The iPhone 4: Too little, too late

As I write, the announcement of the iPhone 4 at WWDC is just a few hours old. See the Engadget coverage for details. The bottom line? This is too little, too late to stop the Android deluge.

There are some very cool individual features on this phone, no doubt. The two that stand out the most to me are the onboard gyroscope and the “retina display” – yes, 960 x 640 at 326ppi will be damn nice, and if I were writing apps I would seriously lust for that six-axis motion sensing. But the improvements are mainly in the hardware; Apple has conspicuously failed to address the areas where it has fallen behind Android 2.2 in software. There’s no progress on voice recognition, Flash, or WiFi hotspot capability. And even the hardware falls short of where it needs to be; while 802.11n is nice, the “G” after that “4″ is conspicuously missing.

If I were an Apple marketing guy, I’d be asking “How the hell can I compete against the EVO 4G with this?”

Maybe the biggest news is that, as I predicted, the iPhone 4 has not gone multicarrier in the U.S.. And it desperately needed to, especially after AT&T effectively shitcanned its unlimited-data plan. The hopeful rumors of a CDMA iPhone remain only hopeful rumors.

The “one more thing” rabbit Jobs pulled out of his hat was full-motion video in calls between iPhones. But it was a lame rabbit, only working over WiFi. Jobs says Apple is in talks with carriers about this, and I’ll bet a lot of the “talks” consist of AT&T cursing sulphurously about a feature that couldn’t have been better designed to bring an underprovisioned cell network to its knees if it had been done on purpose. I’m guessing this “feature” will quietly disappear into the same limbo as Apple TV.

Another point: it’s going to be tough for Apple to make any hay out of the talk of Android fragmentation since it has conceded that 3GS and older apps will need “a little work” to take full advantage of the new display.

I wasn’t anticipating a really strong riposte from Apple this time out, but the iPhone 4 manages to low-ball even my minimal expectations. Better displays were coming anyway; about the only prompt effect I can see is that this announcement will make six-axis motion sensing a checklist feature for next-generation Android phones. On the software side, Android 2.2 has certainly won this round, leaving Apple with still more lag to make up on its next refresh.

127 thoughts on “The iPhone 4: Too little, too late

  1. I do admit, I’m lusting after that screen resolution. I would so love to consign the disparity between web and print resolution to the dustbin of history, where it can sit on 8″ floppies and disk compression algorithms.

    (Now, if only I had a time machine and could get CMY-Off to win out over RGB as a monitor color gamut….)

  2. That was really disappointing. And all the iSomething on the phone presented as the next big thing (i can by no means imagine editing video on a phone) shows how narrow the garden has become, Steve is sitting in.

  3. How many steps is it to take a screenshot on an Android phone again? Oh yeah, just install the SDK, enable debugging, configure some stuff, ignore the error messages, and That’s It! It Just Works!

    “On the software side, Android 2.2 has certainly won this round!”

    ESR says: You don’t get to be snarky about that until you can speak a Google search into your iPhone.

  4. I’m a huge Android fan, have several apps in the Market, running a N1 with Froyo, etc., but – dude, the video calling is huge.

    Yeah, it’s WiFi only for now, but there’s no way it’s going away. It is so awesome that people will go out of their way to find WiFi to use it. I would! Android needs to step up and support it too to pressure the carriers. In this regard, the EVO 4G is looking pretty good as a testbed, since they’re the only Android phone with a front-facing camera. Sprint wanted front-facing camera APIs to land int he 2.2 SDK, but they didn’t make it in time. Better believe this will be a part of Gingerbread.

  5. > How many steps is it to take a screenshot on an Android phone again?

    Who wants to do this? Influential tech writers? Reviewers? Developers? Those are important people, but as a user I have never wanted to take a screen shot on my smart phone. I doubt my wife will either.

    Yours,
    Tom

  6. The Sprint EVO 4G isn’t competitive to the iPhone, for one reason — it’s on Sprint. Very few people that are using Verizon or ATT will be willing to switch to sprint for the EVO 4G. You also overstate the importance of 4G speeds — HSPA+ is already delivering data speeds greater than Sprint’s WiMax deployments. HSPA+ deployment is spotty right now on ATT, but WiMax doesn’t exist in most of the US for Sprint.

    I agree that the single biggest selling point is the screen — it was pretty novel where >150 DPI screens started appearing. >300 is amazing, and dare I say, enough. I don’t know if there’s ever a justification for > 300 DPI, except on stuff that’s even closer to they eye, like an HUD display on your glasses, or something. I’m really looking forward to the days that our computer monitors have that kind of pixel density, and resolution-independent displays to match!”

    I’m definitely square in the Android camp (looking at getting a Samsung Galaxy S later in the month), but I also use Kubuntu as my primary desktop. I do think Android will get there — it’s already doing great, but it’s US market share is well below the iPhone, and will likely stay that way until 2011. Where Android can really win — multiple different form factors and price points. Apple won’t be able to offer with a “free” phone on subsidy. Android can. The iPhone is also limited to exactly one form-factor, whereas Android currently exists on 2 of the 4 relevant form factor. (candy-bar, horizontal slider), and I can’t wait to see the other two (vertical slider, and “Blackberry”) which I’m much more interested in.

    Apple treats developers like utter shit, but they do make products that a large class of users want.

  7. @esr:
    I’m unclear (or perhaps just confused) as to what you are predicting. Clearly you perceive Android and Apple to be linked in some kind of race that Android is winning (and Apple is losing). But what’s the race?

    (a) Android devices will outpace Apple devices in market share (unit count);
    (b) Android devices will technologically outpace Apple devices, in the sense that Apple will not sell any devices that are not, near launch time, beaten technologically by some already-shipping Android device;
    (c) The vast majority of key opinion leaders will abandon Apple devices for Android devices, and this matters;
    (d) Application developers will abandon Apple’s app store (for Android’s) sufficiently to shift the customer-perceived availability advantage from Apple to Android;
    (e) Apple’s profit share of the phone market will deteriorate to the point where Apple will find it unprofitable to continue making and selling phones and/or tablet devices;
    (f) Even though Apple will continue to make boatloads of money selling phones and tablets, Android will make them irrelevant in some sense;
    (x) Something else altogether? What did I miss?

    I gather you’ve thinking of a time horizon of a year or so; at least your words imply a certain urgency and finality. :)

    I’m not trying to put you on the spot (though you may volunteer :-), but I am getting rather confused. You’re clearly in my-predictions-are-coming-true mode lately, but which one(s)?

    Cheers
    — perry

  8. I speak Google searches into my iPhone all the time. I use the Google app, works great.

  9. >But what’s the race?

    Ultimately, to define and control the next generation of personal computing. That is, the things that happen when for almost everyone, their smartphone is their primary computing device.

    In your list, I’d say (a) has already occurred and we’re pretty close to (b) – as in, Apple has a damn steep hill to climb on their next refresh. (c) seems to be underway already, evidenced by the long-time Apple fans I know who are now carrying Nexus Ones. (d) seems underway as well, hardly hindered by Apple’s ever-more-draconian policies. OTOH, I don’t think (e) will happen in the foreseeable future; the history of the Mac demonstrates that Apple is very good at defending a niche market of 5% or so from which it can extract good margins.

    As for (f), it depends on how you define “irrelevant”. I think it’s plausible that Apple will in fact end up with a sustaining business around single-digit market share as they did with PCs. Are Macintoshes “irrelevant”?

    But I will make one hard prediction with important consequences. There will never be another quarter in which iPhones exceed Androids in U.S. unit sales. I think the iPhone 4 was Apple’s last chance to reclaim that high ground, and they couldn’t deliver.

  10. “[Video calling] is so awesome that people will go out of their way to find WiFi to use it.”

    People have been saying that about video calling for a long time. Many, though not all, of the reasons it has not already taken off still apply to the iPhone, though. At best, this is a “reserve judgment and see what happens” feature.

  11. >At best, this is a “reserve judgment and see what happens” feature.

    I agree. The evidence of previous videophone trials, all the way back to the late 1960s, is not very encouraging about the amount of pent-up demand for this.

  12. > I agree that the single biggest selling point is the screen — it was pretty novel where >150 DPI screens started appearing. >300 is amazing, and dare I say, enough. I don’t know if there’s ever a justification for > 300 DPI, except on stuff that’s even closer to they eye, like an HUD display on your glasses, or something. I’m really looking forward to the days that our computer monitors have that kind of pixel density, and resolution-independent displays to match!”

    Given that modern typesetting equipment tops out at 5000 dpi or so, I do think there is some ways to go before we can claim that we have reached the limit of desirability for device screens. It probably won’t be as high, I expect roughly 1200 dpi to be around the limit as resolution is less critical for animated and coloured images.

    Would be interested to see usage reports of how close the devices are held to the face so we can get an idea of the actual angular resolution people are getting.

