Heart not head when it comes to iPhone

iphone3gside I was thinking about the huge disconnect between people’s love for Apple and its products, and the severe restrictions you have in owning an Apple icon like the iPhone.

My previous post about unlocking my Nokia N95 8GB from Vodafone illustrates a point – mobile device manufacturers and mobile network operators typically will restrict your freedoms and choices to do anything with your device that is outside the rigid controls imposed by those manufacturers and operators.

Apple, its network partners and, arguably, application developers are certainly right in the thick of rigid control.

A post by Nik Cubrilovic on TechCrunchIT yesterday contains a shrewd view:

[…] Apple has wrapped the iPhone SDK in enough licensing, security controls and right management that it would make the Microsoft Active Desktop team blush. The phone and platform that is certain to soon take second spot behind Symbian in the smart phone market is also the most restricted and closed. Applications can only be installed from a single source, iTunes, and open source applications and distribution is near impossible. How do you install an iPhone application without iTunes?

This doesn’t seem to be a major concern, though, to more than one million people who have rushed out to buy new 3G iPhones since its launch in 21 countries last Friday.

Nor those who have downloaded ten million iPhone apps from the new App Store on iTunes.

I guess heart really does over-rule head.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. JofArnold

    The following rant isn’t aimed at you Neville – I just feel the need to write it in a place where I can expect an intelligent response:

    ### Rant ###

    Will people STOP talking about lock-in!!! Where was everyone when Nintendo launched their games only for the DS? Where was everyone when Microsoft launched only their games for the 360? Where was everyone when Nokia released Snakes only for my 3310. Where was everyone when Valve released services that only their customers could use?

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my iPhone and I enjoy it because I have low expectations of apple, but come on; Where did this nonsense meme come from?

    ### end rant ###

  2. logan

    It isn’t particularly hard at all to install non-iTunes apps. Jailbreaking is down to a science now; the 2.0 break will be out this week if not already. Then you gain access to dozens and dozens of free software repositories beyond iTunes.

  3. Bernie Goldbach

    I am glad Apple caught mainstream interest in the iPhone because now millions more people expect their phones to do more than just handle voice and text. But pound for pound, I think the iPhone is outpaced by other smart phones. Thanks to Apple, millions more now know they want to move up the smartphone feeding chain. I’ll be interested to see how many of those new iPhone owners churn out to another mobile phone operating system in two years.

  4. Kevin Dugan

    The million sales in one week is impressive. The 10 million apps stat, while impressive, reflects a mix of paid and free applications installed across the entire user base…not just new users.

    And Apple bottled up the applications like water behind a dam. They loved it as it gave them this impressive stat. As an owner of an antique, 4GB iPhone, I was impatient. All the more impatient when demand crashed iTunes.

    Unfortunately, as you suggest above, Apple products are like good Chinese food. The service might be terrible. But you will always go back if you like the food. sigh

    My issues aside, the applications are impressive. The added functionality will stop me from looking for another phone…for now.

  5. neville

    Nice rant, Jof! Hasn’t it always been so, though? Valve’s a good example as I used that service. And I was always whingeing about the proprietary nature of it all. Yet I continued using it.

    I guess part of my thinking concerns Apple fans who are quick to point out the restrictions with Microsoft products (lock ins, in other words) as they happily hook up their iPhones and iPods to iTunes.

    Some irony there.

  6. Mark Story

    Hi Neville,

    One of my favorite pieces on the topic is a Harvard Business Review piece from June 2007 entitled “Saving the Internet.”

    The article touches on a variety of topics, but goes on at length about topic of tethered vs. untethered devices. Despite their new policy of enabling people to develop third-party applications for the phone, the iPhone (full disclosure: I own one and have fallen under Steve Jobs’ spell) is clearly a “tethered” device: tethered appliances cannot be readily changed by their owners, yet they can be reprogrammed in an instant by their makers.

    The upside? Complete control and profits.

    The downside? Tethered appliances stifle creativity and innovation, because it’s coming from only one place. I have a huge TiVo fan, but am at their mercy because they are the reigning King of Tethered Devices. Need a software update? They decide. Need an improvement? We’ll tell you when you do.

    I honestly believe that Apple’s cool factor will help drive sales to the point that there is no point in discussing this, but maybe the third party apps will help Apple “untether” the iPhone.


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