Taking Away The Magic

“And Apple took away that magic, bestowing it solely to iPad 2 owners and leaving my hindbrain and fingers pointlessly swiping every now and then (even as I typed this and tried to switch to Twitter momentarily to gripe about my usual morning headache).

But maybe I’m not getting the full point across here, so I’ll try again: I became so used to switching between apps without using the home button that the iPad is now the most frustrating device I own.”

Rui Carmo

I guess today is rant at Apple day. Nothing they don’t try real hard to to deserve sometimes.


So let me get this straight. In order to try iCloud i must have Lion OR, in alternative, Windows Vista or 7?! What about Snow Leopard and Leopard? And i won’t even go to the other previous cats… You know, the other OSes that Apple produces!!

And no, currently i don’t have any iOS device. I wanted to try multiple macs sync. But apparently Apple values your use of Windows more than Mac OS X.

And as a cherry on top, because my Apple ID is a MobileMe address, from when i subscribed to Apple’s overpriced service, and because that account is long expired but Apple still recognizes it as a attached to a MobileMe account, i hit a wall of: “please go MobileMe site to upgrade this account” -> “this account is expired and can’t be renewed”.

At least 18 months of planning and testing and this is what you came up with? Jeez… That’s just dumb and disrespectful.

specs vs experience

“But it goes deeper than this. Many reviewers don’t even realize what the product is. They still believe the iPhone or iPad is mostly a hardware product defined by its specifications. Apple has invested 10 times more R&D resources to create the iOS software and supporting eco system than its hardware. Apple didn’t design the hardware to match some feature checklist, they designed it to make their software amaze and delight customers, to create an emotional connection that effects peoples lives. To compare the iPhone or iPad to other products primarily on their hardware specifications is not representative of the quality of experience users are likely to have with the product.

What happens if you lose your phone or tablet or wish to upgrade to a newer model? Will all your applications and data move seamlessly? What if you want to share data with others or between your tablet and phone? Can your tablet be upgraded to the latest OS? Will the software you want be available and work smoothly on your new tablet? What about malware? What if something goes wrong? Is there a store where you can take your tablet to get help? These are important considerations consumers see clearly, but the tech press largely ignores.”

Sustainable Softworks Blog


Rounding error

“iOS powered devices generate more revenue than all of Microsoft’s products put together”


Microsoft Report

Apple Report

The charts above, from Horace Dediu at Asymco are amazing and pretty much a paper written proof of what everyone already feels instinctively. Microsoft is in deep trouble, their “evil empire” is crumbling and they haven’t manage to grow any enthusiasm or momentum (upwards i mean) in a long time. (( and no, i’m still playing with Windows 8 but i don’t think that it will save the ship. In fact i’m starting to think it will just sink it even more, because it tries to be everything to everyone while failing at it for every one. But let me play with it a little more… )) There is a lot more reflection on Asymcos original post so be sure to check it out.

The obvious joke at Steve Ballmer in the title of this post could have been forgotten or not used at all. But then again it’s just too easy to aim at him. That’s what you get for being a blind arrogant incompetent jerk most of your stage time.

Android is easy.

There’s an educational wifi network in most of the european universities called eduroam. It’s a “enterprise” network, using an 802.1x security certificate, so you need to install your institution certificate file before using the login and password.

I was trying to help a coworker configuring his brand new Android phone. I thought it would be rather simple, as I had previously configured a iPod Touch a year or so ago and it was just finding the file and importing it. Nop. Not a chance.

So, a quick case study of what needs to be corrected by Android in user friendliness before actually announcing to the world that it is the new Master…

Setting up an iOS device:

Screen shot 2011 03 10 at 17 21 46

Setting up an Android device:

Screen shot 2011 03 10 at 17 22 13

This is just an excerpt of the 20 steps or so of the configuration procedure. !? After 20 steps of a tedious process, you still might find that it will or it will not work, and if not maybe try again with these settings…

Some team really needs to go back to the “drawing board”…

Apple as Carrier

To be perfectly clear i would be ok with Apple current proposal of terms of service and the App Store lockdown if:

  1. Apple would offer the iOS device locked to the Apple Store and with the 30% cut of every in-app purchase for 50% of the “regular” price
  2. Apple would offer the iOS device unlocked to the App Store and without the greedy in-app purchase cut for the regular price it is now charging.

You know, like a carrier! Either you pay the full price for the phone/device and it is yours to do as you please, or you buy it from us and play in our walled DisneyWorld.