  13. It seems you forget the single biggest advantage Apple has over the competition: the sheer sexiness of iphone’s industrial design and user interface. There’s nothing on the market right now that can compare to a 3GS and it appears that iphone 4 takes that even further. Most people care about that more than they care about openness and tech specs.

    I care about App store restrictions and carrier locks, which is why my next phone will probably be an Android device or maybe a Nokia N900. But my wife doesn’t – all she wants is a thin, elegant, fun phone that does the things she needs: calls, texts, web browsing, facebook, mail, photos, videos, etc. Ideally, all that should be done without draining the battery. In other words, she is a regular user, and the iphone works wonderfully for that. Most people are like her, which is why they will gravitate towards the iphone.

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is that there won’t be a sudden mass exodus from Apple’s iphone to Android until the GUI gets cleaned up and a well designed killer device is launched. The inroads we’ve seen with the Droid series is (imho) due to the fact that they’re the first smartphones on Verizon that do not completely suck in comparison with the iphone. People that bought them are the ones that wanted a good smartphone, but would not leave Verizon for it.

  14. “I agree. The evidence of previous videophone trials, all the way back to the late 1960s, is not very encouraging about the amount of pent-up demand for this.”

    The difference now, as I see it, is the frontier that has been opened up by better open protocols and more efficient codecs, combined with dual-camera devices…I can take people along for the ride, in realtime, to see what I see. It is this visual realtime sharing of our lives that could make good vidcall software a killer app.

    Anyway, my good looks are wasted on VGA rez….I demand 720pHD front & back!

  15. People have been saying that about video calling for a long time. Many, though not all, of the reasons it has not already taken off still apply to the iPhone, though. At best, this is a “reserve judgment and see what happens” feature.

    Could be. However, having it available on an intimate, pocketable device could be a qualitative change. Using it on a laptop is nice, but not very convenient and not very personal.

  16. >It seems you forget the single biggest advantage Apple has over the competition: the sheer sexiness of iphone’s industrial design and user interface.

    I don’t forget it at all. I simply bear in mind that “sheer sexiness” has never been been good for securing more than single-digit market share before in comparable markets, and decline to assume without evidence that it will be any different this time.

  17. Could be. However, having it available on an intimate, pocketable device could be a qualitative change. Using it on a laptop is nice, but not very convenient and not very personal.

    My last phone (HTC) could do video calling. Nokia has had it as a fairly common feature for what… 5 years? 10 years?

    Video calls are not DOA because no-ones ever done it on a phone. You could maybe argue that video calling was DOA because it was used for carrier lock-in. You could also maybe argue that video calls were DOA because it was too hard to work out if the callee would have it. However the comments at the time were generally “don’t really like it” so if it does take off it’ll be yet another market that Jobs has “made cool”.

  18. >>But what’s the race?

    >Ultimately, to define and control the next generation of personal computing. That is, the things that happen when for almost everyone, their smartphone is their primary computing device.

    Unfortunately that’s simply not what Apple’s interested in.

    Apple wants to own the most profitable segment of the phone market. They’re perfectly willing to let Android dominate the low-rent smartphone market (because fundamentally, the regular cell market is dead). Apple is a niche maker, they jumped into the cell market when Smartphones were the most profitable niche and they’re going to ride that early dominance into a dominance of the prestige Smartphone niche, which Android will never achieve simply because it will be the dominant player (A la Windows).

    The smartphone also is extremely unlikely to be a primary computing device anytime soon. The form factor simply sucks for serious work. It will most likely become the dominant communication device as people get used to email everywhere, but any real computing will remain on larger platforms for simple ergonomic reasons.

  19. Android until the GUI gets cleaned up

    Out of interest, what in your opinion needs to be cleaned up about the GUI? Granted my only real exposure to Android is through the Milestone but as far as I can tell it does everything that the iphone does with more notification options(Yes Mr Jobs, i WOULD like to be able to glance at my phone and see that one of my RSS feeds has been updated without the phone sending a push notification or having to open an application) and better buttons(by which i mean more of them. Context sensitivity isn’t that smart).

    I would like to see better browsing options on Android Market and there are few odd functional absences (Mr Google, why can’t I mark all my emails as read?) but the fundamental GUI seems solid to me.

    People that bought them are the ones that wanted a good smartphone, but would not leave Verizon for it.

    Speaking as someone who got a milestone (non-us Droid), despite it having a signed bootloader (still shaking my fist at Motorola about that), is because no flip out keyboard is a show-stopper for me. Yes i can use on screen keyboards for small things but for anything larger than a single short sms i open the keyboard.

  20. Heh. I now see a vital market opening up.

    The interactive video phone sex business…

    “Our hot babes all have iPhone 4s with WiFi connections. For a low, low price of $3.99 per minute, they can do ANYTHING you want. And you can take the call anywhere…”

    Let’s see Steve Jobs make the iPhone porn free with that…

  21. Anyone want to start a pool for when the first 1,366×768 3.8″ by 2.1″ mobile phone touch screen will be out?

    Bonus bet – will it be an Apple iOS product, an Android product, or a MeeGo product? (Or something else.)

    My bet – the week of May 16th. If they were SMART, they’d try to have it in people’s hands by that week.

    Would be tres amusing to see someone live-video reporting the ’11 WWDC from an Android phone…

  22. Sheer sexiness? Sounds like someone who was bowled over by Windows Vista because it had GUI sparkle. Sure, it looks like a fillet mignon, but it tastes like fatty ground beef.

  23. Adam Mass points out what I’ve been thinking since the iPhone-hating started here: Apple has always been more interested in making the best products than making the most popular products. They nevertheless manage to be both hugely profitable and hugely influential and trend-setting, and have accelerated the adoption of many new technologies.

    The feature-phone market is quickly being replaced by a cheapy-smartphones market. Apple will not make cheapy smartphones, but cheapy smartphones will sell by the billions. Therefore, Apple’s market share will dwindle. But they don’t consider this a problem.

    In November, Apple become the most profitable cellphone maker in the world, exceeding Nokia’s profits despite selling only a tiny fraction of the volume: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1051937420091110

    On the other hand, Macintosh sales continue to accelerate. I can’t find the stats right now, but I seem to recall reading that 1/2 of computers owned by US college students are Macs. Mac OS is now a serious threat to the hegemony of Windows; or would be, if the whole market segment weren’t rapidly becoming a niche.

  24. Anyone want to start a pool for when the first 1,366×768 3.8″ by 2.1″ mobile phone touch screen will be out?

    I want to know when we get 320 dpi on big screens. Oh haste the day. The iPad’s 1024×798 resolution is doubly sad now.

  25. Speaking of which: iPhone apps will get full-resolution text and vector rendering for free, and should simply have to update their raster artwork. It appears that Apple actually got resolution independence right this time (whereas on the Mac they’ve been trying to roll it out for years). This all-but-confirms my theory that iPhone apps on the iPad are pixel-doubled merely by intention, to get developers to make real iPad ports.

  26. Apple has always used the college student segment as a way to maintain its base. After all, who better to sell “But it’s PREEEEEMIUM!” to than a college student who, when racking up 40-250 K in debt, won’t see a 2K laptop as a significant increase in that burden – and who will probably talk the ‘rents into it as well.

    Now, to their credit, Apple’s hardware is generally top notch – so that college vintage Mac will probably see use through that student’s middle-20s (longer if they went into certain fields).

    But when they go out of the college microcosm and get jobs in the real world, they tend to switch to commodity PC hardware running Windows out of price pressure and ‘compatible with work’ applications support.

    The part where it’s ‘running Windows’ may take a nose dive in the next two years. There will be a powerfully strong itch in Redmond to ‘close the gate’ and try to make sure that their Office suite of applications keeps far enough ahead in power user features that it remains the de-facto standard.

  27. >Adam Mass points out what I’ve been thinking since the iPhone-hating started here: Apple has always been more interested in making the best products than making the most popular products.

    To the extent this is true, Apple renders itself completely irrelevant to any of the reasons I am interested in the smartphone wars. I do wish you fanboys would stop repeating it as though it had anything to do with the subject at hand.

  28. I want to know when we get 320 dpi on big screens. Oh haste the day. The iPad’s 1024×798 resolution is doubly sad now.

    We won’t see it for a while. It’s a very large, multi-variable problem on fabrication of LCD displays, backlights for same, and video cards and drivers, and aside from hard core video gamers and graphics pros, there’s not a big market for it.

    (One of the things that hinders sales of 2560 x 1440 LCD monitors is that HD video (1920×1280) looks awful when upsampled to a full 27″ screen at that resolution at normal monitor viewing distances.)

  29. @JB: Nice.

    Looks like a lot of people who read Engadget are buying the EVO, Nexus One and the Incredible. Probably not a big surprise, though. Tech people ought to know better than to buy Apple’s foo-foo phones.

  30. The videophone is a situational rather than routine app — there are instances when you want to show someone your surroundings or some physical objects to get their feedback (and taking pix and msging them is more cumbersome, e.g. choices involved.)

