Saturday, February 07, 2009

The straw that broke my iPhone love

It is a small thing, by itself.

Unfortunately, it is just one more bit of nasty among so many more, and it's such a quintessential bit of Apple nasty.

The maximal interval for an iPhone Calendar alert is 2 days.

This is a problem. I need to be alerted of upcoming birthdays and certain other events at least 2 weeks ahead of time. That has been possible with all the calendaring software I've used over the past fifteen years -- except for the iPhone

Now here's what makes this so perfectly Apple. The iPhone development team had dozens of examples to draw from, not least the original PalmPilot. They must have consciously decided to omit this feature. I imagine the team was proud of dropping a feature few people would use, proud of their minimalist aesthetic.

Ok, bad enough, but I'm used to that. I'm way off in the extreme tail of software users. There's very little I'm really happy with (Windows Live Writer, Gmail, and Google Reader come to mind). Apple's desktop iCal software reaks about as much as their iPhone app.

What makes this straw a back breaker is not simply that iPhone calendaring is pathetic, it's that Apple forbids alternatives. Even on OS X there are a few alternatives to Apple products, but on the iPhone only Apple can use the USB cable, and vendors are explicitly forbidden to distribute alternatives to Apple's core applications. On the iPhone it's Apple's, or it's nothing.

It's a bad story, and, short of a revolution in Apple's attitude, it's not going to get better. Astonishingly, the Apple iPhone and MobileMe have made me miss the old Microsoft.

So I've stopped recommending the iPhone to others anyone who needs at least PalmPilot 1994 functionality, and I won't be replacing my wife's BlackBerry Pearl with an iPhone.

Which brings me to the obvious next question. If the iPhone is a dead end, is their anything better?

Not yet, but I'm going to be watching the Android even more closely, and, I've got my fingers crossed that the Palm Pre will beat very long odds, and I'm watching for the jailbreak team to add a Calendar replacement that runs against Google Calendar.

Update 2/9/09: Google to the rescue? I feel for Nuevasync. The iPhone calendar app still sucks, but I can use the WebKit interface to Google Calendar to make changes.

Update 2/14/09: Saved by Google.


Anonymous said...

"So I've stopped recommending the iPhone to others"

This seems as much petulance as anything else. As you've pointed out, you're "way off in the extreme tail of software users," but it's as if you want to punish Apple, as opposed to recommending the best phone for civilians. Doesn't seem especially mature, and your friends & colleagues may be getting less than optimal advice from you as a result.

JGF said...

Heck, I feel like I deserve some petulance.

I'll revise the post to say "I won't recommend the phone to anyone who needs PalmPilot level PDA functionality". That would be just about anyone I'd be making recommendations to however.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I'm not sure how they'll feel after following your recommendation- and they're struggling with iTunes integration or missing out on the cool apps & games they've heard about.

But of course, they can set a two-week reminder.

Look, I get really frustrated with Apple too (if I were a civilian, I wouldn't be reading this blog), but to take the iPhone out of contention here is myopic.

JGF said...

Well, technically it's not out of contention, since I can't think of anything else to recommend in place of the iPhone.

The Palm Pre is way unproven, the Android is hardly more developed, and Microsoft's record of failure is astonishing.

So these days I just throw up my hands!

Anonymous said...

So, it's 2009, and it sounds like your advice is, "Just hang on to your Razr/Treo/etc." Seems like a baby/bathwater situation to me...

JGF said...

It's hard to imagine hanging on the RAZR. That was a phone to loathe.

On the other hand, I'd definitely recommend holding on to the Treo and waiting to see if the Android or the Palm Pre deliver. Or, miracle of miracles, if Apple reforms and allows competing solutions to appear on the iPhone.

My switching costs were huge, but they were probably worst case. I switched from Palm/Windows to iPhone/Mac and from Sprint to AT&T, and I did it without the help of something like my tech blog (

Still, the switching costs aren't trivial for most people. So, if they can stand their current phone and provider, I'd say to stay put. If they want to play buy an iTouch -- they have quite decent resale value if they're well cared for.

Anonymous said...

So it's almost 2011 and there is still no reasonable solution for the calendar /reminders/snooze features so desired by business users. My BB just died and I so wanted an iPhone to go with my Mac, iPad, iPods, etc., but just can not get by with the limited appointment solution offered on the iPhone. tried the Samsung Galaxy S phone because it seemed to have a decent calendar, but there is no sync option approved to sync with Outllok or Mac calendar!!!! taking it back and will try the BB Torch. all I (and many others) want /need is a phone with contacts, calendar, notes, and web browser. why is this so difficult?