The Garden Is Pretty, But Its Walls Are Ugly

When the iPhone was originally launched, the mobile world swooned. What a beautiful device, exceptional UI, etc, etc, ad nauseum. To be honest, it is quite a nice device, with a new take on the user interface that many people really enjoy. When Apple launched the App Store, again, it turned the industry on its head, being the first quasi-smartphone (I don’t believe it’s a true smartphone, but that’s not the point of this post) to sell itself based on the apps available. Developers love the simplicity of creating apps, and consumers love the ease of which they’re able to discover and install new apps. Indeed, the garden of the iPhone is beautiful.

Unfortunately, as many have discovered, it’s very much a walled garden, and so long as you don’t venture too close to the walls, it remains an extremely beautiful garden. Sadly, once you *do* venture to the edges, the walls turn out to be quite ugly indeed.

For starters, the App Store is the ultimate walled garden. Any app can be entered, as long as that app is OK with Apple to be there. When this limitation was announced, it was assumed they would only exercise power in odd cases, such as harmful applications, or extremely offensive ones. We now know this is not the case. There have been a number of high-profile applications that were pulled because they were considered competitive to iPhone features, because Apple simply did not like them, or due to other factors, such as AT&T.

Now lately, Apple has demonstrated just how ugly those walls are, by complaining to the government that ‘jailbreaking’, or the attempt to remove some of those ugly garden walls, is extremely dangerous – not just to the phone, but also to the network it’s connected to. In other words, Apple is essentially saying, ‘You can use your iPhone however you want, as long as it’s the way we want you to.’

Another fine example surfaced today, with Qik announcing its availability in the App Store. Qik is available on nearly every other smartphone platform, and its notable feature is the ability to stream live video to the internet. Unfortunately, that’s true on all platforms except the iPhone, where it can only upload existing video. Also, the application is apparently only available for the newest iPhone 3GS, which leaves other iPhones in the dark. Yet another limitation is that it only works over WiFi, rather than being able to use the 3G connection, like it does on every other phone.

Contrast this not only to Symbian, but to any other smartphone operating system in the mobile industry. Unlocked phones are common, though expensive, and using them on any network is as easy as inserting your SIM card. There’s no need to re-activate the phone, nor do you have to worry about jailbreaking and all that nonsense. Users are free to sideload applications from any source, or from various recently launched application marketplaces.

While the UI and overall experience might be phenomenal, I wonder how long Apple can maintain its stranglehold on the iPhone before users realize how ugly the garden walls are, and begin venturing out into the wilderness, to experience other, more open platforms?

Published by rcadden

Just a dude with a phone.

12 thoughts on “The Garden Is Pretty, But Its Walls Are Ugly

  1. “…I wonder how long Apple can maintain its stranglehold on the iPhone before users realize how ugly the garden walls are..”

    Market:
    iPhone users who even know what “jail break” means – 2%
    iPhone users who could care less and are happy with whatever Apple says – 98%

    1. I realize that, but don’t underestimate the ability of other platforms (Android, WinMo, Symbian, possibly Maemo) of showing folks the benefit of not having to ask Daddy if it’s OK to do something.

  2. “…I wonder how long Apple can maintain its stranglehold on the iPhone before users realize how ugly the garden walls are..”

    Market:
    iPhone users who even know what “jail break” means – 2%
    iPhone users who could care less and are happy with whatever Apple says – 98%

    1. I realize that, but don’t underestimate the ability of other platforms (Android, WinMo, Symbian, possibly Maemo) of showing folks the benefit of not having to ask Daddy if it’s OK to do something.

    1. Sort of. I can install unsigned applications simply by signing them myself, which is loosely different from having to hack my whole phone, or jailbreak it, or whatever.

      For the most part, though, the point was, with WinMo, Symbian, and BlackBerry (can’t vouch for WebOS or Android), I can install any application I want, without having to hack my phone at all, and the manufacturer/controller has no ability to limit which apps are available to me.

    1. Sort of. I can install unsigned applications simply by signing them myself, which is loosely different from having to hack my whole phone, or jailbreak it, or whatever.

      For the most part, though, the point was, with WinMo, Symbian, and BlackBerry (can’t vouch for WebOS or Android), I can install any application I want, without having to hack my phone at all, and the manufacturer/controller has no ability to limit which apps are available to me.

  3. I’ll give you that point, but only to a degree. We often don’t get to see which apps are being withheld from getting publicly signed unless you start to really dig around in the community. Remember Anthony Pranata and his screenshot app?

    As regulars to S60, you and I are both familiar with the signing process, oftentimes applying for a cert/key from OPDA as soon as we get a new phone. But try explaining that to someone who’s only using S60 for the first time. They’ll start with the Ovi Store, then move on to online communities to find more apps, they start to find unsigned apps and start to learn about the Symbian Signed website, and when they find some apps that even Symbian Signed won’t sign for them (and if they still have the patience), they’ll learn about Chinese sites to submit their IMEI to sign their own apps and/or hack their device to not have to bother with all of that again. The App Store eliminates all of those steps except the first one, and while not a complete app solution, is much easier to use to obtain a large number of apps that the Ovi Store, even if that means they’re playing in Apple’s (huge, controlled) garden. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I’ve already invested the time to learn all about signing apps years ago.

    Keeping with the analogy, the walls are very ugly in the garden, but the garden is large enough that most people don’t venture deep enough to see them.

  4. I’ll give you that point, but only to a degree. We often don’t get to see which apps are being withheld from getting publicly signed unless you start to really dig around in the community. Remember Anthony Pranata and his screenshot app?

    As regulars to S60, you and I are both familiar with the signing process, oftentimes applying for a cert/key from OPDA as soon as we get a new phone. But try explaining that to someone who’s only using S60 for the first time. They’ll start with the Ovi Store, then move on to online communities to find more apps, they start to find unsigned apps and start to learn about the Symbian Signed website, and when they find some apps that even Symbian Signed won’t sign for them (and if they still have the patience), they’ll learn about Chinese sites to submit their IMEI to sign their own apps and/or hack their device to not have to bother with all of that again. The App Store eliminates all of those steps except the first one, and while not a complete app solution, is much easier to use to obtain a large number of apps that the Ovi Store, even if that means they’re playing in Apple’s (huge, controlled) garden. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I’ve already invested the time to learn all about signing apps years ago.

    Keeping with the analogy, the walls are very ugly in the garden, but the garden is large enough that most people don’t venture deep enough to see them.

  5. Keeping with the analogy, the walls are very ugly in the garden, but the garden is large enough that most people don’t venture deep enough to see them.

    I definitely agree with this. I also believe that, since the iPhone is introducing the ‘smartphone’ idea to a whole new class of people (mostly RAZR users, I would wager), it’s only a matter of time before these people begin exploring the garden, which makes it inevitable that they’ll discover the walls. The only variable is how long it’ll take, and whether they’ll accept the walls, or begin to question them.

  6. Keeping with the analogy, the walls are very ugly in the garden, but the garden is large enough that most people don’t venture deep enough to see them.

    I definitely agree with this. I also believe that, since the iPhone is introducing the ‘smartphone’ idea to a whole new class of people (mostly RAZR users, I would wager), it’s only a matter of time before these people begin exploring the garden, which makes it inevitable that they’ll discover the walls. The only variable is how long it’ll take, and whether they’ll accept the walls, or begin to question them.

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