Crashing iPhone

8 Jul

Smartphones, like the one I own from Apple and the Android device I covet from HTC, are becoming more like computers. As such, they are unlike traditional cellphones in a critical way: they are less reliable.

I’ve had at least a half dozen standard cellphones since the early 1990s. Not once can I recall when one froze up or crashed on me. But since I’ve upgraded my iPhone 3G to the 4.0 version of the device’s software last week, it’s been frozen in its tracks twice: once while using a third-party app and once while using Apple’s integrated iPod app.

The duration of each event was about five or more minutes. The iPhone stopped in mid-haptic experience and would not react to any command. It would not even shut off when I pushed the power button. But after a while the device would shut itself down (probably because I had been frantically holding down the power button to reboot while cursing Steve Jobs’ genealogical roots), whereupon I could turn it on again.

I’m not alone in experiencing this problem using iPhone 4.0 on my 3G unit. Nor is it a problem specific to older handsets because iPhone 4 users also experience similar problems. Androids crash, too. (I think it’s fair to say that when Windows 7-based smartphones appear, occasionally they will experience a  mobile version of the Blue Screen of Death, too.) This is not progress.

Telephony is supposed to be reliable. People expect phones to work all the time. Ma Bell built out the nation’s phone network to the highest level of reliability possible, five-nines reliability. That is, phones should be able to work 99.999% of the time. My two iPhone outages already put well below five nines for 2010.

People understand that computers crash. They hate it, but they understand that’s the price we pay to use them. That’s not supposed to be the case for a telephone, but it seems to be the price we’ll pay because while smartphones may get more capable they will also get less reliable.

I had been thinking about dumping my old Qwest landline since I use my iPhone for my free-lance work. I figured I didn’t need wired technology any longer. Given my recent experiences with a crashing iPhone, I think I’ll keep the landline for a while. I need something I can count on because it’s certainly not my smartphone.


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