iPhone fundamentalists: Get off your high horse

This is an argument I had to forgo having in favour of discussing the pros and cons of the BlackBerry Torch, iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S with someone else trying to decide which phone to buy.

“Everybody just copied the iPhone,” is the sweeping, unsupported statement that makes me see red.

When you try to challenge that statement with something like, “You do know that Apple didn’t invent multi-touch, right?” you’re often greeted with the fallacious rebuttal: “Yes, but they *popularised* it.”

In a misguided attempt to bring some balance to this argument I will unfortunately not be able to do a full review of the history of the smartphone, so let’s begin with the multi-touch driven interface Apple announced so proudly that it had invented.

For those who’ve never come across the term before, “multi-touch” means a touch screen that recognises more than a single point of contact on the surface of the display. Early touch screen phones used resistive touch screens.

This allowed the screens to respond to touches from an object like a pen or stylus, but until recently resistive technology wasn’t able to detect more than a single touch on the display. It is also generally accepted that while resistive screens allow for more accurate input than capacitive screens, they are significantly less responsive.

Here one must give credit where it’s due: Apple did popularise the multi-touch capable capacitive touch screen as an input device for a cellular phone.

Although the statement is largely true, it remains a fallacious justification for the belief that all other smartphone manufacturers copied the iPhone, since Apple itself wasn’t first with many of the innovations that made the smartphone what it is today.

For instance, the first phone that used a capacitive touch screen was the LG Prada KE850, launched around five months before the original iPhone. Nokia launched the N95 with a built-in accelerometer a good few months before the original iPhone came out.

Apple also didn’t get some of the very basics right when it first launched the iPhone. The device was 2G and EDGE only, couldn’t copy and paste, and had no MMS support for starters.

Until recently the iPhone operating system (iOS) also didn’t support multi-tasking.

Initially the iPhone didn’t support third-party applications. This support was only added towards the middle of 2008 in iPhone OS 2.0 (iPhone OS was renamed to iOS with the launch of the iPhone 4).

Whilst Apple introduced third-party applications before the first Android devices hit the market, other operating systems such as Symbian and BlackBerry supported third-party applications before the iPhone did.

What Apple did do is bring together hardware such as the capacitive multi-touch display, accelerometer and proximity sensor, and integrate them into an easy-to-use, well-polished package.

The iPhone provides arguably the best smartphone user experience, provided that you are willing to buy into the whole Apple eco-system.

While Apple may not be single-handedly responsible for saving us from the evil stylus and resistive touch screens, the iPhone has done its fair share in pushing mobile devices forward.

iPhone fundamentalists: Get off your high horse << Comments and views

Jan Vermeulen apologises for picking on iPhone fanboys/girls/people in this article. They just make it so easy. Android fanboys – you’re next. No fanboys were harmed in the writing of this article. The views expressed in the article are those of the author and do no represent those of MyBroadband. However, the author is known to scream and shout and make a general scene at the MyBroadband offices if disagreed with until such time as no disagreement is voiced or people break down in tears.

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iPhone fundamentalists: Get off your high horse