Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ipod and my problems with Apple

Apple is a very interesting company. It copies products and makes them easily accessible, intriguing and fun to use, while having probably some of the best design engineers out there (though not on functionality). I have been criticizing the Ipad on this site a couple of times, but I enjoy the ipod touch at the same time.

I mean smart phones are a nice idea, but I could never do with the small qwerty (my thumbs are too big and brutish) keys and I found the display and UI uninspiring. The iphone and later the ipod changed all this. Now, I am using an ipod touch 2G (not yet an iphone, because my cell phone needs about 2 functions: dialing and sms). The ipod touch really is a great thing. I use it to listen to mp3 or watch podcasts during train or plane rides. It is easy to control and you have wifi access. There are plenty of fun 2D games out there to keep you busy while commuting. Unlike the iphone it is also cheap and has almost the same specs and no binding contract to some obscure phone company (@AT/T and DT).

But, Apple products have several unnecessary drawbacks:


Unlike the Mac, NONE of the more mobile devices has flash support, not even the IPad. How can that be? I know the new HTML specs have animation support, but it will be years before this is going to take roots in the online community. Until then FLASH is the way to go with almost all pages that display animations or videos. The excuse is not even that Apple has no right or way to implement it. The Iphone and the Ipod have support for youtube vids via the youtube-app. Youtube uses a flash-based video player!

Now, Adobe has tried to port it to the Iphone, but Apples strict no 3rd party application may run from their Safari-Browser or separately at the same time, has put an end to that. Adobe opted for a way out that made everyone win, except the users. They created a software development kit so that flash-heavy sites (all video sites) could create flash-enabled apps that would play the sites. This of course is only viable when it comes to a small subset of the web. Most people running flash pages won’t bother anyway.

The other way would have been an optional safari plug-in. Meaning that you could switch it off to save battery. This would have been the best possible solution, because it would have solved Apples strongest critique of FLASH: It is resource-heavy.

BTW: If you jailbreak your Ipod (ATTENTION: VOIDS WARRANTY), you can use a little program to emulate flash in your Safari. So, it is hogwash that Flash is not possible on an ipod. It is interesting what is possible once you look at the Cydia Store. They have a lot of free and very useful software (appz) there…

2. iTunes and AppStore:

This DRM-mess of an online store is the worst thing Apple has done. Yes, I understand they want to make money of it, but there are better ways to do it. Yes, they needed the cooperation of most of the music labels and cable TV-chains for this, but still you also have to cater to the users. From a user point of view the online store is crap. It is slow, it has stupid copyright issues and I can’t download the same stuff in different countries – aHhhhhhhh! This wouldn’t be a problem, if we talked about Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”, but it also affects literature, podcasts, tv series, movies etc.

3. Installing stuff on the IPOD/IPHONE:

Why, oh why, Apple, can’t you allow direct access to the Ipod. Yes, you don’t want the disk to become cluttered and fragmented, but you could very well devise a USB-Plug’n’play connection that could deal with it. I don’t need access to system folders, I just want to move mp3s, movies, and misc stuff from my PC to my 16 GB mobile device! Perhaps this is too much to ask, but it would make everything so much easier.

That said, if you are a bit of tech-wiz, you can circumvent almost all of the downsides. You can install Flash via Cydia, you can jailbreak your Ipod/Iphone and install useful stuff outside of iTunes and Appstore (ipa-installer: Installous) and you can use the Iphone Browser to copy things to and from your mobile device.

However, it is still a hassle and an unnecessary one, because it actually discourages me to buy anything from the Iphone store. I am just a principled no-DRM guy after all.

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