Device and Desires

All the big guns want an iPhone killer. Even I, mad for all things Apple as I am, want an iPhone killer. I want smart digital devices to be as good as mankind’s ingenuity can make them. I want us eternally to strive to improve and surprise. Bring on the iPhone killers. Bring them on.

YOU might, somewhere along the way, have picked up the impression that I am a passionate Mac advocate: I bought my first 128K machine in 1984, the second Macintosh to be sold in the UK – at least so I’ve always maintained and believed (the first went to the still desperately missed Douglas Adams) and I have never had fewer than ten working Macs on the go since the late 80s. It is true that I value both the platform and the hardware, that I admire the imagination, flair, elegance, quality and pioneering spirit of the Apple corporation. All quite true.

HOWEVER……..

I have, over the past twenty years been passionately addicted to all manner of digital devices, Mac-friendly or not; I have gorged myself on electronic gismos, computer accessories, toys, gadgets and what-have-yous of all descriptions, but most especially what are now known as SmartPhones. PDAs, Wireless PIMs, call them what you will. My motto is:

I have never seen a SmartPhone I haven’t bought

After all, the Mac itself was founded on a notional smart device, the Dynabook, fruit of the many brains of the legendary Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC). The Dynabook concept gave us the WIMP user interface, (Windows, Icons, Mice, Pull down menus) and thence the Apple Lisa and its successor, the Macintosh. The Dynabook was a posited form, a notional device that would deliver information to its user with the greatest ease and intuitive functionality. As a result of this mission statement, the command code line found in all standard computing of the time was made to yield to a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Apple took up the call (poached some PARC staff) and produced the Mac OS; IBM and latterly MS took years and years to get the message. But that is how the GUI was born, out of a quest for a better relationship between man and machine, individual and digital device.

Whether you talked into it, stroked it, operated a stylus or pointing device the essence of the Dynabook was not that it might actually be built (technology in the 1970s couldn’t begin to provide such an object, nor indeed can it now) but to predicate a useful Platonic Ideal. The Device. The Chosen One. One Electronic Object To Rule Them All. Like any Platonic ideal, it cannot ever exist: to postulate its existence is enough to set clever people on the right path to creating remarkable technologies that contribute to the digital world and our interactions with it. It is in this sense the computer designer’s Holy Grail – the adventures, romances and interior quests along the way are what counts – the Grail itself will always be out of reach. We are getting closer however. A single handheld device that can summon up a vast repository of human knowledge, communicate with anyone, tell you to within five meters where on the planet you are, take and show photographs, record and play music, send and receive vox or data communications; a device you can speak into and that can speak to you, a device that you can manipulate without fiddly controls or technical knowledge, a juke-box, a cinema, a radio, a library, a community centre, a parish pump, the school gates and the city university. Not considered to be computers, although computers is most assuredly what they are, these devices are for the moment designated SmartPhones, and it is on them that I wish to discourse and expatiate in an entirely disinterested (if you think I mean uninterested, think again and look up the difference) and mostly non-technical way.

Of course, this essay, if it can be described as such, is a response to the rise and rise of the SmartPhone, as most publicly trumpeted a few weeks ago with the arrival of Apple’s iPhone. I am not here to laud or review that device however, it has had enough publicity and I really want you to believe that, Apple addict as I am, my eyes have always been open to the virtues of anything good, exciting, functional, elegant, pleasing to use. In fact the real precipitating reason for writing this is the fact that within three weeks I have bought/been sent, aside from my iPhone (which, yes, I dearly love), three soi-disant ‘iPhone killers’ – the HTC Touch, the Nokia E90 and the Sony Ericsson P1i. While I don’t intend fully to review, road-test or benchmark each device (as if I could, anyway), I do want to share my thoughts about where these devices appear to be going. (I’m not even going to mention outside these parentheses the LG Prada phone, that’s an iPhone beater in the same way Tim Henman is a Federer beater).

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This blog was posted in Blessays and Techblog

223 comments on “Device and Desires”

  1. Shay says:

    Great post, Mr. Fry!

    I tend to agree with regards to the iPhone keyboard. People need the tactile sensation. Which is why I think this is closer to what future keyboards will look like.

  2. admin says:

    *** From Stephen ****
    *** To all who have posted comments so far ***
    ***
    Hello all!
    I am so touched by all the response so far. many apologies for the crash that befell the server yesterday and most of this morning, simply a result of an unforeseen volume of traffic. Automatic firewalls crashed down supposing a denial of service raid.

    I value all your insights, your knowledge, your prejudices, predilections and preferences. You may be pleased to know I took possession of an iPod Touch and a new Nano yesterday. Joy beyond compare.

    Many, many thanks for all your comments and I am sorry that I can’t find time to reply individually, but keep them coming, I do read and follow up where I can. I hope to continue the blog as soon as possible.
    Stephen x
    PS: Especial thanks to the Rev’d Spooner, see above.

  3. jptmoore says:

    If you are interested in seeing some OpenMoko phones and you are in London next weekend you might want to check out mobileCampLondon. I will be taking my Neo 1973 with me and some guys from OpenMoko will be there with a few Neo’s for people to play with.

    http://www.barcamp.org/mobileCampLondon

  4. debernardis says:

    Mr.Fry, being from Italy I don’t know you as an actor, but if you are half talented as you prove to be in writing about those wonderful companions of our lives called smartphones, you deserve an Oscar.
    I am curious of your opinions concerning the Nokia N800 internet tablet – you have one, don’t you?

  5. kelda says:

    Thank you for writing about this. I have come from Palm Addicts by word of ‘him indoors’, as he is a major Palm / gadget enthusiast he has the treo 750v after convincing me that he needed on because he found a stylus on the road). While I am more of an apple geek. But have never really had much use for a smart phone myself since my life is rather boring. Teach, sleep. I suppose I could add the time sponge cake was thrown at me but alas, did not know that in advance.

    I am sorely tempted by the IPhone since I heard about it. It sounds wonderful, but I suppose my main hesitation is the lack of UTMS as I like to visit Japan and I am so bad at remembering where I put things!

    Once I here more things about it I’ll see about getting one just the contract I’ll have to sort that out.

  6. christy says:

    Apple should be paying you for the free advertising!!
    I live in a rather ‘modern’ block of flats – (is 15 years old ‘modern’ for a building these days?) and I have a very basic laptop, and NO mobile phone.
    It’s absolute bliss to be unavailable 24 hours a day. I love the reaction when people ask for my mobile number and I say ‘I haven’t got one’.
    ‘If I want to know what the weather’s like I look out of the window’
    (Billy Connolly) ;-))
    I’m glad Stephen enjoys his techno toys, but honestly, TEN macs!
    One for each finger??
    And why on earth was the phone in the pocket of his costume jacket on the set of Wilde??
    I want answers (- not an ‘iPhone killer’ – which sounds like a virtual murderer!)

  7. christy says:

    WO IST SEIN KILLER HANDY???!!!

  8. christy says:

    ‘We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities’
    O.Wilde
    (who else?)

  9. MerryMary says:

    Sweet Jesus, Stephen!
    You never fail to disappoint and enlighten. My 15 yr old, whose small private school issues laptops (alas, not Macs, to which I remain fanatically loyal), to all students, and upon which most homework and classwork is recorded and “drop-boxed”, has passed your missive around their intranet. It is THE topic of the moment. Now some of the kids asking for more about this Fry fellow. Expect a small surge in sales of Moab, which my spawn has been promoting. If it were up to me, Ode would be required as well.

    Incidentally, since your mind is so productive these days, we are languishing for “Moab: The Next Twenty Years.” So annoying, those Fryophiles!

    “…and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.”
    BCP (Epis), Rite II, pg 360, General Confession

    For it is meet and right so to do!
    Warm Regards,
    Christine
    San Francisco

  10. MerryMary says:

    (Just tried to post. No appearence. Lost in the ether? Just running a test here)

  11. makomk says:

    I hear the iPhone is a wonderful device (well, for those people who can afford it and don’t need anything it doesn’t do). Unfortunately, Apple seem to be in love with lock-in in general these days. For example, the latest iPod models (the Classic, the new Nano, etc) have what I can only describe as a deliberate attempt to prevent any software apart from iTunes from putting music on them.

    More specifically, unless you know Apple’s secret magic serial-number-dependent hash-generation algorithm and its special tables, the new iPods reject any updates to the list of music files. Said algorithm is designed to be cryptographically impossible to work out short of spending several days with a debugger and a copy of iTunes; oddly enough, Apple prohibit this in their license agreement. (Of course, someone eventually did and released the results.)

  12. Jah says:

    Respect!

