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Apple doesn’t love you

Wil Shipley’s written a superb essay on the dangerous game Apple’s playing:

But why is the iPhone locked to a single carrier, so I can’t travel internationally with it? There’s really only one viable reason: Apple wanted a share of the carrier’s profits, which meant giving AT&T an exclusive deal. Which meant, we get screwed so Apple can make more money. It’s that simple.

Of course – as one commenter notes – Apple’s ultimate responsibility is to make money for its shareholders. But…

That sure reminds me of the old, crappy Apple. The one that almost went bankrupt because of its hubris.

Interesting stuff.

[Via Daring Fireball]

27 replies on “Apple doesn’t love you”

I don’t think that a lot of long-term apple users realise how difficult it it to switch to apple. It isn’t the software or the hardware (I’ve come to love OS X and my iMac) It’s the attitude of so many apple users and the company itself. There is a smugness about everything apple which is pretty unjustified in most cases. Which is a shame because otherwise they make some pretty decent shit. I could probably get into trouble for reccommending that people buy macbooks over laptops made by the company I work for (two letters which aren’t PH). Someone bought a laptop from my company (despite my advice) and exchanged it within 2 weeks for a macbook. And he’s incredibly happy with it.

But then you get the iphone. I am the very person the iphone is aimed at. I spend more money on my contract than I ever use because I like gadgets. My current phone is desperately underused. The contract is up just after xmas and I will be looking for something new and shiny. Unfortunately Apple have decided that networks can’t subsidise its phone. So do I spend £0 on the latest Nokia, Sony, Samsung or LG or do I spend nearly £300 on a phone which has only 2 unique features – a multi-touch screen and a really pretty design. The other phones are 3g and allow you to use MP3s as ringtones. Their battery life is equal to the iphone (which rubbishes job’s claim to increase battery life by omitting 3g). If I renew my contract and am offered an iphone or an N95 or SE W950i then I’d take the iPhone. If I didn’t have to pay £300 for it. Bugger that for a game of soldiers. The fact that the phones themselves, out of contract, would both be around £350 makes it more annoying. Buy an N95 and look after it – sell it after a year and buy an iPhone.

Rant over.

D

Couldn’t agree more. I can’t understand why people are so desperate to own these things. They’re nice enough machines, but really no better than the competition. Contrary to Apple’s claims, they’re not so revolutionary: I saw someone using a beautiful little touch-screen non-Apple phone just the other day, and the other claims to revolutionariness seem to revolve around boasting that their email app and browser are the best ever, they really are, no honestly. Well, Safari’s pish and Mail’s nice but nothing special. And the price is ridiculous.

And how bizarre is it that no-one seems to be concerned about Apple’s total lack of experience in the field? Even if it were free, I’d balk at choosing some new company’s first attempt at a phone over something made by a firm who’ve been making them since back in the analogue days. I mean, Philips are every bit as good a tech firm as Apple, and their phones were just awful.

I just posted all this from my Nokia E70, by the way. The E90’s been delayed till 1st of October. Damn it.

I think what’s interesting about all the iPhone hype is the way people succumb to Jobs’ reality distortion field – so for example the locking to a single network thing, which is an entirely financial decision, is spun as “ah, but it’s possible to unlock and Jobs knows that”. Which may well be true, but Jobs also knows that the overwhelming majority of iPhone users *won’t* unlock, so he’ll get a cut of their monthly subs.

So I think there’s an element of “clever people like me won’t pay the iPhone tax, but the sheeple will”. Which isn’t very nice.

Same with ringtones. Jobs knows there’ll be a hack! Well, yes, but pretty much every other music-capable phone enables you to set a song as a ringtone without a hack. Is it because they’re not in the selling-songs business and therefore don’t care what you do with your tunes? My blackberry does it ferchrissakes, and IMO that’s one of the worst phones music-wise that’s ever walked the earth. For whatever reason, charging *again* for shorter versions of songs you’ve already bought is the price Apple’s paying for RIAA goodwill.

