A phone is just a phone, man

A phone is just a phone, manDon’t get me wrong. I love a good dual-core processor and Super AMOLED screen as much as the next guy. But sometimes you have to take a step back and realise that a phone is just a phone; a car is just a metal box on wheels that you can roll from A to B; football is just 22 men in shorts kicking a ball; and the sun will ultimately burn out, so we’re all doomed anyway.

This already feels a little too deep for a Monday, but a couple of things happened at Mobile World Congress that made me realise a little perspective goes a long way.

In the press area, we were subjected to an unexpected and rather vitriolic rant about the iPhone, courtesy of a seasoned veteran of mobile journalism. He actually questioned the iPhone’s right to be called a phone. Brilliant. Clearly this is a guy who eats smartphones for breakfast, and in all likelihood continues to ponder the future of the industry long after the rest of us have hit the pub.

Anyway, going back to this fella’s point. The iPhone. Ok, technically it’s not the best phone of all time, but is it really all that bad? The iPhone more than meets most people’s needs. Antennagate aside, it’s perfectly adequate for calling, texting, emailing, and doing a spot of browsing with data or Wi-Fi.

iOS is still the most popular mobile operating system in Europe by a country mile, and there’s a reason for that. It’s massively intuitive. Over the years, Apple has addressed loads of the niggly little things that made it so unappealing to mobile aficionados in the early days.

iPhone owners generally seem quite happy with their lot, but you don’t have to look far to find an embittered HTC Desire owner who’s willing to launch into an anti-Apple tirade at the drop of a SIM card.

But let’s not get bogged down in the Apple debate again. It’s blatantly not the worst phone ever, but at the same time - it’s not for everyone. The end.

And so to the other thingy that got me thinking. One of the biggest draws at Mobile World Congress was the HTC Flyer. If I could’ve left the conference with one device, it would’ve been HTC’s tablet. And not just because it looks set to cost a bloomin’ fortune.

The smartphone side of things was a little underwhelming in Barcelona. With Android’s dominance, many of the phones were much of a muchness. Other than obvious standouts like Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Play (a.k.a. the PlayStation Phone) and the LG Optimus 3D, there wasn’t much to separate many of the flagship phones. Ironically, both the PlayStation Phone and LG Optimus 3D use Android too, but you know what I mean; they both have unique selling points.

With the dawn of new technologies like Near Field Communication for contactless payments, phones are an ever-increasing part of our daily lives, but nothing to get in tizzle about. Chill out, dudes. If you don’t like the iPhone, don’t buy it. Android and Blackberry are doing great. Windows Phone 7 and Nokia will be fine. Maybe.

Can’t we all just get along?

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JanSt / MOD  Feb. 21, 2011 at 15:20

A few points: the Play and that LG 3D thing are really more 'gimmicks' than smartphones :p

As to the iPhone: yes, I agree, if it suits you, buy it. It's gorgeously well built yada yada... But I totally understand why someone (me, for example, or the dude at MWC) can get carried away dissing it. It's not about the phone, it's the Apple hype machine paired with mainstream journalism's ignorance and lack of depth. Most Americans believe there was no mobile web-surfing prior to the iPhone. Many people think there were no Apps or appstores prior to the iPhone...Many people just shrugged when Jobs described the Foxconn suicide factory like some sort of holiday camp (British and German MPs who visited called it a sweatshop)... Of course, Foxconn serves other corporations, too, but only Apple had the gall to belittle the suffering of some of the workers.
And the locked-down iPhone? Apparently to protect users from malware and such, yet many of Apple's approved apps do 'call home'...
And on and on... Firmware updates used to be for the geek crowd, now they are regularly mainstream headline material, and in addition to apps-mania people get jailbreak and root 'panic'...Wanna bet how many people who brick their iPhone or Android phone actually know why they're even trying it?

Meanwhile real functionality goes down the drain. Reviews hardly ever mention phone quality anymore. Email clients pull in sh*tloads of data without offering better functionality than a 4 year old S60 device. We talk about mobility, but for the iPhone and WP7 you depend on ginormous PC suites to transfer one lousy jpeg from one phone to another, while most phones 5 years ago had a plug'n'play mass-storage function.
Nokia's N8 delivered USB-hosting with USB-OTG - probably the ONLY real innovation in the second half of 2010, and hardly anyone notices.

In the 80s and 90s computer users were dumbed down by Windows and the faux 'war' between the 2 'ecosystems' of PC vs Mac...now we got iPhone vs Android (and G*d help us) and WP7...

I know 4 people close by who recently ditched their 'smartphones' for 'just-phones', and they are delighted.

Not saying smartphones are pointless, they aren't,... but it's time some sense was reapplied, and I don't mean another HTC UI ;)

This MWC was about as interesting as a clothes-hanger sales-rep convention. Only that we need more clothes-hangers than tabs :p

But then again, if Apple hadn't started this, someone else would have applied their reality-distortion field. Humanity...


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