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iPhone not backward compatI’m a little pissed right now.  Today I had a long drive downtown and on the way home I was planning on charging my iPhone (since battery life sucks bad) as well as listen to some of the tunes.  I upgraded my car system last year to support iPod connectors and put a dock in my car attached to my OEM stereo.  It was a project I was pretty proud I was able to do myself :-).  You can read and see about it here and here.  At the time I did this I was asked why I didn’t use a Zune…after all I do work for Microsoft.  Well I have a Zune and actually think it is a great device.  The current one brings pretty much parity with iPod from a device standpoint and has some additional features that are interesting to some.  The problem was that Zune didn’t have a great aftermarket accessory story…especially for OEM car integration. 

I researched for my specific vehicle and came across a great solution which I purchased and implemented.  One of the great stories I heard was about how many accessories were available and how they all used the same connector, etc.  This is true and a great story for iPod.  Pretty much every accessory works with every iPod/Phone connectors.  This was true for my car kit that worked with iPod and iPhone v1 (charged and played).  Today I was greeted with the message at the top of this post.  Argh.  I chose either option and the integration didn’t work nor would it act as a charger.  What?!  A bit of researching shows that others are having similar problems.  It seems that there was some significant enough changes to the 3G hardware unit that will render certain accessories useless (namely charging and interactive ones…but what other kinds are there).  I’ve been reading that Firewire support is gone in iPhone 3G and because of that there is some voltage charging requirements (must be 5V) that make some chargers useless…especially the well integrated ones. 

One of the top manufacturers of iPod/phone integration kits, BlitzSafe, is pretty affected by this and I’ve been seeing complaints sent to them.  If there was a hardware change, this could be upsetting to most that spent money on a tight integration kit.  I guess the “same connector” really isn’t and that’s a little misleading.  I’m thinking that the advertisements should really expand that asterisk on their image.

I’ve contacted my manufacturer of the device to see if they are aware of this and maybe they can provide some type of firmware update themselves (for my dock) but I’m guessing it isn’t possible…I’m going to wait to see what they say as options…if anyone know how BlitzSafe is affected and their response, I’d be interested in knowing as well.  Aside from the voltage charge feature it seems that the v1 software commands aren’t honored as well.  Hey Mr. Jobs, can you release a software update that ensures that old docks with interactive commands are mapped to any new v2.0 software commands so that you have backward compat with device accessories?  If not, I really think you should add some truth in advertising and a warning on the features (and if there is one, can someone point it out to me as a part of the official documentation?).

iPhone 3G Max Battery.appAs another aside, in dealing with the battery life for a typical business day (it was dead at 5pm), I’ve decided that I need to manage my own battery life now (oddly enough is there a battery meter that actually shows the % left rather than just the icon on the device?).  This led me to flipping different options all day.  What is funny is that Apple’s own documention on improving battery life pretty much instructs you to turn off all features that make the 3G, well, the iPhone 3G: turn off 3G, minimize use of location services, turn off push mail, minimize use of 3rd party applications.  This cracked me up.  Given that I busted out the iPhone SDK and desired to write an application.  I consider myself not a genius but not an idiot.  I honestly couldn’t figure out how to add an event handler to a button click.  Some of you may laugh…go ahead.  I didn’t find any real helpful tutorials to guide me either.  If there are some, please point me.  At any rate, if there is someone who’d like to collaborate on creating “Max Battery.app” with me, leave a comment and let’s setup a project.  Of course the downside is to actually even test this we’ll have to pay $100 and won’t even be able to give it to others to test (see developer comments in previous post).  My goal would be to write a utility app that would be one place where you could do what Apple suggests.  Currently these settings are in 4 different places.  I’d love a single button to that is labeled either “Make iPhone v1” or “Extreme Savings” or something like that which would automatically toggle all these settings off instead of individually.

Anyhow, first 24 hours.  Disappointing in the key areas that were of interest to me.

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I suspect Apple will have a good day on 11 July.  I’m pretty sue Apple could release the iGumWrapper and people will camp out 2 days before to be the first to purchase a gum wrapper made out of napkin and far less superior in functionality than what exists today.  It’s the lure of Apple, the marketing engine behind them and the fact that despite that napkin material, it would likely be so beautiful and make you forget some things that you’ve depended on for so long.

But I digress :-).  In all seriousness, Apple excels at the hype and the experience (yes, two distinctions that shouldn’t always be confused as one).  With the release of the iPhone 3G, they’ll sell a lot I’m imagining and it will cause other mobile manufacturers concern…or it should.  The iPhone is being marketed as ‘half the price’ but others have already pointed out that that asterisk on the advertisements is a large asterisk…and in fact the ultimate cost to the consumer is actually higher (including service plans, etc.) than the current model.  But who cares…I’ve seen the cost analyst and it is negligible.  Misleading advertising?  Maybe.  Some have even pointed out that other than the 3G there isn’t much core upgrade to the device.  No camera upgrade, no IM, no Bluetooth support for cars, no cut/paste, no MMS messaging.  Some have even pointed out that despite GPS support there will be no guided turn-by-turn navigation provided.

