There’s a bizarre meme developing on your favorite Internets: high-profile iPhone users and app makers very publicly announcing that they’re ditching Apple. Basically it’s a throwing-toys-out-of-the-pram stunt. It’s dumb.
Look at these two recent stories to see what we mean. First up is Steven Frank, a Mac software developer who threw a mini-tantrum when Apple decided to shut out Google Voice apps for the iPhone. Despairing at the way Apple has handled the whole iPhone Application approval process (i.e. badly), he said he would ditch his iPhone–and any iPhone OS system (i.e. the rumored iTablet)–and get a Palm Pre. So far, so very silly. But then Apple’s Senior VP Phil Schiller emailed Frank and tried to allay his fears. According to Phil, Apple is actively “listening to your feedback” and trying to address some of the more obvious flaws in the system.
Next up is the powerful founder of TechCrunch, Michael Arrington. Over the self-same issue, namely Apple’s handling of the Google Voice app, he published a piece titled “I Quit The iPhone.” It’s garnered 855 comments, 1626 re-Tweets, and 300 Diggs as of this writing. He sets out his reasoning in voluminous detail, but in the interest of sparing you the full blast of his self-important stuffiness, here are some key quotes:
“I have loved the iPhone, but now I am quitting the iPhone.”
“I’m abandoning the iPhone and AT&T. I will grudgingly pay the $175 AT&T termination fee and then I will move on to another device.”
“What finally put me over the edge? It wasn’t the routinely dropped calls, something you can only truly understand once you have owned an iPhone.”
“Apple and AT&T are now blocking the iPhone version of the Google Voice app. Why? Because they absolutely don’t want people doing exactly what I’m doing – moving their phone number to Google and using the carrier as a dumb pipe.”
Okay, Michael, we get the message, and you’re at the vanguard of quite the trendy little iPhone backlash bubbling up around the Net, all featuring the same charming, throwing-hands-in-the-air despair.
So here’s our response: Shut the heck up, people. If you want to burst into tears while playing with the other kids (metaphorically, mind you) and take your ball home in a huff to play alone–good luck with that. How many people are in the lucky position of being able to quit using an expensive device–of any type, in fact–and pay for the privilege of a new one just because they dislike a policy decision by some remote management team? Let’s just note that Arrington has “many iPod Touches laying around [the] office to test out new apps.”
The iPhone has turned the whole cell phone/smartphone world on its head. It’s amazing. It’s fun to use. Every so often Apple releases a firmware rewrite for the phone that adds in a bunch of new functions that effectively give existing users a whole new device–for free. We’re not Apple apologists: It’s far from the very best device for each and every of its diverse capabilities. It is flawed, but it’s still selling pretty darn well. The App Store is a whole new innovation, and it has 60,000-plus apps available for user’s delectation and delight … soon it’ll have 100,000 on sale. Think about the ridiculously steep growth curve in app numbers–born of fast device sales and passionate app developers–and realize that it’s tantamount to a runaway train. Anyone managing that kind of explosive, beyond-wildest-dreams growth is going to make a few mistakes (Twitter being another example).
Apple, to its credit, is listening. Consider Frank’s story: A senior exec for a multi-billion-dollar consumer-electronics giant emailed him personally to say his company is taking note of the issues. A generous move by Schiller, and a successful one because Frank is now considering coming back to the fold. It’s not the first time, either. Schiller also emailed Daring Fireball’s John Gruber when he wrote a viciously disparaging blog post about Apple’s rejection of a dictionary app. Schiller went to the trouble of investigating, then explained what had happened in such a convincing way that Gruber recanted a whole bunch. Apple is coming off as a parent that picks up a crying baby when it appears there’s a good reason to do so.
Some of the complaints have centered around AT&T’s failures. It’s a phone network, guys. It’s a commodity that’s basically the same as Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and all the rest. Worldwide, O2, Vodafone, Optimus, Orange, and all the other iPhone
carriers in 70 countries have similar strengths and weaknesses. They will all drop calls, be late in pinging you about important voicemails, and overcharge you for data roaming. Deal with it. How’s Verizon’s App Store? Oh, it doesn’t have one? But one’s in the works and when it launches Verizon plans to push handset makers out of the way to run it themselves? How ’bout that? If there’s anything more tiresome than griping about your wireless carrier, please let me know.
The App Store is not the “Democratic People’s Republic of Apple.” You can complain that Apple isn’t running things exactly as you would like/must have/think would be cool/damn well deserve. Do let us know when Jobs hands over the reins of the company to you. The iPhone is a pretty amazing toy to play with that didn’t exist less than three years ago. Apple is pouring its revenues into creating even more cool toys for you to play with. Get over yourselves. Now.