    Aside from the always exceptionally groomed I don’t see heavy face-to-face chat…;-)

  31. JB: I can tell you’re not a teenage girl, because I’d bet that 90% of them will squealing at the prospect of videochatting with their friends on these.

    So we have some very impressive hardware at the same prices as the previous models, a videochat system Apple will open source, $4.99 software for editing the HD video the iPhone 4 creates, 5 billion downloads of the 225,000 apps in the App Store (making developers over $1 billion), a new version of Safari with more speed and sandboxed extensions and more HTML5.

    Clearly these overpriced, insecure, non-open, developer-alienating niche products and the company that makes them are doomed! Any day now! (I kid, I kid….)

  32. ESR,

    To the extent this is true, Apple renders itself completely irrelevant to any of the reasons I am interested in the smartphone wars.

    If so, can one truly say that there is such a thing as a smartphone war?

  33. Your comments about the iPhone vs Android are too much from a nerd point of view. Over 90% of the users (inc me) just want a sexy phone with a prefect interface. I tried an HTC “Desire” android phone and was appalled by it’s interface, nowhere near the easy use of the Iphone, and I really, really tried to give it the benefit of the doubt. Besides I couldn’t read the screen in sunlight, but that could be an HTC thing as I had that also before with other HTC devices. For a simple user like me, the Iphone just delivers exactly what I want without having to look in the manual all the time.

  34. >If so, can one truly say that there is such a thing as a smartphone war?

    Certainly. Like a lot of computing infrastructure, smartphone OSes have a strong winner-take-all effect. Somebody’s going to end up with majority market share and then keep it for a long time, probably until the next technology disruption in the space. It matters a lot who wins; in particular, it matters a lot whether or not the winner is open source. If all Apple wants to be is a boutique brand with ~5% market share, it’s not interesting and will have no significant effect on the future except in as others imitate some of its features.

  35. For a simple user like me, the Iphone just delivers exactly what I want without having to look in the manual all the time.

    WTF? Seriously. The Android UI is almost identical to the iPhone’s. My non-techie wife took to it immediately in the store and couldn’t put the thing down. We’ll see how she does when she picks up the phone today. The newest phones like the HTC EVO 4G even have multitouch (aka pinch-to-zoom).

  36. I’m definitely going to try to convince myself to buy an Android phone before upgrading my iPhone 3G to the latest from Apple. I’ll try one out, if I can find it without driving too far from my house in the woods. But even though I hack (Lisp) for a living, I’m a sucker for Apple’s beautiful products. Their industrial design makes a difference to me.

    The one deal-killer for many people with the HTC Android products is the short battery life. The new iPhone can web browse in 3G for 6 hours, talk for 7 hours, play video for 10 hours, music for 40 hours, and standby for 300 hours. I’ve read of people whose HTC android phone batteries were discharged after 5 hours of carrying them around, doing nothing.

    But AT&T has no 3G coverage where I live. Sprint and Verizon do. And nobody makes GnuPG or Zfone for an un-jailbreaked iPhone (though I’ve been slowly working on the GnuPG part). And I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to make Clozure Common Lisp run on an unrooted Android phone (I work for Clozure, though not currently on the lisp, just with it), though there are a lot of details to figure out to get us there. AIn’t gonna happen on un-jailbreaked iPhones. Thank you Mr. Jobs. Not.

    So my brain is telling me to get an Android phone, but when I touch an iPhone, or just look at a picture of it, my heart melts. Sex sells.

  37. The iPhone may be a better phone, but I just can’t stand AT&T. At this point I’m focused on the price of the monthly contract.

    Once my G1 contract is up, I’m probably going to to get a Nexus one and a cheaper monthly plan.

    You know what this reminds me of? The old “Apple vs. IBM” back in the 80s. Apples were better and more expensive, and IBM compatible machines were cheaper and more open.

    I’d like to point out that the AMOLED screen on the Nexus one isn’t 800 x 480 pixels, it’s “Interpreted” resolution. That has to do with the pixels not being laid out in a grid.

    I’m wondering if the new iPhone screen is the same way.

  38. The one deal-killer for many people with the HTC Android products is the short battery.

    Hope this helps.

    But AT&T has no 3G coverage where I live. Sprint and Verizon do.

    What happened to AT&T covering 97% of all Americans? Guess you’re in that 3%, huh?

    And I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to make Clozure Common Lisp run on an unrooted Android phone

    Maybe you could do something with the ASE? Python, Perl. JRuby, Lua, BeanShell, JavaScript and Tcl are already there.

  39. I’m not certain that the video conferencing feature is going to be that big of a hit, once the initial “isn’t that cool” feeling wears off for 2 main reasons:

    1) We’ve had video conferencing for a long time and the only areas I know of where there is any traction are in corporate environments or for families who are long separated and want to communicate (ie soldiers in Iraq). I work in a tech company and most laptops we’re issued have cameras built-in. Most of us don’t even know how to use them because there just isn’t any practical need. For formal meetings, it’s great, but that’s about it.

    2) It reduces your mobility. In the spectrum of “humanity” carried across, you have a scale of text message < phone call < video call. What's interesting is that a large number of people I know are avoiding phone calls and moving to text messaging more. As in, they prefer to use their cell phones to do something other than make phone calls. The two are complimentary, though. Sending a text message usually requires that the sender dedicate their eyes to the activity, as well as at least 1 hand (typically 2 for a keyboard). This is usually done mostly stationary (maybe at a slow walk, but not while running an obstacle course). However, this can be done in an environment when making noise is unacceptable – at a meeting, for example. On the other hand, once established, a phone call typically requires the use of 1 or fewer hands, and a reduction in auditory awareness – you'll miss out on small details but you'll still hear the car honking at you. However, you can easily use a phone on the run, literally.

    What does video conferencing require? It requires dedicating at least 1 hand to hold the phone at an appropriate distance (no pocket + bluetooth headset here). It requires being mostly stationary to avoid the shaky-cam effect. And it requires dedicating your visual attention, for otherwise there would be no reason to use the video feature in the first place. In short, it has all of the disadvantages of both text messaging and voice calls. And this assumes that they get it working over a cell network at some point in the future. Over Wi-fi … meh. It's great if you're trapped in a hostage situation and want to say your last goodbyes. Otherwise, it strikes me as same old, same old.

  40. > David McCabe Says:
    > On the other hand, Macintosh sales continue to accelerate. I can’t find the stats right now, but I seem to recall
    > reading that 1/2 of computers owned by US college students are Macs.

    Mildly off-topic and apologies for that, but this continues to irk me. This statistic is skewed. A cousin who was going through school at UT Austin a handful of years ago was actually required to own or purchase a Mac for use in his classes. I forget which program it was, but the issue was treated like course books; you use a Mac for class or you’re not in the class. It was some kind of deal Apple worked out with the school.

    Saying ‘X% of computers owned by college studends are Macs’ is not purely indicative that Macs are the _preferred_ systems for college students, or what percent of students buy them because they have a choice.

  41. @jsk: “Saying ‘X% of computers owned by college studends are Macs’ is not purely indicative that Macs are the _preferred_ systems for college students, or what percent of students buy them because they have a choice.”

    By that reasoning, neither can we have any useful metrics of Windows use, because so many Windows installs are simply not an option: be it because you don’t know of an alternative, because your workspace mandates it, whatever.

  42. > By that reasoning, neither can we have any useful metrics of Windows use, because so many
    > Windows installs are simply not an option: be it because you don’t know of an alternative,
    > because your workspace mandates it, whatever.

    Missing the point. I’m not disputing the statistic itself, just the meaning and use of it. I’ve seen the college student metric touted in places as some kind of evidence for the ‘regular user’ desire for Mac products. While it may or may not be true, my issue is that the use of the statistic in this case is dubious at best due to the strong commercial forces at play in the educational institutions, especially the larger ones.

  43. esr-
    Speaking of “the next disruptive technology”, have you been paying any attention to MeeGo?

    ESR says: I’m learning about it now.

  44. @jsk and Adriano:

    The whole ‘X% of college students’ statistic is totally worthless when Apple is involved. Apple has been peddling computers (and other stuff) at a loss to the education market since around the release of the first Apple II. The education market has helped Apple out to be sure, but it’s surely not a good indicator of what’s happening in the marketplace.

  45. I’m still wondering why “WiFi hotspot capability” beats “tethering”. Every mac with internet access is a wifi hotspot so a “tethered” mac laptop is a Wifi hotspot. A “tethered” windows laptop is presumably a wifi hotspot if they install Connectify. Is there no similar option for linux? What’s the use case scenario that “wifi hotspot” enables which “tethering” does not?

  46. My Acer liquid sports a 800×480 display (3.5″) and it is beautiful – text is amazingly sharp and there is no ‘grain’ whatsoever, the dot pitch must be pretty impressive (I confess I don’t know what it is). I’d be interested to see how much better if at all the iPhone 4′s display is.

