Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Two Years with the iPhone 4

We just passed the five-year anniversary of the iPhone, and there is some great coverage out there reflecting on that. I was reading the MacWorld article iPhone: Five years in our pockets, and it got me thinking about my own iPhone history and recent developments. Two years in, I'm still extremely satisfied with my iPhone 4. I remain impressed with the quality and smoothness of operation. For a device I touch multiple times per day, there are manifold opportunities to disappoint, but my iPhone doesn't. I'm not saying it's perfect, but it's exactly what it's supposed to be: a device that just works.

By mid-2010, I'd had a BlackBerry Pearl for almost 4 years. It was my first smartphone; before that I had been using a Motorola Razr. As I mentioned in my blog on the latest bad news from RIM, I went through three replacement batteries and two replacement rollerballs in the Pearl before I finally moved on to a new phone. My Pearl was a workhorse, and it had been a good phone for a while, but it was fading fast. Rebooting took over 5 minutes, and I had to do it often. It was time for a change.

Getting rid of my BlackBerry was thus an easy decision, but deciding what to replace it with was not. In the end, it came down to just two phones: the iPhone 4 and the EVO 4G. I chose the iPhone 4 primarily because of the Retina display. There were a number of other factors, and I did have some concerns about the tightly controlled Apple ecosystem, but the display was the killer feature that won me over. Enough has been written about it that I don't feel the need to rehash the details here. I will just say that it is as gorgeous as it was on day one, and it spoiled me to the point where I could not give serious consideration to an iPad 2.

I had no interest in jailbreaking my phone while it was under warranty (and contract). However, now that it's up, I have no desire to do so at all. iOS has expanded in the last two years to the point where there is not a single meaningful restriction that would compel me to jailbreak the phone. 

When the iPhone launched in 2007, I was not a believer. Of course, in those days it was $600 with no hope of a subsidy, but that changed quickly. I had two iPods at the time, and I liked them, but even when the price on the iPhone came down, I was a holdout. Silly things like copy-and-paste were not available in the OS. By the time the 3GS was out though, I wanted one. However, with the 4 in the pipeline, I decided to bide my time and stick with my slowly dying Pearl until its release.

A couple of things have happened in the last two years that have added tremendous value to the phone. Find my iPhone, the only feature that made me consider paying for MobileMe when I bought my iPhone, is now free. In fact, Apple has shuttered MobileMe entirely as of 6/30/2012 and is pushing iCloud (free unless you want expanded storage) instead. The basic, free 5GB quota lets me back up everything just fine, so I haven't had a need to look into the paid option. Those two changes gave me new, free functionality that make me sleep easier.

Mobile flash is now dead. I don't know that I can actually prove this adds value to the iPhone, but I believe it does. The fact that the iPhone doesn't do flash is no longer a reason to avoid it. Essentially, an opportunity cost of buying an iPhone has been removed. At the time I bought, you could buy an Android phone that could do flash, and thus your web browsing would be at least somewhat limited on an iPhone by comparison. This is technically still the case today, but since Adobe announced the end of mobile flash last November (and confirmed its end two days ago), we all know the platform is going nowhere. 

All future mobile-oriented content is going to be visible without flash. Furthermore, since mobile browsing is huge and growing, developers are not going to waste time developing flash-dependent content at all when there are no mobile operating systems that support browsers to view it. Most sites already have a non-flash version. As time goes on, more (well really all) of the web will be visible on an iPhone, and I think this adds value not only to future iPhones but to existing ones as well.

In addition to being able to view a greater percentage of the web, my iPhone 4 has gained other abilities since its launch. It can do everything it did two years ago plus more. Through iOS updates, it can now do now over-the-air (OTA) sync and backup, and even OTA updates. Another nice feature of the way Apple does things is that it can get those updates on release day. Carriers are notorious for stalling Android updates, often for months. Even worse, Microsoft just announced that there is no upgrade path at all From the current Windows Phone to Windows Phone 8 that will be released in a couple of months. 

When iOS6 was info first became available, I was not thrilled to hear that I will not be getting Siri or 3D mapping in iOS6, but I'm okay with it now after looking at the field. I am getting far more update value than any of the competition yields. Apple says those features require a newer phone with a faster chip, but whether or not that's true, I think it's reasonable to leave those features out in hopes they'll make me want to buy a new phone. I'll get the vast majority of the features in iOS6, and I'll get them the day the OS becomes available. 

Whether I will get a new iPhone in the Fall when the next model arrives is, for now, an open question. No doubt I'll be tempted by new features, but then I'll look at the trusty phone I've had for two years, the phone that has more features now than when I bought it, and I'll have to weigh my options carefully. I don't know which way I'm leaning now, but it will take quite a good offering to convince me to part with cash and my old phone for a new one.

1 comment:

  1. The importance of being able to get an update the day it becomes available can't be understated. By comparison almost a year after it's release, only 10% of Android devices are running Android 4.0, ICS. http://www.engadget.com/2012/07/03/ice-cream-sandwich-consumed-by-one-in-ten-android-devices/