In some ways Apple’s sleeping with the enemy here, as the article notes. Likewise with mobile – the operators are the enemy in a lot of respects (see also: networks’s sudden lack of enthusiasm about Nokia phones now that Nokia’s planning its own download service). 02’s prices for iPhone access are far too high (and a step backwards, just as mobile internet prices were starting to get sensible), the contract’s far too long and the service is shite – EDGE coverage is currently woeful (which isn’t a surprise as the operators all went 3G ages ago) – but the majority of iPhone purchasers can’t do anything about that.

As the inquirer put it:

“most shoppers aren’t smart and certainly not technically savvy enough to be messing with implementing hacks.”

Through the reality distortion field that becomes “Jobs knows we’ll buy iPhones, unlock them and use them on the networks of our choice. Man, he’s really smart and loves us so much”. When really it’s “a hardcore of geeks will find their way around it but hey, most of our customers are dumb.” This is a mainstream product, not a niche one. And there’s something rather disturbing about seeing Apple fans look down on, er, people buying Apple products. WTF?

To me, the interesting bit of the article was the bit where Shipley nailed the difference between Apple and other giant corporations. He says he’ll move from the Mac when Apple starts:

“trying to make money by using its marketing position to extort money from users, instead of innovating so quickly that users willing throw money at Apple.”

Some of the iPhone stuff looks like the former, doesn’t it?

I thought the sony stuff was interesting too – a firm famous for its cool stuff that damn near kills itself by trying to reconcile two incompatible businesses: gadgets and content.

I’m sure an Apple shareholder will be along shortly to put the other side of the argument. Paging Devil’s Kitchen…

BTW, I know we’re talking about the iPhone here but the linked article covers all kinds of stuff. For example:

But with the latest iPods Apple’s gone a step further, and disabled some docking stations that don’t have a special chip in them provided by Apple; forcing customers to use only Apple-approved accessories. Apple’s emulating the most pernicious qualities of Nintendo and the Microsoft XBox — you pay us a tax or you don’t work with our systems.

But Apple’s “approval” just comes from Apple getting a cut. It’s a measure of greed, not quality. We’re not talking about THX-certification here, we’re talking about extortion.

One more thing and then I’ll go away for a bit: there’s a big difference between fans of Apple kit, and fans of Apple. Loving a product isn’t a bad thing – for example I reckon Logic Studio is God’s Own Software, love my PowerBook and MacBook Pro, blah blah blah – but loving a company is, well, daft. And Apple-specific. I like beer but I don’t hang around messageboards justifying breweries’ business plans :)

> there’s a big difference between fans of Apple kit, and fans of Apple.

God, yeah. And there’s also a big difference between liking a company’s approach to designing products and liking their approach to selling them. Lotus 1-2-3 was the best spreadsheet app ever, but the reason no one uses it anymore is that IBM are a bunch of spoons.

I always remember the “free” mac.com email address “for life”. It wasn’t exactly long ago. I’m amazed at how many Apple fanboys have simply blanked the episode from their minds.

> I am the very person the iphone is aimed at. I spend more money on my contract than I ever use because I like gadgets.

Me too. But, thinking about this, I’m not entirely sure we are the people the iPhone is aimed at. I increasingly suspect that its target market is simply Apple fans who want all their tech kit to be Apple, just on principle. They could have launched a washing machine, called it the iWash, given it the amazing new feature of only being able to use Persil and only washing socks if you subscribe to Apple’s iWashsocks Store for a tenner a month, charged three thousand quid for it, and the same people would still be queuing overnight to buy them.

Alisher Usmanov

Good old-fashioned libel backfiring – by being so heavy-handed the allegations are everywhere now. It’s on indymedia, wikipedia etc…

But it’s also ISP overreaction. Demon vs Godfrey established a notice and takedown procedure for illegal *items*, not entire domains. Demanding entire sites be taken offline is a lawyers’ tactic and ISPs shouldn’t fall for it (that said, dunno whether the site disappearing this time is because lawyers wanted it down or because the ISP overreacted).

ISPs are between a rock and a hard place on this stuff, though. If they don’t remove it and it is defamatory, they’re libellers. If they remove it and it isn’t defamatory, there’s a human rights case to answer. And irrespective of the rights or wrongs, when people with extremely deep pockets get heavy, the sensible thing to do (financially) is to be nice to the rich people.

