Normally a Blackberry Curve user on a slow network, I recently had the pleasure of using an Apple iPhone on Rogers’ high speed 3G mobile network in Vancouver.
I loved it.
It is inarguably the single most pleasant mobile computing experience available to humankind today.
The combination of the iPhone’s physical look-and-feel and its on-screen software user interface are a new standards-bearer in the world of handheld computing.
With one exception: you can only do one thing at a time.
With the iPhone, it’s sort of like being stuck in mid-90s computer hell in a lot of ways, back in the day when one application could crash your whole system.
(And that happened to me on my iPhone. Many times.)
Like, on an iPhone, I can’t instant message and browse the web at the same time. If I switch out of the AIM instant messaging client on my iPhone to Safari, my AIM connection is dropped.
For a device that purports to envision a solution to the mobile internet, there’s just one word for that: lame.
That’s a lot different from what I’m used to with my Blackberry.
I can leave my preferred IM client, JiveTalk, open all the time. Meanwhile, I can use whatever application I want on the Curve and I’ll remain connected to AIM, GTalk, and Microsoft Live.
That said, the reason for the iPhone’s inability to multitask is not ignorance on Apple’s part. It’s a logical, deliberate decision.
For after even just a day of multitasking on the Blackberry, I find the device’s performance grinds to a snail’s pace.
After I’ve opened and used (just once) my phone’s camera, Flickr, Typepad, web browser, JiveTalk, Facebook, and the GPS Maps application, the device’s memory is so clogged that I inevitably have to pull the battery before I can even make a phone call.
It’s a bit annoying, but a necessary tradeoff in a device barely capable of half of the tasks I’m demanding it perform.
And that’s where Apple’s decision to block multitasking comes in.
Don’t let the user push his (or her) luck.
Really, would most users know enough to reset a fussy device by removing its battery once a day?
Apple clearly figures that most users want as clean and simple a solution as possible.
One application at a time. No battery pulling. (Heck, you can’t even crack the iPhone’s case.)
The Blackberry folks, however, figure we want complex capability at the expense of a system that demands more, um, patience.
I can see the benefits of both approaches to mobile computing.
As far as the average mobile computing user goes, I think Apple has it right.
Just make it work. Don’t force me to understand the finer technical details of a device’s inner workings and limitations.
That way you can avoid any unfortunate situation that might involve problem solving (which so many of us despise).
But, damn, in this day and age there’s no reason I can’t IM and text message at the same time.
A Blackberry, on the other hand, figures that it’s up to the user to figure out when they’ve pushed a device too far.
It’s the same theory as giving someone just enough rope.
It’s okay to open fifteen applications simultaneously on a Blackberry. As long as you’re able to haul your mobile neck out of the noose when it starts to restrict your breathing.
The geek side of me digs that.
After all, being a geek is all about pushing a technology until it breaks and then figuring out how to fix it.
I can understand why though, beyond its inexplicably sexy interface and style, the iPhone would be the average user’s preferred mobile device.
Turn it on. Do one thing at a time. Never (well, rarely) worry about troubleshooting some weird computer error.
After all, how many people do you know who can successfully multitask?
So why should their device?