‘The iPhone is great.’ ‘No it’s not.’ Enough!

Rhodri Marsden

102373557 217x300 The iPhone is great. No its not. Enough!

Few things during the last decade – with the exception, perhaps, of discovering that you’ve got type 2 diabetes – have been quite as consistently irritating as the debate surrounding whether a Mac is better than a PC, or vice versa. I’ve known of many pointless arguments in my time, including a memorable occasion when two friends became so furious during a discussion about the worth of the music of Bob Dylan that one ended up holding a smashed whisky bottle to the other’s neck. But the grindingly repetitive Mac v PC squabble essentially boils down to one simple issue: one person likes using a particular computing platform, someone else likes using another. There doesn’t really need to be any further discussion on the topic, and those two people certainly don’t need to jab fingers at one another and make it abundantly clear that any plans to spend Christmas together are right off the agenda.

I’ve got a Hotpoint washing machine, but I don’t chuckle in a smug, self-satisfied fashion when I see someone loading their pants into a Zanussi. It’s a choice for me, as a consumer, and it’s a choice for them – and not only that, it’s a choice that both of us are perfectly happy with. I mean, I like griping and whinging as much as the next man – and currently the next man is my neighbour, Alan, who’s a miserable bastard – but even I can’t see the point of trying to give someone a long list of reasons why they shouldn’t like something that they’re manifestly in the process of liking. That’s just rude.

But the geeky Mac v PC feud pales in comparison to the Pro- vs Anti-iPhone hoohah that currently appears to be playing out at great length across vast swathes of the internet, like a colossal mass of parallel arguments between bored suburban neighbours about the pros and cons of cutting back the leylandii. Not since piles of disco records were burned at a football stadium in Chicago in 1979 have so many people been vilified for an entertainment-related purchase – and not only have they made the decision of their own free will, they’re not even remotely interested in taking it back to the shop and getting their money back. Because they like it. But thousands upon thousands of people are saying to them “Haha, well, no you don’t, not really.”

This video – which becomes not very safe for work after about a minute or so – has provided the focus for much of their grievances. It features a cartoon character who enters a store and demands an iPhone 4, batting aside all protests from the store assistant: the HTC Evo has a bigger screen – “I don’t care”; the HTC Evo can build you an island, turn into a jet and fly you there – “I don’t care”. But this video grates on me, because I’ve actually had that conversation. I’ve been the twatty idiot asking for an iPhone. I’ve used umpteen handsets in the last few years by Nokia, Motorola and HTC, running Symbian, Android, Windows Mobile – and after years of not being remotely interested in having an iPhone, I came to a rational decision that I preferred it. So I had to ring up T-Mobile, who don’t offer iPhones, and tell them, persistently, over 5 long minutes, that I wanted an iPhone. And I was told that I didn’t want one, not really, but I had to say that I did, because otherwise I’d have ended up with an HTC handset, which I didn’t want. I’m not saying that the iPhone will always be my preferred option, I may well drift back to some other phone once I’ve broken free of the shackles I’m locked into for the next 18 months. But I find it incredibly boring to be thought of as some kind of unthinking, credulous, dribbling imbecile who has willingly profferred his credit card details while under the evil spell of Steve Jobs.

Charlie Brooker, a man who I admire in many ways – not least because he’s a much better writer than I am, seethe – was at it in the Guardian yesterday, pouring scorn upon the iPhone 4 and anyone who has been sedated sufficiently to hand over money in exchange for one. I’m not interested in buying an iPhone 4, but I know people who have, and they’re balanced individuals, they’ve made a decision, and, as far as I’m aware, they all think that the phone is quite nice. Not amazing, but then again it’s only a sodding phone, they weren’t expecting it to regrout their bathroom. I can understand why Brooker resents the power of Apple’s marketing machine, but that doesn’t mean that its customers are all brainwashed numbskulls who haven’t yet realised that they’ve bought a mobile phone by mistake. And nor does it mean that they’re all wide-eyed evangelists hell-bent on extolling its virtues; it’s perfectly possible – likely, even – that they’re as contemptuous of blind, unwavering adoration of a bit of plastic as they are of blind, unwavering hate.

Photo: Getty Images

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  • nerdic

    Hey that’s a kinda personal response sir. Perhaps a case of : don’t like the information, attack the source? whatever, that’s cool.

    You mentioned windows for people who don’t like computers… is that the only alternative to macs for you? You think I’m bashing Macs (hardware) in favour of a Microsoft operating system (software)? (Not all PCs run Windows sir). How can I respond when you’re comparing apples to oranges?

    That you think I blow things out of proportion is your right perhaps – I suspect you don’t like the adjectives I used perhaps? I think you might not be thinking things through with a full set of cards though, not sure. In a proverbial (eg weak) sense, it’s our right to disagree and all that. I don’t think you read my post carefully though – I said ‘evolved’ into computers for people who don’t like computers – actually inferring that, prior to Apple, computers were quite tricky to use for a lot of people. I’m totally not claiming that computers for people who don’t like computers is wrong per se, not sure where you picked that impression from really. Making computers that you can’t tinker with is a shift in electronic politics though – a shift Apple has slowly introduced about their own machines too: going way back, the Apple II was amazing to tinker with and it made Apple’s name what it is – their shift away from this ‘freedom’ has massively accelerated recently and it’s highly dubious and a cash winning cynical ploy on their behalf. I don’t begrudge them profit at all, but it’s coming at a cost for us all. You can still make profit with an open system, so why the megalomania? Apple’s approach is now, imho, the worst form of locked-in control in the world of electronics and the flow of online information access and development processes around today – not something people, history and governments (the democratic part of this crazy world) have had much love or tolerance for to be honest. That you disagree just shows a lack of knowledge alas. You claim my opinion is my opinion and not fact? Of course it is (let’s all state the obvious shall we), but at least I offer an opinion sir. You just seem to repeat proverbial dichotomies until no position is tenable and that’s weak. You think that people probably “pick by network” rather than device? What’s that got to do with anything in the article or my post? A little obtuse and off topic imho.

