The iPhone is NOT an Idiot Phone

By Matt Clark

But first a note from the Editor. Yeah, that’s me – Deelip. Matt Clark is an avid reader of this blog and finds it “informative and interesting”. Last year he left a job as a SolidWorks Support Technician at the VAR level for over six years. He has used the first generation iPhone and is currently using the iPhone 3G with the OS version 3.1.3. He has never used any other smartphones. He also uses a MacBook Pro with Mac OS X 10.6.2 and a Dell Precision M90 with XP Pro SP3.0. Matt is also a part-time computer science student.

Matt read my post “Is the iPhone an Idiot Phone?” and wanted to offer a counter view. I must say it is pretty interesting. Read on.

I recently read your blog post, “Is the iPhone an Idiot Phone?”  Most of your concerns were related to functionality. I made a list below of the points and concerns you made along with my comments.

1) Speed Dial – The iPhone has a speed dial.  It is the Contacts “Favorites”.  After adding some phone numbers to this list, you can access it by ensuring you are logged into the phone, quickly double-click the “Home” button, touch the contact you wish to call, and the call is placed. It is really quick. I ensured this was also an option on the first generation iPhone.

2) Attaching Multiple Pictures to an Email – This is possible. While viewing a photo album, select the button at the bottom of the screen, select the photos you wish to send, select the “Share” option, and you are able to attach them to an email or MMS. I ensured this was also an option on the first generation iPhone (except there is no MMS option).

3) Multitasking – It is not really fair to say the iPhone does no multitasking. If by multitasking you mean the ability to keep multiple windows open at one time, then the iPhone will not do this. However, if you mean the ability to run more than one application at a time, the iPhone will do this with some apps. You can run the Phone app or the iTunes app while working in another app. Also, your email will continue to be pushed to your phone and you will receive notifications while working in other apps. It has also been my experience that if one app needs to access info from another app, it will automatically do this behind the scenes without having to have both app windows open at the same time. Therefore, I think we can say the iPhone is at least a semi-multitasker. However, because you can easily copy info from one app and paste it into another, and because it is very quick to close one app and open another, this has never limited my ability to efficiently multitask. I can’t think of too many reasons to have multiple windows open at once on an iPhone, unless you need to view two windows side-by-side (which would not be fun considering the small size of the iPhone and other smartphones). In addition, keeping multiple windows and apps open at one time would be more taxing on your resources and ultimately deplete your battery faster.

4) Data Files On the iPhone – You have a number of concerns regarding data files on the iPhone that I have combined here. Because of the limited real estate of the iPhone, I have never had any real desire to do anything but views data files. I agree that the iPhone (out of the box) is really lacking in functionality in the data file arena, but because it is primarily marketed for its multi-media capabilities and not its business capabilities, I am not surprised.  After doing some research, I found two apps on the app store to address data files. I decided to download the $9.99 (US) Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite. With this app, you can create and edit Word, Excel and text files (and soon Power Point files), store/manage multiple data file types, attach multiple data file types to email, edit data file email attachments, access files on the cloud, download files from the cloud so you have a local copy, transfer files between your iPhone and desktop/laptop computer via a web browser (using Wi-Fi), or attach your iPhone as an external drive and transfer files between your iPhone and desktop/laptop computer via Mac OS X Finder/Windows Explorer (using Wi-Fi).  Some of the functionality was cumbersome, but most of it was easy to use. Regardless, I still would not want to do much file editing on any smartphone because they are too small. That is the purpose of a laptop (or perhaps an iPad).

5) iPhone is Only Good for Simple Tasks – You stated, “I highly doubt that anyone uses an iPhone for anything serious apart from calling people, texting and replying to email.”, and you also alluded to the fact that a power user would not use an iPhone because it is too simple. As a power user, I must disagree with you here.

The iPhone has a simple interface, but it can do more than simple tasks. Not only are various businesses beginning to ditch their old smartphones for the iPhone, but I also have read about more than one IT Administrator who uses his or her iPhone to manage his or her servers and provide technical support. Also a number of Universities and Colleges have developed their own apps to socially and administratively connect the entire campus and distribute and manage educational content (like iTunes U). These Colleges and Universities issue an iPhone to all of their students, staff, and administrators free of charge.

I keep hearing that other smartphones are more capable than the iPhone. Although I am sure the iPhone is not capable of doing everything, I have found an app or a way to make my iPhone do almost everything I want it to do. Not having used any other smartphone, I would be interested to hear from you (or anyone else) regarding what other smartphones will do that the iPhone (plus the Apple App Store) will not do. Also, what non-simple tasks do you expect of your smartphone?

6) Cool Factor – Sure, part of the allure of the iPhone is the cool factor. Hands down, Apple is the best aesthetic designer of mobile devices and computer hardware. However, their designs are not just about looks. Because of their various interface and functionality innovations, they are constantly forcing the industry to reconsider the way it thinks and does things.

