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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ben92081's picture

of Apps, how many Apps are available on other phone compare to iPhone?? beside I don't any of you guys tried to develop something on other than iPhone, it is almost impossible. There are over 240K Apps for iPhone

Peter's picture

I bit the open-source bullet and I own a Nexus One with Android 2.2. Does it work? It does. Sometimes. But how about this:
* It can't connect to and ad-hoc WIFI network.
* You can't use a proxy for web browsing
* How about a proxy with authentication? Nope.

These are some technical things that you would expect a linux based OS handle effortlessly. The iPhone might be for teens and grandmothers but it does all those things. It just works.

david's picture

Thank you for a very informative discussion. I am also very fond of open source and use open source whenever possible. Sometimes, it means spending a tremendous amount of time getting what you want out of it and I can understand why some people would content themselves with "closed source" product...

I have owned an IPhone for a couple of month now and must take my hat off to apple for a product that is truly amazing... Yes! it might be closed source, but in that instance, I don't really care! It does what I want it to do, and it does it well... Ok, the price tag is pretty steep, but to get any other open source product to do the same, the time spent might actually end up costing you the same...

In conclusion, the IPhone is a little bit like french fries... It's not really good for your health but it taste soooo nice!

udi's picture

I have an Iphone 3gs. when the 3g came out, i agonised over getting it for so long that the next model had been out for 5 months by the time i decided. I hate apple for their policies towards open source and their use design/fashion sometimes in advance of function. I kept looking. I hate having to use itunes which I have been proselytising against for years. I hate DRM which they championed for a long time and I hate... ZIn the end I got an Iphone because i dont have the money to buy a phone every year or two (they are $1000 here) so I had to chose carefully. i really wanted Android but after trying all the smart phones I could get my hands on, it seemed the apple product had the smoothest, best thought out system and interface so that's what I got. of course I have jailbroken my phone thanks to some very clever people and have made some adjustments but I've also bought hundreds of dollars worth of apps to make my phone extremely useful to me. off course I don't have the money for this new version but if I were choosing, the very usable interface of the iphone and my investment in apps would make me choose it again. sure,I feel guilty, supporting the enemy but even now, I cant see a device to topple apples stronghold. I am seriously hoping that by the time I have the money, the open source alternative, will leave me with no alternative so to speak.

Wolf Paul's picture

I have an iPhone because when I bought it there was no decent Android phone available on my (company) plan.

Since then I have played with a number of Android smartphones, and (a) I am disgusted that most of them do not give you root access, and like HTC for example, make it extremely difficult if not impossible to obtain root access. Combine that with the fact that most apps in the Market are not nearly as polished as most apps in the AppStore, and there is simply no compelling reason for me to switch.

I can't afford to use my phone purchasing decision to make a statement, I need to decide based on functionality, and for me that means an iPhone for its functionality.

Chuck Talk's picture

Never, ever, comment on these threads.

/*Slaps forehead, falls backward, realizes he's just done it again and will now continue loopcycle by joining in again...*/

Interesting number of comments, lots of flames and some well thought commentary and feedback. I agree with the points that say this:

1) If you want people to use the platform - improve it!
2) Don't try to sell on ideology alone
3) I have seen open source tools that possess a well developed UI contrary to a lot of BS that was stated here (Mozilla, GNOME, Pidgin, Chrome, heck - my entire Linux distro has tons of tools that have excellent UIs, NoMachine(NX), etc.)

So - really - I think the ideological argument is fine for those that will only live by that line, but in the world where the consumer lives, the argument to them has to be this: This tool will solve your needs and can be supported longer term without costing you more to keep upgrading endlessly without reason other than the "hype-cycle" of the latest development and the needs of the revenue generation cycle of the developer.

People often tend to forger the real TCO of the hype cycle as consumer when they get sold the bill of goods of "isn't this cool?"
versus "do I really needs this and is it really ready to be used, or is it just some stupid status symbol and I am a dork willing to pay for it?".

If you think about it - the answers come to you. The reason I want a Droid phone isn't for the Apps. It's because ALL I need in a phone is GPS, Email Text, Phone, a Browser and the ability to build what I need for my phone. The rest can be built or found if I need it for my intended use. I'm an IT type, so really, I don't need to be sold a thousand apps for my phone - that's just a waste to me.

