Seriously, why do you still have an iPhone?

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(27 votes)

All right, I get it. The iPhone is certainly a leader in both terms of sales and product ingenuity. I have often been known to blast Apple for being late to a party, then claiming they are introducing some incredible new feature (see Spaces vs Virtual Desktops). I won't hide the fact that I am not a fan of Apple. Even so, the iPhone is truly something innovative. That is, it was the first to find a way to take the smartphone out of the hands of businessmen (and women) and place it in the hands of text-heavy teens and wired-in grandmas. I'm not here to argue that the iPhone shouldn't be dominant, and I'm not even here to say that most people shouldn't be happy with the functionality of their iPhone. Bottom line, it's a nice device.

However, after reviewing our "Why do you still have an iPhone" poll, I was really bothered by something I saw. While the overwhelming majority stated they have never owned one, 15% (as of June 21st) stated that they "love it." Normally on a site like Engadget or Gizmodo, I wouldn't be surprised if that number was much higher. But this is a site whose namesake and goal come from a movement that most users and followers agree is more than just a nice coding philosophy--it's something that has become a way of life. That's right, 15% of readers say they have no reason to switch from arguably the most closed smartphone on the market.

Two or three years ago, it would be fully understandable. The crop of open source based phones was meager at best, and they hardly had anything near the featureset of the first iPhone. And despite the efforts of OSDC to reach outside of the techy world, it's well known that open source fans are generally very savvy with gadgets due to their technical backgrounds. So when the iPhone hit, the geeky wow-factor surely gave a compelling reason to have the device in your pocket--there simply wasn't another player in town. (And before too many comments come in regarding this statement, I was actually one of the first adopters of the Neo Freerunner. I ordered it on the first day of availability. It just wasn't ready.)

This situation has definitely changed. Not only are there two mainstream, Linux-based operating systems for smartphones in WebOS by Palm and Android by Google, there are multiple phones running one of the two for every major carrier--including AT&T.

So here's my argument: There is a more open device available on your favorite carrier right now. It is a device that does nearly everything your iPhone does (it can be argued that, due to the openness, you can do much more with Android and WebOS devices). With that in mind, as a fan of open source, how can you give your money to a company that actively prevents open source code from even being uploaded to their App Store? Why in the world do I know so many open source enthusiasts still lining up at each iPhone release? Why are those same people still preordering and pining for the next gadget from Cupertino? It's nothing short of mind-boggling.

To curb some of the ideas that I might be a misled open source sheep, I am under no delusions that Android and WebOS implementations on modern phones are 100% open source. I'm not simply an Android or WebOS fanboy. I am a fan of open source, and, given the current landscape, choosing a Linux-based device just makes sense given feature and function parity.

And that's my point. Surely the iPhone is the best phone for some people. However, we are a society that prefers choice because nothing is one-size-fits-all. There has to be a better phone for most than the iPhone. Sales are beginning to show this is true, as Android is quickly overtaking Apple. Yes, that has a lot to do with the proliferation of Android across 30+ mainstream devices and Apple having only one. Yet this goes to further my point: given the choice, you should go with the device that makes the most sense to you. As fans of open source, I cannot fathom how the iPhone can be an easy decision for you, the reader.

So with that, I strongly urge you to really think about the statement you make when you drop $200+ on a device that is as closed as the iPhone. Voting with your wallet is one of the best ways to show support or disapproval for something. Maybe it's time to give some money to companies that let open source software live in the market, that allow alternatives to their proprietary software, and that don't have lock-in tactics. Barring business requirements, there is no real excuse to buying an iPhone if you are a fan of open source. Stop it.

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Unidentified's picture

I totally agree on this. This is one of the reasons i dont like Android. Google makes the updates and companies take 6 month or so to update the software and by the time its out well Google has another release.
I like the fact that all appz are tested by Apple to make sure they wont break due to future updates (ex no calls to private functions which might chagne).

And as you say there are some nice Android phones out there (most intressted in HTC) and i actually have bought an x10 mini but for serious use i prefer my iPhone.
Looking forward to Meego to see if they will have a similar strategy as Apple. I hear Microsoft will atleast have the same roadmap and check appz before publishing it (i think this is a good thing for us consumers).
TO much openness will only cause a mess in my opinion.

jreznik's picture

And what about Nokia N900 for example? Yes, it's not completely open unfortunately but it still great open source device as it's using common Linux desktop stack - Xorg, Gtk/Qt, Telepathy, DBus... So it's really wonderful OS for Linux desktop developers! And thanks to this, I can run even OpenOffice :-) Also the community around Maemo is great. And Meego is going to be completely open - at least bare OS under FSF umbrella! (But not for HW - 3d gfx stack will be still closed one, same for some battery management etc.) on future Nokia phones. But still I think it's much more better than Android - there's just Linux kernel and some strange, Linux developer unfriendly API.

Jaroslav Řezník
Software Engineer - Base Operating Systems Brno

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Z's picture

Jaroslav, you are correct - the N900 is a very nice device - but it has it's own limitations - one of which is the number of commercially available applications. I do own a N810 ;) so I know what is available for Maemo ;) N900 is not for everybody - I can run open office on my N810 by using Easy Debian - which is also available for N900 - but can a regular N900 user do that easily? Answer is No.

It is really not the platform - but sometimes the number of applications, the quality of the applications and the available services and ease of accessing to those software and services on the device make the difference.

By the way, N900 is only available from a single carrier here at US - even the unlocked version wont work on the other GSM network because of the 3g bandwidth incompatibility. It is also interesting that N900 is the first and probably last Maemo 5 device. Hope MeeGo will do better (on N900 and future devices).

R/ Z

ashcrow's picture
Community Member

There use to be a time when FLOSS software was an alternative in both name and quality. That is not really the case anymore. The case for using Apple software of Microsoft Windows for something is so slim it tends to sound like the techno lust (sooo shiny ...) or the machinations of a mad man (I HAVE TO HAVE IE!!!!!). The same thing goes for phones. Yes, there was a time that the iPhone was revolutionary. It was like the Danger Sidekick but better. Sure, it wasn't for the 'business' user but that was OK. Flash forward a few years and the Android phones have not only become very popular but have overtaken a lot of the market. It can be used for fun and for business without many of the limitations the iPhone has had. A few weeks ago I watched as a soccer mom was singing the praises of her new android based phone to a friend and recommending it over the iPhone.