  47. Glen R:

    What’s the use case scenario that “wifi hotspot” enables which “tethering” does not?

    The kids can use the over-internet-play feature on their Nintendo DS with no laptop involved or required. For that matter, it would do nicely with a no-cellular (Wifi only) iPad.

  48. Laurence:

    If I’ve just done the math right, that’s around 250 ppi vs 326 ppi on the iPhone4. Significant? I don’t know.

  49. @ Glen R

    My girlfriend and I recently holidayed in a caravan by the sea. My old N95 (which supports WiFi tethering) enabled us to connect both our netbooks to the internets simultaneously. Worked a treat :)

  50. “…Speaking of “the next disruptive technology”, have you been paying any attention to MeeGo?

    ESR says: I’m learning about it now.”

    I’m a Maemo dev (soon to be a MeeGo dev I guess) and I’m feeling a little burned, to be honest…I hope it turns around, as it’s a superior mobile [true] linux platform.

  51. I think Apple is waiting for Verizon’s LTE implementation before going multi-vendor on the carrier. Since both AT&T and Verizon is going that path (and most of Europe as well) that would better for him to hold out. I forsee iPhone 4L next year or 2012.

    ESR says: I agree this is plausible.

  52. “… and I’m feeling a little burned…”

    Is that with regards to Moblin/Maemo being combined, or Maemo’s not being as successful as Android?

    It looks like it’s more than just a smartphone OS. The N900 is certainly intriguing.

  53. @Glen R: Of course you can run a WiFi hotspot from a Linux box, so long as you have the appropriate hardware. As some others pointed out, there are lots more WiFi-enabled devices than laptops, such as the Nabaztag WiFi-enabled Rabbit. Surely you’d want your WiFi-enabled rabbit to work without popping open your laptop.


  54. Is that with regards to Moblin/Maemo being combined, or Maemo’s not being as successful as Android?

    The former…it was no surprise that Google could push Android out to mass market better than Nokia could do the same with Maemo, but to be fair, that wasn’t Nokia’s game. Nokia were playing the slowly-slowly-catchee-monkey game with Maemo, so we’ll see if MeeGo fares any better. I invested a lot of time into learning Maemo, so felt mildly burned when Maemo 5 was announced to be EOL in favor of MeeGo. I expect a great deal of my code to be highly portable (I always code that way), however, so my pain should be short-lived.

    It looks like it’s more than just a smartphone OS. The N900 is certainly intriguing.

    It’s very cool. I’m enjoying developing for it now that PR1.2 has finally arrived. It truly is a mobile computing platform…keep your linux hacker hat on and get creative ;) I found it helpful to get my mind out of the “smartphone vs MID vs UMPC” rut that so many are stuck in. Basically, all high-end mobile hardware is a ‘computer’ with an OS and services etc…the differences all come down to UX and system exposure. iPhone seals the user off from all but the most constrained interfaces, Android opens the capabilities of the hardware up within a (hopefully) managed VM, and Maemo/MeeGo lets rip with a fully featured linux platform adorned with a Qt GUI framework. It has been a rewarding experience – developing apps for Maemo that have to be carefully designed with the physical constraints of mobile computing in mind. It’s like going back to the good ol’ days where people gave a shit about memory, cpu cycles and screen real-estate ;)

  55. Apple has Fallen Behind by not having Flash, which Android actually still doesn’t have?

    Seriously, Eric? It’s not out. It’s not going to be out for months. It’s fragile, it’s slow, and it destroys batteries and makes phones really hot. (Yes, some of that should improve. No, not enough. Flash is crap and I want it off my internet completely. God bless Apple if they manage to kill it.)

    (And how will it “compete with the EVO 4G”? Well, pretty easily. It’ll have battery life, for one thing. And a network that, while kinda sucky, is far more widely available than Sprint 4G. And if we don’t care about 4G, the EVO isn’t all that special anymore, is it?

    It’s plausible that the radio might be software upgradeable to a 4G system, but more importantly, by the time 4G really matters to the actual market rather than spec-obsessed geeks in a few markets, it’ll be… next year. And a new iPhone.

    And better applications in general than the fragmented Android app providers. Remember – end users don’t fucking care that the App Store is “closed”. Only geeks even notice. And only geeks really want to have any vaguely challenging or not “just make it run” application stories for their phones. Android fragmentation annoys customers to death.

    I think Google, seriously, would do far better for UX and Android as a userland software experience by minimizing fragmentation rather than letting people continue to, say, ship Android 1.6 phones that can’t be upgraded to 2.current… and won’t EVER be able to run Flash.

    All those people who hear “Android has Flash!” and don’t get one of the phones capable of doing so when it’s released, which will be a LOT of them? They’re going to be pissed off. And while it won’t be fair, they will blame Android as a brand for that.)

    If all Apple wants to be is a boutique brand with ~5% market share, it’s not interesting and will have no significant effect on the future except in as others imitate some of its features.

    You have an odd idea of “interesting” if it doesn’t include “being what everyone copies because it’s so well done” – as Morgan pointed out re. the iPhone interface. Even though most of the copies completely miss the UX point and just copy the looks and an impression of how it works!

    I’d think being a market leader in interface design would be interesting, but maybe that’s just me?

  56. And how will it “compete with the EVO 4G”? Well, pretty easily. It’ll have battery life, for one thing. And a network that, while kinda sucky, is far more widely available than Sprint 4G. And if we don’t care about 4G, the EVO isn’t all that special anymore, is it

    According to Sprint, 4G is already available in a number of major cities, and will be available in about 20 more within the next month. Maybe that’s not realistic, but that’s what Sprint is claiming. Sprint tells me 4G will be available in Tampa within a month; that’s good enough for me so long as they continue expanding the network rapidly (and they will.)

    The problem with AT&T’s network is that 3G coverage sucks. Sprint’s 3G network covers most major cities; AT&T won’t even give you a 3G coverage map, instead telling you that most of their 3G device also work on AT&T’s pokey EDGE network.

    “Kinda sucky” is a severe understatement. I would have bought the iPhone when it came out if it weren’t AT&T’s backwater, 3rd world network, and I know I’m not alone.

    And Flash is coming…it isn’t exactly Google’s fault that Adobe’s software isn’t ready for even public beta yet and I think most customers will understand that.

  57. WTF? Seriously. The Android UI is almost identical to the iPhone’s. My non-techie wife took to it immediately in the store and couldn’t put the thing down. We’ll see how she does when she picks up the phone today. The newest phones like the HTC EVO 4G even have multitouch (aka pinch-to-zoom).

    It took my techie wife all of about 30 seconds of playing with the Evo 4G to identify the problem with Android. The interface is a mess. It’s not clear which button to hit to do stuff. Finding settings is a crapshoot that requires way too much effort navigating menus. Within a few minutes you wind up with so many open apps trying to give you notifications that the top of your screen is littered with icons.

    I love my nexus one. I’ll probably get the Evo. My iPhone has been relegated to a SIM-less iPod. But good grief, the Android interface is not comparable to the iPhone’s (yet).

  58. You can speak google searches into iphone, just fine.
    Also I can take text dictation from voice over my iphone just fine as well, using Dragon’s free app.

    @Sam:
    I agree entirely. The android interface is extremely awkward. I was considering switching due to apple’s closed-ness, but after using my mom’s Android phone, I changed my mind. It really was that horrible.

  59. Agreed with Morgan. I needed to replace my phone a few months back and it was down to the iPhone or Android. I would have been on that iPhone like stink on shit were it not for the fact that AT&T’s network is both terribly expensive and sucky.

  60. John Dougan: Given that modern typesetting equipment tops out at 5000 dpi or so, I do think there is some ways to go before we can claim that we have reached the limit of desirability for device screens. It probably won’t be as high, I expect roughly 1200 dpi to be around the limit as resolution is less critical for animated and coloured images.

    Print resolution isn’t directly comparable to display resolution. Here’s an illustration.. For continuous-tone images, you can get away with much lower resolutions if, as in displays, you have a wide repertoire of colors available. For high-contrast images, like Tufte’s sparklines, a high-resolution bitonal printer will outperform a lower-resolution arbitrary-color display.

  61. BigFire Says:

    I think Apple is waiting for Verizon’s LTE implementation before going multi-vendor on the carrier. Since both AT&T and Verizon is going that path (and most of Europe as well) that would better for him to hold out. I forsee iPhone 4L next year or 2012.

    ESR says:

    I agree this is plausible.

    In the meantime, if you watch the stevenote video carefully, jobs says “wifi only” for facetime (the VC thing) “in 2010″.

    I interpret this as something changing in 2011. What I find most likely is that Apple releases a data-only (EV-DO + WiFi) iPod Touch for CDMA, and then either Sprint or Verizon or Apple itself furnishes a VoIP infrastructure.