    Stephen

    For your Nokia E90:

    - Nokia SMS thread application (beta) : http://www.nokia.com/A4568203
    - Handy Calendar with key board short cuts, makes this much better than the in-built PIM (beta again) : http://www.epocware.com/beta/HandyCalendar_S60_3_Beta.sis

    You and I have traveled a similar journey, with a few detours, and arrived at the same point for now.

    If you have an opportunity, look at the Nokia 9500 and its Psion based EIKON user interface.

  13. Is the title in relation to the novel? this article? something else entirely? Thanks for giving me something to blog about, at least … although I don’t usually feel like such a Luddite. And I do hope you’re disposing of all those nice phones in a green manner :-) or perhaps donating them to good causes, e.g., women’s shelters?

  14. grahammoore says:

    Wow!! It certainly makes a change to hear some balanced, logical views being written on my favourite subject. I didn’t realise you are such a SmartPhone fan, it’s a blessing that there’s someone out there writing about devices who has actually owned them all (a situation that we’d all love to be in!).

    I’ve not had quite as much experience of SmartPhones as you, sticking mainly to SE and Windows-based devices (thanks Orange for the introduction!) I’ve just taken delivery of the HTC TyTN II, which is the most feature rich phone I’ve had the delight of using. It is my first HSDPA enabled phone, what can I say….who needs WiFi anymore, especially with the data friendly T-Mobile unlimited data package. Believe it or not, I actuall got faster Internet access over HSDPA than through the WiFi (expensive) at Heathrow Airport, though not much use to you in Norfolk I should imagine. Stephen, I hope you to soon have the privaledge of experiencing this phone.

    Look forward to reading more on your blog, going by the quality of the first post, I’ll expected more website downtime due to popularity ;-)

    Cheers
    Graham

  15. emilY says:

    With a great big grin on my face I’d just like to say…
    Stephen, you big geek!

    Love it!

  16. emilY says:

    With a great big grin on my face, I’d just like to say…
    Stephen, you big geek!

    Love it!

  17. thewan says:

    Stephen, your are like a uncle to us! We have grown up laughing with you…and at you. Gone through tough & low times together. You share your wealth of knowledge and culture, which spurs us on, to be well mannered folk!

    When you published a book on classical music, my better half wanted to elope with you (music teachers for you!)

    And now you start your first ever blog with a article on smartphones….a geek after my own heart!

    Can I call you Uncle Fry?

  18. allison says:

    *looks at post* -blink-
    Look! A bird! *point*

    -run-

    Glad to see you’re easing into the world of blogging slowly ^_^;.

  19. gjashley says:

    Glad you like the E90, your review reminded me of the 9110 I once owned and loved. I was hoping that one day they would bring out a worthy successor … now if only I could get it stateside …

  20. thewan says:

    Uncle Fry,

    Forgot to mention that I use one the following smartphone HTC TyTN (also known as a HTC Hermes / O2 XDA trion / T-Mobile MDA Vario II / Vodafone 1605 / Orange SPV M3100. Great device with a slide out keyboard, I wouldn’t swap for a Iphone!! Hoping to upgrade to its successor, the TyTN II (Kaiser) Nearly beats the Iphone for functions, apart from screen size and interface.

  21. williamt says:

    I have read many, many reviews of individual smartphones, but, until now, I have never seen such a comprehensive history of all of them on a single page. It needs several re-readings to take everything in.

    I’m been a Nokia 9300i owner for just over a year (formerly a 9000 and, for a brief period, a 7650.)

    I’m intrigued that you like the E90 simply because several reviewers have commented on the reduction from the four soft keys to the right of the main display to two – thus adding extra keypresses for many operations.

    I’m at a bit of a loss what to do now – upgrade to the E90, get a Treo (but none of the ones with Palm OS seem to have Wi-Fi), get a Blackberry (but they seem incredibly expensive), or, as I usually do, just wait – and hope, foolishly, that the perfect device will soon come along.

  22. Osiris says:

    As smartphones are to Stephen, so PMPs are to me. (I still call them ‘mp3 players’ personally, whatever myriad filetypes they recognise). I was on my third device by the time Apple brought out their first (all hail the early Archos jukeboxes! Dull silver paint that came off on your hands the first day you used it! Dreadful customer service staff! But direct encoding and 20GB hard disk… I feel faint).

