Why iPhone should remain closed

Why iPhone should remain closed

Summary: Readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of the Treo and still believe it to be the best smartphone for Mac users. However when people ask me what I think about my Treo, I usually respond: "The best thing about the Treo is that you can install any software you want on it. But the worst thing about the Treo is that you can install any software you want on it." My Treo is a veritable bouillabaisse of software from vendors around the planet and I'm starting to wonder about the wisdom of this approach.

TOPICS: iPhone

iPhone lockReaders of this blog know that I'm a big fan of the Treo and still believe it to be the best smartphone for Mac users. However when people ask me what I think about my Treo, I usually respond: "The best thing about the Treo is that you can install any software you want on it. But the worst thing about the Treo is that you can install any software you want on it." My Treo is a veritable bouillabaisse of software from vendors around the planet and I'm starting to wonder about the wisdom of this approach.

Recently when driving with a friend in the backseat I heard his Treo startup chime no less than a dozen times. His Treo was caught in a "boot loop" familiar to anyone with the device and copiously documented in Palm's knowledge base article on Resetting Your Device

Don't get me wrong, I'm not slamming my Treo. I couldn't live without it, I'm just starting to doubt the wisdom of device as important as a mobile phone that's totally open to third parties. My Treo 700p gets finicky sometimes and likes to reboot itself spontaneously. Other times it just needs a good reboot to keep it happy.

Granted, I could strip off all the third party software that's installed on it, but what good what that do me? Sure, I'd have the bare minimums, contacts, calendar, email and Web. But what about my RSS client, password vault and IM applications? And No Limit Texas Hold'Em and my ringtone player? Ok the last two are frivolous, but I'd be handicapped without the others.

Which gets me to Apple. I've been a vocal critic of the iPhone's missing features (Part 1, Part 2) and one of the major things that I've complained about is Apple's closed API and lack of support for third-party applications. But the more I think about it, maybe Apple is doing the right thing here. I mean, do you really want to have your iPhone rebooting every six seconds so that you can have a wacky Scoobie Doo ringtone?

Apple can pull this off if they provide a few more iPhone applications that what they've demo'd at Macworld SF 2007. I really want to have a VOIP client like Skype or perhaps iChatOut on iPhone but fear that the suits at Cingular/AT&T vetoed that as part of Apple's contract. (Steve: Please say it ain't so!) At minimum I need iPhone to have an IM (iChat?) and RSS client and a strong crypto password vault (Keychain mobile?), but they'd really make me happy if they also built-in MP3 ringtones and ported that great Hold'Em game from the iPod.

What are your core applications that you need on iPhone if you were to purchased a US$600 closed phone? Chime in in the TalkBack below.

Topic: iPhone

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  • Crucial iPhone apps

    An iPhone without the ability to read AND write Word and Excel files (or at least
    generic WP and SS files) would not interest me. And, of course, there's the ability
    to display photos and maybe run an occasional game like Bubblet or MahJong.
    Reading PDFs and the ability to read and write PowerPoint files would be nice.

    The ability to accept additional memory cards would also be nice.

    In short, the very least it would have to do would be to match my Win Moblie Treo
    700w. If it did that, then the decision to get an iPhone would be a no-brainer.

    What would be really swell would be for the iPhone to be a true mobile
    Mac...which would then make it much better than Win Mobile since OSX is so
    much better and more stable than any iteration of Windows I've ever seen.
  • Moblogging client

    Absolutely, without a doubt, can't live without a dedicated moblogging client like the
    one from Vox.
  • The apps are in the cloud

    What makes Apple's strategy for keeping the iPhone closed really viable is by providing a fully-featured browser. They seem to be betting on the current AJAX-powered trend that places the majority of applications that a user could want to access in the "cloud"; that is, accessed as web services.

    As long as the browser is usable on the iPhone (and its innovative multi-touch display seems to indicate it will be), this could really be a winning move. Why install local third-party mini-apps when you can access what you need in the same way as you'd use them via a desktop?
    Jason Etheridge
    • I agree

      I agree with you Jason. If they make Google Docs work on the iPhone's Safari that'll
      be a big step up. I have a lot of wants, but the iPhone with the ability to handle the
      REAL internet, including online apps like Google Docs, will cover all my basic needs.
      • I'll be happy ...

        when they make Google Docs work with Safari on the Mac, much less on the iPhone. Glad to see that they are at least working on Safari compatibility.
    • Silly question. Serious answer.

      [b]Why install local third-party mini-apps when you can access what you need in the same way as you'd use them via a desktop? [/b]

      Because when you install an applet or even a full app on your local computer, it's yours to use - free of any further charge beyond the inital price (if any), forever (or at least until the battery on the iPhone bites the dust and can't be replaced). Installed apps can't be metered.

