You may or may not be familiar with the amusingly odd website Will It Blend? Basically, the website’s title says it all.
You may also remember that I have previously blogged about my irrational dislike of all things Apple. Such a cathartic moment, then, to discover that the folks at Will It Blend? have decided to apply themselves to the iPhone.
There is something very uncanny about the iDave whose limitations are, to my mind, increasingly analogous to the iPhone. The obvious counter-charge is “but the iPhone is so popular!”. However, I’d suggest that this is a superficial gloss that doesn’t reflect the way in which the iPhone’s rivals do a rather less impressive job of countering the propaganda than those of the iDave’s – certainly the Liberal Democrats.
So what are the iPhone limitations of the iDave?
As already hinted, and despite a slick marketing operation, its design flaws are coming to light and are being highlighted by increasingly confident competitors.
In terms of real life experience, it has majored in self-promotion rather than real work in the real world.
Despite large sums of money having been spent on development, it has proved entirely incapable of multi-tasking, something that later iterations have failed to address.
More worryingly, after stress-testing the product develops significant faults.
When it comes to engaging the community in developing its operating systems and applications, it is strictly not open-source. Collaboration and participation are prohibited in favour of central prescription by corporate wonks. (And to be clear, there are definitely no custom ring-tones – potentially frustrating for European customers.)
So buying a phone really shouldn’t be a political exercise, should it?
The fact is, though, that the iPhone is the epitome of the corporatisation of our social networks, looking to control and mould the way we interact rather than giving us a tool to empower us creatively. You’ll probably read this as just another anti-iPhone rant from the Nokia-owning geek, but the Free Software Foundation provide some pretty compelling reasons for thinking twice about chaining yourself to the Apple cart (and WTH do I have to pay more for a crappier contract if I want an iPhone, eh O2?):
You can do what you like with an iPhone – as long as Steve Jobs wants you to do it. The FSF captures the sentiment perfectly:
“The iPhone is an attack on very old and fundamental values — the value of people having control over their stuff rather than their stuff having control over them, the right to freely communicate and share with others, and the importance of privacy.”
Contrast that with Nokia and its approach to the N900:
Basically, Nokia take the most powerful phone-tablet-thingy they’ve ever designed and, instead of having a precious hissy fit at the thought there might be people out there cleverer than they are, say “Here you go world… play with it!”
Visit MAEMO.organd you will find something quite unique – users, developers and corporate reps all on the same boards, talking about what applications they want and need and some volunteering to do the coding – and finding ways to make this little technological marvel do the most incredible things.
As someone who admires the ingenuity and creativity of individuals – and wishes he could code for toffee – there is no contest.
It’s a peripheral consideration for many when making a choice as to the make of phone to buy – and it certainly wasn’t one of mine. However, I have since discovered the Greenpeace International guide to Greener Electronicsand I will be paying more attention in future to the companies I buy from.
I am simply glad that Nokia beats the competition by a mile.
If you go to the Greener Electronics page, you will see the little graphic of a hand-held device. Click the number 13 to see the latest report, from September 2009. With a complex formula for scoring the major companies out of ten, Nokia is the only company to score more than 7.
You can read Greenpeace International’s report on Nokia, which puts them 1st, and see how they arrived at the score of 7.5, by clicking on the thumbnail below:
Power Geek Enthusiast vs. Flash Git competition aside, there is a real issue here about the ways in which companies that manufacture mass market devices for international distribution respond to real world concerns such as the environmental impact of their commercial activities. If those issues interest you, you can read the full Greenpeace International report by clicking on the thumbnail below:
Very mucky. And it cost a lot (when I am used to getting it “free”).
Absolutely fed up with O2‘s hopeless upgrade options, I decided to buy a new phone. Apparently I have been eligible for an upgrade since 2006. That simply isn’t so, as I have had two phones since then, but neither appear to be registered on their system. No matter how many times I tell them, each call to their perky, perfectly-mannered team (“FFS, yes, you can call me Ben!”) is like a bizarrely personal production of Groundhog Day for phone geeks.