    I have never owned a PC. It’s always been Mac for me, for simplicity, straightforwardness, functionality and elegance. However, in the world of personal media players, there is one truth that sets Those Who Know apart from Those Who Don’t Get It, and that is: iPods are rubbish. Always have been. Things could have taken an otherwise course if Apple had continued to improve sound quality after the 4G range … but they didn’t. Incredibly, it actually got worse. Sound quality on iPods is never, ever as good as any device made by the following companies: iriver, Cowon, Archos, Creative, and Sony.

    So my point is: If you want something to take out of your pocket which confirms your desperation to look smooth and sophisticated, get an iPod Touch (quick mind, before everyone has one). If you want to enjoy your music, get a product from one of the above mentioned manufacturers.

    Right, enough from me. I’m off to book a train trip to Istanbul so I can listen to the complete works of Sunn 0))) in peace.

  23. lazyboy says:

    Hi Stephen,

    What a great blog post. I completely echo your thoughts about the iPhone; it’s a fantastic device! However, I have to disagree with you about the iPhone’s keyboard; I vastly prefer it to the one on my Treo or Blackberry 7100. Indeed, I can type faster and with less effort than on either of those other devices.

    But my real reason for commenting here, apart from to say thanks for a great post, is to take you up on your challenge, namely: “I challenge anyone to type an email as fast on an iPhone than I can on a BB or Treo. I assure you it can’t be done.”

    Since we’re unlikely to meet in person, here’s the deal. Take your Treo and pop on over to the “iPhone typing test” site. There are two tests, one where you have to copy a randomly generated phrase, another where you can type anything you want. Try both on your Treo, several times. For the free-form typing test use the quote: “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York.” (NB. I hope this works on the Treo’s browser. Couldn’t test it, as mine died a while ago.)

    For the record, on the iPhone I average about 20 words per minute for the randomly generated phrase (depending on its complexity), with *no* mistakes; for the free form test using the above phrase, I average around 32 words per minute, again with no mistakes. Capitals and punctuation must be included.

    May the best geek win!

  24. binooby says:

    Aah, all this technology, all these supposedly wondrous electrical items that will improve our lives beyond our wildest dreams and imaginations … but … allowing for the fact that ’tis mere mortals who design these so-called ‘hopes and aspirations’, why I wonder are we so surprised that the end results are flawed and never quite right and could do better? We are continually evolving and growing and one idea will always lead to another and another and another … I wonder … (and they say be careful what you wish for) … were the ultimate piece of technology to be created … were there to be nowhere else to take things … how would people feel then … to have actually come to a conclusion and for there to be no more expectation of the next ‘new and improved’ life changing item?

  25. I feel that, because I’m so young (just turned 22- when I’m older I’ll compare myself in age to the universe so I will always be 22) that I should be more digitally adept.

    Poverty gets in the way, though. I have a brick of a phone and a monitor nicked off an IT friend. I feel as though I am missing out!

    Seaneen

    xxx

  26. FPF422 says:

    If I get one of those, I would imediatly buy this also http://www.miniot.com/miniot/iphone.htm

    /just saying, don’t really care…

  27. Mrs Smith says:

    Zzzzzzz

  28. rettore says:

    wonderful piece, Stephen!

    back to Xcode now to finish you-know-what for iPhone ;-)

    Riccardo

  29. Elf says:

    the WIMP user interface, (Windows, Icons, Mice, Pull down menus)

    ‘WIMP’ is more commonly known as ‘Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointing device’.

  30. cseilern says:

    Great post! have, btw, found a usable duplicates finder for outlook? I use teamscope contact scrubber, but am always looking for better. Also, if you layed with Plaxo, you may want to take another look. I had always hated these network web sites, but waht thy have added in the last couple of months is simply astounding: it now keeps me synchronised between two outlooks, yahoo, gmail and AIM without any fiddling. They can also do Macs. Rgds,
    - Chris Seilern

  31. schiaparelli says:

    One cheeky little link on the Popbitch mailout, and the onslaught of traffic crashes the new Stephen Fry blog for the whole of Thursday afternoon! Delighted and very honoured to have you blogging, and looking forward to more pictures of you at your desk brandishing your gadgets. Best wishes xx

  32. chris hopkins says:

    hi Stephen

    I have been using Macs for 18 years now and could proberly be called an addict. I feel enormously disapponted that I cannot just buy the phone to use with my preferred network, Orange. Users would benefit if networks were able to compete re. packages and I am sure we would not be looking at £35 – £55 a month.

