I am admittedly an Android fanboy, but today I shall tell you the stories of Apple and my close encounters with the tech giant.
Steve Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer on the 5th of October 2011. The Internet was abuzz with stories of how they loved Apple and Steve Jobs. The Internet, just the day before, was abuzz with Apple lovers and Apple haters all trolling the underwhelming iPhone 4S. I resisted the urge to troll because really, I did have respect for him, although I never agreed with any of Apple’s products. I understood why they were made that way, but I also knew that they didn’t work for my way.
When I was a kid, I first saw my cousins playing Karateka on their computer. Years later, I found out that it was actually an Apple clone. Remember back in the days when computers were either made by IBM, or “IBM compatible”? Yes, other companies made Apple-compatible clones back then, legally. Of course, Apple no longer allows this.
When I was about 12 years old, I learnt BASICA from my dad’s IBM-compatible XT computer. It loaded off a diskette. I learnt how to write my first HELLO WORLD program from books that he had photocopied and binded.
20 PRINT “HELLO WORLD”
One Chinese New Year, I met my uncle (not related to those cousins) and he told me he studied Computer Science in the United States. He programmed in BASIC, too… but not in BASICA. Instead, he programmed in Apple BASIC! When he told me this, it was as if he had come from an alternate parallel universe! He pulled out a book about Apple BASIC and I read it. Whoa, what weirdness is this? I thought.
It is interesting to note, that BASIC brought Microsoft and Apple together many years ago, when Steve Wozniak was making a BASIC interpreter for Apple, and he just never got around to making it support floating-point numbers. (I find it weird that Steve Jobs didn’t then dictate that it would not be, and that decimal points and real numbers don’t exist.) And so, Apple turned to Microsoft, who had made a BASIC interpreter that supported floating point operations, and asked for help.
Throughout my high school life I was surrounded by IBM-compatible PCs and Microsoft Windows. Quake was the rage, and I brought my computer to school so we could all play Counter-Strike 5.5, I think.
It wasn’t until I was in college, when I would hang out at malls, that I’d bump into Jamhari, my old schoolmate, who was working at Machines, 1 Utama. They had an electric guitar there, and it was plugged to a Power Mac G4 (I think) running Garageband. It was then I got a feel of the mouse that had no right-click. It was slippery and weird. Why couldn’t I just maximize a screen, dammit? Worse of all was that when I turned on an effect of any kind, there would be a delay between what I played and what came out of the speakers. I can’t remember if the delay was there when all effects were off. And often, it would crash.
So yeah, I had a good idea of how ‘stable’ Mac products were.
At home, I had built my own PC, and put in a SoundBlaster Live! 5.1 card, with a microphone input. I borrowed (another) cousin’s electric guitar and plugged it in. The SBLive! card allowed you to tweak EAX effects and add distortion, autowah, flanger, and so on, all in real time, with no lag!
So again, I gave a big meh at the big shiny metal Power Mac G4. What a load of overpriced, underperforming crap it was, I thought.
My First Opposition
At that time, I’d listen to MP3s on my MP3 player, that doubled as a USB thumb drive. I could just copy songs in, and copy them out, with nobody getting in my way. The iPod, however, would only let you copy songs in, but not out, and only through iTunes, and it could occasionally wipe out your songs if you hold it the wrong way. Nah I’m just kidding about the hold-wrong-way part.
Plus, I never understood the whole click wheel navigation. So I thought the iPod was gay. To own it back then, you’d either have to be gay, or a musician. That impression of mine continued on to the hipsters lugging Macbooks around.
I understand why the iPod did that, to protect the music industry. However, that was none of my business – I just wanted to get my songs from home to office and back.
It was around then that I was frequently chatting with Mystery Wolf on MSN. I remember that she had an iMac, and MSN for iMac was missing a lot of features like voice chat. I remember us thinking how sucky it was to have a Mac back then, to have lousy software support.
I also remember the Machines shops, because they were the only places that sold games for Macs! Again, I laughed and felt pity for them when I saw a small shelf of games. Quake 2 was there. In the PC shop next door, they’d sell Quake 3 for Windows! It was quite a while after that I noticed Quake 3 for Mac. Which is funny, since I have the impression that John Carmack and company liked Macs, but understood that the market was with the Microsoft platform.
Powered By Mac
Meanwhile, at Digital Five where I worked, a new Creative Director was hired, and he was all into Macs. So he bought all the designers Powermac G5 workstations! The developers were just like me – what, program on a Mac? No way. So we chose to get souped-up Dells instead.
I remember that whenever a designer asked me for help and I took that (again) slippery mouse, I ended up being frustrated when I just wanted to click something on the side of the screen and I end up teleporting to another screen. Dammit, stop flipping already!
After a year, some of the Macs weren’t in such good shape and were crashing. Some designers were not enamoured at all by the end of the experience, and would rather use a PC.
When the iPhone came, but in Malaysia, amongst the people I knew, nobody knew about it.
Then the iPhone 3G came. Again, nobody.
It wasn’t until the iPhone 3GS that I knew of two colleagues, both designers, who secretly desired the iPhone 3GS but would not admit it. So they both secretly went to order it. I was there, I touched it, but I wasn’t enamoured – I didn’t like the idea of touchscreens then, as they felt slippery to me. Typing on the keyboard, to me, was like playing Super Mario and running all the time – you’ll slide off the edges and fall into holes! I didn’t like that feeling at all.
And then, Apple really took off in Malaysia. I’d say the level of fanboyism multiplied greatly as of the iPhone 3GS. Before this, could you ever get annoyed by someone who loved his/her iPod? Not likely. The iPhone 3GS however, amplified antisocial behavior at dinners and parties. If anybody started playing with their phones and annoying their company, it was the iPhone 3GS owners first.
