iPhone and iPod Touch, why the negative responses + feature requests

Oct 05, 2007

I followed the iPhone introduction closely. Partly because I just love Steve Jobs to present, due to how he engages you (even if you’re watching the recordings) as well as the paradox of the casual Steve with overall slickness of the presentation and the products. But more importantly, I love Apple products. By now I own a black Mac Book, 3 iPod’s and an Airport Extreme. ( Apple Fan boy… sorry)

Both the iPhone as well as the iPod Touch were greeted with a lot of enthusiasm and hype. In my mind, rightfully so, since they are great devices for their intent and above that superbly designed. However, as of late, I have seen more and more negative responses on the net primarily due to Apple restricting the platform both devices provide: Apple started to lock down the iPhone more and more to make sure you don’t unlock the phone and don’t install 3rd party software.

Now, I for one, would love an open iPhone/Touch which could be augmented by 3rd parties because either someone writes an app that proves to be useful (more bang for the buck) or everyone screws it up and you end up not installing 3rd party software (seems unlikely, given enough time). This is not the point of this post though: Apple decided the platform is theirs, not yours. Applications written for both devices will come from Apple, and Apple alone.

This last bit is what pisses off a lot of technology folks. I’d like to provide a different perspective: buy the device if you’re okay with locked down platform. In the case you’re not: don’t buy it. Either buy something else (I wouldn’t know what though) or wait for Apple to see the declining sales trend. Because, believe me, if opening up the Touch/iPhone will increase sales substantially, Apple will do so.

But beware, there is another way this could play out: you’re waiting for Apple to open up the platform and sales are going through the roof. That just indicates that the mainstream audience doesn’t find the openness a necessity and that makes you a niche market. Given the current success (shopping season is around the block) you could be waiting a long time.

Basically, given Apples reputation in terms of designing applications, operating systems and devices, they thought long and hard about the feature set, and if you’re not okay with that please change your perspective from “Why the ***** is this not an open platform” to “Jeez, I am apparently not in the target consumer group”.

Personally, I have a technology background myself, I am totally okay with the status quo: I’ve bought an iPod Touch the minute it came out and I’m loving it. It “just works” and that’s exactly what I bought it for. No need to tinker, no need to get some vague 3rd party app installed that will help me track my Todo’s, etc. I’m perfectly thrilled by the user experience as is!

There are however a few features that I either wish the Touch would have or otherwise hear some rationale about why they were not included:

Wifi integration

The Touch is able to browse the web, buy songs on iTunes (I love exploring new types of music through the store, btw!), etc. But why doesn’t it see my Mac Book on the network as well? It could do all kinds of nice features like:

Synch music/photos over the network without needing a lousy cable.

Synch my bookmarks: it’s quite irritating that I need to start from scratch in terms of bookmarks. (Although I find the keyboard doable after some practice, entering long URLs by hand is not my favorite past-time )

Music/Photo

I can remove movies from the Touch on the Touch but I can’t remove any pictures or music. I find myself often using the Touch listening to music I really don’t want to have anymore, I’d like an option to remove those and after I synch it with the host computer they should optionally be removed there as well.

The titles of photo albums are quite large, which is great for readability, but there is no way to look at the longer album titles to figure out which one you’re looking for. For example, I have 6 albums called “Westendorf Wintersport 200x” and I need to determine by the photos which album I’m looking at… not great.

Syncing smart play lists: I’ve got this “100 songs most played” play list which I turn on when I don’t want to bother with handpicking the song I listen to. The Touch does synch the play-list (I’ve got one on my Touch with the same name and filtering) but doesn’t load in the same numbers, causing all kinds of random numbers to enter into that play list which doesn’t seem necessary to me.

Browser

Once, I tried to open up a few Wikipedia articles in tabs to have some information handy during a recent holiday; only to find out that the Touch doesn’t keep it in memory and as soon as you try to open up that tab tries to reload the page. It would be great if it just kept a cache for those pages that are open in tabs (can’t be that hard, right?) so that you can still use them even if you don’t have wifi. Now that I think about it, it would be great to store YouTube video’s in the Movies section as well, given that you’ve already downloaded it.

One non-feature request: the safari browser integration is superb; the best browser experience I’ve seen on a mobile device!

(Please note, that none of these issues with the possible exception of the Safari bookmark synch, would be solved by opening up the platform)