    Love the freshness of your WordPress blog. I have been using WordPress for a while now – http://www.designforte.co.uk/blog. Looking forward to your thoughts on the new Apple operating system soon.

  33. Abrak says:

    Seems you are not fully up to speed with all the nice Apps that have already been done for the Iphone.

    To spice up your ring tones download ‘song sender’ which lets you set any of your itunes songs as your ring tone. It also allows you to email any song from your itunes to anyone.

    My iphone (in Thailand) came pre-loaded with around 50 third party apps. Unfortunately I am somewhat tech-illiterate so most mean nothing to me.

  34. GrahamBM says:

    Bravo! an excellent slice of blogness :-)

    May I suggest that you attend the Handheld Learning 2007 Conference in London this October where you will meet around 800 similar enthusiasts and every type of mobile device that can imagine!

    http://www.handheldlearning2007.com

  35. ekasbury says:

    Mr. Fry, you never cease to amaze me. I don’t think I’ve ever read a gadget post quite like that. I guess one wouldn’t ordinarily expect to, I suppose. Still, a great read. And I must say I’ve been harping on several of the same issues you’ve raised for years. And yet the consumer always ends up with same old, sometimes slightly better rubbish. As we say in America, go figure.

  36. padbrit says:

    Hello Steve
    Great blog. I did smile at the less than flattering bit about the Trion. Us photogs use a neat piece of software called “Pocket Phojo”, to edit, crop, caption and transmit pictures. The Trion along with Loox T830 are the “chosen one’s” for running it. Sadly the iPhone lacks a card slot, in fact the tech specs are pretty poor. Also there are of course no third party apps, thus far. Check the Phojo at http://www.idruna.com/pocketphojo.html
    Keep up the good work. Pad

  37. Karlos says:

    Love your work! This one goes straight to the poolroom… {bloglines that is}

  38. Baz says:

    In rural Norfolk a gadget addict and you don’t have a sat phone such as an Iridium? Or is it the case that you just don’t want to have to plug your laptop into it? (Mac compatible you know.) Take two devices into the field? – No I’d rather tap and go ;-)

  39. Patrick says:

    Stephen – what a wonderful boon to learn that you now have a blog! I have always enjoyed everything you have done and no doubt this will also be a treat. So glad to have you in the neighborhood!

  40. irblinx says:

    I find myself in something of a pickle. I cannot claim to be disinterested in the the subject as I am a staunch advocate of the Windows Mobile platform (in particular the non touch screen variety) and would normally look to find the holes in any argument against its virtues; however I sit here having enjoyed reading Mr Fry’s comments as usual and I more than usually disposed to giving the benefit of the doubt.

    I will hold my hands up and say that the shortcomings of WM6 and its predecessors are many in number and that the main advantages of the Windows Mobile platform admittedly lie firmly in the corporate sector, however the corporate sector are no longer happy to stare at boring monochrome screens and wonder what delights their attachments might hold.

    So, whilst I would rather be dragged over hot coals than say something nice about an Apple product what I will admit is that the appearance of Apple in the market is a blessing as it will surely force all the other companies, who have so far lumbered along releasing largely grey products, to take a long hard look at themselves.

    For the record I use an HTC S710 and as I synchronise directly to my corporate Exchange server I don’t have to suffer the poor ActiveSync or its Vista cousin WMDC very often.

    Lastly and possibly of interest, recent rumours doing the rounds would seem to suggest that Sony are going to be working with HTC to bring a WM6 device to market.

  41. raid517 says:

    Dear Stephen,

    you are among one of my most admired Englishmen (although it may seem unjust for me to say this, as actors and comedians are not quite of perhaps the same degree of importance to our society as say a doctor, or a nurse, or someone of a similar background). However you encapsulate everything that is quietesentally English for me – and your wit, charm, good humour and your endurance through what sometimes seem to have been very difficult and dark times for you have been quite inspirational to me.

    But my God Stephen, what a geek you are! I am utterly shocked at the sheer range and extent of your knowledge of the entire geek universe. Your knowledge (and certainly your passion) in many ways surpasses even my own – and have been working within the industry for the last 20 years.

