Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Saving grace of the iPhone – Apple updates it

I’ve bitched a fair bit about my iPhone.

I may not have recently mentioned that it’s actually working pretty well for me. I haven’t seen the crashes and instability many users experience. Contacts is slow, but not unbearably slow. The battery lasts about as long as my prior non-smartphone 3G Nokia; I just charge nightly or at the office via USB. I don’t miss voice dial – it’s never worked for me.

I have expected problems with things I knew were missing when I bought the phone: tasks, notes, editing, search. The biggest nasty surprises have been iTunes Outlook synchronization (unsafe at any speed), Apple’s MobileMe calendar limitations (missing subscription features, missing feed and CalDAV support), the loss of Firewire charging, and the usual anxiety about how much power Apple will give developers to work around Apple’s lowest-common-denominator approach.

Still, it’s not like the alternatives are very good. This AppleInsider post reminds us how very bad the US smartphone marketplace has been …

AppleInsider | Inside iPhone 2.0: iPhone OS vs. other mobile platforms

… This rapid pacing of Apple's free updates is unheard of on competing smartphone platforms. The Palm OS seemingly hasn't been updated since dinosaurs roamed the earth…

The Symbian partnership has delivered four incremental updates to Symbian 9.0 since 2004, roughly one per year. These updates are often related to new hardware, and in many cases owners of Symbian phones simply can't upgrade to whatever the latest official version is.

RIM's BlackBerry OS update page similarly warns, "If you did not purchase BlackBerry software or smartphones directly from Research In Motion (RIM), please contact your service provider to determine if the software distributed by RIM is authorized for use with your smartphone." That highlights why Apple chose to only market the iPhone through mobile partners that would agree to allow Apple itself to deliver updates and support for all of its phones worldwide. …

When Microsoft shipped Windows Mobile 5.0 in 2005, the update wouldn't even run on most existing WinCE phones because it required new hardware support for its persistent RAM architecture change. The following release of Windows Mobile 6.0 didn't ship until two years later in 2007, and Windows Mobile 6.1, a relatively minor update, took more than another year to shake loose from the bowels of Microsoft. Even after a Windows Mobile release "ships," owners of specific models might have to wait for many months before their mobile provider or software vendor allows them to install it, if they ever choose to do so.

Despite now being a decade old, the WinCE foundation of Windows Mobile is also still regarded as unstable, riddled with bugs, and poorly architected, with a horrific user interface, clumsy process management, and development tools that are a simple regurgitation of the archaic Win32 desktop API, lacking much optimization for mobile development…

Apple, at least, releases updates for all phones from one central service. That’s a saving grace.

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