January 28, 2011
The best of times, the worst of times
I don't even know how many apps I've bought for my iPhone, but it's quite a few. It's just so wonderfully easy to see something you like and buy it, and it instantly downloads into your iPhone. No waiting, no confirmation emails, no authorization codes, no activation links. Apps just download, install and work. And since apps are so inexpensive, I don't even keep track of how much I am spending on them. It's not a lot, and even if I end up not using or liking an app, it's no big deal (those reviews that froth at the mouth and demand their 99 cents back amuse me).
The value I am getting from apps is just tremendous. For every time I use my iPhone as an actual phone, I use it ten times to use an app. Apps are so ridiculously convenient and easy to use that I'd never dream using a similar widget on my iMac instead (let alone a Windows machine). I marvel at how far we've come from the early days of the personal computer where in terms of software you had to have a word processor, a spreadsheet and a database, and each cost US$495, in 1982 dollars. I think what's happening more and more is that iPhones and iPads (and their competitive near/wannabe-equivalents out there) are becoming the personal computers, and what used to be PCs are now the big, complex machines we use for the job. It's a very interesting differentiation, and one Microsoft with its Windows everywhere! mantra still doesn't understand.
The one fly in the ointment -- and it's really more like a big, fat rat -- is the telcos. They need to go. Everything I love about the iPhone comes from Apple. Everything I hate about it comes from AT&T. And I don't think that'd change much if I switched to Verizon. For while the lousy service, bad voice quality, dropped calls, slow and inconsistent data are all a nuisance, the biggest nuisance is having the telcos part of the deal in the first place. Telcos don't get it, and they'll never get it. Every time I get another huge AT&T bill, with pages and pages of nickel and diming, and all those extra charges and fees and taxes and more fees, I so wish Apple handled that part, too.
It's quite interesting that the iPhone is made by the coolest and most admired company on the planet, but relies on arguably one of the uncoolest, least admired companies for "service." Interestingly, some of the pioneers in this market foresaw the predicament some ten years ago and started the likes of Omnisky, Yada Yada. And though they were "on our side," none survived because people didn't want to pay $40 per month for wireless data service. As a result, the telcos got a chance to take over, and the rest is history.
So it's the proverbial best of times and the worst of times. We have wonderful technology that will only get better from one of the greatest companies ever, but it comes at the price of having to deal with one of the worst companies ever, one that openly hates its customers, one whose lame commercials are an embarrassment, and one whose utter, callous ineptitude is simply baffling.