I just got my HTC EVO ... it is my first Android phone and I am enjoying showing it to iPhone users and seeing the resulting shock.

Eric Lee Green's picture

I've been using and developing for Linux since 1995, so I'm not exactly a newbie. I have the latest Ubuntu on my big Linux development machine (the latest Fedora is similar in my experience) and you know the latest Ubuntu desktop with a high-end graphics card reminds me of? It's as if someone had described MacOS and Windows 7 to engineers in the old Soviet Union, and they sat down and wrote their own clunky half-a** clone based upon nothing but those descriptions. You can practically hear the clunks of heavy metal and whirring of primitive gyroscopes as you operate it.

I'm sorry, but anybody who says that Linux has the usability of MacOS or Windows 7 on the desktop is drinkin' some mighty strong kool-aid. KDE is a bloated incoherent resource-hogging mess (consider it the Windows Vista of Linux desktops), and Gnome's primitive old-school Windows 95 Meets Motif style desktop is usable compared to the competition only if you have a high-end graphics card and can enable 3D Effects and their CCCP-style Expose' and Spaces clones (I say CCCP-style because they have significant usability issues compared to the real thing). And both are limited by "X" which has significant problems dealing with the modern world and hot-pluggable monitors. As in, it doesn't do it. On the day when you can plug an external monitor into your Linux laptop and have the desktop automagically just extend onto the new monitor, with no "dead spaces" and no problems dragging and dropping things between monitors, let me know. Right now the only multiple-monitor setup that works properly is nVidia's, and only with two same-sized monitors (otherwise there are created "dead spaces" that can eat your windows so you can't get at them), and only if you manually set it up using nVidia's own setup program. Wow, how competitive with MacBooks (where it Just Works) or Windows 7 (one right-click to get Display Settings, then select "extends desktop" rather than "mirrors desktop" from the Displays options) is that? Err... not!

At which point I leave you with this XKCD, which appears to sum up the attitude of Linux fan-boys completely regarding Linux on the desktop:

'Nuff said.

I use Linux where it is appropriate -- my web and email server is running Linux, and I'm developing on Linux for embedded servers that run Linux. But to say there's no reason to use anything other than Linux is just koolaid-drinking ... and, uhm, I might point out that the EVO 4G is running a proprietary closed-source "skin" (HTC's "Sense" UI). So much for the EVO as FOSS, heh!

ashcrow's picture
Community Member

I know you are trolling but I'm going to try anyway :-).

In some ways you are correct about Linux not looking as pretty but pretty has very little to do when it comes to getting work done (hopefully you are not surprised by this). A simple example (which I'm sure you will discount) is the use of Linux desktop by my parents. Until my mom's workplace stated that she couldn't use Linux she loved it and used it for all her computing needs. Note that she did only a few things: Created/modified/edited documents, used web applications, IM, email, spreadsheets and maybe a few other things. True, she is a 'user' which obviously isn't a group you or I wouldn't fit as easily into but a lot of people using phones and desktops are 'users'. The fact that users must have a swirly pointer or IE to do business is a fun thought but it has no real basis other than fear of changing or a want for the super model effect. It's not an example of 'why would anybody want that'. We have shiny things on the desktop. I'm sure you will discount Gnome Shell but it's an amazing example of easy of use and pretty stuff.

Yup, sens ui is closed. Turn if off or remove it. Done. Easy.

I use Linux where it is appropriate -- my web and email server is running Linux, and I'm developing on Linux for embedded servers that run Linux. But to say there's no reason to use anything other than Linux is just koolaid-drinking ... and, uhm, for the guy who says his HTC Evo 4G proves FOSS rocks, I might point out that the EVO 4G is running a proprietary closed-source "skin" (HTC's "Sense" UI). Yeah, that's "proof" alright... but maybe not of what the original commenter claimed :).



I think you are missing the point ... I didn't say there is no reason to run anything but Linux. Let me quote me:

The case for using Apple software of Microsoft Windows for something is so slim it tends to sound like the techno lust (sooo shiny ...) or the machinations of a mad man (I HAVE TO HAVE IE!!!!!).

Many of the use cases for moving from a Linux machine to an OS X machine are nonsensical. The same goes for from a Linux machine to Windows. With only a very few, slim things there is a good chance that what they have been using will continue to work.

Now, in the case of a large organization management is an issue and it's pretty obvious why one would like to have Linux (or BSD which can include OS X) machines as desktops. There was a time when this was not the case and Linux/BSD was an interesting alternative with less features. This is not the case anymore (nor has it been for a while on desktops). Unfortunately, the only way to turn off the closed bits on OS X is to use Darwin.

Eric Lee Green's picture

Just sayin'.

And the fact that you are talking ad hominem attacks rather than the very real UI problems that I mentioned is typical of Linux fanboys. The fact that you appear to believe that a vintage 1995 GUI that looks like Motif had intercourse with Windows 95 and lacks modern navigational capabilities between windows and virtual desktops is "good enough" is part of the problem with Linux, not part of the solution. The fact that five years after both Windows and MacOS solved the hot plug monitor desktop extension problem and you're still not even *ADMITTING* there is a problem, makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.

I have little patience for zealots of any stripe. I use Linux to solve real business problems, not because I'm a Linux fanboy. The problem I have with zealots of all stripes, no matter what they are, is that they're all about touting their own particular fanboy obsession rather than solving real business problems. I don't have any patience with that uber-geek mentality and am quick to squash it amongst my own teams that I manage. We are here to SOLVE PROBLEMS FOR PEOPLE, not to drink the Koolaid and insist that user interface progress is not necessary. You sound to me like the mainframe guys back in 1980 scoffing at microcomputers, "an 80x25 greenscreen terminal attached to a real computer solves far more problems than one of those toys", or the DOS guys back in 1985 scoffing at the Mac guys, "I can get far more done with my keyboard than you can get done with that mouse!". That is *not* a recipe for solving real problems. That is a recipe for going the way of DEC.

