Random thoughts on the iPhone
July 02, 2007
After much line sitting, the iPhone has been loose in the streets for a whole weekend now, and awfully shorts reviews are popping up all over the internet. “Reviews” is a rather poor word, however, since they’re little more than brief usage reports, with the occasional tidbit of useful information thrown in for those of us sans Apple’s latest toy. Fortunately for me, instead of being annoyed at EDGE outages, I can spend my time not cursing AT&T and instead throw some more thoughts out about the iPhone and where future hacking attempts may lead.
While stuck in my T-Mobile contract for another year, unless I want to pay early termination penalties, I’m still torn about the iPhone, because it’s still very cool despite the fact that it only offers one super-useful feature for me, which is proper web page rendering, unlike what I currently get on my Sidekick III. I’m weary of anything running on Windows Mobile OS, which is part of the reason I use Danger’s OS. As it stands, minus the crippled web browser and a somewhat more difficult time syncing my Sidekick III to OS X, I’m pretty happy with the device. That’s not to say I don’t have other annoyances regarding it, but it’s a nice gadget overall, with rate plans for telephony that blows plans from other carriers away. Since iPhone functionality isn’t leaps and bounds ahead of other “smart” phones at market, justifying an iPhone purchase (especially if one already has an iPod) is simply too difficult.
What could change my mind about an iPhone purchase, however, is a way to hack the device to work on T-Mobile. With SIM card swaps already a tool in getting certain iPhone activations completed, I thoroughly expect T-Mobile iPhone SIM cards to be showing up for sale in the US if T-Mobile gets the iPhone contract for overseas use. Since one can already use T-Mobile phones overseas (albeit with roaming costs), I can’t imagine T-Mobile would intentionally prevent its European customers from using their iPhones in the United States, which gives me hope that some sort of finagling will allow U.S. customers to obtain and activate iPhones domestically. In the meantime, of course, some people have already found a way to download the iPhone’s firmware, and have begun to investigate its security flaws.
Quick aside: apparently, Apple is just as stupid as T-Mobile about disregarding the MMS protocol on a modern cellular telephone, since the iPhone, and the Sidekick III, both lack MMS functionality. While one can get around this by sending photos to a particular e-mail address which forwards the respective photos to a particular phone, one still can’t receive MMS messages. At least, on the iPhone, one can load up silly MMS-repository web pages, which remains broken for the Sidekick III.
Until a proper cross-network hack for the iPhone presents itself, it’ll be another year before I feel the need to flirt with AT&T. Even then, much is contingent on AT&T telephony costs going down to more evenly compete with T-Mobile’s offerings. By then, I’ll expect a second-generation iPhone to hit shelves, with upgrades surpassing mere storage increases. For one, a GPS receiver is important, as well as a more flexible method for third-party developers to get their apps on the phone. Nevermind little things like mp3 ringtone selection, file storage with a respective browser, and VOIP functionality.
Right now, the iPhone is, perhaps, the coolest phone at market, but its functionality will ultimately determine how lasting an impression it makes. A big part of an impression is how widespread one can push their product in a given market, and limiting a phone to one carrier doesn’t bode well for this type of market penetration. After all, one of the things that made the iPod popular was the fact that iTunes was released on Windows, and not relegated to OS X. Right now, T-Mobile (and other GSM carriers) are the Windows-level component in the iPhone equation. Five years of AT&T exclusivity is a long time in the Digital Age, and Apple is going to need to continue to impress with future iPhone updates and revisions in order to keep everyone’s attention in the meantime.