Saturday 10 January 2009

The Apple iCanOnlyPhone

It’s not often that this column reviews a new product. I like the idea of being given things for nothing by suppliers to test but it doesn’t fit in with our ethics. I might be persuaded to change my mind if someone lends me a new Jaguar for a few months or perhaps even indefinitely but anything less than that isn’t worth it.

However this item wasn’t for free. We bought it for money. Our own money.

We bought an Apple iPhone.

I should begin by explaining my background with Apple. I adore Apple. I always have done and I suspect I might always adore Apple products. I’m writing this on one of the new Apple MacBooks and it’s perhaps the cutest, sexiest, loveliest piece of technology I’ve ever bought. It’s full of gimmicks like a keyboard that glows when the room gets dark, a glowing Apple on the back of the screen so everyone else can feel jealous as they watch me showing off and it’s made of sleek, smooth aluminium. It’s also incredibly powerful, almost immune to computer viruses and even runs Windows when I need it to. In short, it’s adorable.

I also have an Apple iPod which is the second cutest device I’ve ever owned. Mine is a cute little green one and it’s amazing how much music, how many podcasts and how many videos you can load on it.

I adore Apple products and I was therefore very jealous when friends overseas told me about their lovely new Apple iPhones. I could only imagine how wonderful it must be. OK, I did read some reviews that were critical of it but Apple often get that from people who just don’t like Apple products.

So I was very excited when Orange announced just before Christmas that they were now allowed by Apple to sell the iPhone legitimately in Botswana.

I was even more glad when my wife bought one rather than me.

The good news is that, as an object, the iPhone is beautiful. It’s sleek, smooth and sexy. It has an enormous screen that you use by touching, sliding and stroking. You can probably even control it by kissing it. You might be tempted to, it’s that sexy.

The other bit of good news is that it makes phone calls. It even receives them. It does both of these things perfectly.

But that’s it.

The bad news is that almost everything else the iPhone does it does either poorly or badly. Very badly in some cases.

Take text messages. It can send them, in fact it’s incredibly easy to do so. Likewise receiving them. But why on earth won’t it let you forward a text message? Haven’t we all forwarded a text message occasionally? It’s not the end of the world but it’s an irritating omission.

Then there’s Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a technology for connecting devices that are fairly close together, usually within a few metres. It’s a great way to swap pictures, contacts, sound or video files. Many phones and computers these days have it. I probably use Bluetooth several times a week to transfer something from somewhere to somewhere else.

The iPhone has Bluetooth. Almost. The problem is that you can only use Bluetooth on the iPhone to connect to a headset. There’s no file transfer. None. If you take a picture on your iPhone and want to send it to someone you’ll need to connect the iPhone to your computer, copy it over, and save it on a memory stick or email it to the person sitting next to you.

I don’t call that having Bluetooth. That’s almost having Bluetooth.

Then there’s the wireless internet capability. You really can sit at a cafe with your iPhone surfing the web on your iPhone. Unless you want to visit any web site that uses Flash video. This is probably the most common way of viewing video on the internet. Sites like YouTube use flash video. The iPhone can’t see flash videos. There is a link to YouTube on the iPhone but that’s a special version with non-Flash videos created specifically for the iPhone.

So what about all the clever music things that Apple iPods are so famous for? Isn’t an iPhone an iPod as well? Yes, it is, and very good it is too.

Unless you want to buy music online. You CAN do that but only if you have a European, American or Asian credit card. Those of us with African credit cards can’t buy music on the iPhone. So yet another incomplete service.

Lastly there’s the built-in GPS receiver. This is just a joke. While you can use it to get detailed maps of New York and London you’ll laugh out loud when you see what it has for our capitol city. The word Gaborone with four roads emerging from it. Other GPS receivers have the detailed maps of Gaborone showing every tiny street, every turning, even bars, restaurants and stores. The iPhone GPS function is just ridiculous.

Do I blame Apple? Yes, I do, for the ludicrous SMS and Bluetooth omissions. Do I blame Orange? Yes, I do, for marketing a phone that does less than my 2-year old phone but without explaining to us that it’s incomplete.

The iPhone in Botswana is, I’m afraid, a bit like a supermodel. Exceptionally beautiful, highly expensive to obtain, painfully thin and not that useful.

This week’s stars!
  • Brian at Apache Spur for friendly service.
  • The team at Maxiprest for scrupulously honest service.

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