Making excuses does not solve problems, and that's what I'm hearing from you -- excuses for the current state of the Linux desktop. You cannot solve problems unless you realize there *is* a problem... and if you've ever tried to use Linux on a current laptop, and compared it to the experience you get using MacOS or Windows 7 on a current laptop, you'd realize quite rapidly that Houston, we have a problem. And the notion that you accuse MacOS -- a very spare UI with no real eye candy and virtually nothing that you can "tweak" to change its appearance -- of encompassing "eye candy" tells me that you've never even *used* MacOS (and frankly, I'm doubting that you have ever used Windows 7 on the desktop at this point too, given that Compiz has far more eye candy knobs to tweak than Windows 7 does). Try it some day, then get back to us. You can't beat the competition unless you *know* the competition. Just sayin'.


anonymous's picture

This is bull. I run Linux and won't change it to Win7 or OSX. Why I'd like to have about 30% slower 3D graphic in OSX compared to Linux and Windows? Or why I'd like to fight against dozens of Windows viruses, its messed up register and overall slowness? OS X interface is also something my eyes don't won't to see and I even prefer Win7 look, but only because it reminds me KDE4. Oops, MS, Apple we've got a problem. A big one.

Btw. iPhone4 is totaly messed up! Better don't keep it in the left hand. OS is also messed up as hell. :D

Lou H,'s picture

We are here to SOLVE PROBLEMS FOR PEOPLE, not to drink the Koolaid and insist that user interface progress is not necessary.

Some people are here to make sure open source lives and closed source dies. Quality is secondary. Rome wasn't built in a day.

glashoppah's picture

... but both will always exist.


glashoppah's picture

... Just sayin'.

Two thumbs up,


Darrel Davis's picture

Wonderful to see clear thinking not tied to an 'OSS only' zealotry. I'm an old software developer who runs 3 OS's and I concur completely. A little over a week ago I returned my new iPhone 4 and got an Android device. I started writing a response to this article but found it quickly got out of hand.

Suffice to say just because it's OSS does not mean it's better and it's silly to think one publicly traded company has the users' best interest at heart.

Also, usability matters.

Johen's picture

I feel the amount of apps that are available on the iphone may still sway some people until the android market becomes big enough.


RC's picture

A cellphone is a tool for me. I want it to work each and every time I try to use it. The iPhone fits the bill for me. It easily syncs with my OS X workstation, causes me no problems, and I don't have to think about it.

I don't want my cellphone to be a project.

Maybe I'm getting old, but that's why I use OS X now too. I don't want my primary home machine to be a project.

My servers (Linux and Solaris) are my projects.

John's picture

I am a dyed-in-the-wool linux user. As a software consultant, I gave up my windows desktop (on my notebook) for linux in 1998 and haven't run windows since. All of my servers are linux based as well and many of my consultants run linux notebooks (although they don't suffer the level of pain I did doing that in 1999.)

That being said, the answer seems pretty simple.

An iPhone a user (a real user, not a techie) has a consistent experience. They have one place to go to get updates to the OS and apps and the updates to both just happen painlessly when they sync. When they buy a new app, they don't have to worry if the apps will run on their processor or with their release of the OS. (They don't even have to know that they have a processor.) All of that is handled for them. They also don't have to worry that their hardware maker isn't going to keep the version of the OS up or that their cellular provider isn't going to let their phone be upgraded.

None of the above is true for Android (the next most usable smartphone interface.) For a (non-techie) user to say that they have an Android phone doesn't narrow it down much. Which version are they running, what CPU, which apps can they run, will their manufacturer update the OS of their model or abandon it in 3 months to support the newer model.

While Apple has MD'd a couple of models, it was after each had a supported life of 3 years. OS updates kept coming and all apps kept running. That means a lot to the average user.

As computing professionals, we need to get used to this model. It is the future of computing (particularly with cloud computing coming.) People don't want (or need) general purpose computers. They want apps that do what they need, when and where they need it, with little or no fanfare and no worries about incompatibilities, versions or upgrades.

Stephen's picture

First of all your article is insulting. I don’t buy equipment to satisfy your opinion. The iPhone is a great device. Period.

Now I have a Droid. Cause the ATT network is so bad in Florida. But make no mistakes, the minute the iPhone is available on any other US carrier, this Droid is in the trash.

IMHO you can’t compare the devices. It’s about ease of use. Not which phone I can run bash on. I’ll give you an example; to transfer media to the Droid, I have to plug the phone to my computer, turn on USB mode, mount the drive (phone) and copy files. On the iPhone, you plug it in. That’s it.

Now or course I could go out and spend $50 for a 3rd party app to do all this. But why should I? Also all the 3rd party apps are terrible compared to the iPhone/iTunes combination. When are you gonna get it, that it’s not just about the phone?

I have this exact same problem using Linux desktop (though I do use Linux servers). Compared to the Mac or Windows 7, Linux desktop is a joke. Like the phone, I don’t want to spend hours tweaking the os to get it to do what I want.

So I choose the iPhone. I don’t care that it’s not open source.

John's picture

Its funny how cell companies are perceived.

You said "Now I have a Droid. Cause the ATT network is so bad in Florida. ".

I have AT&T because the Verizon network is so bad in Florida.

I had Verizon for 7 years and gave them up because in the Florida PanHandle where I was the service was almost non-existent. All of my friends with AT&T had all of their bars and 3G data and I occasionally had roaming service.

/All/ cell phone companies suck. Which one sucks the most just depends on where you are at the time.

Stephen's picture

that was the case in Fort Lauderdale. On ATT, you drive North from FTL to Boca and your call will drop several times. Hell, you can't get a signal at all in West Boca.