    When I say ‘for people who don’t like computers’ I mean that some people do not want to pick the different components and build their own computer, they don’t want fix it themselves when it goes wrong, nor understand how it works and functions and they don’t want to make a living from understanding those things either. They don’t even mind if they can’t replace the battery even though it’s common knowledge that batteries degrade in a non-linear fashion. In short, they like driving but don’t like thinking about the mechanics or worrying about the ecology either (replacing a battery is better than replacing the entire gadget btw) . They certainly don’t want to learn how to, say, program their computers or change it’s settings and don’t understand why and how others go about those tasks either (eg it’s borderline ‘magic’ to them). I think you’re one of those people perhaps, fair enough. It doesn’t make me potentially like you any less, but I’m not sure you’re equipped to understand why Apple are to be singled out as abusive either. The people that DO understand their computers and DO make a living programming are showing increasing signs of horror and incredulity at the shift in control Apple is exhibiting (and this is after they’ve helped apple become so successful too). Apple are extending their attempts at controlling how others make a living – something new from them and not something cool at all. Microsoft screwed this same thing up in the 80s and 90s – Microsoft were slapped silly by the feds and the EU, repeatedly, over this. Now it will be Apple’s turn. And all for what? the hunt for a short-term profit. Businesses should be more responsible than to go on a ‘rampage’ until they’re stopped. Apple famously advertised that that’s what they represented in the 80s, the freedom loving alternative to the rampaging and controlling Microsoft. Now look at Apple. Nobody likes a hypocrite.

    Apple appeal to the ‘it works like magic’ market, whilst they themselves grew from the tinkerer’s market. What’s difficult to spot about why that shift is hypocritical, highly suspect and probably wrong? It’s not rocket science.

    I also didn’t mention Google or Rim either as you suggest I did. Both are companies worth watching as regards the same issues, agreed. Though from your list, Google open source their code for their phones (eventually!), so ‘get a tick’ for that, but a big minus in the future when they do become big brother and start locking people out as Apple are now. I did mention Microsoft, but it wasn’t flattering either.

    “You just have to accept that different devices are liked by different people” – in response to my post that’s non-sequitur sir : I’m not talking about devices per se but the software, standards and the lack of control and access that third parties that make a living programming those cool apps have – they’ve helped Apple to the top spot and are now treated poorly. Sorry, but with Apple the terms and conditions ARE dreadful (and vague, suggesting they’ll lawyer the hell out of you on a whim) – they have repeatedly shown major hypocrisy over what’s allowed in the store, what can stay in the store once it’s in and also what development environment you’re allowed to use to make the apps in the first place (only ignorance of development methods and requirements could defend that last one as sound). They are turning into dictators and I won’t support that. It’s not cool in the physical world and it’s not cool in a virtual one either. If you think that’s acceptable and that it’s simply a case of accepting that ‘other people make different decisions’, you really haven’t been observing that markets are regulated and tweaked by the democratic parts of our reality, the governments of the world.

    Sometime when people make, as you say, “different decisions” they are, in fact, wrong. Just because you cannot see the naked emperor it doesn’t make the little boy wrong. Just sometimes that’s the case. You probably agree that that’s the case in other areas sometimes (WMDs in Iraq is the most obvious I can think of right now). With Apple’s frankly arrogant shift in approach towards its customers and their horrible attitude towards developers and commonly used standards (HTML5? please. That means everybody who develops for the web has to recode their stuff today to make money (not phased in as all good migrations should be) and the specification isn’t even formal yet). That’s a form of control and one the governments WILL deem as unacceptable.

    I think that Apple are currently ‘wrong’ in lots of ways and it’s worth pointing out that the reason for their success is that a lot of people support them but don’t understand or care about the consequences. They are seemingly unthinking.

    If I want to protest politics in our modern virtual worlds, I’ll choose the least worst offenders – a bit like the UK political system really: “pick the least awful” – but thanks for the advice Adam, though I think your advice of ‘not voting’ is never wise myself.

    You think I can’t comprehend why people make different decisions in general or the decision to buy Apple products? (now who’s blowing things out of proportion?). I do comprehend why people, presented with complaints, still go ahead and buy a product. They don’t care about those issues. They perhaps don’t understand those issues either. I, perhaps unfairly, labelled those people unthinking sheep. It doesn’t, however, make those issues go away. Baaaa.

  • S C

    >I’ve got a Hotpoint washing machine, but I don’t chuckle in a smug, self-satisfied fashion when I see someone loading their pants into a Zanussi.

    True. But if your washing machine strikes you with electricity from time to time and destroys your clothes often – how do you think a normal person that knows better SHOULD react? I think it’s NORMAL to recommend you a better thing (shrugging off that “self-statisfied smug chuckle” text).

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  • Rhodri Marsden

    Thank you, dad.

  • Rhodri Marsden

    Thank you, dad.

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