Apple’s WWDC is next week, and I’ll be attending for the first time. There’s a lot of speculation swirling around the next iPhone, especially given the prototype obtained by Gizmodo. As I wrote previously, having an iPad has definitely cut into my iPhone use, and at the same time has raised the bar on my expectations for my next phone, iPhone or otherwise.
I am using a 3G iPhone now, and I’m not having the best user experience at the moment. There are lots of lags and stutters at inopportune moments, both in the user interface and in the performance of AT&T’s 3G network. I’ve grown used to the briskness of the iPad, and I expect that on my phone now. Apple has set their own bar here. So getting me to iPad level responsiveness is job one. Job two is to get me decent battery life. My iPad lasts way longer than my iPhone. I understand why, but I don’t like it. I really, really want to be able to use my phone without redlining it every day. The last of the big items has to do with AT&T or a rumored second carrier. I want to be able to rely on the phone for accessing data. Right now it’s not as reliable as it needs to be, and I think that everyone knows that. It’s not at all clear to me that a second carrier will do any better, because I doubt that they are prepared for the level of traffic that is coming their way once they get the iPhone. Sprint and Verizon crumbled at Google IO, so let’s not kid ourselves that the other carriers are going to magically fix things. But maybe if a bunch of people jump ship to another carrier, things will get better on AT&T.
There are some secondary issues: 16GB has turned out to be less space than I anticipated, but since the 3GS already comes in a 32GB size, I expect the next generation to come in at 64GB, although I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t. I expect there to be camera upgrades, and I am pretty sure that I’ll be happy with what happens there. The real trick in cameras is the lenses not the megapixels, and all camera phones are on the same footing there.
This time around, there’s a “but”.
After the Android 2.2 (Froyo) announcements, I am considering an Android phone as my next phone. There’s no question that today, the iPhone user interface is more highly developed, polished and intuitive than Android. At the moment fragmentation of the Android platform is a reality, despite Google’s assurances that this will get cleaned up in the future. There are numerous good apps in the Android Marketplace, but some of the applications that I use the most are not there, because they are the iPhone counterparts of Mac desktop applications. That’s a fairly large problem. These are all good reasons to stick with the iPhone.
There are two big reasons that I am looking more closely at Android. The first is that Android has much much better “integration with the cloud”. One of the biggest annoyances that I have with my iPad is the hassle of moving PDF ebook files from my Macintosh to the iPad. I shouldn’t have to use a cord, and I shouldn’t have to use iTunes. 1Password can implement wireless syncing to the iPad and iPhone, why won’t Apple? The second and more important reason is that I like what I see in some of the directions that Google is taking the user interface. Specifically, I’m talking about use use of voice and (possibly) the use of computer vision as demonstrated in Google Goggles. The iPhone, and more recently, the iPad have done something very interesting with multitouch/gestural interfaces. If you subscribe to the theory that science fiction influence science fact, then we could look at Iron Man 2 for some examples of future interfaces. Tony Stark interacts with his computer via a combination of gestures and voice commands, and from the content of the voice commands, it is clear that the computer is employing something like vision in order to resolve references in Stark’s words. As great as Apple’s advances in multitouch have been, they have done very little in terms of voice. Perhaps their acquisition of Siri is a step in that direction, but Apple’s famed secrecy makes it hard to know. The same is true in vision, except that Apple has made no such acquisition. There’s quite some distance to go before Android’s speech and vision could bring about a multimodal interface like the one in Iron Man, but at least I can see the signs that Google is going that direction. Of course, I could just wait it out on a few more generations of iPhone while Google engineers work all these issues out, but I see signs of Google acting like a leader instead of a catch up player, and I like that.
What about Apple’s recent behavior with regard to languages other than Objective-C? Yes, I am bothered by it, but it’s not as big an issue to me as working well in an internet centric world, or working towards a much more multimodal user interface. Nobody is leaving the web platform because they are unable to write in-browser applications in their favorite language, and lots of people are delivering all kinds of interesting stuff in that space. More choice would definitely be nice, but if choice or freedom are your high order bit, that’s what Android is for.
If nothing else, I think it’s a good sign that there are two mobile platforms good enough to put me in this conundrum.