    Presto, we get:
    1) no issues with simultaneous voice and data.
    2) less expensive “data only” plans (VoIP has got to be cheap to furnish)
    3) faster data

    No reason why Android couldn’t go this way, either.

  62. Facetime will fail At times like these, I like to read science fiction.

    In Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace wrote that within the reality of the book, videophones enjoyed enormous initial popularity but then after a few months, most people gave it up. Why the switch back to voice?

    The answer, in a kind of trivalent nutshell, is: (1) emotional stress, (2) physical vanity, and (3) a certain queer kind of self-obliterating logic in the microeconomics of consumer high-tech.

    First, the stress:

    Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation [...] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. And yet — and this was the retrospectively marvelous part — even as you were dividing your attention between the phone call and all sorts of other idle little fuguelike activities, you were somehow never haunted by the suspicion that the person on the other end’s attention might be similarly divided.

    [...] Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable. Callers now found they had to compose the same sort of earnest, slightly overintense listener’s expression they had to compose for in-person exchanges. Those caller who out of unconscious habit succumbed to fuguelike doodling or pants-crease-adjustment now came off looking extra rude, absentminded, or childishly self-absorbed. Callers who even more unconsciously blemish-scanned or nostril explored looked up to find horrified expressions on the video-faces at the other end. All of which resulted in videophonic stress.

    And then vanity:

    And the videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn’t. Good old aural telephone calls could be fielded without makeup, toupee, surgical prostheses, etc. Even without clothes, if that sort of thing rattled your saber. But for the image-conscious, there was of course no answer-as-you-are informality about visual-video telephone calls, which consumers began to see were less like having the good old phone ring than having the doorbell ring and having to throw on clothes and attach prostheses and do hair-checks in the foyer mirror before answering the door.

    Those are only excerpts…you can read more on pp. 144-151 of Infinite Jest. Eventually, in the world of the book, people began wearing “form-fitting polybutylene masks” when talking on the videophone before even that became too much.

  63. >What I find most likely is that Apple releases a data-only (EV-DO + WiFi) iPod Touch for CDMA, and then either Sprint or Verizon or Apple itself furnishes a VoIP infrastructure.

    From a purely technological perspective this would be an excellent fit for conditions. But hell will freeze over solid before Sprint or Verizon does any such thing. Remember how hard the carriers are fighting against becoming commoditized bit-haulers; from their point of view, supporting the kind of device with the kind of VOIP capability you’re describing would constitute surrender.

  64. from their point of view, supporting the kind of device with the kind of VOIP capability you’re describing would constitute surrender.

    @esr: I agree with your analysis. Of course, the writing’s on the wall for wireless vendors to become commodity bit-pushers. Verizon must know this, because that’s exactly what’s happened to them in the wired phone service market here in Tampa. They don’t push very hard down here to market POTS phone service; instead they’ve thrown all their marketing and PR muscle into their FiOS fiber-to-the-home service. The home-phone service is VOIP, of course. Pricing is flat-rate.

    The kicker is that all the advertising is consistent with a bit-pusher, concentrating on speed and the bundled price. And they got themselves into to some controversy because when you order FiOS, they pull all the copper wires to your to house. That’s pretty much a blanket admission that POTS with its tiered pricing models is dead.

    It isn’t hard to imagine the same thing happening in wireless; it’s easy if you try.

  65. I went to the Verizon store last night and played with the Motorola Droid (Android 2.2, I think), and the HTC Incredible (Android 2.1, I think). Both were passable devices. I prefered the Incredible’s on-screen keyboard to Motorola’s tiny buttons. Good sound from both. Neither knew what to do with a FLAC file, but both downloaded and played the OGG file I stuck on my web site for that purpose. Both were very responsive, unlike my old iPhone 3G, which forces me to wait sometimes for 2 seconds for a keystroke. Going to the Sprint store to try an Evo, probably tonite, but so far I greatly prefer the iPhone’s ergonomics.

    And that’s the bottom line for me with a phone. Another hackable device is cool, but I want my cell phone to be an appliance. It has to just work, with a minimum of muss and fuss.

  66. “The battery life problems on the HTC EVO are apparently really bad. Really, really bad.”

    Read through the comments. For most people who bought the EVO when it was launched, the battery life was reasonable to very good, with only a handful of exceptions. Apparently leaving 4G on will drain the battery, as will a bug with Flickr, but on the whole, customers, at least those who commented on the post, seem satisfied. Some speculate that the Google I/O phones might have had battery issues that weren’t present at launch, leading to the discrepancies between reviewers’ experiences and the public’s, but I don’t have enough smartphone know-how to comment on whether or not this is true.

  67. Aptronym and Jeff Read:

    It’s also common for phones to ship in a “feature rich” configuration, with lots of bells and whistles turned on by default (screen animation, bright back lights, every possible wireless feature turned on, etc.). Early reviewers may not have wasted much time trying to figure out how to turn this stuff off, and since the release wasn’t wide enough yet there was likely no simple HOWTO on the internet to make this easier, so they ran with everything turned on, hence the crappy battery life reports. Now that there’s some geeks out there with these phones, I’m sure there’s a few HOWTOs for laymen to be able to optimize their power utilization.

  68. It’s also common for phones to ship in a “feature rich” configuration, with lots of bells and whistles turned on by default (screen animation, bright back lights, every possible wireless feature turned on, etc.).

    That means Apple wins, because they ship their phones configured for the most pleasant user experience, including long battery life. I shouldn’t need to change any settings and I damn well shouldn’t need a fucking HOWTO to get my phone into a configuration that doesn’t suck. And another thing, how is “HTC Sense” ANY different from the unwanted cruft that comes preloaded on an HP or Sony PC? HTC, Dell, HP, Sony, these people fundamentally don’t get the one thing that Apple has built a business model upon getting: that electronics should be easy and pleasant to use, unobtrusive, and shouldn’t attempt to sell you more goods and services. And the thing is, this really shouldn’t be hard to understand, yet the rest of the industry still seems clueless! Quoth Yoda to the Android ecosystem, “That is why you fail.”

  69. I bought an EVO on launch day (my Palm Pre, which I was otherwise happy with, had literally fallen apart after only 1 year). The battery problems cannot be overstated – I lost just over half the battery today in 1 hour because I forgot to turn off the WiFi radio when I got to work, which is preposterous.

    As far as having to optimize the phone for power, I shouldn’t have to do that. I didn’t on my Pre (which was considered bad on battery but far outdoes the EVO), you don’t on Blackberries, and you certainly don’t on the iPhone.

    Also, Android’s user experience is *extremely* clunky compared to either Apple or WebOS. Usability matters, and Android is, at best, at the level of Windows 3.1 or pre-KDE/GNOME Linux. I’ve been hacking Unix since 1991 and I can’t figure out how to delete my emails on the EVO. There’s some hope since Google hired Palm’s UI design lead, but it’s gonna be probably 2.4 before that shows up in consumer devices.

    Ultimately Android phones (and the EVO in particular) are awesome if your time is worth nothing. Android vs. iPhone is like Slackware and Gentoo vs. Fedora and Ubuntu: you can make it work, or you can get something that simply does work.

  70. >Usability matters, and Android is, at best, at the level of Windows 3.1 or pre-KDE/GNOME Linux.

    That claim is just absurd. If it were true, my Mac-using friends with the Nexus Ones would be screaming bloody murder at me about it.

  71. Usability matters, and Android is, at best, at the level of Windows 3.1 or pre-KDE/GNOME Linux. I’ve been hacking Unix since 1991 and I can’t figure out how to delete my emails on the EVO.

    I wouldn’t go that far. I’d say Windows 2K or XP with lots of vendor-supplied cruft preloaded.

  72. > Ultimately Android phones (and the EVO in particular) are awesome if your time is worth
    > nothing. Android vs. iPhone is like Slackware and Gentoo vs. Fedora and Ubuntu: you can
    > make it work, or you can get something that simply does work.

    Have you used Slackware recently? ‘Making it work’ for me usually just involves setting the default runlevel to 4 after installation (or, actually, during if I am in a hurry) and, if I feel like it, chosing a WM other than KDE. And furthermore any configuration I have to do early on is just that fewer headaches I have down the road. But, hey, I can’t stand Ubuntu.

    I would have said Arch & Gentoo instead, and even then it’s kind of a poor analogy. I think Jeff’s XP+Cruft is closer to the mark. I am glad for Android’s existence, but what I have seen and used of it, I have little interest. Personally, I figure The One Smartphone for me is another two years out or so, so I’m waiting patiently.

  73. “But the improvements are mainly in the hardware….”

    Of course. Apple has *always* been first about the hardware, then about the UI, then the software last. It’s hardly a surprise to see them repeating the same pattern in smartphone design.

  74. Three additional problems with iPhone 4, as I see it:

    - Battery still not user-replaceable.
    - Front glass still not user-replaceable.
    - Flash storage is still fixed and not user-upgradable.

