Is the iPhone an Idiot Phone?

I have an HP iPAQ hw6965 Mobile Messenger, basically a smartphone that runs Windows Mobile. Previously I had a HP iPAQ hw6515 Mobile Messenger. So although I am not a very big fan of HP stuff (see “HP Pavilion tx 2000 Boot/Black Screen Solution“), I pretty much like the Windows Mobile part of the deal. The iPAQ comes with stripped down versions of MS Office applications like Word, Excel and Powerpoint. It also comes with a PDF reader and some other nice utility software.

I even write applications for my iPAQ. One extremely useful one is a key generator for my products which allows me to issue keys to my customers when I am out of home or office and do not have my notebook with me.

It is a fact that the iPhone has overtaken Windows Mobile based smartphones and is now second only to the BlackBerry. 9 million Americans now use the iPhone as their primary phone compared to about 15 million on Blackberry and 7.1 million on Windows Mobile based smartphones. Since more and more computing is going mobile, I figure that at some point (possibly in the near future), I will need to start developing for mobile devices and the iPhone will be high on my list.

I have an iPod Touch which I use mainly as a Walkman. The other day I laid my hands on Ron’s old iPhone 2G. Ron is my partner at Print3D and we are toying with the idea of building a Print3D iPhone App. So instead of buying a new iPhone for myself in India (read “Apple iCondom – Use and Throw” to see why I don’t want to) Ron suggested that I use his old iPhone as a starting point. The problem with iPhones in the US is that they are tied to AT&T. So I had to first unlock it so that I could use my Indian SIM card.

I set up my email accounts on the iPhone and copied my music. While playing around I took a picture using the iPhone’s camera and wanted to send it as an attachment by email. So I fired up the Email program and looked for a way to attach a file. I simply couldn’t find one. I asked Ron and he didn’t know either because, just like me, he uses a Window Mobile smartphone. Ron’s wife, who has an iPhone 3G, finally showed me the way. I had to go to “Photos” and then select the “Email Photo” option to send it as an attachment. This got me thinking. How do I attach multiple images to an email? Well, I’m not sure you can. Then I had another question. What if I want to attach a file that is not an image? I mean, some kind of data file like a PDF. This brought me to another question. How do I store data on an iPhone?

I did a few searches on the internet for answers to these questions and came up with startling results. As it turns out, you cannot store data on an iPhone. You need third party applications to do something as simple as that. The iPhone has tons of space to store movies but does not give you a way to carry your data around with you. How stupid is that? I carry a lot of my data on a 2GB memory card that I simply stick into my iPAQ. Apart from a SIM card you cannot stick anything into an iPhone. Freaking ridiculous.

I also came across this thread about attaching files to an email on the iPhone. I was appalled to read this ridiculous suggestion:

“The only workaround I can think of is for you to email them to yourself ahead of time, create a special folder for your pdf’s so they’re easy to find, then when you need to send them to your customers you can just forward them.”

This is crazy. Forget advanced stuff like multi-tasking, the iPhone does not even have the basic stuff that my iPAQ has. In my view, and as a long time iPAQ owner, the iPhone is one of the dumbest phones that I have every come across.

So how is it that the iPhone has surpassed Windows Mobile smartphones? Well, the answer is actually very simple. People just want a phone and use it just for that. At the most they send SMS’s and email pictures to other people. I could do that with my earlier Nokia camera phones years ago. I highly doubt that anyone uses an iPhone for anything serious apart from calling people, texting and replying to email. As far as functionality is concerned, the iPhone does not even come close to the iPAQ (not sure about Blackberrys). But here is the thing with Windows Mobile smart phones. Most users find it them too complicated, quite simply because they do not need or understand the extra functionality that comes with them. For most people the simplicity and dumbness of the iPhone gives them exactly what they need and that is why it has become such a big hit.

So to answer the question in the title of this post, “Is the iPhone an Idiot Phone?“, I believe the answer is no. The iPhone is probably the smartest phone for most people because most people need to do simple things. Personally, I believe that the iPhone is an idiot phone because I expect it to actually be a “smart” phone. So actually this is all relative. The good thing for Apple is that the vast majority of people are not power users like me and Apple is giving them exactly what they want.

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