      But if you're using some app "in the cloud" as you suggest - you're likely to have to PAY for the privilege of using that app, tool or other utility. While you may only have to be paying for bandwidth, that's still a considerable monthly charge. Cingular isn't exactly cheap.

      Cingular's basic smartphone plan is $9.99 per month - but only gives you 5 MB of data. That's NOTHING. Their unlimited plan is $19.99 a month - and that's on TOP of whatever voice minutes you get per month. That's $39.99 per month for a measly 450 minutes. So the bare minimum you'd be paying for voice and data services on your Apple phone would be $49.98 for the low end with 450 minutes and 5 MB. The top end plan with 6000 minutes and unlimited web usage - $219.98 per MONTH. OUCH!

      Now throw in on top of that new services that will eventually crop up that require you to pay a fee to access apps - office suites, utilities, whatever else you might happen to need or want that Apple won't throw into their software bundle.

      Secondly, and a more practical reason - the Apple phone doesn't support the new high speed 3G networks. It only does EDGE. It's slow. It may not be reasonable to have to wait for stuff to load via the browser.

      Third - now, you might say, "But WAIT! - the iPhone has Wi-Fi!" To wit - I would respond once again - unless you're at home plugging into your wireless router, you're probably going to have to pay the man at Starbucks or whatever hotspot you might happen upon for access. Free wi-fi hotspots DO exist but aren't THAT common and popping into their shop without buying something is generally considered to be bad form.

      So why have your apps installed? Because it's cheaper in the long run.
  • Quicken

    Quicken would certainly be nice.
    Prime Detailer
  • My Needed Apps

    I must confess I adore the idea of the iPhone and what it does is much of what I would like in a smartphone. I do, however, love my Treo although I have been waiting for many improvements in many areas.What doesn't need improving is the extra apps that I get a great deal of use out of. Documents to Go is a must and will probably find its way on to the new phone. But many of the apps I use are really speciallized and unless they create widget equivelents I don't thimk Apple will write what i use. I have a guitar tuner, a music composition program, a program that does sketches- Leonardo and Palm Paint and another that does room interior floorplans- Room Builder. I must have and expect that Bejewled will make the game widgets along with solitaire and and a few others. I would love for Sim City to be ported. I would like a Filemaker mobile and an academic program for grading like the current Easy Grade Pro forv Palm. A lesson plan program like Thought Manager, although I could adapt that with FileMaker Mobile or a word equivelenet. A dictionary like Oxford or Webster is essential. I also use itinerary software and translation software. Most important is Salling Clicker.
  • The "communiactor"

    I think the main idea of the iPhone is to provide easy access to communication services. That would include: Internet browsing, phone (of course), iChat-like things including SMS and so on. I think document and spreadsheet, even PPT work will be too cumbesome on a finger-only input screen, while I agree that being able to DISPLAY such files would be useful (and I suspect will be included at some stage. I can live without the iPod built in, but I am sure Apple wanted that included for the "wow" factor.
  • RSS Reader Needed?

    Okay, to be clear, I understand the need for an RSS reader on the iPhone. I
    want one too. But I think people are forgetting about something...

    The browser on the iPhone is Safari for iPhone.

    The mail application is mail.app for iPhone.

    Safari has a basic RSS reader built into it--as does leopard mail.app

    Does anybody really think that Apple wont include RSS reader funcitonalitiy
    in a way that:
    1) has an amazing interface that scales nicely to the iPhone interface
    2) syncs with your mac fan-fscking-tastically and automagically (and
    maybe with your windows ie bookmarks too, since 7.0 has a less capabable
    RSS integration)

    Just something to think about. Something else to consider is the fact that,
    as Jason said, the phone won't ship for 5 or 6 months. Tons of time for
    Apple to work their software development magic.
  • Gaming Potential

    I see the potential for gaming here. How cool would it be to play Super Mario
    Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog using a sort of on-screen game controller? With
    multi-touch, I'm sure it's possible to have the traditional layout, like the original
    NES. I can't imagine Nintendo allowing this to happen, though. Why would they
    want a company like Apple competing with it's handheld market domination.

    Also, I would like to think that we're only a few short years away from a mobile
    version of iChat AV. With the increasing speed of wireless networks and better
    video compression with QuickTime, could we be making actual video calls soon?
    You know they're working on it. They have to be. If it's possible, Apple will be the

    Here's another idea... How about simple two player games, like chess or
    checkers? Maybe Scrabble or some sort of virtual pool game? Game like Pong
    would be possible with multi-touch.

    I would like to see some great ring tones. Maybe even some nifty miniature
    Garageband application to create your own ring tones, or import them from
    Garageband or iTunes. There's so many great possibilities here.