Apple currently wants to own the best of two worlds. You pay full price AND you have to play in their walled AppleWorld where everything you do gets them a piece of the action.

You can’t always get what you want, as Mick would say.

Whose backyard?

“Rules change when you play in someone else’s backyard — it sucks, but if you are smart you can still be wildly successful. The 30% cut isn’t great (though it does look great from a strict consumers view), but it isn’t the end of the App Store — I bet it only makes the App Store better by ridding it of more junk apps.”

Ben Brooks

Ben, and a lot of other bloggers and anonymous commenters, seem to interiorize every new restriction put on the iOS app store with the same basic idea: “It’s Apple’s backyard” “they are the ones who build and maintain the app store…” “A lot of blood sweat and tears (not the song) went into these wonderful devices. ((yep. someone actually said this. you can check that in the comments section of the current Apple Pravda )) ((I actually waste an incredible amount of time reading the comments on most news sites. It gives me insight on the “horde” thinking. Sometimes there is actually a commenter who has something of value to be said, but usually is just a incredible window on what the “real masses” outside of my circle are saying. ))

But the point is that is not Apple’s backyard. It’s my backyard! I paid for the iPad, or the iPhone or other iOS device. ((For the argument sake let’s just assume that i actually have paid for one and possess one ok?)) Apple didn’t subsidised it, didn’t gave it away for free. No! They made the consumer pay for it. And a significant amount of money ((which amazingly still is a lot cheaper than all of the iPad killers out there.)) too.

So Apple sells a device to consumers and restricts consumers from installing apps from other sources than her own store. OK. I can live with that. As long as Apple then surrenders any kind of “moral” control or censorship. Because there should only be only two options on the table.

  • a) Apple allows other sources in a sub-sub menu hidden in Settings and as such she can restrict and control what she wants in the App Store.
  • b) Apple doesn’t allow other sources and as such doesn’t restrict, beside the technical and security issues, what apps can i buy.

Right? No. There is also a third option which shouldn’t exist:

  • c) Apple doesn’t allow other sources of apps and heavily restricts what i can or can’t install on my device, including issues of moral (my personal issue not Apple’s), dubious legal issues (wikileaks anyone?) or “where’s my cut?!” issues (the current 30% issue).

And this third option is where we are standing today. Does it make sense that I, the consumer, am not allowed to watch porn ((Freedom from porn they say. I’ll take my liberty with a little of racy flavour thank you so much.)) on my device when i already pay my taxes, live my life alone and am usually considered by everyone else an adult?

Or that I can’t buy magazines and other in-app purchases at the price that the publish or developer believes is right? Hasn’t he already paid an Apple iOS subscription? Is he not selling to me, the consumer who already paid for his iOS device, an extra content, whatever that may be, that doesn’t involve Apple service or servers? So why should Apple get a cut on this? Their cut was the 499€ the ipad costs here. (( A quick guess: is that more or less than 499$?))

Apple is going on a wrong path here. A path that it already had started before when the Single App Store model was implemented but which has been turning for the worse every day. Why should wikileaks app be banished but Le Monde, El Mundo, the NY Times, Der Spiegel and every other major newspaper that publishes and treats the wikileaks data not? And why should it be banished at all if no legal action has been put by the US government on the wikileaks org? And why should i, an european, living in europe, be subject to “abide” by american laws to which i have no contact?

I’m not sure if this is a matter of anti-monopoly regulation but it definitely should be looked upon by the consumer rights regulator authority. Because that’s Apple focus right? The consumers?

I agree with most of the advantages Ben and others indicate. The privacy, the convenience, the quality control of Apple Store. That’s all ok and i would probably prefer it anyway. I just don’t consider the loss of options ((freedom was a too strong word here.)) as an advantage.

The quest

I’ve been looking around these last two weeks for a new mobile phone, to replace my old one who had a unfortunately screen collapse. And it’s been a very elucidative experience.

For once, i looked on the iPhone obviously, but my previous idea still holds. It’s very nice. Well built. And i wouldn’t mind at all of having one. But no way that i will spend almost 500€ to have one! That’s basically half of my monthly PhD Governmental Scholarship! And if i actually had that much money laying around, do i really need this phone?

