Friday, October 24, 2008

My revised iPhone demands: please buy a Google gPhone

Six months ago I updated my "iPhone demands" of August 2007. It's a good time for an update.

I'm now a bloodied and battered iPhone power user, with a cobbled together PDA suite roughly comparable to the Palm @ 1994. Comparable in functionality, but vastly harder to assemble and implement.

So I feel "ok" about my iPhone, but I ain't jumping up and down with joy. Apple isn't solving my problems.

I understand, I'm a tiny demographic. Really, I'm more the gPhone type -- which is probably bad news for Google. If I'm their customer then they're probably in trouble.

I'm invested in the iPhone though. So, in the interests of the tiny number of consumers somewhat like me, what is there to grouch about?

A lot. Here's the short list:
  1. Copy, Cut, Paste: This has been on the critical list for over a year. If Apple doesn't put this in with the next iPhone update I would recommend choosing a gPhone for this reason alone. It's not just the missing functionality, it's a sign of lunacy.
  2. Business focus: Truncated itineraries. There are other indicators, but that one's a classic. The iPhone is not ready for serious business use. This one example would send any non-geek exec screaming back to their BlackBerry.
  3. Search across app domains. Also missing for ever a year. Apple added search for contacts (grudgingly), but even there it's limited to name and business. Google, oddly, remembers search.
  4. Tasks at least comparable to the 1994 PalmPilot tasks: Appigo is a terrific company, but they don't have a desktop solution (see sync cable access, below) and they're dependent on relatively feeble cloud solutions (feeble, but still better than MobileMe).
  5. Synchronization with Outlook at least comparable to the modern Palm OS (in other words, flawed, but usable). See business, above.
  6. FileMaker Remote: Yes, Apple doesn't own FileMaker -- but they might as well.
  7. Synchronize notes. See Appigo, above.
  8. Tethering:Let the iPhone bridge a computer to its net connection. I'll give Apple a break here, it's most likely AT&T is afraid iPhone tethering will bring down their fragile data network.
  9. Calendar and Contacts API: MobileMe smells abandoned. The functionality is lousy, the documentation is worse. We need a cloud solution. The only real contender is Google Apps, but we can't do over-the-air sync without an app on the phone that can work with an application API.
  10. A competitive app marketplace: The absence of OTA sync with Google Apps is a worrying sign that Apple is blocking important competitors.
  11. Firewire charging: We know this isn't coming back, but it's a huge annoyance. Every automotive iPhone accessory I own is defunct. I've got a bunch of power adapters that are now of limited use. Big grudge here.
  12. External keyboard support.
  13. Third party access to the sync cable.
  14. Site-selective synchronization - so can sync at both work and home, but not send home data to a work machine.
There's a lot that works of course. The iPhone's iTunes lock-in/integration is a real plus, and the third party apps are great. (Apple's own apps range from quite good to pleasant but mediocre.)

Still, there's an impressive list of things that are still missing.

If you're a geek like me, and you don't need the iPod functionality, I suggest waiting a few months for the next version of the gPhone.

If you're in my tribe and you've already made the iPhone commitment, then you have my condolences. We have a bittersweet beverage, and not that much clout with Apple. The best we can do is urge our friends and colleagues to buy a gPhone; gPhone sales are the one thing that might stir Apple to just a wee bit of interest in our tiny market.

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