Do you consider iPhone "crippled?"

Do you consider iPhone "crippled?"

Summary: A couple of colleagues and I have been having a discussion about whether or not the iPhone is crippled. So, is the iPhone "crippled" by AT&T, as are most handsets?

TOPICS: Wi-Fi, iPhone, Mobility

A couple of colleagues and I have been having a discussion about whether or not the iPhone is crippled. So, is the iPhone "crippled" by AT&T, as are most handsets?

Well, yes and no. Yes, iPhone's kind of crippled now, but we'll have to wait to see what Apple updates in their next firmware update.

Ringtones We did see the Ringtones tab disappear from iTunes screenshots, indicating that either a) AT&T will force users to purchase ringtones from them; or b) Apple will force users to purchase ringtones from iTunes instead of sideloading ringtones like we should be able to. Custom ringtones can already be hacked into iPhone with some brute force.

Bluetooth Apple's iPhone includes the latest Bluetooth 2.0+EDR technology but it's pretty well documented that it's crippled since only Handsfree and Headset profiles are supported. This is a major problem for a smartphone with three radios (GSM, WiFi and Bluetooth), because it means that you have to use a cable to sync data and contacts to iPhone.

Gizmodo points out the extent to which iPhone's Bluetooth is crippled:

  • It can't transfer files to a PC, or appear on a desktop (OBEX)
  • It can't send a photo to a Bluetooth printer
  • It can't stream audio via Bluetooth to a compatible speaker system or headset (iPhone doesn't support the A2P2 Bluetooth profile)
  • Video is out of the question.

Not to mention that you can't use iPhone as a modem (DUN). MyiTablet mentions that there are more than 25 Bluetooth profiles out there and iPhone only supports the Handsfree Profile (HFP) and Headset Profile (HSP).

You’ve heard my bellyache over the lack of support for Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) and Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP). If supported, these two profiles would stream music wirelessly from the iPhone to any supported Bluetooth headsets (i.e. Etymotic ety8) or wireless HiFi speakers (i.e. Com One Bluetooth Speaker System).

According to the Bluetooth System Preference iPhone supports: Handsfree Gateway, Phonebook, Headset Gateway and IrMC Sync. According to Wikipedia, IrMC Sync is a standard Bluetooth profile for PIM item syncing (also used on the Sony Ericsson W710i). The problem is the IrMC doesn't appear to be enabled in iPhone v.1.

iPhone's Bluetooth implementation is the definition of "crippled."

Common Misconception #1 Carriers lock down mobiles so tight that you can't turn a GSM phone on without a SIM. Smartphones can do plenty that's not wireless-reliant, but you can't even look up a phone number from the internal memory without a SIM card in the device.

While it's mostly true of the iPhone (see my iPhone Hacking Handbook for some workarounds) The Nokia N-Series and E-Series devices don't require a SIM. In fact the E70 can be used exclusively as a WiFi VoIP phone with no SIM just using WiFi.

Common Misconception #2 You can't give your clunky old 1G mobile phone to your spouse/kid/neighbor/uncle/church to use as an organizer without a carrier contract and monthly charges.

This isn't entirely true either. If a device requires a SIM card to be present, it doesn't require that it be a valid SIM. A "dummy SIM" can be used with several operators. Even a "Pre-Paid" SIM from T-Mobile or AT&T will bring an old phone to life, even if it has no minutes on it.

This begs the question: why design a device (like iPhone) to be completely dependent on the (supposed) presence of one facet of its functionality? It's like designing a Mac that you can't set up and use without a valid Internet connection.

The iPhone activation requirement was surely an operator (AT&T) request.

Smarter devices, like the N and E-Series don't require it outright, the Nokia 6600 does, but many BlackBerry devices don't. I'd bet that GSM-based Treos don't need a SIM to boot to a desktop.

The APIs of the earlier devices may require network access to do some things for some reason, I don't really have an answer to it. I just don't think it that the vendors came up with this scheme. It gives them nothing. The practice of requiring a SIM has fallen out of vogue - at least for higher-end handsets. (Thanks Bob, Emory and Steve)

[poll id=55]

Topics: Wi-Fi, iPhone, Mobility

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  • My definitiion of a crippled device is...

    ...One that has the hardware capacity of performing a specific function but is prevented by doing so by software written for the explicit purpose of preventing the user from exercising the use of that function.

    By this definition, not just the iPhone, but ANY MP3 playing phone whose ringtones come from the carrier as MP3's but prevent the user from adding their own ringtones would constitute a 'crippled phone'.

  • Crippled iPhone....

    While I tend to sympathize with folks that have the bluetooth profiles locked out (i mean we ARE in the 21st Century right?) and why the carriers still do this, is beyond me....but this could be much worse and be crippled like the devices that Verizon Wireless puts out for their network.
    • Verizon Wireless phones support ...

      A2DP, data transfers including contacts, photos and music. The iPhone is far more crippled!
  • Crippled Compared to what?

    If I compare the iphone to my old windows mobile phone, hmm yeah it does have a better web browser, but there are a lot of programs I can download and install on the windows mobile phone a lot of them for free. Some Windows Mobile carriers don't let you install 3rd party applications but some do.

    I love my old phone because of the programs I can install (including Pacman). The thing truly missing is the big brother-esque control of what shows up on the phone (no I am not talking from a web browser, although a web browser that doesn't release with a flash plug-in standard, some would argue is crippled)
  • The iPhone is the epitome of crippleware

    If you consider the raw power of the iPhone, then factor in the power and popularity of Mac OSX, the iPhone SHOULD be capable of wiping the floor with every other phone / PDA on the market.