    Compare to the EVO 4G:

    - Replacing the battery is (literally) a snap.
    - Front glass is user-replaceable
    - Flash storage uses a standard SDHC card for unlimited storage. Each card can be 2GB to 32GB.

    The iPhone 4 cannot ever be someone’s primary computing device for these three reasons. Also, all this talk about EVO’s battery? The battery that’s included in the box has 23% more capacity than an iPhone 3GS; turning off stuff when you don’t need it means you get a longer battery life than 3GS, a feature the Dark Turtlenecked One touted as exclusive to the iPhone 4.

  75. @Morgan
    “- Battery still not user-replaceable.
    - Front glass still not user-replaceable.
    - Flash storage is still fixed and not user-upgradable.”

    Yes, these have been such problems with the people buying iPods… I could see all those customers flocking away from the iPod because replacing its battery was a pain in the neck, back then.

    I get your point about it being in a different league than the usual phone or mp3 player, but seriously, of the people with enough money to afford an iPod or EVO and make it their primary computing platform, how many do you think will wait until the battery dies before replacing the phone because a new one is available? What’s the period between the releases of 3G, 3Gs and 4? Oh, yes, one year. Does the battery really not last one year?

    Perhaps I come off as an iPod fan. I’m not. But these complaints sound bogus to me. I never even thought of replacing the glass of a phone, much less if I’m buying a new one in such a short time.

  76. One more thing about LTE. During the last round of FCC spectrum auction, Verizon managed to secured themselves a contiguous block of spectrum for LTE. It’s pretty easy for them to use that spectrum. AT&T managed to get get several different block of spectrum, which makes their implementation more difficult. This is adding to their difficulty of rolling out LTE.

  77. @Adriano: Nobody’s buying a new phone every year, and what’s more, nobody’s replacing their PC every year either. Besides, you’re not getting the upshot of my statement. Anything that fits in your pocket is bound to take some abuse from time-to-time. Non-user-replaceable means you’re dead in the water until you can take the phone in for service or replacement.

    Say my smartphone is dead (again, it’s ultraportable, so that’s not hard to imagine). At least with an Android OS phone, I can pull the SD card, plug into a PC and (hopefully) pull the data off of it, with an iPhone, not so much.

  78. >>Usability matters, and Android is, at best, at the level of Windows 3.1 or pre-KDE/GNOME Linux.
    >>
    >> That claim is just absurd. If it were true, my Mac-using friends with the Nexus Ones would be
    >> screaming bloody murder at me about it.

    it could also be that your Mac-using friends who carry Android phones only know how good Android is, and don’t know how it compares to the UX on iphone (sorry, ‘iOS’).

    In fact, I’d expect that most of your friends would open 2-4 shell windows (Terminal.app) on MacOS X and then just run things from there. (maybe a browser, but do they run safari or firefox?)

    They might not ‘grok’ the Mac ‘experience’, either.

  79. For a long time, iPhone felt like a Lexus while Android was more like a Kia. With recent upgrades, Android has transformed into more of a Honda. But with iPhone 4, the iPhone is now an Aston Martin.

    But the crazy thing is that the iPhone is an Aston Martin with a Honda price. Meanwhile, Android remains a Honda at a Honda price — it’s a good deal, but it’s not an iPhone-like great deal.

  80. “Say my smartphone is dead (again, it’s ultraportable, so that’s not hard to imagine). At least with an Android OS phone, I can pull the SD card, plug into a PC and (hopefully) pull the data off of it, with an iPhone, not so much.”

    WIth an iPhone, your entire phone is backed up on your Windows or Mac PC. Every bit. You can initialize a brand new phone to be exactly like the broken one. With a handful of clicks in iTunes (and a long wait to write lots of bits to flash memory).

    I tried an HTC Evo at a Sprint store tonight. Impressive! The bigger, and apparently brighter screen (then the Incredible) makes a huge difference. The slight increase in size of the keyboard keys made for fewer typos. The camera takes beautiful photos and videos. And the built-in speaker was good and loud, for those of us who use our phones as 21st century boom boxes. It also helped that the Sprint store had a helpful and knowledgeable sales guy, who has an HTC Hero and is looking forward to upgrading. Nobody even acknowledged my existence at the Verizon store.

    It’s still not as pretty as the new iPhone, but my choice isn’t crystal clear any more.

  81. >it could also be that your Mac-using friends who carry Android phones only know how good Android is, and don’t know how it compares to the UX on iphone (sorry, ‘iOS’).

    No, they know what the iPhone is like, all right. Their kids in Srattle and Austin have iPhones (the fact that they don’t is partly a carrier issue).

  82. Their kids in Srattle and Austin have iPhones (the fact that they don’t is partly a carrier issue).

    I have to say, I think at this point the largest obstacle to the iPhone’s continued success is the carrier, not the hardware or the software. That’s not to say that there are no reasons to prefer an Android phone (pick your favorite) to the iPhone; there obviously are. I just don’t think that those reasons are going to be nearly as compelling for a large segment of the market as “and you can get it with a carrier that doesn’t suck.”

  83. I am cheering on the competitive pressure here. Yesterday, I got to play with an iPhone 3GS and a Nexus One…and, sorry, Eric – the iPhone 3GS, on inferior hardware – was a pleasanter experience in lots of little, fairly subtle UI-focused ways.

    Hopefully, the headhunting Google did from Palm will pay dividends, but I suspect that even if it does, it’s going to be at the expense of the extreme hackability.

  84. @Morgan
    “Nobody’s buying a new phone every year, and what’s more, nobody’s replacing their PC every year either.”
    So all the buyers of an iPhone 4G are new users? And the buyers of 3Gs iPhones were all new users? Or did they upgrade within their plans (which means subsidized hardware, yes, but also more people buying from the apple app store, and possibly itunes). I also don’t understand what a PC has to do with this. We’re talking about easily replaceable, easily carried boxes, and you add a PC into the mix?

    “Besides, you’re not getting the upshot of my statement. Anything that fits in your pocket is bound to take some abuse from time-to-time. Non-user-replaceable means you’re dead in the water until you can take the phone in for service or replacement.”
    I thought I did get the point of your argument. I replied that many, many people use ipods, iphones and loads of other large screen paraphernalia in the same way that you mention, and they’ve had no relevant trouble. I mean, I’ve seen articles about people complaining because of the difficulty of changing an ipod battery, and it never stopped anyone else from buying.

    Furthermore, you rebut
    “> With a handful of clicks in iTunes…
    Yeah, there’s your problem.”

    and afterwards say
    “at least with an Android OS phone, I can pull the SD card, plug into a PC and (hopefully) pull the data off of it”
    Hopefully? With one, I’ve got a clear path of backup and recovery, with the other, a ‘hopefully’? You’re not doing android phones a favor with that phrasing.

  85. So all the buyers of an iPhone 4G are new users? And the buyers of 3Gs iPhones were all new users? Or did they upgrade within their plans (which means subsidized hardware, yes, but also more people buying from the apple app store, and possibly itunes).

    For most cell providers (I assume AT&T is no exception), in order to get the full credit, you need to sign up for a 2-year contract, which means that you get a phone every 2 years, not every year. That’s about the same frequency I replace my PCs, though sometimes I might wait as long as 3 years. I doubt I’m that unusual.

    I replied that many, many people use ipods, iphones and loads of other large screen paraphernalia in the same way that you mention, and they’ve had no relevant trouble.

    And many, many people haven’t ever had to have their PC hardware serviced either. What’s your point? Mine is that smartphones are even more important to most people than even their PCs because it’s something that’s with them all the time, and hence they tend to rely on it even more than a PC. Your comparison to an iPod is irrelevant; it’s a digital media player, hardly someone’s perceived lifeline.

    Hopefully? With one, I’ve got a clear path of backup and recovery, with the other, a ‘hopefully’? You’re not doing android phones a favor with that phrasing.

    “Hopefully” meaning that what’s wiped out the phone hasn’t wiped out the SD card. There’s nothing stopping me (or anyone else) from a doing a bit-for-bit copy of the SD card and what’s more is that I can do it with ordinary tools (like the Unix ‘dd’ command). I can even automate it if I so choose. Relying on a proprietary, closed-source application that’s known for being buggy and poorly designed seems a bit more scary to me.

  86. @Morgan: I thought we were talking about the battery and the front glass, not doomsday scenarios. Two years is not a reasonable period for an Apple battery to last? And have the iPhone and iPod glasses not resisted 2 years? I haven’t heard any uproar so far.

    You complain about some clicks in iTunes, but using dd is totally fine? and you call dd an ‘ordinary’ application? One where misplacing the input and output nets you a useless card, with no warning? Are you pulling my leg?

