer to see 32 GB; remember you're telling me I can carry my life in my pocket -- I watch and produce high-quality video, and shoot 8MP RAW images with my DSLR -- big files add up fast...).
    • -> I carry a fleet of SD cards with my PDA -- one for games, one for short-term media, one for my GPS application and its map data, etc. If I want to take content that I have created (or format-shifted per rapidly-diminishing fair-use standards) and enjoy it on my PDA, I can just dump it to a card and play it -- no sync operation is needed, so it works from other people's systems, too.
    • -> The idea of having to round-trip content through iTunes (on a computer) just to be able to access it on my so-called converged device sits wrong with me... I understand the need to have a system in place for purchased (and therefore rights-restricted) content, but I reserve the right to vote with my wallet and tend to avoid this type of content. Having to use the same mechanism to access user-generated and/or legally-obtained non-protected content is a bunch of hooey! For example, my PDA has a CF slot, which I can use to review the JPG versions of the photos that I capture alongside the RAWs... I take the card out of the camera, stick it in the PDA, and -- viola -- it just works (with either the native app or a 3rd-party app that I purchased because it was a better fit for my needs). With no support for removable media, the iPhone 1.0 would (once again) force me to use a full-fledged computer as a middle-man. Again, the middle-man requirement sucks rocks, and is a complete deal-breaker for me.
    • -> (For the record, I feel the same way about ActiveSync, I generally prefer to get my WM5 apps as cab files, and load them directly on the device. The same is true for Word docs, Excel sheets, PDFs, MP3s, etc. that I view on the PDA; I'd rather dump it to a card than deal with the way some damn sync app thinks that I want to use my device. If I want it local, I'll copy it local... Don't tell me how to use my device, just let me use it however I see fit! Bleagh!)