So I'm hoping that one day the rumors moving to another carrier pan out. :)

Kennon's picture

Great article. I think it would have better been entitled "Why did you buy an iPhone4?" The Nexus one has been out there for less than a year. And in my opinion is was the first Android phone that was a realistic iPhone replacement. Most wireless contracts are 2 years in length so there is a pretty decent excuse for a lot of Open Source advocates to have gone with the iPhone. But anyone who believes in/works in Open Source software who has purchased an iPhone 4 has made a big mistake IMHO. The Galaxy S variants, Droid X, Incredible, and soon a bevy more amazing hardware platforms all running Android are available now or will be this month. Heck Samsung even opensourced it's touchwiz bits for the Galaxy S (I-9000) so that platform is basically open source end to end. which means the community will be able to roll ROMs for it forever as long as the hardware can run whatever the latest version of Android is thrown at it. And with Android still becoming more efficient and faster with each release that might be well into Gingerbread and beyond

Peter in SF's picture

Android, Android, Android. Everyone here is only talking Android. Don't forget that Travis' article also mentioned Palm's webOS ... arguably, an OS that is every bit as elegant, powerful, and intelligent as Apple's iOS, but is also open. In fact, the webOS dev community is pretty awesome; it's organized and effective, and has created some great patches and apps to make the OS even better. And webOS does multitasking far better than anything else out there, including Android, which isn't as elegant or smooth as webOS multitasking, especially on the Pre Plus, which has more memory than the original Pre. Given the fact that even greedy Verizon is offering the Pre for $0 on a two-year contract, which includes a free Wi-Fi hotspot capability for up to five devices (something they don't offer for free on any other phone), maybe it's worth a look for those who want an alternative to Apple or Google. Yeah, the Sprint hardware had quality problems, but my Pre Plus has been fine after six months of hard use. Anyway, I'm just sayin' ... it's a shame, everyone's forgetting about webOS. Good alternatives to iOS are more than just Android.

Badtux's picture

The current webOS hardware is woefully inadequate. Hopefully HP/Palm is working on new hardware that will be competitive, and that that point you may see more people mentioning webOS, but the current hardware is seriously laggy, thus why you don't see people mentioning it.

corvi42's picture

The IPhone and iOS4 is still the best "platform" out there. By platform I don't mean a list of individual features that you can check off and say "Android has that too". Rather it's the alchemical mixture of hardware + software + backend support that makes the totality of user experience.

Let me be perfectly clear: I think Apple's policies about platform openness is terrible and I hate how they treat developers. I really hope that as Android improves it will force Apple to adopt more open and transparent policies towards developers and OSS.

That being said, I just like the IPhone better as a platform, and the amount I like it better is greater than the amount I dislike their policies. This may be hard to hear for people for whom OSS is an ideological choice. For me, and for a great many others, however, it is simply one component in the tradeoff you make in choosing one platform over another. I am totally willing to be converted to Android in the future. For now, however, I have an IPhone and I love it.

tkepley's picture
Open Minded

This is one of the biggest points that I was trying to get across and to truly find out. A lot of people seem to miss this, and you caught it. My question is directed at those that OSS is an ideological choice, and this site is designed to promote that ideology. So if this is not your ideology, and you just use Open Source where it makes more sense--then this really doesn't apply.

So thanks for this comment, I believe it really answers the question I posed in a serious way. (though I disagree, but that's my opinion)

Bozo the Frown's picture

You haven't made the case that there is an Android phone that matches the user experience of an iPhone. You can't possible expect us to take that on faith. Nor should we support a brand simply because it is opensource. If opensource wants to compete with the big dogs, then it has to *compete* with the big dogs, and shouldn't need to rely on its partisans to give it the benefit of the doubt. Only under such intense and honest competition will opensource have a chance to earn earn its mettle as a consumer product, not just a production product. Honestly, articles such as these make opensource look like the underperforming kid asking their teacher for an extra day on the homework.

Hoser's picture

Dont get me wrong I was one of the first to buy the gen1 iPhone and I have bought one every time they have come out with a new version. Til Now. With the changes Apple is making I am feeling more and more locked in and quite bluntly I don't like Apple selling me products and then taking them away. More over I HATE that they don't communicate at all. Just one day you wake up sync your phone and your favorite app is gone. No explanation no avenue to gripe no nothing. Why? Cause daddy Jobs knows best. I guess. It seems that Apple is doomed to repeat the mistakes they have made in the past. Open up Apple!!! If they could only take the approach that VMWare has and just give away their older OSX versions and make folks pay for the new ones they could rule the planet.
But alas they will continue to build very user friendly and very very pretty units that will have a smaller and smaller fan base as droid eats them for lunch.
Still love my iphone(Only after Jailbraking it!!) Once its open its a great platform. Closed though. Thats fine for grandma but not for this geek!!
As we have seen in the posts Apple has time to change their ways because most logical folks will wait for their contracts to run out. So they have a year or so to do a 180 and open things up. Chances of that happening are pretty slim though and so they will be losing folks steadily for the next two years until all the contracts have expired and folks are rocking the droid. Just like I will do.

oomu's picture

Apple never delete applications you bought

never and never , they _cannot_ do that. technically they can't.

You have a physical copy of the apps in your computer. itunes never delete that, and you can copy it in thousand of backups

Apple cannot revoke the certificate of that apps. They should revoke the certificate of the whole store, something like DVD css or blueray accs (a huge update would be needed for everyone)

they can revoke the certificate of the author of the app, it will do NOTHING to YOU and YOURS boughts apps.

you surely simply update the apps and the new version have a new name and so itunes remove the old one. or something like that.

in that occasion, you can find older version in the itunes directory for mobile apps

(for example tweetie 2 was renames twitter 1. a change of icon, a change of configuration. for someone in a hurry, it can be weird, but nothing, even tweetie 2, was deleted of the computer )


the whole debate is dubious.

We made opensource software. We promoted Free Software and I worked to promote them and make a living of them to BUILD BETTER TOOLS for PEOPLE !

not to be judgmental or moralistic about GREAT devices as iphone or whatever !

the goal is _tools_ who WORKS.

It can be attained by great shared source code, or by a great company making all it can to build better device

in the end, the only thing mattering : is the device helping people to do what they want ?

easy, accessible tools is helping people the most to be free : to be free of technological considerations.

something you should considerer : the iphone (and the mac so far), is still the best device for accessibility needs. (brail, and so on)

Hoser's picture

I I know is I reset my phone per their instructions and there is no more app. Cant find it on the store and its not on my computer.

Oh and where did all the WIFI apps go? Eh? Jobsy decided to remove them. Whammy they are gone too.

Sorry I would rather have an open market place and I will gravitate toward that!

Thanks for the misinformation!!!

James's picture

The markets are the entities that decide such lofty questions. By seeking out the best individually, we seek it out accurately collectively. I am a full time Linux user and have run Linux in one way or another since 1994. I use Linux because it is the best OS I can find. I use an iPhone. I use it because, to me, it is the best cellular telephone I can find. I use it because it delivers on my needs and expectations. I can also manage the iPhone from my Linux desktop now ( Linux is long past the state where it needs to be used on philosophical grounds. Die hard Linux users who also use iPhones are not such an enigma.

