I certainly don’t bemoan the fact that the iPhone now has a robust, creative and genuinely delightful market for sanctioned, third-party applications, but jeebus does my iPhone crash a lot. To me it’s proof positive that, in dividing its attention between this device, Mac OS X, Macintosh hardware, iPods and half-assed Web applications and services, Apple’s previously sterling quality levels have slipped notably. Just try using my post-2.0 update iPhone — or similar iPhones owned by many of my friends — without freezes or crashes. I bet you can’t.
A Controlled Environment
Not very flatteringly, it reminds me of comments that Steve Jobs made last year to New York Times technology reporter John Markoff in which he cited reasons why they were reluctant to allow third party applications on the device.
“We define everything that is on the phone… You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore. These are more like iPods than they are like computers…
“These are devices that need to work, and you can’t do that if you load any software on them… That doesn’t mean there’s not going to be software to buy that you can load on them coming from us. It doesn’t mean we have to write it all, but it means it has to be more of a controlled environment.”
The situation Jobs warned against — de-stablizing a phone’s core functionality — is exactly the situation we have today. To be fair, it’s not always Apple’s fault; many of the applications that are available for the platform are works in progress and need a lot of cleaning up. (I’m not too proud to count the iPhone application we developed at The New York Times among these.)
Still, Apple’s own applications like SMS, Contacts, Maps, Safari and the phone itself are now in my experience highly error-prone. Whether or not that can be blamed on still maturing third-party applications is a bit of a red herring. The fact is, eighteen months ago Steve Jobs foresaw the situation and still couldn’t stave it off. I’m disappointed.