The apps make the phone

I caved and got an iPhone. No, I didn’t get AT&T and lock myself into their egregious pricing and business policies. A very kind friend upgraded to the 3G and donated his 1G 8MB phone to me! It is unlocked and worked on T-Mobile (and will work with any SIM card I so choose).

The form factor is great. Sleek and elegant. I miss the keyboard, but not terribly since the predictive typing is excellent. What makes the phone is the software.

My smartphone journey started with the Blackberry in 2002. It was an incredible email device and everything synced with my work needs – contacts, calendar etc. In 2005, searching for more functionality, I switched to the Treo. What was great about it was the Palm OS and the plethora of apps available. I had a very customized alarm clock, the NYC subway map in the palm of my hands and a whole load of little games to keep me occupied.

But the Treo’s form factor was terrible – it was just too huge. And it handled media relatively poorly. Especially music.

The iPhone is like the Treo on steroids. The form factor is great, the integrated music, videos and photos are excellent and most importantly, the apps make the phone.

Right now, I have a whole bunch of apps on it that I could not imagine living without – organizational apps, to-do apps, location-based recommendation apps, games, the much loved NYC subway map… I basically walk around with almost all the critical data that I need while mobile.

But… while the apps are great, the basic OS is merely acceptable. It is slow – when I hit the SMS icon, it takes a while to load up the messages, same with address book and other apps. It doesn’t offer basic functionality – like the much talked about cut and paste, and most importantly, it is locked to AT&T and Apple continues to spend valuable resources ensuring the lock stays is place.

What this means is that if Google does a halfway decent job with Android1, there is a market that is ready to switch over. Give me a solid OS, an app store that is truly open and multiple carriers and I would switch. Now, the device has to be sleek, but I’ll even live with a slightly bigger form factor if I don’t have to constantly worry about bricking my phone.

Treo started the trend, but dropped the ball. It will be interesting to see who fulfills the promise in the long term.

Image courtesy this Wired article. Wired and Leander Kahney own all rights.

  1. No, Windows Mobile will not cut it. I’ve tried it and it is potentially the worst mobile OS in history!