Multitasking is nice, but paying to be subjected to indentured servitude is not.
I am not the target
customer for the iPhone, and that makes me happy.
I came to this
realization earlier this month, about 15 minutes into the announcement of the
next release of the iPhone OS. That was when Apple CEO Steve Jobs admitted that the multitasking features of the new operating
system would be available only on the iPhone 3GS, as well as on iPads and newer
Even though I've been
an Apple aficionado for more than 25 years, nobody's going to mistake me for a
fanboi (a hopelessly devoted fan). That's because even when I'm impressed by
the latest creation, I'm looking for the fly in the ointment, and, to date, the
history of the iPhone has had a farmyard's worth of flies.
Think about the
device cycle for a minute: The original iPhone lasted for about a year in the
market, and it was made obsolete by the iPhone 3G, which debuted in 2008. A
year later in mid-2009 came the iPhone 3GS. This effectively means that unless
you're the sort of person who gets a new phone every year, you're not the
target customer. (Remember that AT&T insists on a 2-year contract for the
iPhone, so in many ways, an iPhone becomes obsolete halfway through your
agreement with the carrier.)
apparently doesn't differentiate between the 3G and the 3GS models in its
publicly disclosed sales figures, it's hard to say exactly how many devices
will be shut out from the multitasking features of the 4.0 OS. But let's take
Apple's figures for the quarters since the original iPhone was released, and do
some speculative math.
Apple sold roughly
6,124,000 units of the original iPhone during the five quarters of 2007 and
2008 that the phone was available. For the three quarters that the iPhone 3G
was the only option, the company sold (again, roughly) 15,046,000 devices.
introduction of the 3GS and the end of Q1 2010, the company sold 21,312,000 units-a
figure that combines the 3G and 3GS models. Let's say for the sake of argument
that for every four of the 3GS model Apple sells, it also moves one of the
older units. Given the love of shiny and new among people attracted to Apple
products, I don't think that's too far off base.
That puts us in the
near neighborhood of 20 million 3G iPhones and 17 million 3GS iPhones. Let's
further assume that by the time the new OS is released this summer, the
proportion of devices able to take advantage of multitasking has flipped. Who
else but Apple would be able to cut off almost half of its installed base like
a child of the auto industry, planned obsolescence is a terribly familiar
concept to me. But when Steve Jobs said that the older iPhone hardware "simply
didn't support multitasking," he asks us to accept something else altogether.
concede that I am stodgy about some things (OK, many things), and I am
notorious for my habit of using mobile devices for four or five years at a
stretch. But suggesting that customers- whether businesses or individuals-purchase
new devices every year or two and, in the process, push the end of the contract
out another few years, is getting awfully close to indentured servitude in my
innate frugality and my dislike of being tied to a carrier with lousy service
aren't the only reasons why I'm still nowhere close to loving the iPhone. The iAd
will give me a third reason to balk. But my rant about that "service" will have
to wait for another day and another column.