It comes down to choice and usefulness. I actually talk to people face to face to. Scary, isn't it?

Toni's picture

In the first paragraph, you state that the iPhone is nice device. In the last paragraph you state that voting with the wallet is one of the best ways to show support or disapproval for something. Sooo... What am i missing here?

If you like the device, think its a leader in product ingenuity, or like the way it feels, or the GUI, or the developers community behind it, then why not cast a vote for it? If Apple, Inc. did a good job in general, don't they deserve a thumbs up? OK, they are not opensource. So they are not getting a thumbs up for being opensource. They are getting it for the other many reasons which makes it a nice device, no? Or maybe you are suggesting that, being a supporter of opensource software, one should not support anything closed source, regardless of its quality?

zorg's picture

how dare you say i am not serious about open source just because i have one iphone and am about to buy another?

i have an iphone 3g and a nexus one and GREATLY prefer the iphone 3g although the nexus one is superior in a number of categories.

i've been conscious of open source since 1989, a time when the term wasn't used, but when i realized that TeX provided me with document freedom that i have never relinquished. i have boycotted microsoft since 1995 and i use as much open source software as i can. my primary desktop has always been linux, unix, or mac os x since that time.

apple is not a threat to open source. it is only worthwhile to boycott a firm that actually threatens the existence of open source, such as microsoft. i am personally disgusted by people who buy machines preloaded with windows, thereby paying money to be used against open source, then installing linux, thinking that they are somehow sticking it to the man.

i can not rely on the imap in k9 mail on nexus one so it doesn't really matter to me that the browser is faster. there are three different ALL NON-WORKING bluetooth packages to connect my bluetooth keyboard to the Nexus One. all the media players on the Nexus One use a Google library to display video that gets the aspect ratio wrong on most of my larger files. The Nexus One camera is better than iPhone but the shutter lag is still significant enough that candid snapshots are unreasonable on both platforms. i have several ereader apps on both platforms but, having tried the retina display on a friend's iphone, i feel that it trumps any other variable.

i have no sympathy at all for apple boycotters in the open software movement. given that the movement has failed miserably to put forth even the tiniest effort to thwart microsoft, i believe you will have to find an opponent made completely out of fluffballs in order to score a victory. apple will probably not prove to be a big morale booster.

my suggestion for open source is to find the companies that briefly offered linux in their first generation products, such as viliv and asus, who then went overwhelmingly or exclusively into microsoft's arms. figure out what really happened there and how to stop it. try that instead of a stupid little boycott of apple.

Cheif Wiggum's picture

That youtube video was sooooo right. The iPhone has the "GeeBees." That's why I got one. Who knows what's inside an Android??? Maybe just regular "Bees"?????? Or maybe just some robot parts?????

The other reason I avoid the android is that one day all robots will inevitably turn against man-kind. .......I don't need $#!@ like that in my pocket so close to my junk!

moose's picture

its split in half and smashed into applesauce of which the consistency is set to my liking. i liked apple at first due to their small footprint as well as their use of materials overall styling and the "ocean at your fingertips" as i like to think of it as.
but i stick with apple because of the hacker community around it the jailbreakers and all those out there that see a decent os and wring it out to make it a far superior os if it werent for those hard working developers. and to that extent my phone is custom built to all of my preferences and in some circumstances leave others baffled, its the raw and natural feeling you get by just playing with it. and one thing i love is the fact that the orientation is not to just one side but whichever side catches your fancy, which is probably one of the short list of things i like. with the google or palm os is that all the cards are on the table infront of you no hiding. take maps for example: on a droid phone it will tell you a whole heap of information which the likes of iphone will probably never see such as the multitude of layers which you can saturate your map with which gives it more of a usable side to it.
It seems like apple built a GODPHONE and from there stripped it down to the essential = iphone edge which IMHO is a pretty kick ass rugged and equally hard to operate on.and then threw afew spare parts into the next = iphone 3g and swapping out some old parts and adding extras to certain bits = iphone 3gs and to now totally revamping the whole thing and bringing some solid design concepts and making a real nice well thought out phone - one major detail the human touch which disrupts its whole being. if they made the edges recessed as to put a lip around the antenna frame structure or put a layer of nickel around it to act as a buffer with some air inbetween. i digress however as the android side of the field begins to look up with nice displays and the hardware to boot. its just a matter of jumping in and getting dirty fiddling with androids candid bits

chad's picture

Serious, I still have an iphone because the software sucks and is filled with un-removable junk, and it will self-destruct if you try to modify it.

