iOS in Reality

iOS is the one-size-fits-all approach to the mobile world.  And just like a one-size-fits-all pair of pants, there are both advantages and disadvantages here.  On the one hand, anyone can wear your pants.  On the other hand, anyone can wear your pants.  See?  Mixed bag.  Keep going to see what I mean.

Here’s what I mean.  With Apple’s mobile devices, you basically get one flavor of each (with the exception of the new iPad mini, but I’ll get to that in a minute).  You want a phone?  The newest model is just one size with one feature set: the iPhone 5.  You want a tablet?  You get an “iPad with Retina display.”  That’s it.  Both the tablet and the phone come with the same operating system, and do basically the same stuff.

The upshot to this is that, if you know how to use an iPhone, you know how to use an iPad or an iPod touch.  I think that’s where everyone gets the whole “it’s so easy to use” thing.  I’m sorry, but every mobile operating system has a learning curve, and that includes iOS.  However, if you can learn them all by learning one, that’s darn handy.

The downside to all of this uniform goodness is really very simple.  Apple dictates how you use the device.  Customization is very limited when compared to the Android competition, and the entire platform is tightly controlled to achieve uniformity.  What’s that mean?  If you don’t like the way it works, you probably won’t be able to change it.  Apple tells you what you want, and if you don’t like it, you can go somewhere else.  See lesson 1 in this Forbes article.

This isn’t necessarily bad, because, if you like the way the Apple devices do things, then you’re all set.  No muss, no fuss.

Apple’s hardware is good, but it isn’t perfect.  In fact, I haven’t seen any manufacturer hit what I feel is an appropriate level of quality for the prices they charge.  I only point out that Apple’s hardware isn’t perfect, because it seems to be a common misconception.  There’s a difference between “well made” and “the greatest slab of glass and metal that human minds have ever, or will ever, conceive.”

Once you buy into the Apple ecosystem, it’s hard to get out.  You buy accessories, apps, chargers, and the rest, and it all only works with Apple stuff.  The other mobile platforms all have this problem to one degree or another, and Microsoft’s new Windows Phone/RT ecosystem is almost as bad, but Apple seems to require the most proprietary commitment.  At least Windows Phones still use Micro USB to charge.

However, if you like living in a comfortable, and stable tech bubble, Apple is your friend.  Software updates are iterative, and never drastic, so you never get any huge surprises with how your device works.  You have accessory choices out the wazoo because Apple only makes devices in a few shapes and sizes.  You can also buy a device without spending a lot of time researching it.  If you want a phone, there’s basically two choices: this year’s model or last year’s (always buy THIS year’s).  If you want a tablet, the choice is the same (I’ll get to the mini in a second, I swear).  It’s mindless consumerism at its best.  Limited choice, means limited thinking, but it also means limited gadget envy (as in, hey, his phone is just like mine, but better).

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That essentially concludes my iOS in reality post.  What follows is nothing more than a rant about the iPad mini and how much I dislike it.  Please proceed at your own risk.

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OK, so onto the iPad mini.  Apple saw the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 selling well, so they wanted to get in on the smaller tablet game.  Rather then spend a ton of time developing a product, they simply shrunk the innards of an iPad 2, and jammed it into a smaller chassis.

The iPad 2 launched in March of 2011.  That means, when you’re buying an iPad mini, you’re essentially paying extra for a nearly two year old tablet.  The iPad 2 is now two generations behind.  It’s like walking into a store and asking to pay $300 for an iPhone 4 (not the 4s, either).  It’s got a lower resolution than all of the major competition (Nexus 7, NOOK HD, and Kindle Fire to name a few), so you’re not even getting the best screen in town.  On top of that, all three of those tablets are less expensive.

Go to the store and try to hold an iPad mini in one hand.  It’s tricky because there are very narrow bezels on each side, and the back is slippery.  And don’t you dare tell me to buy a case–I should be able to use the thing comfortably right out of the box.  The iPad 2, and its form-factor-sharing brothers are all much easier to hold, and the newer iPad with Retina display is much, much more capable.

If you want a smaller tablet, I wouldn’t recommend the mini.  🙂

/end rant.  I apologize to any iPad mini owners that I may have offended with this post.

Comments 1

  1. Steve Jobs to the world in 2010: iPad mini? Over my dead body
    Fast forward to October 2011 – Tim Cook: Challenge accepted, Steve…

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