During the iDesign conference in London I heard Bill Thompson talk about design’s role in the world of technology and mentioned the locking down of Apple’s newest portable products. I did some reading and found quite a lot under the surface. I was very close to buying an iPod Touch, but now I’m reconsidering.
Apple has spent a lot of time trying to ensure that anyone who buys an iPod is completely locked in to an Apple-centred world in which they use iTunes, buy from the iTunes Music Store, and purchase only Apple-certified iPod accessories.
The recent launch of the new range of iPods, including the video Nano and the iPod Touch, has shown just how far Apple is willing to go to make life difficult for its users in order to shore up its dominant position in the market for music players and downloads.
Three Strikes, You’re out:
One: If you had gone to the trouble of making your own ringtones for your iPhone using clips of songs from your library then you will find they are all gone the next time you sync with the latest iTunes. Apple now sells ringtones to its US customers for $0.99, and it would rather you paid up than made them yourself.
Two: It seems that the new generation of iPods will not output video through cables or docks that aren’t Apple authorised and have a specific “authentication” chip. Apple charges a hefty cut for joining its approved suppliers programme, and this is a way to ensure that vendors sign up.
Three: iTunes keeps your songs organized using a database, and over the years a number of free and open source music players have been developed that can read and write this database format. Any Linux user who wants to use an iPod needs a non-Apple library manager. Programmes like gtkpod, Rhythmbox and Banshee are easy to use and don’t try to sell you songs all the time, but now Apple has added a new feature to the iTunes database, a special number which is calculated from your list of files using a process only Apple knows. If the number is wrong, your library looks empty. And because the free players don’t know the algorithm used, they can no longer be used with iTunes/iPod.
These three examples point to a larger strategy that Apple has adopted. It may be a strategy that Apple has had for a while as the iPod was never really that open a device. But now it’s getting to the point where users will really start to feel the squeeze.
This got me thinking about the iPhone. I have to admit it, Apple has done a great job of making the iPhone an alluring gadget. Here at our own studio most of us are lusting over the iPhone, even if it’s still unusable as a phone in Canada. It’s touch-screen interface is a pleasure to use and oh so intuitive.
I am an early adopter, the iPhone is made for people like me. Back in 2000 when Apple first launched its iPod, I was right there, then it was miles ahead of the pack.
Apple has been extremely slow to improve upon that first generation iPod. With nothing more than cosmetic changes to the original, apart from the fundamental video capability. The iPhone has been a long time coming and it’s a bit of a closed box when you look at it closely. With a price tag of $640, you’d expect it to have at least the same amount of features as some other smart phones.
Here are some of its deficits:
1. Can’t exchange contact information via Bluetooth with other PDAs,
2. Can’t listen to music with Bluetooth headphones,
3. Bluetooth can only be used to answer phonecalls (limited)
4. Web browser is not flash compatible
5. No zooming for the camera
6. No flash for the camera
7. No video camera
8. NOT compatible internationally like most other smart phones
Sure, there are hacks?Hacktheiphone.com is full of tutorials and software but that’s besides the point. It’s clear that the iPhone is a first generation product. It didn’t really dissuade me back in 2000 when I bought the iPod, but I’m going to wait and see what direction Apple will take it.