Unidentified's picture

So, maybe I'm no good at being a geek anymore, but where is the list of all Android apps? I really would like to consider switching from iPhone to Android, but I don't know what Android has to offer. All I can see on the web is that Android market page which just lets you browse through the TOP apps. I want to see them ALL and be able to search so that I can know if Android has what I want.

Why don't they have that on the web and if they do, why is it not easy to find?

So that brings me to:

Why iPhone? Because, today, it is the best, most refined, most apps, best web info, etc.

Also because we should all be free to choose what we like best, right? Isn't that what opensource people say they're fighting for? I'm definitely pro-opensource, but why would opensource people be telling me what to do or what I should think? That's not opensource to me.

But, really for me, one of the biggest reasons I was an iPod and now iPhone user is the dock connector and accessories. Back in the day, I far preferred the way my Creative Zen worked to the iPod, but the Zen ended up in the drawer because of all the docking accessories for the iPod. This is also a big reason I'm reluctant to leave my iPhone. I use the iPhone for music/podcasts as much as anything else.

And, yes, there are some apps that I really like -- both for entertainment and utility purposes -- that simply only exist on iPhone right now.

But don't get me wrong, I do have a list of "Why NOT iPhone" -- at the top being "AT&T" and yes, 2nd being "Apple telling me what I want" -- but at the end of the day, I get the most of what I want and with the least headache from my iPhone, so that's what I choose -- for now.

Rick's picture

What Apple has achieved is to break through _part_ of the strangle hold the mobile carriers have on the wireless market, and effectively destroy propietary content formats that enforce freedom constraining digital rights management on content. Anyone can get the free tools Apple provides and develop an iPhone/iPod application. Publishing is easy if you steer clear of smut in your application, and Apple doesn't care if your application source code is free.

Expect you could find some sort of hack to replace Apple's IOS with some Linux kernel, but if the carriers won't recognize your signals after doing so what's the point. Same thing with Android, which is essentially just as tightly control by Google as IOS is by Apple.

Lastly, iPad and its smaller ancestor iPod Touch in many ways show that we still don't know how to let people use wireless devices effectively ... the user interface and core applications are still in wild flux, yet both of these devices easily do end runs around the wireless carriers by using uncontrolled WiFi where possible to connect to the big pond. Linux WILL NEVER surpase the UI wonk's at Apple and other commercial companies, and open source WILL NEVER directly bust open the locks wireless carriers and Hollywood have on access and content like a company like Apple can with its iTunes store.

When content and bandwidth are free, then the highly efficient open source model will assert itself properly in the wireless space. Until then open source will steadily increase its dominance on the backend side of the Internet, but it will continue to need Apple to 'make money' by destroying the profit motive of closed wireless networks and content providers.

Chuck Talk's picture

So, seriously that needs to be a point in the polls too. I think the whole "purity" argument needs to be kicked back to one of asking ourselves first this question: does the Android option deliver a better choice to users by being open-source?

I think the answer is very clearly - "Yes, yes it does."

However, the person to whom it really matters the most is the person who buys the phone and who develops for the phone second. I think the android offers more choice for developers and users, but then again, that's my preference. Let's build the better options and users will follow (and already are in droves).

The reason I STILL have an iPhone? AT&T and their contract fees. I am counting down to my new phone on a different carrier. It's an android phone with exactly what I want and no AT& T + Apple lock-in. Two more months...

Jones's picture

I've used feature phones for a long time. I wanted to step up to a Galaxy S smartphone-- the bigger display suits my farsightedness and big fingertips. I'm critical of the use of iTunes on iPods and iPhones. There were a lot of reasons for me to prefer an Android over an iPhone, and open source vs. closed was a factor but not the overriding factor. In the end, I could not purchase a phone of the preferred display size in an Android. The clincher was superior hardware, superior materials, superior technology, superior transmit signal strength and superior receiver sensitivity. I agree that I'd jump at the opportunity to put Android in this hardware, given mature software design. My carrier would probably limit the software freedom I wished for even with Android...

qnetter's picture

Open source is a religion to you -- it's a means to an end for me. It's a development model that makes for cost-effective and rapid development. To me, as a philosophy, it comes with serious costs, as it turns technologists and artists into day-laborers, able to enjoy only direct compensation for their labor, not for the use of the fruits of that labor. To me, it can contribute to the Third World-ization of the USA as much as offshoring and union-busting do -- so I use it only to the extent that it builds a better solution that is worth the trade-offs.

Android phones are a great example of what, to me, is the true non-philosophical problem with open source (and the reason that, unless things change dramatically, I will never use one): developers develop for developers. Most users -- and I have set a career goal of being less and less technical as I get older, so I fall in this category -- want safety, simplicity, and beauty. Most open source UIs are the work of core-tech developers who slap a bunch of knobs on their code, instead of building a usage model in the UI and then putting functionality behind it (literally as a sequence, or figuratively as a philosophy). As a result, not only do I not know which Android apps I can trust, but when I run them, they look like 1996 X Window System apps, drowning in inconsistency and raw edges.

RB's picture

The iPhone and I use the one without a phone is something nice to have and something nice to _USE_.

Show me anything out there which is as good, as useable as robust as an iPod Touch or an iPhone and I might consider a switch.

I am not willing to live with some trash ripoff just to feel better about open source.

It's the wrong attempt to force people into using something. They will all have a choice and use it.

Only if and when there is a real alternative to these wonderfully working devices made by apple then it's worth considering a switch.

Open Source is about Software, no? So, where are the open source projects for eg. the iPhone and alike. Companies can install their own software aside from itunes. So there is a reason to even do develop also for iPhone OS and iOS devices. ( So far about the "fact" or the "illusion" of the totally closed up and locked up market place. It's just not true. )

That poll reminds me to those old days, where it was like "ATARI" vs. "COMMODORE".

So please, calm yourself down. Forget about who makes the hardware and focus on software.

Besides, even if I'd join a project to improve something on android that would not mean that i personally need to switch and to take any android trying to replace my music player.

On the other hand: Why do you people still use windows then?

(You most certainly do, as your company runs at least one ms exchange server and thats it.)

So people use stuff because they think they need it or they like it the most for any reason within their realm, unreachable to any criticism from the outside anyway as long as they are happy.