I increasingly suspect that its target market is simply Apple fans who want all their tech kit to be Apple, just on principle.

I wouldn’t have thought that would be a big enough market.

Orange did something similar with their SPV range. Mainly touchscreen Windows Mobile devices that Orange had hobbled to prevent you installing non-orange software. I think they were a bit worried that this wasn’t legal so they would happily provide you with the “developer update” which turned this off. Obviously you needed to know exactly who to contact and exactly what to ask for. Since they weren’t as shiny or Apple kit there wasn’t the same demand so nobody really noticed.

The ISP overreacted. As well as taking down the site where the allegations were posted, they took down everything hosted by the site’s owner, including unrelated stuff like Boris Johnson’s site. What’s the point of the web if rich bastards can have stuff they don’t like removed, merely by sending a lawyers’ letter?

I’m with Fasthosts. My last album has a title which puns on the name of a company Usmanov has shares in. Presumably if Usmanov decided it was defamatory, unconnected websites that I happen to host (Thee Moths and The Yummy Fur, for example) would disappear as a result :(

What’s the point of the web if rich bastards can have stuff they don’t like removed, merely by sending a lawyers’ letter?

Well, the problem is the web’s infrastructure has to have a physical location, where bad laws exist.

That said, I do think the ISP’s name should be publicised, if it hasn’t been already.

Orange did something similar with their SPV range.

Yeah, networks like to hobble hardware. Which is a good indication that they’re in a dying industry, or at least that they have an unsustainable business model.

I think Shipley’s way off the mark here, as are all of you who go on about iPhone being nothing special etc. The crucial bit here is the free market. Nobody’s forcing anyone to buy iPhone or any other bit of Apple kit, which is completely different from Microsoft’s Windows tax and other adventures in monopoly. You can argue till the cows come home that no-one “should” buy iPhone when there are free phones just as good, but getting back to reality for a moment, people do. (A clue as to why is offered in Stephen Fry’s inaugural blog posting.)

Also, if you make a distinction between Apple’s products and Apple as a company, why the obsession with Apple’s business tactics and decisions? I know Apple doesn’t love me, or anyone else: that’s not what companies do. And Apple doesn’t claim to love anyone, either, they just claim to make great products, and the market bears them out.

And Job’s claims about 3G battery life were proved by AnandTech. Perhaps you made the mistake of looking at claimed battery life: only Apple tells the truth on those. (Lying, nasty Apple! Yeah, I know!)

Best bit of Stephen Fry:

“…to say “well my WinMob device does all that your iPhone can do” is like saying my Barratt home has got the same number of bedrooms as your Georgian watermill, it’s got a kitchen too, and a bathroom.”

Stephen, you’re completely missing the point. And you seem to think this discussion is an attack on you personally :)

Nobody’s forcing anyone to buy iPhone or any other bit of Apple kit

No, but in the UK Apple is forcing iPhone buyers to sign up with a terrible network provider whose contracts are too long and too expensive, and whose coverage is terrible. How does that fit with Apple’s “do things better” approach?

Same thing with docking stations needing chips. The iPod is pretty much the only game in town now, and switching to another player is a big hassle because there’s an entire Apple ecosystem – my car has an iPod adapter (not an MP3 player adapter), I’ve got speaker docks, etc. If a new generation iPod expects that stuff to have a particular chip, it’ll refuse to work with the stuff I already have. How exactly does that benefit me? According to the boston herald, the fat nano’s refusal to output video via non-approved – but “made for iPod” – docks is to protect me from “potentially iPod damaging accessories”. To which the only sensible response is “oh, fuck off”.

Also, if you make a distinction between Apple’s products and Apple as a company, why the obsession with Apple’s business tactics and decisions?

Because in many cases the business decisions affect the product. The o2 network is a key part of the iPhone experience; the decision to disable video output in fat nanos affects how the product works. Etc.

> to say “well my WinMob device does all that your iPhone can do” is like saying my Barratt home has got the same number of bedrooms as your Georgian watermill

Well, yeah, which is why I don’t use Windows Mobile. Symbian, on the other hand, is lovely. The Nokia 9500 is so preposterously nice to use that it turned me into a lifelong Communicator user within days. That would be a fairer comparison, especially since it’s become the de facto standard in a way that Windows hasn’t.

