iPhone, the Ugly Disgrace

Perhaps the most uncomfortable truth that Apple apologists and early adopters must face is that Apple, in its current incarnation (since it dropped “Computer” from its name), is that they knowingly violate the principles of what should be acceptable to release after a decade of OS X releases. Its as if we are back to square one or OS X 10.0.

This weekend I dealt with two issues. One was a kernel panic caused by a corrupt sparse image on my Time Capsule. Another was an iPhone rendered unresponsive by one too many app store installations. I’ve lost a month of so-called backups because of a corrupt sparse image and what’s worse is that a mere corrupt sparse image somehow triggers continuous kernel panics in the operating system!

For the iPhone, I was stuck re-installing the entire system as I was heading out the door. The so-called back up of my iPhone that on many occasions took over an hour to generate on iTunes was also “corrupt” and I ended up beginning my restoration process from the last backup of my long gone iPod Touch. I was frantically trying to restore contacts and restarting the iPhone on the train, a last gamble to make things right. During that time there were many “moments” I thought my iPhone would not snap out of of the dreaded “silver Apple on black” start up screen.

When you think about the iPhone 3G or specifically the iPhone OS 2.0, it may be acceptable as a glorified PDA but as a phone it is totally unacceptable. It takes forever to restart from scratch and is too unstable. I even had the preference panel of the iPhone crash on me. Really! Has Apple forgotten that a phone, and that is any phone, is a lifeline service. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether we can check out the whether or post updates to Facebook. It DOES matter whether we can quickly call the police or reach our dearest people in an emergency. The thought of having to depend on the iPhone for crucial moments literally scares me because I have a feeling it will fail me when I need it the most. I would never ever, recommend this phone to my parents and knowingly put them in danger of owning a phone that may not function when their life’s at stake.

And I’m being nice by not even going on a tirade about dead or “bright red” pixel or the fact that you often need to plug and unplug the headphones when the sound goes dead or lambasting the repeated failure of Mobile Me to properly “launch”.

When it works, the iPhone is an amazing piece of technology that puts the future firmly in your pocket. When it doesn’t, it’s a nightmare of epic proportions. If you haven’t memorized your most valuable contacts or at least have them written down in a black book with ready access to a public phone, you sir are screwed.

The same thing goes with the joke of an operating system that Leopard currently is. One thing obvious is that Apple engineers are spread thin. I’m sure they are doing brilliant things given current resources but either they put too many recent graduates on the job or lost too much talent to Google and other Silicon Valley startups that it makes you wonder what their priorities are. While I am a firm believer in “release early, release often”, I think there are limits to the quality of stuff that should be fit for release.

What kind of company makes a phone that fails as a lifeline service and an operating system that crashes in flames because of a backup image that easily becomes corrupt and rendered useless? The only reason that Apple continuously posts record financial gains is simply because they ARE Apple or specifically because Jobs and Co. can’t do wrong or can they? The recent trials and tribulations I’ve had with the latest Apple products make me wonder if they are any better than Microsoft, which many like myself, have willingly abandoned to be rid of buggy software that eats up countless hours just trying to get things to simply “work”.

Apple has always more or less screwed early adopters by releasing shoddy products that gradually get better until, you guessed it, they release another more shiny successor. However, recently they’ve really outdone themselves by releasing half-baked products even earlier in the development cycle. This wouldn’t be so bad if it was explicitly announced as a public beta. The fact is that they are charging us the same money they do for a final release as they iron out the bugs.

If Apple is going to build their future on the cornerstone of UNIX, they must not stray from the fundamentals of stability and reliability in a mad rush to throw shiny products out the door before competitors. The current state of affairs is simply unacceptable and a disgrace. Maybe the next iteration of the iPhone OS will finally bring us a phone that doesn’t crash before they finally nail cut and paste. Apple will most likely charge us a hefty price for OS X 10.6 or “Snow Leopard”, supposedly focused on stability and performance (as if these were after thoughts upon releasing OS X 10.5 Leper). My advice is that they stay focused on stability and performance for the foreseeable future because these are the only things that matter if Apple is to outlast its illustrious founder because once you let these things go, you’re on a slippery slope that nobody has managed to climb back up from but I’m sure they already know that from observing their Redmond colleagues that they are so quick to poke fun at.