7) Definition of the Word “Smart” – In your blog post, you state, “Personally, I believe that the iPhone is an idiot phone because I expect it to actually be a “smart” phone.” I believe we have a different definition of the word “smart”.  It sounds like you define a phone to be “smart” based solely on its out-of-the-box functionality. I believe “smart” is not only defined by the functionality a smartphone contains, but also its reliability, expandability and its overall user experience. With very few exceptions, the iPhone and its functionality work smoothly without issue, the Apple App Store makes it one of the most expandable devices around and it provides a very positive user experience (This is true of my MacBook Pro as well). This has not been my experience with many non-Apple products (especially Windows products).

My goal here is not to push Apple products.  I could care less what computer or smartphone someone uses. Use what makes you happy. However, I  believe the reason so many people are moving to the iPhone is because they have had similar negative experiences with non-Apple products. Regardless of technical background, most people don’t want to have to be a support technician every time they power up or modify their smartphone (and other electronic devices) – including me. This is where the iPhone shines. Regardless, if a person has used another smartphone or not, I believe he or she is more willing to take a chance on an iPhone because Apple products have a reputation for reliability, high quality, and a positive user experience.

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  • Narayanan

    Just soon after reading this post, I stumbled on another related feed. Read http://www.intomobile.com/2010/03/11/iphone-os-

  • MC

    Thank you for the link. I read some info about this today on MacRumors.com as well. I am interested to see how this will be implemented. Here is the MacRumors.com post:

    http://www.macrumors.com/2010/03/11/more-claims

  • Bill

    “Because of their various interface and functionality innovations, they (apple) are constantly forcing the industry to reconsider the way it thinks and does things.”

    No, they (apple) copy existing products with their own inferior versions (e.g. ipod, imac, ibook, ipad etc) and make it seem like they invented the idea through marketing.

    Incidentally, the idiot phone is a rounded rectangle. there is no “design” whatsoever.

  • MattC

    (Bill) Wow, did Steve Jobs piss in your cheerios? You have some pretty strong feelings about Apple.

    I find it interesting that some of the most rabid hatred of Apple that I have experienced comes from the CAD industry. The funny thing is that most all of these Apple haters have never used an Apple product. Have you ever used an Apple device for an extended period of time (Take it home and use it for a few weeks)?

    Did Apple “copy” existing products? No, because copying existing products would imply producing more of the same unimaginative crap that already exists. Does Apple use existing products and ideas and modify them? Yes, just like all the other businesses out there (Microsoft, CAD Vendors, Car Manufacturers, PC Hardware Manufacturers, etc.). Apple did not invent the desktop, laptop, mobile music player, tablet computer, or the smartphone? What they did do was make these devices more reliable and user friendly (simple, fun, capable, and easy to use). Many in the tech industry agree that the following Apple products (at least) have been game changers:

    1) iPod – How many people do you know that own any other sort of mobile music device? Even some of my Apple hater friends own these.
    2) App Store – Applications are almost everything. Without apps, devices are worthless, no matter how well designed. I don’t know that Apple invented this concept, but they certainly made it work.
    3) iPhone – Before the iPhone was released, how many people did you know that cared about or owned a smartphone (other than maybe a Blackberry for work)? Whether you like it or not, the iPhone popularized the smartphone and multi-touch input. The other smartphone manufacturers should be thankful.

    The jury is still out, but I believe the iPad could be another game changer.

    You say Apple products are “inferior”. The following is a list of links to popular websites that appear to disagree with you on this issue. You would have to log into the Consumer Reports site as a customer, so I will give you a synopsis and you can view the rest.

    1) Consumer Reports gives the iPhone 3GS 16GB the best Overall Score of any smartphone tested (regardless of service provider). It also ranks Apple tech support the best for desktops and laptops, ranks all three MacBook Pro sizes best in their respective classes, and ranks the iMac as the best All-In-One.

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/electronics-

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/electronics-

    http://blogs.consumerreports.org/electronics/20

    2) According to J.D. Power and Associates, Apple Ranks Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Smartphone Manufacturers for 2010.

    http://businesscenter.jdpower.com/news/pressrel

    3) The Top Ten Reviews ranks the iPhone 3GS 32GB number one for 2010.

    http://cell-phones.toptenreviews.com/smartphones/

    4) CNET ranks the iPhone as one of the top five smartphones of 2010.

    http://reviews.cnet.com/best-smartphones/

    Design is in the eye of the beholder. I agree the first generation iPhone is nothing more than a rectangular extrude with some fillets (That is so unlike all of the other smartphones out there). However, the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS contain much more organic geometry. When you actually hold one, you will see what I mean.