Regarding Navigation: Some have said that 3rd parties will use the SDK to solve that problem.  Ah, but read the terms of the SDK…no applications can provide navigational guidance using the SDK.  Why?  If you are aware of US carriers in telecom, you may notice that devices equipped with GPS all have an icon for directions – provided by TeleNav – provided as a monthly service fee of approximately USD $10 per month.  I think this is one area where the carriers won against apple in negotiations…to protect their own agreements and cross-revenue opportunities on services.

One thing that has bothered most developer geeks about the SDK is the lack of background processing.  Apple’s keynote has pulled a little of the 'these aren’t the droids you're looking for’ magic by stating battery life, blah blah blah.  Hey guess what…Blackberry does this just fine and has great battery life.  Is this an area of “we couldn’t get it done” for Apple?  How many think this will change?  I do.  If there is any plans for iChat to be on the device, it would have to be.  Rely on an middle messaging server to deliver what is effectively an SMS command and then prompt me to launch the app again?  Seriously?!  Is this another way of retaining the carrier’s service costs for messaging fees?

Have you ever noticed that Visual Voicemail is actually delivered as an SMS command to the phone with information on what that voice mail contains?

Another sore spot for developers was the lack of Flash on the device.  There has been some bickering from Adobe/Apple on this, but it still isn’t there.  Adobe has said in their last company call their execs have noted they have it working via SDK but would hope the software would eventually be a part of the iPhone software.  A similar request has been made to me by developers of ‘when will Silverlight be on the iPhone’?  Hey guess what, no plugins are allowed on the iPhone – let’s wait for Apple to change that first, then let’s talk…you can’t complain when the platform doesn’t allow it first!

And then comes Android.  When I first saw the video demonstration of this I was impressed.  It incorporates a lot of what modern devices have as well as what people like in the iPhone from a usability standpoint.  Oh, and it will be free and open source.  Some of the Open Handset Alliance have already announced devices with Android that might be available as soon as the end of this year!

Will Android be successful in mainstream?  That is a big question.  Why would I ask that?  Tim, it’s Google, they do everything right, how could you be so stupid?  But consider this.  What makes Apple so successful in their software implementations?  Their ad campaigns shed some light on this when they jab Windows.  They control everything…the entire channel from hardware design to implementation.  There are no other (legal) hardware providers creating iPods, iPhones or MacBooks.  What does this have to do with Android?  Well Android is an open source project that will directly affect consumers.  Most of the time I think we see open source projects that are hiding behind consumer services.  Take, for example, any web server running their site on Linux.  Sure that affects consumers visiting the site, but not directly…the HTML/rendering is what affects me…not the implications of the hardware.

Android will be literally in peoples’ hands.  There have been others that have done this successfully…like Sansa running Mono on their MP3 devices.  But how is this different?  Google isn’t providing the handset.  Will Android feel the same pains of the distribution channel that Windows does?  That being that you are providing an OS and don’t control the hardware that it resides on?  Android will be picked up by handset manufacturers and modified and tweaked and installed on various chipsets and handsets with differing peripherals that may not always comply to the specs or to what Android may expect.  Will that give Android a bad name when someone wants to put it on a device that is ‘minimum requirements’ (I hate minimum requirements---ever try anything on a min req machine…it never is a good experience)?  That remains to be seen.  Perhaps Google may have to do what they said they never would: the Google phone – to ensure that Android has one place where it can be guaranteed.

And when it does come out, will it beat iPhone even though it shares some similarities?  I’m not convinced.  Apple (and iPhone) have a culture behind it.  iPhone itself has become somewhat of a mnemonic.  If you have an iPhone, when you tell someone that you just took a picture, do you say “I took it with my phone” or do you say “I took it with my iPhone”?  I hear this all the time…I <fill-in-the-function> with my iPhone.  I never walk around saying “I took this with my Blackjack.”  This is an advantage Apple has over the market…the brand strength.  I took it with my Android.  Still doesn’t sound right.  Even the newest devices like the Samsung Instinct, HTC Diamond, etc. will not gain that level of brand recognition.

Where does all this leave developers?  Let’s see:

    • Apple – closed platform; closed hardware; Objective-C/Cocoa dev platform (OSX only for best tools); controlled distribution channel for apps;
    • Android – open platform; Java dev platform; tools everywhere; available for any hardware
    • Windows Mobile – open/closed platform; C++/.NET dev platform; tools everywhere (best tools on Windows); available for any licensed hardware vendor

What a minute, Windows Mobile an ‘open’ platform?!  Tim, you lie.  Well, I’m not sure the marketing teams would agree with my statement, but consider the facts.  Windows Mobile provides an operating system to device manufacturers to leverage.  We actually provide what we call “platform builder” and those who license Windows Mobile can customize and pick and choose what “Windows Mobile'” means to them.  Is it completely open to alter the base code of WinMo?  No.  But if you have ever picked up a phone that had WinMo from T-Mobile and one from AT&T and one from Verizon, you’ll see that it is not the exact replication across the board.  Those carriers have done some of their own customizations and added/altered some of the applications that exist.

Basically developers will have a choice…not a consistent choice by any means because each choice has a specific skill set.  I don’t know Java well enough that Android will be my choice, for example.  But if it is compelling enough, will that cause me to want to learn?  Who knows…

So what’s with my rant.  Who knows…just had some thoughts on mobile that I wanted to get out.  Carry on.

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