Is the iPhone Really All That?

Yes, it's happened, just as all the speculation for months has told us it would:Apple's iPhone is coming to Verizon. There seems to be no question that it's going to be a big hit, with current AT&T subscribers switching over as well as new converts picking up the iPhone on Verizon. Many people have no doubt been waiting for just this opportunity. And all I can think is: What's the big deal?

Here's the thing. I have no doubt that the iPhone is a great smartphone. I'll just restate that to avoid any possibility of being misconstrued as slamming this Apple device: I have no doubt that the iPhone is a great smartphone. When it was originally released four years ago, it was truly worlds ahead of the competition— revolutionary, in Apple parlance. Each new version has only improved on that original release (although incrementally, not revolutionarily as Apple might want us to believe).

However, those same intervening years have seen the release of many other great smartphones, primarily on Google's Android OS platform. I won't list all the phones; but what's important to note is that these phones have technical specs that rival or surpass the iPhone, are available from multiple hardware makers, and on multiple carriers. True, no doubt there are a lot of really bad models out there masquerading as top contenders, but it doesn't usually take much research to figure out what to avoid.

You can make the case that a top selling point for the iPhone is the Apple App Store. Not only do you have a huge number of available apps to choose from, but the applications available are vetted to assure you're getting good quality. That's not something you can ever expect from the Android Market, where you're more or less left relying on other users' reviews to judge whether an app is safe or useful for your particular phone model. When it comes down to it, though, I'm not convinced apps are a huge deciding factor in choosing a new phone, so I don't think we can say this is the reason for the success of the iPhone.

The fact of the matter is I can't really see any logical reason why the iPhone continues to hold the public's attention the way it does. As I've said (twice), I know it's a great device. But there are tons of great devices available now, with many different types of options not available on the iPhone, and it seems like consumer interest should be more divided. I'm honestly curious as to why people still think the iPhone is the must-have device.

I have to admit that even though I write for a Windows-centric publication, I've always been an Apple supporter. For personal, home computing, I've only ever owned Macs. (There's now a Dell Windows laptop in the house that my wife uses, although I think she'd rather have a MacBook.). Back in the '90s, I was even one of those guys who would tell you how superior Macs were to PCs. For my personal music player, I have an iPod and wouldn't think of using anything else. And I even like iTunes—as heretical as that seems to be to some people.

Nonetheless, this fanatical devotion to the iPhone still mystifies me. When I was choosing a smartphone a year ago, the iPhone was a possibility, which I did consider, although never too seriously. Even then, I was growing skeptical of all the hoopla—not to mention I would have had to deal with the problems of the AT&T network. And that was before the iPhone 4 release, Antennagate, and Apple's inexplicably bad response to its customers' complaints. That situation more than anything has turned me off of the iPhone, if not the other Apple products.

So help me out. Seriously: What's so great about the iPhone that you can't get on any other platform or device? Do you consider the limitations in the iPhone's mail and calendaring implementation ( as Paul Robichaux has pointed out) a true drawback, or do they simply not affect your user experience on the device? Is the app ecosystem a bigger draw than I've given it credit for? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

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Discuss this Blog Entry 3

on Jan 13, 2011
What's so great about the iPhone. When I got mine, the WinMo interface was stagnant and was a hassle to upgrade. Sure, nor Android has caught on and it's better than the old WinMo, but I have an iPhone already. Would I get an Android based phone now. Probably not. I picked one up and tried to use it and it was confusing. I'm no computer ID10T, but the interface was bad. Sure it can be customized, but then I still have to deal with the viruses and data leaks. And let's not forget, the whole purpose of Android is a Google marketing tool. SO that's not saying what's so great about the iPhone. Well, I have the iPad too. I can use the same apps. There's BARELY an Android tablet out yet. Again Apple beat everyone to market with a good device. So now I can do the same things on my phone and switch to my iPad and everything is basically in sync. There are more quality apps right now that work better on the iPhone. Maybe Android will catch up. Maybe it will get better than the iPhone but for now, I like the iPhone. Apple may even allow Apps to run on Mac OSX and then all the same interface can run on laptop/desktop, pad and phone. Pick the right device for the moment. I don't think any other platform has that seamless of an environment yet.
on Jan 14, 2011
Apple is a culture club. That's not a smart a** comment. It's simply true. People like being part of trendy, hip, and cool groups. Plus, Apple makes pretty decent products that incorporate good hardware and software design.

I am very dissappointed that Apple is lagging technically with the Verizon iPhone and the iPad. No 4G capability in either. No simultaneous data and phone on Verizon (due to CDMA and not the iPhone... but still), and the iPad is hobbled with lack of appropriate I/O hardware and cameras.

What I want is a pad with an integrated phone, plenty of memory, and all the I/O hardware needed to bridge the functionality we have in laptops, cell phones, and the current "pads".

As far as Apps, having over 300,000 apps in your store is somewhat comical and frankly ridiculous. Certainly not a criterion that makes the decision for me on which product to buy. Can one imagine wading thru 300,000 apps? Do we even need 300,000 apps? Give me an App store that has 100, or even 500 high quality Apps that I can actually use, and I'll be just fine.

on Jan 14, 2011
Reading recent news about how less than half the Android phones have been updated to Froyo (33% on Verizon is the BEST - pathetic) is one of the reasons I stick with iPhone. You want the latest, greatest OS on your phone? Don't buy an Android. It'll probably NOT have the most recent OS when you buy it. You might get upgraded someday, and forget it after 6 months to a year. Hacking the OS to install an update unofficially is not mainstream and not the answer for the general public, so that doesn't count. The world is not full of geeks. I prefer to spend my money with a company that actually supports the products they sell during the time I'm most likely to continue using it (my contract term duration).

"Fit and finish" also matter to me. iOS has it. Android doesn't. I don't care what the hardware specs are if the usability is terrible. iOS isn't perfect, either, since there are certainly improvements that can be made, but it definitely the better experience overall. Even Windows Phone 7 came out version 1 with a better overall experience than Android has now.

Since someone else mentioned the apps, the Apple App Store is also more polished than the Android Marketplace. The number of apps doesn't matter, really. Android seems to have a glut of ad-serving background screen "apps"; far more than fart apps on the iPhone, so the typical iPhone's "fart app" count inflating doesn't fly anymore. What matters is quality apps. I read lots of comments that iPhone apps are better quality than Android. This does not surprise me since Apple has the gate to the store that means an app has to at least pass some minimum level of functionality to be available. With Android any piece of crap can be thrown into the pile, and apparently there's more crap in Android than fart for iPhone. Even the same app ported between platforms seems better on iPhone than Android. (Note that I'm taking this from others who have compared, since I have not actually had the opportunity to do so myself). I LIKE my gated community with the iPhone. It keeps out the riff-raff.

Speaking of riff-raff, you can keep your network and custom launcher crapware off my phone, thanks. If the pure OS is designed right, then it doesn't need those extras to slow it down and make it work "better". If you need a launcher to make it usable, then that says the base OS interface sucks and should be fixed.

So, what it really seems to come down to is that Android is disposable. What you buy is what you get and don't expect it to do any more beyond that. You might get lucky, you might not. However, the iPhone will be updated for at least 2 years after you get it for new things you don't have now. And the experience will be what Apple designed it. If you don't like that, then I perfectly understand it. At least you KNOW what you're getting with it.

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