A cool device, despite censorship issues

15 Mar

March 15, 2010

By Geoff Meeker

My Palm Treo is working fine, but, at four years old, it’s something of a clunker. The touch screen is no longer as responsive, and the device itself is bulky and heavy, compared to smartphones currently on the market.

Last week, while shopping for a new cell phone for my son, the sales clerk saw my old Palm and helpfully pointed out that I could get the Apple iPhone for $299 (regular $799) on a three-year contract.

So, yes, I finally own an iPhone. And I’m quite pleased with it. It’s been around for three years now, but the iPhone is still the coolest phone out there.

While the iPhone was a runaway success in the U.S., it was slow out of the gate in Canada because Apple didn’t have a wireless carrier agreement in place (after about a year, a deal was struck with Rogers, and the phone is now available through Bell as well). The early iPhones had some minor issues, such as poor call quality (no small point, for a telephone) and inconsistent Internet speeds.

Any such bugs have long since been ironed out. The call quality of the iPhone is just fine, and better than my Palm Treo. The Internet is blazing fast, thanks to 3G (third generation) wireless Internet technology.

How fast?  YouTube has a dedicated button, and as a quickly as you select a video, it’s playing on your screen. The playback is seamless, crisp and clear. And the cost of downloading all that video is affordable, with 500 MB of data and 400 call minutes for $50 per month. (The salesperson described this as “unlimited” data, admitting when pressed that it was “virtually unlimited” and “practically impossible” to use all 500 MB in a month. More on this shortly.)

I’ve raved previously about the great things the iPod Touch can do, and the iPhone is the same basic device with a phone, so I won’t reiterate all that.

I do like the iPhone’s built-in global position system (GPS), which uses conventional satellite as well as connected wi-fi networks to quickly pinpoint your location on Google Maps. If you enter a destination address, the device highlights the quickest way there.  There is even a built-in compass that works like a charm to keep you properly oriented.

The phone integrates perfectly with the other features. For example, with my iPod Touch, if I work out with earphones in, I might miss a call on my land line or cell. With the iPhone, the music pauses for incoming calls, so you can’t miss the ring. And the music resumes when the call is over.

Another fabulous feature? The internet tethering capability. That is, you can easily connect the iPhone to your laptop, via USB or Bluetooth, and use it to access the Internet anywhere. Only problem? My current data plan allows 500 MB a month, a limit that could be easily – and expensively – surpassed if I browsed from my laptop. (So much for that “unlimited” access.)

The built-in camera also warrants mention. It takes good quality photos – much better than my previous phone – and even has an exposure adjustment. That is, you touch the screen wherever the image is most important and it compensates exposure to highlight that area. Brilliant!

I’ve written about the astonishing variety of iPhone applications – or app’s – that are available, cheaply and even free, which can change the way you use your iPhone. For more on this vast topic, do a Google search for “useful [or fun] iPhone applications”.

I do have a quibble here, not with the iPhone, but with Apple and the excessive control it exerts on app’s at its iTunes online store. Just last month, Apple removed more than 5,000 app’s because of “objectionable” content. Late in 2009, Apple’s policy on app’s was:

“Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgment may be found objectionable…”

This is cause for concern. The confused, if well-meaning, folks at Apple have assumed the role of censor. The iPhone is a piece of hardware – what we consume on this hardware is none of Apple’s business. What next? Will they start censoring the Internet for us, because we access it on their computers?

The issue, of course, is that Apple, as custodian of iTunes, wants to maintain a certain standard of content. However, one person’s art is another’s obscenity and I don’t trust anyone – not even Apple – to make that decision on my behalf.

The iPhone has parental locks that are easy to use, and should be enough to protect unintended users. Apple should create an ‘adult only’ section in iTunes, and let us decide such matters for ourselves.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at http://www.thetelegram.com.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: