I have never been much of a fan of Apple. Perhaps it's because I resent them for surviving the platform wars in the 90's while my favourite technology, the far-superior Amiga computer, was squandered by Commodore and faded into obsolescence. Or perhaps it's because for all those Apple fans who beat the drum exulting the superiority of Macintosh machines, my experience reveals that Macs have the same amount of irritations as Windows machines, just different ones (side note: I sold Macs for over a year in the early 90s, around the time when Apple was switching to the PowerPC processor). For whatever reason, I am unable to embrace the religion of Apple and, in fact, I resist it at every opportunity. Which is often quite difficult since several of my respected co-workers are ardent Mac fans and I am inundated daily with Apple love talk while I grimace and grumble in the corner.
So then, what possessed me to place aside my hatred of all things from Cupertino and eagerly buy an iPhone 3GS 16 months ago on a competing carrier while I was only half-way through my 3 year contract with my HTC Touch (a Windows Mobile 6 phone)? Quite simply it was and still is the best smart-phone experience available. Even Android hasn't been able to achieve the same elegance and integration offered by the iOS device. Here is what makes the iPhone the must-have mobile device for me:
- Large screen (for a phone, though Android phones are just as large now or larger)
- Extremely responsive capacitive touch screen (again, Android matches it here)
- Elegant and fluid user-interface (Android seems similar though I have never used it)
- Availability of applications and extreme ease of purchase and installation
- Unmatched media management experience
- Killer-feature for me: it plugs into and integrates completely with my car stereo
While all these points are important, it's the last two or three that mean there is no alternative to the iPhone for me. While I'm not much of a music fan, I am a huge consumer of podcasts. I listen to them every day while commuting to and from work. It is the iPhone's media management capabilities combined with the ability to plug it into my car stereo that places it above all the rest. Other phones can be plugged into the AUX jack on my car, but only the iPhone integrates completely with it, allowing full control of the iPod feature via the radio's controls. And even if other phones had a similar dock connector, Android has almost no media story at all. How do you subscribe to podcasts and have them automatically updated on an Android phone? Windows Phone 7 is far better in this regard, relying on the relatively mature Zune media technology. However, Zune Marketplace support is extremely spotty outside the United States leaving the iPhone truly in a class by itself. Nothing can match the whole-package experience.
Which is why I was extremely frustrated when the iOS v4.2 update broke the compatibility with my car stereo. For over two months I was stuck listening to podcasts in the car with my headphones on like a sucker. Many users complained on the Apple discussion forums and conveyed the ambivalence of Apple technical support when they reported the issue. Even though the car stereo integration worked fine with every previous iOS version, Apple's official response to the v4.2 problem was "contact your vehicle manufacturer." Which brings up another reason I've been able to ward-off Apple religion for so long: Apple's astounding arrogance. Not that other tech companies aren't arrogant too, it's just that this makes Apple no different than anyone else. Lucky for me, a generous colleague who is a registered Apple developer set me up with the iOS 4.3 beta when it was finally posted and I'm happy to say it has fixed the car integration issue. But Apple has yet to release it to the general public.
So, while I'd happily switch my smart phone to a competing platform if I could, there just isn't anything else out there that meets my needs. It looks like I will continue to simultaneously praise and curse my iPhone for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, I'll keep my eye each new Android and Windows Phone release and hope for some kind of universal car-phone media integration standard. Yeah, looks like I'll be an iPhone owner for a long time.