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?