Apples… and Oranges?

iphone-homeI’ve been a huge Apple fan for some time… not necessarily due to the computers (I’m a Java geek and always felt somewhat neglected on MacOS) but rather because of its iPod line of MP3 gizmos. Recently I finally got my shiny new iPhone and my personal Apple hysteria has been on a constant rise since then. Here’s why… and why I’m slightly annoyed (maybe just because I’m getting grumpy in my old days ;-)…

I love ist extendability and the cool new toys I get with it. Some of my most loved applications that helped changing my digital lifestyle are:

  • Shazam – which really supports my music listening habits enormously (I’m completely untalented as far as music goes and I can’t remember the names of artists and songs for my life – now I just need to activate Shazam and it will tell me most of the time which song right now is playing on the radio and I even can buy it immediately).
  • Newsstand – I always was too busy to read the various blogs and feeds that interest me (more on that in another post). Now I can do it while waiting for my toast to finish, while waiting for my girlfriend to pick up or whenever there are a few minutes of leisure time. So it enhances my ability to be even more busy… very neat πŸ™‚
  • Pocket God – hey, who doesn’t want to be a god πŸ˜‰
  • geoDefense – a very cool game. Again I’m just too stupid to get past the second medium level. For reasons I still do not understand I have failed for the hundredth time but I still love the challenge and will not proceed without beating that damned level.
  • Relationship – a really cool example about how one could make a lot of money with just a truly simple but great idea (it’s a small app that calculates all kinds of important dates concerning your relationship, e.g. when will you have been in love for 77777 hours – women seem to love it).
  • (and dozens more – I’m e.g. managing all my to do lists via iPhone now and that’s the best solution I could find so far)

And “Relationship” really broke the ice for me – since I love programming I really felt that I needed to learn to program for the iPhone (more on that in another post). After wrestling for a couple of days I finally decided to invest in a shiny new Macbook and bought a couple of books on iPhone programming. I would love to code a few of the applications I still miss and try to see if I won’t be able to recover my Macbook expenses with sales in the Apple App Store (hey, I always like to think of myself as a pretty decent programmer – I had to take that challenge πŸ˜‰

And then I started playing a lot more intensively with the Macbook andXCode. And noticed…

…that I really do not feel that Apple’s design are as great as they could be… at least not all the time. Just take a few points:

  • The German notebook keyboard is not even showing the [ and ] characters. Not a tremendous problem – Google quickly helped me, but… hey… what the hell?!? And I still find the non-standard placement very weird… Alt-5 and Alt-6…? Hello?!? So I need to research how to change the keyboard bindings on MacOS. Hopefully thatwill not be too much of a problem. It might seem like a minor problem… until you notice that you will be typing very many of those characters when coding Objective-C…
  • I also find the way closed apps are completely invisible when you also hide the… what’s the name… the shiny navigation bar at the bottom to conserve some screen space.
  • Dragging connections in XCode from outlets to objects is really fiddly… or I’m still doing it wrong.
  • While the touchpad gestures are extremely cool (I already miss two-finger-dragging as a paging replacement on my work notebooks) some features are still beyond my grasp – I e.g. fail to select another application on the application overview. And according to John Normans marvelous “The Design of Everyday Things” I fail to recognize this as my problem πŸ˜‰
  • Then there’s the iPhone itself… no EMS, just SMS?
  • A word completion feature that even after a month continues to suggest very strange (and non existing) words as completions for very correct and real words… seems like a neural network running amok.
  • And I continue to stumble over the active conversations in the SMS application (when reading a SMS you stay in the conversation thread with the sender… which caused me to send SMS to wrong persons again and again because I was accustomed to first write an SMS and then select the target from all my previous mobile phones).
  • I also find the way to rearrange icons across pages very tedious. Things continue to get messed up and sorting more than two or three icons really takes too much. A simpler selection interface (at least as an alternative) would probably have been much more useful than the (admittedly very shiny) drag feature.
  • And don’t get me started on the integrated calender… it is missing my most important feature… repeating appointments like “every thursday for the next 20 weeks”.
  • And the battery life… ugh. Sometimes I have to reload during the day although the iPhone was freshl charged in the morning.

But enough of that… the iPhone still is a marvelous gizmo and it’s more fun than any other mobile phone I ever had. And the amount of customization possible with new applications from the Apple store just is mind moggling – love it for all its minor warts πŸ™‚ (and the Macbook, too, so, dear Apple community, please don’t flame me). Nonetheless I’m really wondering why some of thise glitches get past Apples design gurus… people who think up the magnetic power chord plug and the whole Cocoa Touch interface really can do even better…

…and probably will be doing better with iPhone OS 3 in summer. I guess they just focussed on those features deemed most important to concquer a market share – and their success proves their point. Keep inventing!

2 Responses to “Apples… and Oranges?”

  1. Frej Berggren  on April 14th, 2009

    Just wanted to ask you if you know about the “Andoid” OS for cellphones (its being developed by google)? Its pretty much open source, you know. Id recomend it over the iphone, but thats just because im biased as hell against apple. πŸ™‚

    Check it out.

  2. Thomas_Biskup  on April 15th, 2009

    Yes, I know about Android. Currently I find the iPhone much preferrable due to the better infrastructure (e.g. iTunes, the App Store and the many people that already are accustomed to paying small amounts of money for interesting things ;-). Android is something I’m definitely watching, though. It’s just that I don’t own an Android phone and thus right now can’t do much about it…