iPhone - Hot without Flash

04 August 2008 at 6:01 am

I’ve had my iPhone for some weeks now and I totally love it. There’s some really good things about it and a few things that annoy me, so I thought I’d post my hot/not list for future reference to see what Apple if able to fix going forward. One thing that does NOT annoy me is the lack of Flash support. I don’t think Flash is important and I can see many reasons for Apple not supporting it in the future.

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I was the last of my geek friends that got an iPhone. Even my wife got one before I got mine. I wanted to wait for V2 and the main thing I hoped for was a better camera. I didn’t get that, but I really like the device - more than I’ve liked any other piece of hardware I’ve had before. It’s not just an incredibly easy to use phone - it’s an entire arsenal - in my pocket.

My last 3 phones have been SonyEricsson. I’ve had Nokia’s but I’ve always disliked their UI. The UI on Nokia’s change from phone to phone and I’ve always felt that it’s been in my way. SE’s UIs are much simpler, but they’re fast to navigate. The iPhone just beats the crap out of the competition. When Steve Jobs say that they are years ahead of the competition, I fully believe him. This is why.

Hot

User Interface - If you’ve not used an iPhone you probably won’t believe how good this is. If you have used an iPhone and try a different phone, others will look oddly at you as you stroke the screen to try to make it do things that are obvious to you. Using buttons to scroll a list or zoom a picture? That’s just so Y2K. Even my brother in law (that is an avid HTC user) said “wow, this incredibly easy to use. I don’t need a manual?”. I showed him how to use it in less than 3 minutes. He then played with it for about half an hour and loved it!

Amazingly easy to install apps - nobody will beat this in many years. pen App Store click something you like and seconds after, you got it. Need a scientific calculator? Sure there’s probably 5 available and some of them are probably free. Not only that, the App Store has a revenue model that makes this a much better deal that any other phone. One click and you’ve learned your phone a new trick. From the utterly useless to insanely cool apps - this distribution model is just brilliant and light years ahead of the competition. It’ll take Nokia and the rest many years to get something as good as this even if they try as hard as they can.

Email on the move - My SE could also do email, but it was slow and buggy. This made it next to unusable. Email on the iPhone is how it should be done (almost. see below)

RSS workflow in hand - I follow a lot of RSS feeds. If I see something cool that other Flash users might want to need I publish it to Flashmagazine’s “Community Filter” section using Del.icio.us. Since I use NetnewsWire as my news reader both on the desktop and on the iPhone, anything I read on the phone is marked as read when I return to the desktop. If I need to check a post on my MacBook or PC, I’ll just add that story to my clippings and check it later. Thanks to this, I can keep that section updated no matter where I am. It’s a complete “workflow”.

3G speed - All cities and major rural areas in Norway have 3G coverage. Most every other corner and fjord has Edge coverage and I can use any available WIFI hotspots (A few public trains even offer 1Mbit WIFI connections!).

Developing for the phone - I’ve not gotten started yet, but I will surely be trying this out. Objective C looks familiar for Flash programmers and Apple have done a great job with the standard UI components. Now all I need is some time…

Music, Video and Podcasts - I never bought an iPod. I drag along enough stuff (Mac, PSP, Phone, books) and I didn’t want to add yet another thing that needs charging. Now I love it!

GPS and Maps - I would never have bought a GPS. I just don’t need it, but just as with the iPod bit - it’s just great to have though it drains the battery when used.

Not

Crappy camera - I can get a free phone that can do video. Why can’t this lovely piece of hardware do it? The camera is truly the worst part of the phone. I’ve taken about 950 pictures with my K810 and more than a hundred videos. The K810 even has a decent Flash built in and this is what I’m missing the most.

MMS - I know this isn’t an issue in the US, but I use MMS to keep my mom updated on her grandchildren. The first time my son rode a bicycle without support wheels, the first time he climbed a mountain, the first time he swimmed. My mom’s seen it all on her low-budget clamshell phone. Now she’ll have to settle for (crappy) static images thru email. I went skating today and I had to go home, transfer files, recompress to M4V format and then transfer the vid to iTunes and then back to the phone. It’s not “instant” any more. It’s just not the same.

Image loading in emails - This one scares me. On the iPhone there’s no spam detection. All email is downloaded and if you by accident click a spam email, it is displayed with images and all. Spammers use images in emails to confirm valid emails and this is just the same as screaming out SPAM ME. Why can’t I just get a “Load images” button?

Safari is not Safari - The mobile Safari experience is much beter that the competition, but it’s not the same as Safari on the desktop. Even simple Javascript fails so I can’t use the iPhone to post stories to the Flashmag CMS. This may be a bug in the TinyMCE implementation that I use, but I really expected this to work.

No modem - 3G and Edge built in and I can’t use the phone as a modem for my Mac? You gotta be kidding… I could of course get an extra SIM card and a USB thing, but that requires another subscription with my provider. I don’t want that. All my SE phones have worked well with my Mac, so why not an Apple iPhone?

Updating apps - When updating apps, the entire phone will freeze up at times. Not only that - my icon layout are screwed up so i have to move icons back into place. What’s with that?

Deleting apps - Adding apps is easy. Deleting isn’t. If I delete an app on my phone, it’s obvious that I don’t want iTunes to put it back. I don’t want to manually manage syncing of apps. Apple should really solve this by backing up deleted apps in iTunes but keep them off the device.

YouTube - I like this app, but why can’t I just log in to my own YouTube account and maintain my favorites in one place? The ones developing this app forgot to do what Apple is good at - thinking about what the user would want.

Flash?

I’m a Flash developer. I make my money from Flash consulting. I live and breathe Flash (almost). I should advocate Flash on the iPhone. I really should, but I don’t. I don’t think Flash would add to the iPhone experience and there’s no reason for Apple add it.

Safari just can’t do it - Enter just about any consumer facing website and a bunch of Flash ads will appear. These all consume a bit of memory and processing power. Very few banner makers care about stuff like CPU / memory usage and since the iPhone has only about 128Mb of RAM showing such pages would just kill Safari. Even without the Flash plugin, the iPhone has problems and adding Flash surely won’t help at all.

The iPhone is slow - Initial speculations indicated a 620Mhz CPU. Later reports adjusted that down to about 400Mhz. Several years ago I did Flash development on iPaq handhelds with similar chips and that was a speed-wise nighmare. Flash just won’t run fast enough on that.

Apple wants to be in control - Apple don’t want Flash on their device. They want the phone to be easy to use with a uniform user interface. They want to get more developers to their platform, not Adobe’s. Why should they open up the device for Adobe? Adding Flash would add thousands of apps and developers for the platform. All of these would create different looking and fancy UIs that “break” the iPhone experience. Very few will have the skills required to write content that does not tax the CPU or load progressive content that is too big for memory. (UPDATED: Looks like I’m right about this)

Plugins isn’t the solution - Noticed how the iPhone works? I use Twittelator on my iPhone. If I see a link that looks cool, I click it and Safari opens. If the link was to a YouTube video, Safari will close and the YouTube iphone app will open to display the video. This flow is (kind of) intuitive to the end user. How about a similar experience for Flash? Well, would you really like to see all those ads in an standalone Flash Player?

I’m not missing it one bit - I use the iPhone primarily as an information device. I hate it when good information is put inside a Flash file. I can’t right click and open links in tabs. I (usually) can’t bookmark content. I’m of the opinion that websites should never be done with Flash unless there’s an extremely good reason for it. There are so many good uses for Flash, but creating websites is not one of them (even if Google now indexes SWF files).

I just don’t think it will happen anytime soon.