Translate: "Actually a minority of the users of phones feel that the iPhone is their best choice - leaving the majority to everything else."

So, maybe it's best to stop caring about that minority and think about the vast majority which uses other stuff - which is more likely to be or to become better.

The iPhone is a no brainer for the user. It disguises itself being a computer at all and just transforms into anything a developer can make out of it.

Android devices still seem to be made from hackers for hackers, but not for my grandma to use.

The freedom of choice includes a choice for a device that itself leaves no "wrong" choices anymore, even if limiting all choices effectively to a minimum. But as long as someone could live with these limitations as it makes his life easier by getting rid of decision making needs he doesn't want to care about and he does not know about in detail and so on and so on .... the most dumbest device will win if it only just does what the user needs it for.

So as a specific car might appear to be the most efficient there will always be some who insist on having a more luxurious or more powerful or more exotic one, even if just for being different.

In the end we have to live with that and trying to change this makes one no friends - or do you yourself have anyone as a close friend who always tries to berate you on how you could improve your live or whatever?

Have a nice day.



Carolime's picture

Well Travis. That is my free choice of course. I have a free choice on what I will use, be it open source, be it closed source.
To my opinion the iPhone is still stronger than the android. I compared my iPhone to the android of q friend and I like my iPhone better. That is the sole and only "personal" reason. And even I am very regularly pointed at as a Linux fangirl...
The only thing I really hate about apple is iTunes and then the fact that this will not run on Linux ubuntu. Stange as below apple there is an osx OS.
This means that each time for synchronizing i have to boot windows. :-(((((


gwon's picture

The most disturbing thing about closed markets, is when there is no support from the participants. The most exciting thing about Apple is that they actually support their products. If it doesn't work, and you just bought it, you return it. If you have a support contract, you take it to them and they fix it. If you need help, you sign up for one-on-one and they help you.

Just where is this kind of market place for other devices that are general use, and where the software is open source and "owned by no one who will support it"?

Microsoft is at a bad point with Vista because all the bad device drivers and all the poor hardware have made windows finally look like the junk to most people, that many have always thought it was.

I used to be a great fan of Linux, but it is behind the curve further and further because people can't give away their whole life for free, and at some point, those of us who really use this stuff for making money, need someone to support it and manage the evolution of it.

Open source is interesting for simple stuff, but for complex software systems, it becomes very difficult to make it work well because it's too easy for people to say:

1. you got it for free, why are you complaining
2. I can fix it for you, but it will cost you more than you can image.
3. There, I fixed it, when they didn't, and you have no legal or applicable recourse to get a real fix.

Many open source projects to great. Ones that go into products and which are critical to the life of the product will be challenged by the fact that people really will want things to work well, and GNU licensing says that after you've made it work well, you have to give it away and not have a market differentiating factor to go on.

For phones, it's the apps now, not so much the hardware. But even if you have better hardware, you'll get to give your software to your competitors to come back at you.

This can create great competition in the market place, but so can closed system which really do innovate with interesting capabilities.

Is Apple way ahead with device capabilities? I don't think so, but I do think that they are way ahead with software APIs for graphics and animation.

Job's commentary about being held back by third party software vendors and the speed that they want to go, speaks in the direction I am pointing.

When you have 4 developers, working together, you can go a lot faster than when you have 50 developers all continents apart. Also, when you have a corporate goal and a monetary reward system, there can be even more progress because people are not worrying about paying bills and picking up new, distracting work to fill in the blanks.

David Shauger's picture

Ending the article with "Stop it" negates anything positive you had to say. You can't be seriously trying to push the idea that there is closed and open software when we know Richard has his problems with many of the dominant Open Source models. Plenty wonderful Open Source projects now have dual license offerings with one FOSS and the other Commercial and that is working very well. Apple is an innovator and has been for decades. Open Source is a huge deal and we want Apple to support it as much as possible, but most software distribution models have their purposes and benefits.

Jeremiah's picture

Easy tiger. Android isn't _really_ open (Dalvik anyone? Java in syntax only!) so I don't really think that there is any 'open source' phone worthy of the name. Perhaps the N900 which is still Maemo based, though I suspect MeeGo might make it even more open.

John L's picture

How many of the iPhone users here had to "jail break" your iPhones before you felt you could actually use your phone?

Richard Blumberg's picture

Travis, despite your protestations to the contrary ("just asking, is all"), your post is a litany of snarky Apple-bashing. To whit: "the iPhone is truly something innovative. That is, it was the first to find a way to take the smartphone out of the hands of businessmen (and women) and place it in the hands of text-heavy teens and wired-in grandmas." And the iPhone is "a nice device". And that's just from the first paragraph.

Now, I am a fan of Open Source Software, and I use it wherever I can, and whenever there is no compelling reason to adopt an alternative. But I am not and will not be a member of "a movement ... that has become a way of life." That's the definition of a fanatic, not a fan.

Asking why I use Apple products instead of their Open Source alternatives for my life and my productive activity is like asking why I drive a Prius rather than a good American Ford Focus. It's not just a matter of economy; it's a matter of elegance. I spend a lot of time in my car, and I love the fact that the car I drive is so well engineered and so well built (and I'm not blind to its flaws, any more than I'm blind to the flaws in the Apple products I use.) The fact is, that Apple products work beautifully, and they work beautifully together, and they let me do a lot that I wouldn't have time to do or as much fun doing if I had to start by figuring out just how to make it work, and how to make it work with everything else that I've got working.

Which is what I think I'd have to do with Android. I know it's what I've had to do on the several occasions when I've tried to switch to a Linux desktop. Whenever anyone, in these comments, has told you that they use an iPhone for one particular reason or another, you've come back with the same response: you can make an Android system do that too. But I don't have to make my iPhone do anything; I can spend my time using my iPhone. It's beautiful; the display on the iPhone 4 is the best I've ever seen on any device close to that size, and the iPad, despite some buyer remorse at the beginning (mainly having to do with the realization that it was not going to replace my laptop), has become more and more enjoyable to use by the day, largely because it's beautiful too. I know, I can make Linux beautiful (and maybe Android too); but then, every time I add a significant piece of software, I have to make that beautiful too, and it gets tiring.

I work a lot with a few Open Source software packages - all my servers are LAMP systems; I do some good amateur utility programming in Python and the bash shell; I use Wordpress for my blogs and Mediawiki for a variety of purposes, and I've got a Drupal installation up for testing and study. I value those projects; I wish I were good enough to contribute code to them; I'm glad that I'm able to contribute financially in a modest way . But I write my code in TextMate, and so do a lot of people working on the Open Source packages I use. It's an elegant package.

I'm basically a writer and a teacher; I write about and teach courses in Buddhism, and I also write (and plan to write more) about politics, economics, aesthetics, and the probability of an immanent apocalypse. When I try to use Open Source software religiously and exclusively, the time I have available for writing and for the serious study that precedes almost everything I write is diminished. My Apple products let me focus on study and craft; they give me time.

I pay for that, of course. 5 C-notes for two iPhones, plus 30 more for the two-year commitment to a voice/data plan. And I've had to buy cases for the two phones to get around the signal issues (although I'd have done that anyway, for any device with a large unprotected screen). But I didn't pay much more than I'd pay for the dubious pleasure of getting Android devices, learning my way around them, teaching my wife how to use them, integrating them with my other gear, and wondering how and when and whether Froyo will break what I've figured out how to make work.

The deal is, that the pleasure of the iPhone is not dubious, and it comes out of the box. Don't neglect that pleasure.

With regard,


Gufibutt's picture

I know I may have my tail handed to me here, but I love OS, and I mean Open Source and not Operating System, and I just replaced my iPhone 3G with an Iphone 4. Hear me out, though, as I'm probably one of many people who really do love Open Source, and yet love their iPhones.

One of the factors that is important to me is that I be able to use the same service as my partner, who travels internationally for business to mostly GSM countries. So, AT&T is my choice of carriers. This limits my Android options some. From the research that I did on the Aria, it seemed like it really didn't compare with some of the Android phones from other carriers, some of which might take me away from my love of my iPhone. However, the reality is that they're NOT on AT&T. Could I get one from T-Mobile and unlock it? Sure! However, while many colleagues can't believe it, I've never unlocked my iPhone. The simple fact, for me, is that I have a very busy life, and I don't care to spend my free time managing my cell phone. I like having a warranty. I also don't hack my Tivo. It's a cost/benefit ratio, which will be different for everyone. For me, the costs outweigh the benefits. For others, I know they don't.

Here's a fact of life for some, including me. I like the iPhone interface, look, feel, etc. I've been on an iPhone since before there were options, and I'm a creature of habit. If I didn't like the iPhone interface, I'd have been looking to abandon it for something else before the iPhone 4 released.

From what I can tell, the apps that I'd want, or ones similar to them are available from the Android Marketplace. However, I'd have to re-buy all the apps I've already purchased. Oh, and by the way, when I was looking around before I bought my iPhone 4 on the launch date, I didn't find a searchable, indexed web page of Android apps. Everything pointed me to "the Android Marketplace app on my Android phone." Well, what about trying to make things more open to people considering if an Android phone is a good choice for them?

Do I like the fact that Apple is about as pro-Open Source as Microsoft? No, but there are alternatives to simply saying, "Apple's not playing nice, so I won't play with them. They're not evil. They're not trying to actively destroy Open Source. How about finding more ways to pressure Apple into developing a version of iTunes for Linux, or opening up information about programming against it or for the iPhone so that the Open Source community can create decent app interfaces?

The only real plus, in my mind, other than making a statement buy going to an Android phone would be that I could easily synch without using an OS X or Windows machine. Unlike a lot of Linux people I know, I have a couple of apps that I have to use for daily work that won't run in an emulator, and require me to run Windows in a VM. At home I'm a pure Linux person, with the exception of a 7 year old Mac. I don't play games that won't run under Linux, or that would require me to install Windows or the Mac OS. I don't buy upgrades from Apple for their OS so that I can run apps that require newer version of OS X or Windows.

Will my next phone be an iPhone? Well, by that time, the choice of alternative phones will probably be a lot greater. This could force Apple to open things up some. Does that mean that they have to be Open Source for me to stay with them? No, just that they need to have a good enough product with official SW support within Linux or that there's reasonable support from within the Open Source Linux community without hacking my phone. By the time I purchase my next phone, if the Android phones continue to be developed as well as they have been, Apple's going to have to do one helluva job to keep me as a customer, because Android phones aren't nipping at the iPhone's heels any longer. They're about to step on the iPhone's shoulders and step above them. They're just not quite there yet, FOR ME.

Jim Frost's picture

Why do I still own an iPhone?

1. Android was not ready for prime time when I bought it. In some ways it still isn't.

2. It sure is nice that my calendars (the master copy of which is on a Mac) all stay in sync automatically. Maybe there is an Android integration with iCal/Address Book now? I would prefer not to sync via Google, they already know too much about me.

3. It has way more apps than anything else, and a simple way to get them.

4. The build quality is better than anything else (except the iPhone4, but I see no reason to upgrade until at least iPhone5).

5. When a new release of iOS comes out, I can download it the same day (though sometimes that's unwise). When a new release of Android comes out, you can get it when your carrier gets around to it, which will be some time after the phone vendor gets around to it, which might well be (sometimes has been) never and appears to typically be taking 3 months or more on popular handsets.

You note that Android is growing fast, and attribute that to "more handsets". That's probably true worldwide, but in the U.S. a major limitation on the iPhone's penetration is that it's not on anything but AT&T. If it were not for the tremendous draw of the iPhone's capabilities I would never have jumped ship from Verizon, and for many people it's impossible to jump ship. As a result we're seeing Verizon customers in particular jump on the Droid because it's the best they can get, not necessarily because it's what they would choose.

I'm a big fan of open source, but in the end result these things are all tools and I use what works best. On the server that's Linux hands down; on the desktop, Macs. Used to be Linux on the desktop but I got tired of it never working right on laptops, and not having a lot of applications I really wanted, and the applications it did have tended to be balky and buggy and slow (I'm thinking of you, Open Office! But you're not alone). On my phone, iOS. In my Tivo, Linux.

jim frost

Jones's picture

One can be an open source supporter without being an extremist, but I'm afraid that Jim here lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the extremists on this blog right away when he admitted to being a Mac user. This is a tough crowd, Jim, and here, it is clear, a Mac user has no more credibility than a Ballmer or a McBride. Indeed, if your home computer were an Open Solaris box you might be booed here.

