Product Over Platform
Jase Bell made a prediction in his startup column in yesterday’s local press regarding the proliferation of small home-based projects in response to hard times in corporationland:
“With the amount of high-tech skills out there I predict a new wave of micro businesses (with five employees or less) over the next three years. Their sales area will be global instead of local and their areas of expertise will be broad and far reaching.”
Read more: belfasttelegraph.co.uk
This has a resonance somewhat further afield too – the Wall St Journal last week covered the emergence of the app store cottage industry as a growth sector in Silicon Valley. The iPhone and it’s appstore is this sub-industry’s poster boy of a platform built for the masses.
The low cost barrier to entry (SDK is free, while publishing an app costs $99), the ensembled army of early-adopting geeks and the global reach leverage of an appstore listing make for an attractive ecosystem to programmers. This has resulted in an abundance of apps for every conceivable smart phone task. At a guess I’d say the OS provides for 80% of the functions I use my netbook for. A computer in the pocket.
But I don’t like the iPhone.
Currently I opt for a SonyEricsson C905. Not out of loyalty to brand image (although I admit to a penchant for SE’s black/silver combos) but because of what I expect to get out of a phone. Fundamentally, I’m not looking for a computer. Essentially I’m looking for a 3-in-1 device that gives me: phone, camera & music. I will seek the best phone over these three areas at the best price. At the moment web & other functionality is secondary.
- Price – the equivalent iPhone tariff is a fiver more expensive than the C905 so 120 quid more over the lifetime of the contract. Not inconsiderable.
- Phone – No difference in the minutes & sms bundles but looking down the line the iPhone has a Skype client while the C905 hasn’t. Not that big an issue yet as I don’t have many contacts using VoIP and the current price of data rates mean I’d need to find the nearest McDonald’s but it is something to watch out for in future.
- Music – all I need for this is a reasonably high memory capacity. The iPhone has a 32gig capacity 4x that of the C905. But 8 is perfectly fine for me.
- Camera – Getting down to the nitty gritty – 8.1MP on SE, 3.2 in iPhone 3GS. As well as a superior resolution the C905 also sees the return of the Cybershot tech with high quality flash and video. I really like taking pictures of stuff so this is probably the most important secondary function of my phone.
- Form factor – I dislike wide phones. They feel cumbersome in my pocket. I also prefer to have a keypad that is physically responsive to keypresses. A plastic screen is not a nice feel.
- The web – Ok, I find browsing the web on anything that fits into my jeans pockets as a pretty retarded effort. And saying that removes for me 80% of the iPhones alure – sure I’d use it for checking stuff while playing my ps3 or whatever but to actually go on and do something adequately would require a system capable of multitasking, something Apple has inexplicably left out.
- Other functions – both have GPS, and although both have app stores no one’s ever heard of Playnow Arena. I’m ambivalent to silo-based appstores and so I much prefer GetJar anyway – loads of free to download and for the most part cross platform. Even the C905 has tabbed browsing (necessary for access to free McDonalds WIFI) – a gift from the Far East in the form of the UCWeb browser.
To conclude I admit the iPhone ecosystem is the most advanced on the market. But its not what I want out of my phone. Sure it offers a more advanced web capability but I find the whole single process experience pseudo-smart and ultimately shoe-horned into a medium that just cannot contain the feature.
I still need my netbook for mobile webwork.
I use my phone for actions that can be covered adequately by such tiny devices.
The iPhone as it stands seems to me like the software industry’s largest case of feature-bloat.