    Certainly if you ever decided to give up your acting career there is likely to be a post beaconing for you among many of the larger technology and gadget sites on the net. Perhaps it might not seem as glamorous as acting, but it might at least serve to satiate your addiction (and ease your bank balance) by ensuring that you have all of the latest gadgets for free – and what’s more you will have them before anyone else.

    As for blogging, I am embarrassed perhaps for both myself and for some of the others here who have displayed a less than commanding mastery of the English language than your own (I am certain I am no exception in this regard and that I have already committed several unforgivable grammatical crimes that will hold my own comments an equally poor light), but I do hope that this does not dissuade you from blogging on other technology related matters in the future – as your command of this subject is both as entertaining and insightful (if not more so) than any subject I have heard you speak of in the past.

    Thank you for such an entertaining review – and I am pleased that you did not give my own mobile powerhouse of choice (Nokia N95) such a terrible rating – although I agree that for such a powerful device the non QWERTY keyboard was a bizarre design decision.

    Perhaps one day we will have the perfect all-in-one hand-held device that does everything that we as humans desire to manage our increasingly busy and frenetic lives; but I do think that powerful and influential voices like yours are needed in order to guide those in a position to take us to that point in the appropriate direction.

  42. raid517 says:

    Dear Stephen,

    you are among one of my most admired Englishmen (perhaps it may seem unjust for me to say this, as actors and comedians are perhaps not quite of perhaps the same degree of importance to our society as say a doctor, or a nurse, or someone of a similar background). However you encapsulate everything that is quietesentally English for me – and your wit, charm, good humour and your endurance through what sometimes seem to have been very difficult and dark times for you have been quite inspirational to me.

    But my God Stephen, what a geek you are! I am utterly shocked at the sheer range and extent of your knowledge of the entire geek universe. Your knowledge (and certainly your passion) in many ways surpasses even my own – and have been working within the industry for the last 20 years.

    Certainly if you ever decided to give up your acting career there is likely to be a post beaconing for you among many of the larger technology and gadget sites on the net. Perhaps it might not seem as glamorous as acting – but it might at least serve to satiate your addiction (and ease your bank balance) by ensuring that you have all of the latest gadgets for free – and what’s more you will have them before anyone else.

    As for blogging, I am embarrassed perhaps for both myself and for some of the others here who have displayed a less than commanding mastery of the English language than your own (I am certain I am no exception in this regard and that I have already committed several unforgivable grammatical crimes that will hold my own comments an equally poor light), but I do hope that this does not dissuade you from blogging on other technology related matters in the future – as your command of this subject is both as entertaining and insightful (if not more so) than any subject I have heard you speak of in the past.

    Thank you for such an entertaining review – and I am pleased that you did not give my own mobile powerhouse of choice (Nokia N95) such a terrible rating – although I agree that for such a powerful device the non QWERTY keyboard was a bizarre design decision.

    Perhaps one day we will have the perfect all-in-one hand-held device that does everything that we as humans desire to manage our increasingly busy and frenetic lives – but I do think that powerful voices and influential like yours are needed in order to guide those in a position to take us to that point in the appropriate direction.

  43. happychap says:

    Two very minor points, but the piece about the AgendA caught my eye immediately as I too owned one of these and thought it a wonderful device.

    The parallel interface to the fondly remembered BBC Micro was actually spelt with a “c”, as in Centronic, named after the Centronics Data Computer Corporation of America who invented it.

    I think also, but am not positive, that the chorded input device you recall was actually spelt “Quinkey”, but none the less this was actually a BBC Micro specific version of the Microwriter input device.

    Best wishes, David

  44. GeoffDeGeoff says:

    I am a confessed gadget addict, much to the chagrin of my wife, I am constantly upgrading or replacing my gadgets. However I have not felt the need to get an iPhone, it looks nice but as all apple products of the last 5 years, it’s too little too soon.

    To expect people to go back from widely available 3G services is pointless in the extreme.

    Especially as the master of the product launch himself Steve Jobs has openly talked about the 3G iPhone coming next year

  45. jonschumann says:

    As someone who has been a fan of yours since Blackadder, and also someone who would buy manure if it had the Apple emblem on it, I am constantly in awe of your sheer knowledge on all things nerdy. Your thoughts on the iPhone is just what has been brewing inside my loyal, yet sceptical heart. I sported a Treo 650 until last year where it fell apart at the seams and I must admit to discarding the idea of a perfect Smartphone until Steve got on stage and said: “It’s a phone, an iPod and a webdevice”. You are so right to suggest that the closed OS is a rubbish idea. I am however tempted to advocate the idea of a proprietary OS even for smartphones on the exact same reasons that you had a problem with the SE M600. Don’t you think that a stable OS based solely on the hardware with an industry standard “plugin” app architecture is the way to go ? I am sporting a standard SE W880i phone with pushmail, calendar and all the bells and whistles. All I lack is the ability to read Office Docs and to be honest – I don’t miss it. And best of all – it NEVER crashes, hangs or bugs out. That, to me, is bliss.