It’s always a good idea to clarify what you need, what you want and what you would like to have. It’s also very useful to clarify what you really don’t want or what is a deal breaker. I usually just start looking around, with illusions of grandness until i realize the dark dark world, and reposition my expectations to a better level of adequacy. And this means avoiding 500€ phones and start looking at those under 150€, preferably 100€. I refuse to give more than this for a phone. (My relatives and friends would gladly explain to you that i have serious issues with the omnipresence of phones and their control over our lives…)

So i decided what I really really demanded for my new phone:

  • Ability to synchronize contacts and Calendar with my Mac. (iSync or other). I’m tired of loosing contacts, having multiple versions of it on the computer and phone and backups, and copying them by hand when i change phones. (which happened just a couple of times but even so…)
  • Ability to charge through a USB port. As i explained before, i find the idea of carrying around a phone charger something completely absurd and anachronistic.

Then i found out what i would like to have from a phone:

  • Easy, functional email ability, a la Blackberry.
  • Wifi, for the email functionality. I don’t want to spend money on a data plan when i have wifi all around me.
  • Some Application ability, so that i can install some sort of WordPress blogging application and blog ideas and photos from my phone. (Granted this can be done from email, but i would prefer a isolated application).

And, then  what i would like to have but wouldn’t spent more than and additional 25€ to get:

  • Some useful browsing ability, that isn’t terribly handicapped like the blackberry, or the regular “feature phones”.

Armed with these solid, thought up requirements, i started looking the online stores of  my  carrier and other specialized sellers.  And it’s been a blast…


First: As i stated before, Nokia have stranded themselves in the XX Century. Their phones are now subpar on OS technology,  subpar on hardware features and I won’t even begin to mention the decline in build quality that’s been noticed in the last years.

Second: Blackberrys are a no go also. I’ve looked them again and discovered that you actually don’t need a Blackberry data plan to use them as smart phones, but just the alternative email application on the Blackberry App Store is another 25€, adding to the phone price. Just turned red on my book.

Third: Android phones, although much inline with the pricing i want, seem to combine the mess of  the non-polished non-user friendly Linux Distros (which are unfortunately the vast majority of the Linux distros out there) with the “crapware experience” you get when you buy a Windows laptop utterly messed up by its maker with “free software demos”. (kind of a Sony Vaio, but even worse)

The phone that first caught my eye, a rebranded ZTE Blade ((Also known as Orange San Francisco)) as Sapo A5, has an Android market & a Carrier Market. A Gmail Maps & a carrier maps &  a GPS program with some more maps. An animated background screen showing battery info, which i’m sure will help allot the battery life, in conjunction  with a animated weather widgets.  At least, this is what i’ve seen on its pictures , as the first batch sold was quickly withdrawn from the market with several manufacturer defects. I’ve also seen other phones but they are the same stuff, but with different carrier apps. They have so many duplicate apps and other random stuff i can’t identify in the app screen, that it is perfectly possible that a brand new phone on the shop has 3 “screens” full of app icons. It took me a couple of minutes just to find the SMS app.

Then i started looking around in forums, always a good source of “Common Joe” experience, and went to my favorite portuguese speaking forum. And then i really really noticed the difference between iOS and Android. In the iOS sub-forum, you have a couple of active threads, with topic subjects on some slight user difficulties, useful tips, and some discussions regarding pricing and purchasing options. On the Android sub-forum, you have topic threads of over 200 pages just for each single cell phone model and brand, discussions on tens of modified roms as the carrier or maker never updates soon enough, modified applications, several ways of installing and several third parties applications that do something as simple 3G data measure, tons of “rooting your android phone” tutorials, background screen and widget customization and “let’s turn your cell phone in a carnival fair” contests, and above all else, endless errors and app crash complaints. Oh, and battery consumption in less than a day too. Just what i wanted. A phone that would make me be his servant.

So, I’m back at square one. Need to buy a cell phone and feel “orphan”. What i want  seemed simple for me. A not very pricey phone, which would let me play around a bit, and install some apps of my choosing (you heard that Steve? MY CHOOSING!) and worked without any hiccups. It didn’t have to be a top of the line phone, neither having tons of disk space and processing power. Just enough to browse a couple of simple websites, consult my email and consult some news sites apps. In a way, a slightly evolved and “liberated” Blackberry.

If nothing else appears i will eventually end up with an Android phone, even if only convinced by its price. But i long to hear what HP has done with it’s WebOS system and can’t wait for the 9th. Maybe they have a significant third way for the market.

Oh, and i also looked up Windows Phone 7, as i actually liked the metro user interface i’ve seen on pictures, but they cost the same or more than an iPhone. And an iPhone can sync properly with a Mac without extra applications or cost.