So, having read completely contrary accounts as to whether O2 intend to offer the phone I wanted, and thinking I might try speaking Esperanto to the customer services team next time to see if I can be any more comprehensible, I took the plunge and ordered online from Nokia. My N900 arrived promptly and, after a couple of days playing with it, I can safely say it is the most fascinating and powerful little gadget I’ve ever had.
To be clear: I am in love. Not the girly sort of romantic love that geekdom is infamously inept at. This is hardcore, soul-shaking gizmo love. Processing passion. Firmware rapture.
Of course, some people don’t get phones (I need to be careful here as the über geeks will remind me the N900 is not a mobile phone but an internet tablet with mobile telephony added). So I thought I would try a car analogy – with a view to winding up iPhone users. I should warn that this enterprise comes with health warnings: I don’t drive.
I think most ordinary folk are happy enough to own a phone that makes calls and that can send the occasional text message. They are after something simple and basic and functional. They are not interested in hacking it to pieces (we are talking coding, programming and general fiddling here rather than kindling axes) and are content for it to simply work.
That is: WORK.
This sort of phone is so common – because it is such a good ordinary workhorse – that it is practically invisible. To my mind this is the Ford Fiesta of phones: the Nokia N1100. If they were insects they would be Water Bears (that’s tardigrades to all you biologists) – prolific, unnoticed and utterly survivable. Thousands of aunties and grandparents the world over keep them neatly packed in their boxes for “emergencies”. Others, who have long since upgraded, have their N1100s languishing in a drawer – but only in stasis, ready to be reanimated the moment that flash capacitive screen decides it has been subject to one sticky finger too many.
The Flash Git
For some, the priorities are different. Being cool is a very serious consideration, particularly if “cool” can be dressed up as “useful“.
I can’t help it but every time I think of the iPhone I get this image of 1985, getting the bus to the Romford ABC to see Rocky IVand pimped out Ford Escorts (believe me – it is as bad as it sounds). All the cool kids have one – boy do you know they have one. And all the rest of us loser kids should want one (I did my 80s casual clothes shopping at Liberal Party jumble sales on a Saturday morning so no iPhone for guessing which category I fall into).
I don’t know if it is the contrarian in me, but for that reason alone I’ve held out against the entreaties of the Esperanto speakers of O2 and the various friends and colleagues who have evangelised about their iPhones and resisted the temptation to join the iHerd. XR3i, spoilers, alloy wheels, Ghia, Cabriolet… The iPhone has it all and in spades and just as the 80s cool kids used to congregate in gangs to check out the latest in Escort bling, so now iPhone users entertain their mates with their iFart and iSteam apps.
And yes – it is cool.
And no – I can’t pull it off.
(I also admit to a modicum of nervousness at this particular analogy as there is probably an equation that relates the number of iPhone-owning friends and relatives I have to my Escort-loving girlfriend in order to produce an accurate indication of the likely diminution of my social circle.)
To qualify for the ultra special category of Power Geek Enthusiast, you need raw horsepower, complexity and a love of Saturday mornings drowning in invective, epithets and machine love as you tinker under the bonnet. For me, the N900 is the Ford Capri of mobile phones (and yes – for me it is still easiest to call it a mobile phone). Why have a 1.6L when you can pack a 3.0 V6? The N900 is the sort of gadget those of us who fantasize about being secret agents have dreamed of – a phone and pocket computer combined, which we can use to save the world. Let’s face it. You wouldn’t have caught Bodie and Doyle driving Escorts – they were Capri men through and through (if you don’t believe me, you can check out their carpool here). If The Professionals were reinvented for the 21st Century you can bet your ass they’d be carrying N900s – not iPhones!
Read this piece from one Capri lover. Feel the passion? It could never be an iPhone.
Actually, sod saving the world. The N900 is for all those of us who believe that one day we might just take over the world – and need a super-techno gadget to help us do so…