Frankly, while I am an open source lover, I view some of the comments here as thoroughly "off the deep end", including the premise of the original article.

Consider this: did you know that the copyright on the design of original Model T Ford and all related patents have now expired -- only the trademarks live on. Why, we all could own a Model T of our own construction completely royalty-free! Just why on Earth would any of us ever consider buying a Prius? That would be unconscionable! We're supposed to be open source supporters, after all! And why are any of us using Dell or Apple computers, when we should instead be using an open design single board computer?

No, I'm afraid there has to be room in the world for open source software lovers who also use fine hardware manufactured by proprietary factories. Jim's right, even if he lost the attention of the extremists...

tkepley's picture
Open Minded

Never thought about the open source model-T. Only issue? I don't know how to build a car, just like I don't know how to make a phone. If Toyota made a car that was built using all open source software for the fuel injection system, the interface etc...I would likely dump my Ford due to their reliance on MS based software. But that's my point, we're not talking feature parity when we say Model-T vs Prius. One requires batteries if nothing else...

We are talking feature parity when it comes to a Droid Incredible and an iPhone. It's not tit for tat (Apple would be suing HTC if that were the case), but it's close. Close enough that if you consider yourself an open source zealot (remember, this is after all), you should really think about what you are saying when you spend the days harping about the virtues of open source while talking on your closed phone--when an open source variant is out there. That's all I'm getting at.

PS--I work for Red Hat yes, but I would never lambaste someone for running Opensolaris. Opensolaris is a really cool project and I applaud Sun for opening their software to the public like they did (Let's hope that Oracle keeps the momentum going!!) I am an open source fanboy through and through, and if your flavor of open source works better for you, awesome.

Jim Frost's picture

Eh, I was using Linux on the desktop way back, early enough that I remember when you had to debug the X11 configuration for practically every video card, and getting it to work on a laptop sucked. WLAN users (remember WLAN?) had me to thank for the fact that the kernel didn't panic every time it got a fragmented packet. And then there was xloadimage, the first broadly useful image viewer for X11 -- my baby. I think I have more than earned my open-source stripes both as a user and as a developer.

I gave up on Linux on the desktop because the applications were just not very good, and there were huge holes in the application space. I check back in on occasion, and I see that people are still plugging away with Open Office and it is still bloatware (OMG is it a pig these days) with really lousy output quality. GIMP got really good (although its UI is bizarre in a lot of ways). RAW processing didn't, which makes it useless for someone who's really into photography despite GIMP. God help you if you want to do color managed work on Linux.

The open source UI stuff has come a good long way but it's still mediocre in lots of ways. Any honest comparison makes that pointedly obvious. I'm happy for the people who thrive in it, more power to you, but as always YMMV and mine certainly does.

IMO a Mac is the best thing out there for a desktop system between quality applications, stability, performance, and maintainability. All the goodness of UNIX with good applications and UI -- there is a lot to like, even if I have to glare at Jobs on a regular basis.

And hey, Darwin is open source anyway, right? :-)

jim frost

Roald McCarty's picture

I'm a big proponent of open source. It has proven itself in environments of all sizes and function.

However, choosing a phone, (or computer, or car) simply because of it's source code status, simply isn't reasonable logic. I don't prefer Linux because it's open source. I prefer Linux because it happens to work like Unix, have some of the best web applications around and happens to be open source. Linux is Linux because of it's open source, source code, but would I stop using it, if that status changed? Nope.

The iphone works, works well as a small computer, and has half ass coverage. Still the best phone I've ever had...and I was a huge berry fan boy.

Ron's picture

There is room for many different business models. I am a fan of the open source model for some businesses but it doesn't work for all/many. Just because iPhone isn't open source doesn't mean it's bad. Heck, you sound like a certain religion whose fanatics proclaim anyone and anything that doesn't believe what you believe is inherently bad. Open up your mind a little bit. Open Source is not the end all be all. It's not the Christ of software. It's one model for getting software written - not the only model. Apple has many examples of treating their customers poorly but they also have many examples of treating their customers well. However, I can think of a number of companies with shady business ethics who are based on open source. Their behavior as a company has nothing to do with whether they are open source or not.

I use Linux for many applications but, it suffers from the open source related problems that someone else mentioned above. Pragmatically speaking, I haven't found an open source based product that didn't have these types of issues unless it's one where they layered a whole bunch of proprietary code on top of it or it was a device that didn't have a complex user interface. Let's face it, open source is great as the basis for a lot of products but it hasn't turned out to be great for the really innovative and leading edge products that the majority of people on this planet prefer. The motivation for any designer or developer to put that kind of investment into it and then make it all available to competitors is just not there. It's generous - and socialistic - but it just isn't the best model for some things.

There has been a lot of good come out of the Open Source movement but stop trying to make it a religion where only your religion is good and all others are evil. I own an iPhone because I like it, it's well supported, and it's software and hardware are amazing quality. I also own a Droid. I own it because of the geek that's in me. It's fun to play around with and have access to the OS etc. but when I recommend a phone to a non-geek I don't recommend anything Android based, just as I don't recommend Linux. The user friendliness is just not there.

BTW, is the car you drive open source? How about the airlines you fly - have you made sure their flight control system is open source? How about your cell provider? Is their network software open source?

Stop trying to spread a religion (or political ideology) and try to be pragmatic. If the open source model is truly superior in all cases you shouldn't have to shame people into preferring products that use Open Source. They'll use them because they find them better. Let the market decide without the ideological evangelism.

Rusty S.'s picture

Considering the site we're on, this is kind of like complaining that a documentary about the 70s airing on VH1 focuses more on Fleetwood mac than the Camp David Accord.

Jason's picture

In NZ it is easy to buy the phone and run it on one of at least 3 networks. Sure that costs way more upfront but being able to go for the best / fastest data is just better.

having invested much more that $US200 (try closer to $1k ) for a video cam, camera & a phone (fogot it has an ipod too) I'm fairly confident that payback is there since ongoing data & phone fees are the real expense & got room to move there

In 1 or 2 yrs time it might be useful to go os for something else but keep in mind that not everyone s locked in to 1 provider

Brawndo QC's picture

Nerd 1: blabla

Nerd 2: blabla

Answer: App Store and Jailbreak

Alternative: N97

See, I just saved you bandwidth