Disappointed with the 3GS and AT&T

Ye who enter this post, abandon all hope.

First of all, let me preface with the standard Apple-fanboy disclaimer. I’m a huge Apple fan (as the ridiculous number of Apple products littered all over my by apartment can attest to.) They really have pushed forward the entire Cell Phone industry, and have been a catalyst for the next generation of Something Great(tm.) That being said, …

The keynote left me a little “wanting.” The updates were boring, incremental and not what you’d typically expect from Apple. Apple doesn’t do incremental. It doesn’t do evolutionary. It does revolutionary. And to see a keynote that literally spent 5 minutes talking about voice-activated controls is borderline pathetic.

There was very little new announced or demoed. The hardware upgrades are what normally would be considered “bumps” in the Laptop world. I still don’t understand what “2x the magic” means, but I’m going to assume the magic is ram. I just find it awfully insulting that some of the features are not being ported over to the 3G (video recording, voice commands.) Jailbroken phones already have video recording! The one thing that would have been game-changing, a front facing camera, didn’t seem to make it out.

Regardless, I understand that the hardware form factor is pretty much “perfect” (See? I can be fanboyish) It’s perfect because it gets out of the way. The real form factor of the iPhone is iPhone OS. And Cupertino, that’s where we have a problem. The form factor has become totally stagnant.

Everyone remembers the first time they saw the iPhone OS. It really felt like something plucked out from the future. It’s like Doc Brown showed up in his Delorean and gave us this piece of technology from 20 years in the future.

But that was 2007. This is 2009. The iPhone OS still looks like 2007, and its built with some (bad) 2007 assumptions. The OS does not scale for people who install tons of apps. Ever try to move an app from Page 8 to Page 1 in Springboard? Shit is broken. It’s just an inelegant solution, and I’m not sure what is an elegant solution, but if anyone can figure it out, its the apple team.

Or so you’d think. The Core UI coming out of the iPhone lately has been, well, shitty. The notification system is a dramatic example of “not really thinking the UI out.”

Here’s a pic from the keynote:

Seriously?  Imagine getting 30 of these.

Seriously? Imagine getting 30 of these.

Imagine a spammy app. Something like Tweetie, or AIM, or a news app. Imagine getting 30 of these notifications? That design just doesn’t scale. The alternative format of collasping the alerts is just as shitty. Instead you either get messages like “Twitter (30) – View” or “Twitter (30) / ESPN (10) / AIM (82)” which are unusable. It just doesn’t work. It’s inelegant, and its almost embarrassingly implemented. Compare that with the Palm Pre:

Now that's more like it!

Now that's more like it!

Now that’s a 2009 new modern system. The design is built with notifications at the core. The notifications system slides in and out, regardless of context, doesn’t distract, and can be used to read details in place of your current app (not forcing you to switch context.) Now, I’m not just putting the Pre on a pedestal, Android does this too (and really really well.)

This completely ties into the biggest fundamental flaw in the OS. The lack of background applications (except for the Blessed Few Apple Apps.) I hate not being able to run Pandora or Slacker in the background (or AIM, or Tweetie, or push Gmail.) I (barely) understand the battery arguments, but shouldn’t the 3G S new super battery have made those points moot? Additionally, Apple needs to stop coddling me like a little child. If I want to run folding@home on my phone and give it 15 minutes battery life, let me do it. If an app truly destroys the battery, the review process will ferret this out (“This RSS reader sucks battery like crazy.”) Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

Now of course, other phones have their flaws too. The Pre doesn’t have an on-screen keyboard (which stinks if you want to shoot off a “Coo” text message) and I’ve become super fast with the iPhone’s corrective type system. Also, not being able to write directly to the graphics layer means no awesome games like Need For Speed Underground. But, I do think those are coming. Web OS’ 1.0, so far, is far superior to iPhone’s 1.0.

In another (related) rant or observation. Did anyone else notice the strange acrimony between Apple and AT&T during the keynote? There were some (snide) comments in passing about no tethering and (especially) no MMS. Take that and add in no newly discounted data plans, no nice upgrade pricing for 3G owners and rumors of Apple taking the entire $100 price cut on their end for the 3G, and it seems like AT&T is losing some of the love that they’ve had for the folks off 280. Maybe Apple is playing hardball with their exclusivity contract? Hmm…. food for thought.

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8 Responses to Disappointed with the 3GS and AT&T

  1. jesse says:

    Yes, it definitely seems Apple/ATT relationship is cooling.

    Also, you’ve got a weird character in your last paragraph (“rumors have[something] of Apple…”)

  2. nick says:

    Very weird character. Fixed.

  3. Chris K. says:

    Here’s what doesn’t make sense to me with the Pre. It’s great that notifications show up and fade away, but when I’m in the midst of a game on my iPhone, I don’t want to lose screen real estate until it fades. I want a close button.

    With that in mind, I also want a reply button, since notifications sometimes *do* merit an immediate response from me. I don’t see how the Pre enables this, and Apple is smart enough to give us all a nice LARGE target for those options, even though they’re still in the way, and quite irritating.

  4. nick says:

    Chris: I believe the notifications/background bar are app customizable in the Pre. So if your app can have an immediate response/feedback method, you can add a button to the bar. (Android does this too…)

    And having a large popup target for a single event is awful. I’m sick of popup windows in my browser, and I’m sick of them on my phone.

  5. Omar says:

    Great post Nick, your observations summed up my feelings as well. There may be some backlash from consumers with this release. As you said Apple has developed a name in part for revolutionary development which is absent here. Also, for O2 to offer tethering as a standard feature while AT&T lacks the feature altogether is abhorrent. Even when tethering is release no one should be surprised if they tack it on with a $30 fee…. I still think I’ll pick up the 3GS though if I can find someone to pay for the 3G 🙂

  6. Alex N says:

    The above link shows a video of a conceptual app management interface in iTunes – it basically solves the app problem, and all we need are apple's developers or an enterprising third-party to make this happen. Agree with Nick, come up Apple team, let's wake up.

  7. Alex N says:

    http://i.gizmodo.com/5158506/itunes-concept-sho…The above link shows a video of a conceptual app management interface in iTunes – it basically solves the app problem, and all we need are apple's developers or an enterprising third-party to make this happen. Agree with Nick, come up Apple team, let's wake up.

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