That's right, an iPhone. I spent quite a while watching a whole bunch of developer videos for Android, and yet I've just gone and ordered an iPhone 3GS. Already I've been both praised and condemned; both enough that you'd think it was a conversion to a contentious religion rather than the purchasing of a personal communications device.
But why an iPhone? Why not an Android one? As a professional software developer, why did I choose the closed platform over the open one? And why did I choose the monolithic, control-freak manufacturer rather than the open, standards-based (and standards-driving), developer-friendly one?
It's a fair question - but it has a simple answer: I want a gorgeous piece of technology that I will actually enjoy using. Not just one that I'll find usable or even useful, but one that I'll actually enjoy picking up and playing with.
Given the number of questions I've already fielded about this purchase, I'm going to plagiarise shamelessly from a couple of Facebook comments and emails that I've written over the past couple of days.
I think the Android platform is fascinating. The guys at Google have done a stellar job, and the OS appears to be superior in most ways to that of the iPhone. Think background tasks, serialization of processes in OOM conditions, excellent hardware abstraction, power management and a whole bunch more. As a developer, I think it's awesome and I admire the results immensely. As a user, however, I want something that a) just works; and b) is beautiful.
Perhaps my perspective has been coloured a little by having had - and having coded for - Windows Mobile devices since 2001. ("When I were a lad, we used to walk five miles to school each day, and Windows Mobile were called Pocket PC...") That's a very long time in this industry, and the one thing that really sticks in my mind is this: the interface is just as awful now as it was then. So, I wanted my next device to be a joy to use, not just a tool that I frequently wanted to hurl at the wall or into the swimming pool.
Is this a long-term declaration of allegiance to Apple? Not at all. Longer term, I'm guessing that Android devices are going to make huge inroads into Apple's market share, especially with the adoption the platform's seeing at the moment and how open it is in comparison. Right now, however, the phone with the best user experience is still, in my opinion, the iPhone 3GS. The build quality's better than anything I've seen from HTC, whose build quality is, in turn, better than anything I've seen from other manufacturers. Apple's "You will do UI our way," approach has done good things for them in the short term, although, again, I think it's going to hurt them in the long term.
Android's running a close second, and I think it'll close the gap and perhaps even take the lead - UI-wise, if not according to market share - sometime in the next 12 to 18 months, but it's not there yet.
Windows Mobile is a distant, distant third. The way WM's going, WM7 might just be able to compete with the original iPhone. Maybe. I think Microsoft's well and truly dropped the ball in the mobile device market, and they know it. They might be able to catch (or crush) a much weaker competitor, but neither Apple nor Google's likely to fall into that category any time soon. If there's any salvation for them, expect it to come from the Zune platform, not Windows Mobile.
Just for completeness' sake: Symbian? Not even worth adding to Windows Live Writer's dictionary. Blackberry? Blame Canada! (Then snigger.)
But seriously: why an iPhone? Surely it can't just be a beautiful UI, can it? Well, actually, it can. That, and the fact that the iPod interface is standard for connecting to everything: cars, gym equipment, sound systems - all of them talk to iPods, whose interface has been used for the iPhone as well. Right now, these are the killer applications for a mobile device.
I'm going to go on record predicting that in a year's time, however, the killer apps for mobile will be:
- Google Voice. Enough said.
- Google Wave. This will be disruptive technology.
- Power management. Again, Google's going to cruise home on this one.
- Open platform. Once again, Apple's going to shoot itself in the foot by attempting to enforce a closed platform, and that's going to push a lot of good developers towards Android. They've all been spending their time on iPhone apps for the last year, but once they've done the same for Android I'll probably jump ship - or just join them and write my own.
Right now, though, I'm going to look forward to having my shiny new present arrive early next week. Windows Mobile? You're fired.