iPhone 4.0 Upgrade: No Big Deal

28 Jun

There has been no shortage of well-reasoned criticism of Apple’s response to its well-designed/poorly-designed antenna in the latest release of its smartphone. “Just hold it differently” just didn’t work as a fix for those who claimed to be victims of the iPhone 4 maker’s predilection for form over function.

I won’t join that dogpile because Apple’s latest device is not even on my horizon until my iPhone 3G contract and personal budget permit. But I did upgrade my current hardware to the 4.0 software. Took five hours to complete. Net result after five tedious hours?

(Yawn! Huh? You talkin’ to me?)

The big 4.0 upgrade turns out to be no big deal, or even a big 4.fail for anyone other than latest hardware owners. The biggest change to my 3G handset was a somewhat revised view of my multiple e-mail accounts, and it now takes an extra step to launch Location Services from Settings than it once did. So, these inconveniences aside, I don’t see any reason for Apple to inflict 4.anything on its past users. Why steal so many hours of our little lives? What did we do to deserve the company’s ill will?

Maybe because we’re on the wrong side of history. PC history, that is.

In the PC-centric world backward compatibility is a core belief. What Apple is acknowledging with its iPhone 4 software release is a gesture not to abandon the old gear. Give existing customers a limited glimpse into the future with some muted features and enhancements in a upgrade, while buyers of the new hardware get all the bells and whistles. It’s a strategy perfected by Microsoft for MS-DOS, then Windows upgrades.

The problem for Apple, of course, is that the smartphone market is not the PC market. PCs are about commitment to an operating system; mobile devices are about contracts to a service provider. PCs are big and desk-bound; smartphones small and mobile. PCs with their operating systems, software, and data are near-permanent; smartphones are ephemeral, practically stamped with expiration dates.

When I get my next smartphone, whatever make or model, I’ll get my data moved to my new phone, get new apps for it, and start making calls. I may marvel at the device’s cleverness for a while, but my dependency on it compared with my PC is trivial. Despite having the latest and greatest iPhone operating system on my 3G handset, I am not locked-in. It’s not, as they say in the tech business, a mission-critical platform. It’s just a mobile phone no matter how I hold it.

So, why Apple foisted its latest iPhone 4 software on existing users mystifies me. It adds nothing to my iPhone experience. In fact, it was an irritating experience. Instead, to keep me (and others) as a mobile phone customer Apple needs to focus on choice and price, neither of which seem to be at the top of the company’s to-do list.

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2 Responses to “iPhone 4.0 Upgrade: No Big Deal”

  1. Rick June 28, 2010 at 7:53 am #

    Did you actually have to upgrade, though? Can’t you click Cancel and stay blissfully happy with the last version?

    To many users, the fact that they get the latest phone’s OS without having to get a new phone is a pretty nice deal.

    I think they have been focusing on price – that $99 iPhone 3G is a great price. Unfortunately, way too many people I know bought one without thinking through the overall cost ramifications of owning a smartphone. That’s not Apple, though; that’s AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile etc.

    • Mark Everett Hall June 28, 2010 at 8:20 am #

      You’re right. I was not forced to upgrade. Had I been told it would take 5 hours, I might have decided not to do so. Yes, $99 is a great price for a new device, but for a 2+ year old unit? Not really.

      But you are definitely right that the true cost is in the service not the smartphone itself.

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