  87. Seems to me the iPhone is good for the Android and vice versa while we consumers reap the benefits of the first revolution in computing technology in decades where there is *gasp* actually competition. This isn’t the PC revolution dominated by Microsoft, or the .com revolution dominated by IE. Sure, we’re still largely in the midst of the same old Cathedral vs. Bazaar conflict, but it is safe to say Apple is far more cognizant of things like standards and much more open than Microsoft ever was/is. This new wave of mobile computing has the ability to restore the trust people should have had in computing before BSODs, non-stop security issues, and browser incompatibility made people expect their technology to fail rather than be able to rely on it.

    While I agree with our host that the next year or two will be very interesting (especially for carriers), I don’t think the Android is the doom of iOS or vice versa. Google needs iOS right now and Apple needs Android though neither company will admit as much. Both platforms have improvements to make and as long as they have each other, I have every confidence those changes will be made far quicker than if there was only one dominant platform.

  88. >I don’t think the Android is the doom of iOS or vice versa.

    Whether one is the doom of the other has never been the question. Whether the platforms of the next generation will be open or closed is the top-level question; the present-time question that implies is whether or not Android will achieve and keep majority market share.

  89. > You complain about some clicks in iTunes, but using dd is totally fine? and you call dd an ‘ordinary’ application? One where misplacing the input and output nets you a useless card, with no warning? Are you pulling my leg?

    Ordinary as in it is not specific to the iPhone. For some things, you want low level unixy applications, for other high level graphical ones. It’s the choice that counts. A graphical backup application for android is coming faster than a quality, robust, open source, time-tested one for the iPhone.

    BTW, can’t you read the iPhone file-system from Linux (and thus steal peoples files).

  90. @Adriano:

    I thought we were talking about the battery and the front glass, not doomsday scenarios.

    Two completely different, yet related ideas/topics. In my OP, they were separate bullet items, no?

    You complain about some clicks in iTunes, but using dd is totally fine? and you call dd an ‘ordinary’ application? One where misplacing the input and output nets you a useless card, with no warning? Are you pulling my leg?

    What’s wrong with dd? The grand thing about Unix is that writing a backup application for Android or SD-card using smartphones in general is simple: I could easily write a GTK or QT frontend for dd in Python over the weekend, which could prevent me from doing stupid things like misplacing input and output.

    The whole thing would be open source and largely bulletproof since dd is a time-tested, stable and mature program with decades of history to prove it, unlike, say iTunes, which is well-known for being a piece of crap that breaks when you sneeze at it.

    (The grand thing about OSS is that someone probably already has written something like that. *performs a quick google search* yup. It’s written in Perl with what looks like a Tk GUI. Can’t have everything I guess. ;))

  91. Are you really serious in all this silliness that you write?

    Android has yet to catch up with the existing iPhone OS in any significant way, and nothing that the Android goons have promised comes anywhere close to iOS4. About the only feasible way you can home for a comparison is if you create some kind of completely out-of-context feature chart or ludicrous specification listing. “Oh, my Android phone has a higher megapixel camera!” (completely leaving out the fact that megapixels are the last major concern of anyone who knows the first thing about image quality. A 4 megapixel Nikon D2hs from 2005 will blow away any 8 megapixel Android phone, for example.

    Look, Eric, your goofy open vs closed, cathedral vs bazaar notions simply don’t hold up. You’re left with.. what? WIndows versus the original Mac? Beta vs VHS? And even those two cornerstone arguments can only be regarded as semi-plausible.

    Sorry, kids, Android is already dead. It will only be remembered as a cheap imitation and it will never hold the kind of dominance in the smartphone market of Windows. Oh, yes, they are selling a few phones here and there. But the iPhone is the force in this market, remains the true standard, and will be the preferred development platform.

    God, some of you raving Android “open! open!” fanboys might be somewhat tolerable if you weren’t throwing all your entire souls into supporting what you claim to be “open platform” which is really nothing more than a big, evil company (Google) trying to rip off the innovation and excellence of the iPhone.

    Couldn’t you guys at least come up with a goofy “Linux phone” and hurry to consign yourself to utter irrelevancy?

  92. esr writes: “Whether the platforms of the next generation will be open or closed is the top-level question; the present-time question that implies is whether or not Android will achieve and keep majority market share.”

    Dear Lord.

    It’s not either/or. You should know better.

    And majority share is also irrelevant. All sorts of powerful cultural products don’t have majority share. Even if the Android user base becomes larger for a day, a week, or a month, it is fundamentally irrelevant if the platform is not successful in other ways. Those ways would be the profitability of the platform, the vibrancy of the developer community, and so many other things.

    The platforms of the future won’t be open or closed. There will be both (as much as you freetards and opentards resent choice, I hate to break it to you.. we will have a choice.) Some will be able to have their nice “walled garden”, others will be able to run around in their open sewer.

  93. “I could easily write a GTK or QT frontend for dd in Python over the weekend”
    I thought we were also talking about what was already here, not about promises of something you could add ‘in a weekend’ (let’s forget about integration, polish, usability testing, etc, shall we?) . And above all else: a ‘normal’ user (FMany,ManyVO) would think “why should I have to write a backup app for my smartphone?”

    “Two completely different, yet related ideas/topics. In my OP, they were separate bullet items, no?”
    In my answer, wasn’t I speaking of the first two items? Why separate them in the first place if you assume my answers speak about all three together? I meant that two of your points seemed absurd or overly strict to me, even if we talk about smartphones and not of mp3/video players subject to the same strain. I’m still not convinced otherwise. Perhaps if my nokia’s front glass breaks in a few months I’ll be more sympathetic.

  94. A 4 megapixel Nikon D2hs from 2005 will blow away any 8 megapixel Android phone, for example.

    I actually know something about image quality, having been a graphics professional (and yes, I even worked on a Mac! I know, you must be shocked.)

    It all depends on how large your images are going to be. Megapixels does make a huge difference if you want to blow your pictures up to large-format print sizes.

    Overall, I agree with your statement, but the same Nikon D2Hs also blows away the camera in the iPhone 4 as well and blowing hot air about megapixels being irrelevant is pointless. Of course a camera built into a smartphone is never going to compare to a professional image camera. But the 8 megapixel + flash camera built into the EVO 4G is simply a better camera than the one built into the iPhone and waving your hands in the air with strawman arguments is pointless.

    God, some of you raving Android “open! open!” fanboys might be somewhat tolerable if you weren’t throwing all your entire souls into supporting what you claim to be “open platform” which is really nothing more than a big, evil company (Google) trying to rip off the innovation and excellence of the iPhone.

    Nothing Apple does is particularly innovative or new. iPhone is a result of what Steve Jobs does best: ripoff ideas that came from his friends from Xerox PARC and commercialize them with some pretty-shiny thrown into the mix.

  95. Hm. I don’t buy into either phone camera beating a DSLR, for one reason: optics. 4 megapixels is already at the range where the sensor won’t hide optics flaws any more. For the same reason, the 8 megapixel camera will beat the 5 megapixel camera only if the optics are comparable in quality.

    Personally, I think it’s all just one big DSW until phone makers start using name brand optics.

  96. Well, exactly. That’s why I referred to Leif’s argument about the DSLR camera as being a ‘strawman’. Phone cameras just use simple CMOS sensors; they don’t really have much in the way of optics. If you want professional-quality images, you need a professional-quality camera, and that’s where a DSLR and its fancy optics comes in. From an optics perspective, there’s little or no difference between the EVO 4G and the iPhone 4 (or, really, an point-and-shoot digital); ergo, the 8 megapixel is still better than the 5 megapixel camera.

  97. 8 megapixels may be better than 5 – but only if the optics match up. Put mediocre optics in front of an 8 megapixel sensor and you’ve got 8 megapixels of mediocrity. 8 megapixels of mediocrity is not significantly bigger than 5 megapixels of mediocrity; at the enlargement sizes where the number of megapixels matters, the optics will kill you.

    That’s why I say it’s just a DSW, and the comparison is fundamentally meaningless.

  98. Sensor size is also a factor; the sensors in 10 megapixel cellphone cameras are just too small to allow enough light to fall on them to give you 10 megapixels’ worth of detail. What they do is they boost the image so that it roughly matches the dynamic range the average user expects of a photograph, but the result is a grainy mess. You pretty much have to go to SLR cameras in order to get sensors large enough for all those megapixels to mean anything.

  99. Morgan,

    I understand the point you are trying to make, but since none of us have played with the iPhone 4, it’s kind of difficult to suggest that the EVO’s camera is better.

    Generally speaking, megapixels is an irrelevant stat in a camera once you’re past just a few. About the only thing more megapixels accomplishes is a greater consumption of memory space.

    My fundamental point remains: crowing about a phone with a 8 megapixel camera being superior to a phone with a 5 megapixel camera is downright silly.

  100. Oh, and Morgan, you can do better than this:

    “Nothing Apple does is particularly innovative or new. iPhone is a result of what Steve Jobs does best: ripoff ideas that came from his friends from Xerox PARC and commercialize them with some pretty-shiny thrown into the mix.”

