“She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts.”
— Han Solo
As a Windows Mobile user, I’m consistently amazed that people take the iPhone seriously as a smartphone platform. Yes, my Treo has an old school 2003 interface and isn’t as shiny as newer smartphones (including “black slab” iPhone wannabes like the Blackberry Storm and even WM devices like the HTC Touch Diamond and Samsung Omnia), but I’m also not hamstrung with arbitrary limitations.
Let me give you an example. Apple recently released the 2.2 update for the iPhone, which finally allows users to download podcasts directly to the phone if they’re on the go. Sounds cool, right? I mean, it must be really good if Apple was willing to kill a popular application on the app store because they were about to provide the same functionality in a better, Apple-sanctioned experience.
Only it’s actually pretty lame. First off, it doesn’t let you download anything over 10MB over 3G, because heaven forbid you actually use that high speed connection for anything where you could actually tell the difference between it and Edge. No, anything over 10MB (and most podcasts are) can only be downloaded via WiFi, which means you have to stay at the hotspot while you download. So much for “on the go.”
But it gets worse. It also doesn’t sync what you’ve downloaded and played with the desktop, so there’s no way to tell your iPhone to check all your subscribed podcasts and download the new stuff. You have to check each one manually (through the same Apple iTunes Music store that should, theoretically, know what you’ve already downloaded) and remember on your own what you haven’t heard yet.
So let me get this straight. Apple pulls a popular app from the app store because they’re going to provide that functionality in the base OS, but then their solution not only doesn’t take advantage of integration with other Apple products (iTunes, music store), but also imposes limitations on where and how you can use it? And iPhone users have been brainwashed into thinking this is a good thing?
On my junky looking, outdated user interface Treo, on the other hand, I can install the open source and free BeyondPod, which allows me to import my podcast feeds from an XML file or from Google Reader, keeps track of what I’ve listened to and what I haven’t, downloads new podcasts both a la carte and on a schedule (I have it download everything at 3am while I sleep) and has no limitations on how much I can download, when or where I download, and can even stream podcasts instead of downloading. It can also optionally delete each file as soon as done listening to it.
Or, if I want a “slicker” user interface, I can use Kinoma Play. It can also either download or stream podcasts whenever I want, as well as play media from Orb, Audible, YouTube and lots of other services, all from the same modern and consistent user interface. Or I could use Pocket Player from Conduits, which also… well, you get the idea.
The iPhone is a great basic media player and internet terminal, but until has the power and flexibility of Windows Mobile, or even Palm OS, don’t tell me it’s a smartphone. It may not be pretty, but my Treo gives me options, not limitations.