Is this seriously the alternative that you suggest we should vote for with our wallets?

Chris Farling's picture

While Android apparently doesn't really 'brick the DROID X phone, it just won't work until the "right" files are in the right place.

You still can't get to LINUX in all phones. so why screw up your phone? The Thrill?

gwon's picture

So Droid-X is on the streets, and I got an email from who has a sell going on. They have a really lousy interface for selecting plans and it really is not possible for me to see how to get 1) unlimited (or near) data, specify minutes of talk, and number of text messages, independently.

When I go to the Apple store to buy an iPhone, they've worked it all out with AT&T to make sure that there is a website/webservice that works to provide the user a seamless, understandable and usable user interface.

The plan selection on 3rd party web sites feels like an overnight website developed by some wannabe webaholics who can make HTML pages and use JS and CSS, but who have no idea how to sell something.

Wanting to sell, and owning up to the task of selling are two different things. If the Android marketplace wants to pull iPhone users over, they are going to have to decide that the experience has to feel like a "business" experience, not like an "opensource" experience.

The technogeeks will wonder through the steps and find the right way to select what they want. But many people will be extremely frustrated that they bought their phone from one company, and have to talk to another to get it set up with the correct contract.

It's the level of "the right experience" that Apple is outstripping most vendors on.

Go to an Apple store, and compare the number of people engaged in purchase conversations to the number at your local PC shop.

The masses who've had great experiences with iPhones are also seem to be taking a second look at the Mac. When they go to the Apple store, they get tended to, and questions are answered without the "I'm an expert and your an idiot" conversation that you find at many PC sales places.

Apple is impressing people with their ability to say "we are glad you are a customer". When people hear you say "Apple is a lousy company, they are not open source, or open ...", that measurement is meaningless to them. All they know is that their phone works, the app store works, when they have problems, there is a "door" to walk through that will help them figure it out and get it fixed.

It's the whole experience, open source is such a minor part of what most people actually care about that I know who own iPhones.

gwon's picture

As of the addition of the iPad (I believe), you've been able to download applications, again and again, to any device that you have your iTunes account associated with.

The book store works the same way. You can put all of your books on all of your devices.

Darrel Davis's picture

I do think that deciding to use an iPhone or Android device based on whether or not it's OSS is most definitely a statement and not a selection based on usability or suitability for the tasks required. I owned an iPhone for 2 years and was impressed almost the entire time with the ability to get done those things I needed it for. I then bought an iPhone 4 when it was released. It's a great phone but I wondered if I wasn't missing something better. I heard about tons about Android and have been a big OSS proponent for a lot of years, so I returned the iPhone 4 and got a new Samsung Galaxy S running 2.1.

At this point, a little over a week, I feel like I may have made a mistake. The usability is pretty miserable in comparison. I have had to replace most of the basic apps with 3rd party ones to be able to do things untuitely I've normally not been required to think much about (Launcher, SMS, Messaging. etc). Running a task killer feels, as my OSS loving brother put it, a little like running Windows Mobile.
The app store experience and selection is not quite there yet, although it's making great progress in a short time.

I have replaced Apple's heavy-handed approach to the whole ecosystem with the carrier's (AT&T) heavy-handed, and more inept, approach. My phone is very nice and has a snappy 1GHz processor but I still get pauses for several seconds. I'm pretty sure Froyo (2.2) would solve this with its' JIT compiler but I'll have to wait for the carrier to enable the update, which they are not too eager to do and probably won't for a couple of months at least. With Apple's emphasis on the user experience and their control over the updates, I would generally not have to wait for this.

I'm also not convinced that Google has more of my best interests in mind any more than Apple since these are both publicly traded companies and I know that means as far as their motivations go.

I'm not sure I'm keeping the phone and will continue to refine it for my use but the zealotry for the device based on OSS is sadly misplaced. It's a device that I use to do the things I want, not a statement.