    The problem is, it doesn't. In fact, it is embarrassing that Apple should not have implemented features that free mobile phones have as standard.

    Maybe future updates will allow Apple to activate these features, however I would imagine they will extract more money by releasing these features in iPhone 2.0 (which of course will be snapped up by the faithful).
  • Verizon = Apple/AT&T

    I'm a huge Apple fan, but I really don't understand this. Verizon (rightfully) gets
    hammered for crippling Bluetooth on it's phones, but Apple actually gets PRAISE for
    doing exactly the same thing! Since the iPhone uses OS X, this really doesn't make any
    sense; the Bluetooth extensions and frameworks in the desktop version only take-up
    about 5MB, so they will easily fit. So this has to be a conscious decision by Apple or
    AT&T to limit the iPhone's capabilities.

    And by the way, for those of you expecting to be able to use your iTunes purchased
    songs as ring tones in some magical software update, you need to check the software
    agreement for the iTunes Music store. Using iTunes purchased songs as ring tones is
    specifically forbidden by the agreement.

    Hopefully Apple will fix this with the first software update, or Apple's reputation is
    going to suffer.
    Scott Kitts
  • I guess it makes no difference...

    ... who cripples your phone.
    See my small cartoon:

  • iPhones are for idiots

    I guess the "i" in iPhone stands for idiot. The iPhone doesn't do anything that hasn't been done before, and currently isn't being done BETTER! It's just a show piece, worthless in most other respects and uses. It's a "look what I got", and nothing else.
  • The Network is the real crippling....

    I don't know about the rest of you but for me I can deal with some of these disabled features as its no different than the rest of the carriers. What is disturbing to me is that the device is inherently crippled by the network of it's exclusive service provider AT&T. The EDGE Network that AT&T has built is the slowest of the data networks available from wireless carriers. Use your iPhone over Edge and then connect to a Wifi source and as expected the performance difference is astronomical. If you want a more apples to apples comparisson, try loading the same web page with a TMobile Blackberry and an iPhone side by side. Having done this I can tell you the performance of the iPhone is disappointing (especially considering that the Blackberry has to suck everything through RIM first).
    intechpc (GPEN, CISM, CEH, ECSA)
    • Network?

      Can't say I agree.
      I have a BlackJack thru AT&T and it runs rings around the iPhone. This is both from a performance and functionality perspective. Though I do like the iPhone display.

      The decision to stick with EDGE vs 3G was an Apple decision.
  • Cant write custom apps for phone itself

    That is what I consider the major crippling point to the iPhone. The service itself is the other half, but that is what every AT&T customer has to live with anyways. I look forward to the pending new legislation that will make devices like this illegal in the future.
  • Yes, the iphone is crippled.

    It is twice crippled, first by the carrier and second by lack of valued features found on other devices. But there are always those who must have the 'latest' and 'greatest' with a high 'cool' factor. In the real world they are viewed as a little dumb, a little challenged. In this context, they are viewed by some as iIdiots.
    • iPhone needs help

      I agree.
      While some of the "crippleness" (new word?) is definitely AT&T (I have a Blackjack thru them) way too much is a result of what I consider poor inclusion requirements.
      They really need to up the "standard" functionality, both from a "phone" perspective and then as a "PDA-Lite" perspective.

      Nice marketing, lackluster phone.
  • USA and Mobiles

    Well not to say anything specifically about iPhone because I'm not a resident of the USA and haven't even touched the device. This is just one example of how insane the US mobile carrier locking scheme is. It's hasn't outlived it's usefulness because it has never been sensible. Here in Finland the hardware and carrier networks have been two separate things from the start and that's how it should be. Phone makers make phones with X abilities and operators offer their networks for you to use your phone in. They changed the law here a while back so that operators can start selling bundles of 3g phone+service and the phone is locked for a couple of years on those. But still the operators are just bundling i.e. Nokia's phones with their services. To me it's just unacceptable that system of your's where you operators dictate what you phone can or can't do (And btw.. the prices you pay for operators are also inhumane). I think it's time you said "NO".
  • Waitng on Open Source Phone

    I see the limitations of most phones available in the US market. I am eagerly awaiting the next generation of OPENMOKO Neo to see how the open source community responds.
    By locking down the i-phone in such a crippling fashion Apple has created a nice accesory but not a workhorse product. EDGE is not internet ready. 3G is minimum.
    • erm...

      Why go open source? It is absolutely free to develop for .Net mobile on windows ce. It's also easy to sell, regardless of there being better technologies out there.
  • RE: Do you consider iPhone

    I was getting robbed my Roger's here in Canada. Cancelled my account and started using my iphone as a PIM - calendar etc, complete with apps I bought from the store when I had a carrier contract and then after via wifi.

    I pulled the SIM card and filed it away somewhere before moving. Didn't need it.

    Just updated to latest iphone and it won't turn on anymore. Asking for the SIM which is sitting in some box, somewhere. I didn't take note of where I put it before moving because it wasn't a prerequisite to using.

    Now it is.

    Brick. A brick holding all my data. Not to mention the no drive usb issues.

    Hello other brands! No. Not you Windows.
    Everybody else, hell-ooo!
  • RE: Do you consider iPhone

    That's 'by Roger's', not 'my Roger's'