> Nobody’s forcing anyone to buy iPhone or any other bit of Apple kit, which is completely different from Microsoft’s Windows tax and other adventures in monopoly.

The Windows “tax”? You mean the way you pay for Windows when you buy a new PC that has Windows on it? But surely one of the main reasons that happens is that MS let anyone make PCs that will run their OS, which makes it a particularly bizarre example to use when comparing them unfavourably with Apple in terms of monopolistic behaviour.

> why the obsession with Apple’s business tactics and decisions?

I wouldn’t say I were obsessed, but, for better or worse, the iPhone is big news. I’m interested in it the same way I’m interested in other bits of news, and it makes as much sense to point out Apple’s maneouvring and occasional lying as it does Nokia’s (which I did when they screwed up VoIP at the start).

> a terrible network provider whose contracts are too long and too expensive, and whose coverage is terrible.

To be fair to O2, their coverage is so good it keeps winning awards. Their coverage only appears bad when it’s combined with the iPhone, a device designed to use a different type of network.

> Because in many cases the business decisions affect the product.

Exactly, yes. A good example is Safari. Not only is it still buggy as hell, but the decision to make it caused MS to withdraw Explorer for Mac, probably the best browser around at the time. Until Firefox came along, Macs were slightly lower quality machines simply because of its absence.

Sorry, one more thing…

> And Job’s claims about 3G battery life were proved by AnandTech.

I think you’ve misjudged the criticism here. No-one’s saying that 3G doesn’t drain batteries more than 2G. What we’re saying is that making battery life a greater priority than 3G is a bad idea in the European market. It’s not Jobs’s claim about the length of battery life that’s being questioned; it’s his judgment that 3G would make the battery life so short that it would outweigh any benefit that came from having 3G.

To be fair to O2, their coverage is so good it keeps winning awards.

Sorry, I should have said data coverage. My phone does EDGE, but round here it’s all GPRS. 30% coverage *of the population* is the big cities and that’s it. Same goes for the Cloud hotspots. Good luck finding one in nothern ireland…

Basically, the UK is not California.

>>To be fair to O2, their coverage is so good it keeps winning awards.

Have they tried actually making calls when they test or just drive around looking at signal strength? When I was on o2 (within the last 2 years) it usually always had a strong signal pretty much everywhere. Until you pressed the call button when the signal would disappear. This happened regurlarly on several different phones.

> Have they tried actually making calls when they test

I believe they do, actually. I read some blurb by whichever organisation it is that does these tests once, and they have a number of different tests: time to connect, percentage of calls that get disconnected mid-call, etc. I think the phenomenon you describe is caused by a couple of factors: one is network overload, and one is that the signal-strength indicator on the phone is based on the last time your phone checked for cells, so, when you’re moving, it can tell you what the signal strength was where you were a minute ago rather than where you are now. I think. Anyway, in my experience, all the networks except T-Mobile have those problems (T-Mobile may have them too, but I’ve never tried them).

> Basically, the UK is not California.

Exactly, yes. It’ll be interesting to see whether British consumers buy the phone on the strength of rave reviews from the US, where it works properly, or don’t because of the network/hardware compatibility issues.

Indeed. It does seem to me that as a product, the UK iPhone is groovy. As a package, it isn’t.

Aha! I believe that I have found the most useless feature of the week. The whole tilt-sensitive thing on the iphone and ipod touch. It only works vertically. I would be very surprised if anyone, in the world, like, ever, looked at a video product vertically. Or even at 50 degrees. After playing with an ipod touch, I have discovered that, unless it is near enough vertical, the landscape/portrait feature don’t work.

To be really honest, and not facetious, I really want an ipod touch or iphone less since I played with one on Regent’s street.

I don’t know. It was quite hard to get a hold of one for very long (really busy!)

Since the display doesn’t change when you are looking down at it, you can lift it vertically, rotate it then put it back down. Whatever orientation the screen was when vertical is retained when horizontal. This was a majorly hyped feature that I think is actually less easy to use than the Windows Mobile technique of tapping the once on the bottom corner of the screen.

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