Unidentified's picture

Ok to my first point as the subject says, you dont always need to own something to love it. For instance i dont own a Ferrari car but i do love them.

But seriously i do understand your article and i can say i do agree with some of your arguments but to everything. I will try to explain how i see it so that you and others understand why i prefer iPhone to anything else even today. I just want to say from the start that i'm not a Apple fanboy but i do think they make beautiful / quality products.

So to the reasons why i love the iPhone (i have owned all iPhone models since it was launched):
- I know my phone will be update regularly and will also keep its value over time. I sold my iphone 3GS for about 70% of the price i payed. i doubt any other phone would sell that high after 11 month use.
- I know Apple wont release another phone for at least 1 more year. This fact bothers me about other manufacturer like SonyEricsson/HTC who make new phones every 3-4month. It feels like something new is always on the corner and me as a consumer dont like to get a phone which will get less support update.
- The concept with iPhone (even if its more closed then other phones) is that everything is works very well together. This include the sync, backup, flashing etc.
- I can pretty much expect that all application work and perform well on my phone. For good or worse due to the hard restrictions you get much more quality.
- The whole experience with iPhone (specially the touch) is not something you can explain in words. It has to be experienced. In my opinion Android phones have still not came as far as iPhone in this area still but that is my personal opinion.
- The quality is of course always superb when it comes to Apple so it also plays a role.
- The amount of application/games available. (not even counting the world of jailbreaked iphone)
- Payment mechanism is missing in Android as i understand it (may i'm wrong on this ?). This opens for many options like paypal and such. I really like the way AppStore is charges and sends me a recite.

Things i hate about the iPhone (well nothing is perfect in this world so of course there are some bad things with the iphone also):
- From the start iphone was very limited (not even copy/paste) but it has evolved now so today its pretty good actually but i do still lack some features that Apple intentionally has left behind only to be presented as "new" features later. One of these are the AVRCP for bluetooth headset. This enables you to skip track/pause and such things on a bluetooth headset. I work with bluetooth myself so i know how simple it would have been to add this.
- Limitation in sync with other applications. i had to jailbreak my 3GS for this. Not a difficult task but unnecessary.
- Limitation of iTunes sync with more then 1 computer (hate this most then anything)
- likely more things....(this is also very individually based on peoples need)

Also i like to say that I recently bought an X10 min (i'm a gadget freak and like to test things before giving feedback) and was surprised how well it worked. i have to say Android phones have come a long way since last year and are getting closer when it comes to the touch experience but still i can not say its as impressive as even 3GS. I have also tested HTC Desire for a few days and it is "chubby" in comparison to my old 3GS touch experience.

So all and all when i consider what to buy for my next phone (X10 mini is my party phone hehe) i dont see any other options but an iPhone again!
This has nothing to do with Apple or that i'm a fanboy but everything to do with what i get for my money and user experience and value for my cash.

ps. At one point i was very excited about WebOS but Palm really destroyed their chance by not releasing the phone in many countries (Sweden) in time. Also the bad software support made me reconsider. They played cat and mouse game with iTunes if you remember? I want something that works and is supported fully. Why the hell you release a phone without a sync/backup software is beyond me. If they really wanted to take advantage of itunes they should have payed the license fee and not assume they can take advantage of other companies software for free.

Ron's picture

I don't have a iPhone. My last phone was a Palm and my current one is a Nokia N900. I don't like phones (ebooks, etc.) that tie you to a single vendor as a revenue stream.

Especially when those vendors can decide what I can load (or even delete what you have) without my input.

Thomas Kumlehn's picture

It is definetly a good thing that Android is FOS, but Google totally controls what hardware can participate in the android ecosystem or not (location services, GPS). That's bad. Not, because it forces common standards, but because thoose standards MUST be good for Google. Apple does the same, but they don't claim "openness".
As an embedded programmer, I have the impression that most manufacturers jumped the droid train, just to avoid to pay for the M$ alternative. And they don't really care about proper FOS habits. The GPL violation special task forces are very busy ...
Luckily my own open hardware project "openKMQ: watch 3-D movies on any device" does work fine with all platforms, because it doesn't need apps for now.