    I've always wondered, why did they choose the fish background to show off the
    iPhone? I want some great Aqua-like backgrounds. I'd love to see something like
    the standard Tiger background, but in shiny black. I just love the Aqua
    backgrounds. No matter how hard I try to use something else, I always go back to
    the standard Tiger wallpaper.
  • Apple will probably open the iPhone a bit

    Mostly you'll see things like the most popular Widgets
    and a few small apps. Before you see them, however,
    Apple will put them through sufficient testing to ensure
    they don't screw up the overall system.

    Personally I don't see Apple being too concerned about
    delivering an iPhone for business - look for
    enhancements that are more focused on the consumer.
    Also look for size restrictions - at least until there is a
    HD version.

    Since my business travel was all overseas I would like to
    see an exchange rate widget, minimized to updating on
    demand. Also, airline flight schedules would be nice (I
    have them on my Palm) and these would probably be
    held to the major alliances.

    I use Bookpedia to list my library and download basic
    information to my iPod. I can see that working for

    Some specific markets might also be a target for Apple.
    OsiriX (http://homepage.mac.com/rossetantoine/osirix/
    Index2.html) for the medical community would be an
    example as they have iPod viewing.

    As for apps like Word, I think you'll have to wait for the
    HD version.
    • they will

      Look in YouTube and search for the CNBC interview with Steve Jobs the afternoon after the keynote. He makes a comment in which he notes that the iPhone will be a "closely monitored development environment" for apps and "we don't necessarily have to be the ones to write them".

      Sounds more like the apps will be closely monitored to be sure that they won't do things Apple and ATT don't want done.
  • TomTom

    The only application that I use with my Treo that I wouldn't be willing to give up would be the TomTom GPS program and receiver I bought for the Treo. Of course, if Apple were to introduce some usable variation on that theme, such as a GPS enabled Yahoo Maps application, that would suffice.
  • ebook reader

    ability to read .txt, .pdf, .pdb ebook formats
  • Treo vs. iPhone

    I rely on my Treo 700P but unlike Jason I hate the damn thing. Yes you can add
    any number of third party apps, but very often when you do Something Bad
    Happens. And tech support response from from many of those third party
    companies is measured in days -- unacceptable for business use.

    Now Contact and Up To Date are vital to my business, yet they're really not
    currently supported by Missing Synch which, frankly, is not only hard to configure
    and use, but also devoid of telephone tech support.

    Two beacons of hope on the horizon: Now Contact/Up to Date are going through
    major revisions and will be re-introduced, possibly under the name
    "Nighthawk" (Spandex leotard and cape not included -- but it WILL support
    current Apple data protocols, at which time the Missing Sync people report they
    will happily support those products.)

    I am torn whether to agree with Jason about keeping the iPhone a closed system.
    Inferring from my experiences with the developer-friendly Treo, I want to agree.
    Surely the iPhone's Mac OSX will be vastly more complex than the current Palm/
    Garnet software and therefore prone to major conflicts, at least at first. But I hope
    there will be room for compromise -- perhaps an iPhone Widget environment that
    somehow partitions off some capacity so that basic operations and data are kept
    Studio City
  • PDF! PDF! PDF!

    Have any of you whiners ever heard of PDF?
    The iPhone does PDF!
    Why do you want word, excel, powerpoint, .... just convert you doc to PDF and you have it!
    Sheesh, trolls!
    • PDF! PDF! PDF!

      Hi, I'm not clear on your comment. I have Documents To Go on my Palm, which
      allows me to sync many apps from my Mac, including Word & Excel. As I'm not
      very techie, I don't understand why I would convert all my Word & Excel files to

      I suppose you must mean if Apple keep the iPhone closed, then Documents To Go
      would not be available, then you would be forced to convert everything to PDF?

      Alternatively, if Apple keep it closed, then surely they could produce something
      similar to Docs To Go. Either way, I hope they make it possible to open Word &
      Excel files one way or another.

      Cheers, Dean.
  • closed iPhone

    Just Scrabble.
  • Don't tell me what I want

    The closed iPhone is automatically a killer for me. Been using Palms for years now, and I love the flexibility of the thousands of programs out there. For example, I tried about 20 different text readers before I found the one that is most comfortable for me. I'm not much for Texas Hold'em or regular solitare, but spend lots of down time with Rummy or Sokudu. How does Apple know what I want? I would no more spend $500 on a closed phone than I would purchase an iPod that was pre-loaded with the songs that Apple decided I liked and was locked so I couldn't change them. Yes, sometimes I get a program that crashes my Palm. You know, you CAN delete programs off it, don't you?