Somehow, Blackberry owners never got any flak, because we knew Blackberry people were attending to serious business, while iPhone owners were just playing games!
It seemed around the same time, that Macbook owners started coming out. I’m sure people owned Macbooks before this, just that they didn’t express their love as openly as they did before. So I’d see someone I knew with a Macbook and I’d think, “eh, I didn’t know you were gay!”
Then of course came the iPad, iPhone 4 and iPad 2. I still resist the urge to ask people which contest they won their iPad 2 from (this punchline was stolen from Yauhui…)
In my opinion, iOS was always missing some big feature, be it MMS, 3G, Bluetooth, multitasking, good notifications, voice recognition, that would only be introduced in the next version. I always thought iOS to be incomplete, compared to mature OSes like Symbian.
A modern smartphone is made of:
- a CPU
- a 3G/4G radio (radio meaning wireless modem, really, not a AM/FM radio)
- a touchscreen
- one or more cameras
- an external, removable storage slot
- internal storage
- a Bluetooth radio
- a WiFi radio
Every smartphone OS before iOS allowed full interoperability between each of the above components.
I could take a picture with my camera, put the micro SD card in the phone, and upload it via 3G or WiFi, or even Bluetooth it to a friend.
Heck I could take a picture and Bluetooth it to a friend. Or send a contact via Bluetooth.
I could have a 3G video call, involving the 3G radio and the camera.
I could run a WiFi website from my phone, so my computer could access all its files wirelessly, including the songs.
The iPhone, of course, could not do any of that! Why do I have to email an iPhone user a picture, when their phone is right next to mine? What if we can’t get an Internet connection and we’re at a restaurant underground where there is no 3G reception?
That is why I say the iPhone is a smartphone, but it’s not smart enough.
Sure, you can jailbreak the iPhone and hack it to your heart’s content, installing Android-style notifications and Android-style “Live Wallpapers”… but an un-hacked Android still is a lot more capable, out of the box. Heck you can’t interact with the fake Live Wallpapers on jailbroken iPhones. On Android you can click the Live Wallpaper (or tilt the phone, or cover the light meter, or talk to it) to interact with it.
I see why Apple did what they did. Why they left out so many features. They wanted each feature to be perfect in their view, and it’s quite likely that a feature that could not be completed by a certain date would be pushed to next year’s release.
I am also begrudgingly thankful to Steve Jobs for killing. He killed the arrow keys! The first Macintosh didn’t have arrow keys so that people were forced to use the mouse. Of course, the keys came back in the next Mac, and we all eventually got used to the mouse. Eventually.
He also killed the CD, with the iPod, and the iPad, that won’t accept CDs!
He killed resistive screens, for which I am thankful.
He killed buttons with the iPhone. Though some may view the 3 compulsory buttons on Android and Windows Phone 7 to be old-school thinking, I disagree. The Back, Home and Menu buttons make multi-tasking on Android far superior. (Pressing Back on Windows Phone 7 when at Home loads the last loaded app, which is really neat, because it undoes a Home press!)
You may say hey, doesn’t iOS have multi-tasking? Sure, but you can’t flow between programs as easily. An example:
You’re playing Angry Birds, and you waste a bird and want to restart the level. Then you see the ad for a fluffy Angry Bird collectible. You click on it.
It loads the Android Browser. You want to share this with your friends on Facebook. So you long-press on the URL and click Share page. Android shows you a list of applications that you can use to share URLs with.
Like so. (Yes, I have an unreleased Twitter app.)
I choose Facebook, and Facebook loads a dialog that lets me post the URL. I am now in the Facebook app! So I shared it, and I press Back, and I am back in the Browser!
I can then long-press the URL again, and click Share page, and choose to share it over Google+, or ANY app that I have installed on my Android, that is capable of sharing!
So yeah, where was I? Angry Birds. So I press Back, and the Browser window closes, and I am back playing Angry Birds.
Angry Birds -> Browser -> Facebook -> back to Browser -> Google+ -> back to Browser -> back to Angry Birds
Note that I did not have to press the Home button (like on iOS) to get back to the Browser or Angry Birds. I just press Back.
This also helps if I am doing something important, and I get distracted by an incoming message. I reply the message, then I press Back, and I get to continue whatever important thing it was that I was doing!
Meanwhile, iOS doesn’t let an app launch another app. They’d rather you open a link in a browser window, within your app. You also cannot share to any program you like, so you’ll have to wait a while before your favorite apps let you share with Google+ or LinkedIn or Flickr etc.
If you’ve taken a picture on Android, you can Share the picture with any app that can share pictures or edit them! So I don’t have to load the PicPlz app and take another picture just so I can use a PicPlz effect on it! Or a MyTubo effect. Or a Paper Camera effect. Or a Flickr effect.
And so I wonder where Apple is going, seriously – they seem to be listening to what people want, or what other people have, a bit too much lately – look at iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S! How much of that is anything as nefarious as Steve ripping the arrow keys out and forcing people to use the mouse, or ripping out the right-click, or removing the floppy disk drive, or?
Nothing has been forced on the customer in 2011. In iOS 5, users have the option to set notifications to drop down from the top (banner), pop-up in front (alert) or not show at all. I don’t see any of Steve’s trademark, radically changing and forcing users to learn something new. How will users migrate then, if it is optional? Who is going to tell you that you’re holding it wrong?
Yeah, I guess I would miss someone like that, telling people that they’re holding it wrong. Rest in peace, Steve Jobs.