    Oh, come on.

    Sure, the Apple II was just a “ripoff” of all sorts of things that existed. But it was Apple that had the vision to realize that consumers could want such a device.

    It seems remarkable to me that open source advocates regard “some pretty-shiny” or “a sexy user-interface” to be a derogatory comment. Out there, in the real world far away from the Linux desktop, people DO appreciate well-designed, well-organized, coherent, and usable interfaces.

    Ultimately an iPhone is a user interface. And everything about it is superior to Android’s. And the only aspects of Android that make it appealing on the market are the ways in which it tries to be iPhone-ish. And the major shortcomings and turn-offs are precisely in the ways that it fails to be “pretty-shiny.” For your average consumer, the Android is simply something kinda like an iPhone that they can get for a little less money on a carrier other than AT&T. That’s it. That’s all it is. And the majority of interest in it stems from the interest people have in the iPhone.

    Taking a product to market, packaging it in a way that people can understand, and all that entails DOES take innovation.

  101. Sure, the Apple II was just a “ripoff” of all sorts of things that existed. But it was Apple that had the vision to realize that consumers could want such a device.

    Actually, the Apple II was quite innovative. Woz’s floppy controller hack was, at the time, absolutely amazing.

    It seems remarkable to me that open source advocates regard “some pretty-shiny” or “a sexy user-interface” to be a derogatory comment. Out there, in the real world far away from the Linux desktop, people DO appreciate well-designed, well-organized, coherent, and usable interfaces.

    My ‘pretty-shiny’ refers to the industrial design and maybe some of the eye candy in the UI[*]. Honestly, Apple’s UI isn’t anything special anymore, and, if anything it’s a bit confusing for Windows users who aren’t used to the a single, common menubar. Specifically, my non-techie wife found it to be quite counter-intuitive and is far more pleased with GNOME’s coherent, well-designed, well-organized usable interface.

    [*] What I mean: Having eye candy in the UI just to have eye candy and not serve any particular usefulness to the user is almost pointless. Some ‘eye candy’ stuff like Expose is actually useful, which is why its functionality has been duplicated in X compositing managers like Compiz Fusion and widely deployed in desktop distros like Ubuntu.

    I’m not saying that I think Apple isn’t good at UI design — they are, and that’s why some things they do are widely copied. But, honestly, iOS doesn’t have that much on Android. It’s like Mac OS X vs. Windows or GNOME — yes, OS X’s GUI is probably better. But far more people consider Windows to be “good enough” than do not. (GNOME is a bit controversial because of the Linux stigma, but I think GNOME’s UI is pretty decent.)

  102. I’ve seen an iPhone 4, and Eric, you’re whistling past the graveyard here. Android will mop up the “also ran” business, but it’s destined to be the OS you get on the Chinese knock-offs, not a serious competitor to Apple.

    The display’s resolution means that text is beautifully sharp of course, but that’s not what really grabbed me. The shocking thing is the contrast. I watched some video clips on it, and it’s hard to even describe the effect of an 800:1 contrast ratio at 325DPI.

    Now, you can sing the praises of Android’s political implications all you want (free software! Huzzah!), but at the end of the day, Android is a Java platform, with all the same drawbacks that previous Java phone incarnations have had: write once, debug everywhere.

  103. If I were an Apple marketing guy, I’d be asking “How the hell can I compete against the EVO 4G with this?”

    Actually, if you were an Apple marketing guy, you’d be asking “how in the hell are we going to avoid pissing the customers off while we try to catch up with this mountain of back-orders?” The iPhone 4 is breaking the sales records for units sold at the launch that the iPad set just a couple of months ago.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the Apple employees are asking “how in the hell can we increase production? How soon can we get that same pixel density into a panel the size of the iPad’s display? How fast can we migrate iOS features back to the Mac, like we did with Core Animation and Core Location?” If you asked any Apple employee about any Android product, they’d tell you to let them know if they ever give up on that Java nonsense.

  104. Sorry, kids, Android is already dead.

    Nah, it’s not dead. It’s well on its way to being what you get if you can’t afford an iPhone. Android will kill off winmo, symbian, etc. You’ll see Android on $20 phones within two years.

  105. I want to know when we get 320 dpi on big screens. Oh haste the day.

    Well, that’s hard. Really, really hard. The chance of contamination wrecking a pixel is proportional to the area, for one thing: it’s much easier to make a 320 DPI display the size of an iPhone than the size of an iPad. The next problem is that the smaller the feature size, the more likely it is to get a flaw that takes out an entire row or column of pixels. A black, white, or cyan hairline that’s there all the time would render the panel unsellable.

    Then, there’s the problem of the sheer amount of data you’re moving. If we’re talking a 30″ display at 320DPI, then we’re probably not going to be able to feed it at 60Hz with a pair of dual-link DVI connections. It will probably have to wait for LightPeak, assuming the manufacturing issues are solvable in the next couple of years.

  106. Ultimately an iPhone is a user interface. And everything about it is superior to Android’s.

    Hmm, Apple seems to think that Android’s multitasking and folders were worth ripping off. And only the most delusional fanboys can argue that the iPhone notification system isn’t a complete joke compared to Android. And then there’s Google Voice, free turn-by-turn navigation, widgets for one-click access to common settings, and plenty more. Yes, I’m sure all of that only matters to loser geeks, much like pixels per inch didn’t matter until a few weeks ago even though Droid and Nexus One users have been enjoying “retina displays” for months.

  107. Specifically, my non-techie wife found it to be quite counter-intuitive and is far more pleased with GNOME’s coherent, well-designed, well-organized usable interface.

    Only because she’s been miseducated by UI designers who have been Doing It Wrong for 25 years.

    By now everyone who knows the first thing about UI design understands that the menu bar does in fact belong at the top of the screen — because of Fitts’s Law. Menu bar at the top means there is effectively infinite vertical target space in each menu item, making it far easier to hit with the mouse.

    This is pretty much one of the earliest canonical examples of Apple getting it and everyone else not.

  108. If they’ve been doing that for 25 years, and only Apple keeps insisting on Fitt’s law, perhaps it is a stronger pull to actually ‘use what you know’ (or ‘use what your nephew can explain to you) than ‘infinite vertical space’. Jus’ saying.

    The Gnome UI actually _uses_ both the top and bottom of the screen with menus, just not the one you’re talking about. This is now a case of ‘My menu is better than your menu’.

  109. >Only because she’s been miseducated by UI designers who have been Doing It Wrong for 25 years.

    I see. Then, according to you, users should want what UI theorists say is right, not what actually makes them comfortable and productive.

    Well, at least you’re consistent. Your politics is like that, too.

  110. >> Only because she’s been miseducated by UI designers who have been Doing It Wrong for 25 years.
    > I see. Then, according to you, users should want what UI theorists say is right, not what actually makes them comfortable and productive.

    You’re both making it black and white. It’s a case of ‘is it more productive to do it this way’ with emphasis on ‘more’. Both Apple and MS spend millions on usability tests (Gnome did have access to some Sun tests, IIRC), I’m not going to argue for one or the other. Do you feel ‘comfortable and productive’ with the Windows UI? Or with the Mac OS UI? I certainly miss some comforts of GNOME when using Windows (chiefly, the multiple desktops by default, solved in part by virtuawin).

    Are you actually trying to say that one of the UIs is absolutely more productive, for all purposes? I don’t think so.

  111. Apple seems to think that Android’s multitasking and folders were worth ripping off.

    No, they were botched. Apple did it right: Multi-tasking on iOS isn’t a battery-killer.

  112. Then, according to you, users should want what UI theorists say is right, not what actually makes them comfortable and productive.

    What the UI theorists at Apple say is right is what actually makes them more productive and, in many cases, comfortable. That’s because Apple invests millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours in testing its theories. For example, in addition to the usual Jobsian control-freakery reasons, the removal of arrow keys from the Mac keyboard was justified by the fact that the Mac simply didn’t need them; usability testing had determined that using the mouse to position the cursor is, in virtually all cases involving an able-bodied user, faster.

  113. Leif,

    You seem to be such an avid iphone supporter, yet you don’t appear to be using the default iphone media player, since you mentioned in your reply to me in another thread (the real stakes in the smartphone wars) that you are using VLC to play a song. VLC is open source. But I don’t think Steve Jobs would allow VLC in his app store for the iphone?

    What type of phone do you use then, if you are using VLC to play a song you purchased on itunes?
    If you are using an iphone, then you must have unlocked it or jailbroken it to install VLC? What would motivate you to do that? Maybe because it is not open source?

    I am just speculating here, but really, you have genuinely peaked my curiosity.

  114. Shane,

    VLC is on my computer. The primary reason that it is there is in order to play all the various oddball open source media files that are floating around. It’s not necessarily my preferred player. I simply used it to play a song as merely an example that iTunes content does not seemed to be as locked down as many people imagine.

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