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The reality behind Apple’s controversial iPhone OS 4.0 decisions

The reality behind Apple's controversial iPhone OS 4.0 decisions

A few days ago, Apple unveiled the latest iPhone operating system – version 4.0 – ahead of its summer 2010 release. While there is a lot to be excited about, some misguided folks have taken issue with a few of the company’s decisions.

Apple has always been one of the most misunderstood companies in history. Best represented by their “Think Different” campaign of the 1990s, Apple marches to the beat of their own drum. They don’t take the easy way out with half-baked solutions. If it’s not a new and better way of doing something, they’d just as well not do it at all – no matter how much pressure they get.

Due to the nature of the organization, certain groups of people always fail to understand some of Apple’s choices. Forcing people to open their minds and think in new ways is always a hard thing to do. Not only that, but the reasons behind their decisions are often misconstrued and twisted in a way to make Apple look like a power-hungry villain. This scenario was on display once again after the company’s iPhone OS 4.0 preview event this week. In an effort to set the record straight, let’s take a look at a few of the biggest issues that have been brought up.

Critics: Apple didn’t invent multitasking; they’re the last to get it

Any time Apple delivers a long awaited feature for their products, this is the go-to defense of Apple haters. But how can anyone honestly trot out this cliche when Steve Jobs himself stood on the stage and said, “We weren’t the first to this party, but we’re going to be the best”? How much more clear could the man have been? Yes, Android and Windows Mobile offered multitasking first. But for the average user – and that is Apple’s target audience; not tinkering techies – the multitasking those platforms offer is a mess. Users have to manage processes manually, their phones slow to a crawl, and their batteries drain rapidly before their very eyes.

Apple’s solution, on the other hand, avoids all of these problems while offering the same benefits. It’s yet another example of Apple taking the time to do it right rather than just throwing something together for the sake of putting it on a product features list. You don’t have to be happy it took so long. But if you don’t at least understand the value of their approach, it’s unfortunate you’re willing to settle for mediocrity rather than waiting for innovation.

Critics: Apple’s new iAd platform means iPhones will be plastered with ads

When Steve Jobs touted iAd as being integrated into the iPhone OS and offering advertisers a chance to reach users every 3 minutes, bloggers and message boards completely lost their minds. They truly think a full screen advertisement will overtake their iPhones every 3 minutes. Seriously? I can’t even comprehend that someone could possibly believe Apple – the company most concerned with the user experience – would force ads on users so often no matter what they’re doing.

Reasonable people, however, understand what Steve Jobs was really saying: For developers who want to integrate advertising into their apps (as they are already doing in many free apps), they can use the iAd platform instead of AdMob or Adsense. That’s it! It’s merely another choice for developers to monetize their apps and Apple is not requiring it of anyone. If users don’t want to look at the new interactive full screen ads, they don’t need to click on the small banners or download ad-supported apps at all – just like they’re doing now.

Critics: Apple is trying to kill Adobe by blocking Flash Player and Flash CS5’s app exporter

The biggest complaint against the iPhone (and now the iPad) is that it does not support Adobe Flash Player. In theory, it sure would be great to have. In reality, it will never result in an experience that Apple would be happy about. Performance has already been noted as a main reason why Flash isn’t available. Flash is an inefficient, buggy resource hog that will bring the device to a crawl. As one might expect, this also kills the battery in record time. Palm and Android phones running preliminary test versions of Flash have proven this. Videos can’t even run smoothly enough to be watchable.

But let’s say Adobe magically found a way to make Flash efficient on smartphones. There’s still a fundamental problem with Flash that most people are overlooking. Many Flash animations, games, and websites make extensive use of hover/mouseover events. Touchscreen interfaces have no way of reproducing this action, therefore those sites wouldn’t work. For a more detailed overview of this problem, take a look at this excellent article from RoughtlyDrafted. It’s eye-opening stuff. The bottom line: Flash will never come to iPhone or iPad for very good reasons. It’s better to push HTML5 so all devices can move on to the next big thing.

Another controversy regarding iPhone OS 4.0 is new language from Apple in the latest SDK agreement that prohibits developers from using non-Apple development tools like Adobe’s upcoming Flash Professional CS5. The software’s tent-pole feature was the ability to export Flash applications to iPhone format. Presumably, Adobe never cleared this with Apple before advertising it and now they’re in quite the predicament. Apple is saying that iPhone apps need to be developed natively using Apple’s own SDK. This looks like a power trip on the surface, but there are other legitimate reasons for the new restrictions. Applications not created using Apple’s APIs in their native language do not take full advantage of all the iPhone OS’s features. The result: Buggy, inefficient code that won’t always behave like iPhone apps are meant to behave. Yes, they might work for the most part. But not well. And, according to new information from AppleInsider, that includes a lack of support for 4.0’s multitasking services.

It makes total sense that Apple wouldn’t want these kinds of applications in the App Store. They will generate a less-than-optimal user experience that could tarnish Apple’s reputation for providing a consistent, reliable product. People don’t blame the developers – they blame Apple. So of course Apple wants none of it. And that is the difference between Apple and Android. Android is all about giving developers free reign to do what they want, regardless of user friendliness. Apple is all about offering a solid, quality experience for consumers and keeping developers on a tight leash to ensure that takes place. Does it sometimes create more work for developers? Yup. But that’s the sacrifice Apple’s willing to take for higher quality applications and happier customers. Isn’t that what we deserve?


4 Comments Have Been Posted (Leave Your Response)

Yea I have to defend Apple all the time with my friends and coworkers! Seems like everyone looks for reasons to put Apple down even when they don’t know what they’re talking about. Then I get called a fanboy because I’m actually informed. Have you heard this one before… “Multitasking? Welcome to 5 years ago Apple!” I wish it would have come sooner but I think the wait was worth it because of how they did it. Just like copy and paste! Others did it first and Apple did it best.

I agree with Rich V..

Yes, all good points and I also agree that Apple should have some control.

However – why are apps like MyWi refused? They are useful and apple will probably never add native wifi hot spotting functionality.

I also find apple has archaic notifications system and a half-baked EAS Exchange Integration that does not update reply/forward tags, allow push scheduling nor multiple signatures. Ugh. More work to be done folks.

I’m sure Apple would love to build WiFi hotspot functionality into their iOS products. Unfortunately, carriers (around the world; not just AT&T) wouldn’t like that. It’s a shame that carriers have to hold back so many useful features, including FaceTime over 3G. I fully agree with your criticism of the notification system, though! It’s the most important thing Apple needs to overhaul in their next iOS update.