    Let me end this by quoting UK artist Dan Le Sac who recently said it better than I could ever have done:

    “Thou Shalt Not Question Stephen Fry”

    Thank you for making “Geek” cool and knowledge interesting again.

    From Denmark

    JS

  46. dark_maylee says:

    Dear Mr. Fry,

    I have never read a blog post this long before, particularly about SmartPhones. I don’t think I’ll ever buy an iPhone in my life, despite its slick appearance and many features. I do tell you this: if I could get an iPod Classic any time soon, I will. They have 160GB! That’s more than what my computer and external hard drive have combined!

    The hand model for the iPhone happens to have very nice nails though.

    Ta ta.

    P.S. I wrote you a letter a few weeks ago. I hope you received it (somehow). I’m the one from Trinidad. >_

  47. monkeytennis says:

    I’m surpised and delighted to discover that you are a fellow gadget addict. Your geek-fu is breathtaking. A superb first post, thank you!

  48. lescarr says:

    When it comes to gadgets, vive la difference, as long as la difference is a good difference.

    I come to this topic from a different angle – I can’t afford to buy any more small devices because I am incapable of keeping track of the chargers. I have three plastic storage boxes at home, full of various power cables and transformers and chargers. Although I can find all of them on a regular basis, I can’t find device AND cable at the same time. Ever. I bought a Nokia N-800 the other month because it looked cool – but I’ve never managed to do anything cool with it because the battery is always flat when I find myself in a position to benefit from it.

    So I rely on my laptop (MacBook Pro) which goes everywhere with me. That can do everything I want, and in time the product line will merge with a phone. It’s like that old joke: how do you get down from a tree? Sit on a leaf and wait till autumn!

    Well, in theory. Hypocrite that I am, I’ve just gone and ordered an iPod Touch, to get in some practice for the iPhone. It’s all that talk about devices.

  49. Jane says:

    I’d been a minor Fry-o-phile before I saw this: now I’m confirmed. It looks like we share some but not all tastes in Smartphones and PDAs in general (I too fell in love with the AgendA), so from now on I will take your views on gadgetry the way I take those of Mr Clarkson on cars: a joy to read, as well as being helpful.

    Someone way back in that stream of comments asked for “a clamshell iPhone with a full qwerty keyboard inside: like a tiny laptop, or a MacBook Nano. Or, indeed, a Psion 5mx.”

    While my own smartphone is not Apple (it concentrates on being useful rather than being stylish), it does do the clamshell thing rather well. Take a look at an O2 XDA Exec. It’s now a couple of years old, so more moderm products should be better, but the keyboard makes it a replacement for my various Psions, I dial numbers by talking to it (if I want to: clicking on my Outlook Contact will do the same thing), TXTing has the same interface as email, and it takes SD cards so I can work on documents on there or on my PC with no trouble at all. I think of it as a very small laptop that happens to also make phone calls.
    Wifi, Bluetooth, as well as the phone: yes. But, by modern standards, it’s heavy. And the camera, again by modern standards, is laughably bad.

  50. wpostma says:

    Why doesn’t everybody just use common sense? Everything Mr. Fry says is So Right On. Design does matter. Apple knows it. It’s not just the mobile devices market; all the desktop PC manufacturers fall down, the same way. It’s just usually more glaring on handheld devices, where a simple design flaw can make the whole thing darn near useless. I have a whole box of this kind of thing at home. Broken Treo 180s with the antenna or the flip-up microphone/cover-lid-thing broken, unusable wireless devices with firmware that sucks, like my blackberry 7230 that fails to even ring the phone some times, because that crappy java-powered firmware and low-speed CPU onboard, that sucks beyond all measure. What a pile of steaming crap is most of the garbage on the market right now.

    I want an iPhone. Here in Canada, I can’t even buy one, above board. Not yet, anyways.

    W

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