A large percentage of tech sites feature RSS feeds. Even your friendly TouchMyApps staff have put together a subscription system so that you never have to browse our site at all unless really bored. Well, I woke this morning with an email in my mail box from a trusted site’s RSS feed which led me to an article over at the Sun. Usually, I stay away from publications that begin and end in the same syllable, but today I couldn’t get back into sleep and, not wanting to wake my wife, I read on.
Many of you have read the Spider email that made rounds a little over half a year ago. The culprit, a person by the name of David Thorne is at it again with mixed, but good results. His first joke is rather duff, but, David flourishes his humour in top form as the page scrolls south.
Saying this, the iPhone and iPod Touch are in some ways, biting off more than they can chew. Any device that features a nearly fully functional ‘real’ internet and a halfway decent mail app which coupled to a tiny screen markets itself “real-internet” anything, needs a lesson in specialisation. While it is fun to browse internet, mail and even apps from the App Store on the iDevice or, a DS for instance – there is little to love when pages get very long and, crammed with text and adverts, begin to read like the small print on a diet supplement.
Today’s read was much like that. In fact, I tried to count how many baby-steps it would take my two fingers to walk back to the last read paragraph. I lost count. Suffice it to say, I finished the article with a tear in my strained left eye and a slightly grumpy morning giggle. I read ebooks upon ebooks in both Stanza and eBook Reader – both of which feature iPhone-friendly pages with low word counts – but “real” internet webpages, are often quite unfriendly. However, this unsympathetic behaviour is not the problem of the webpage. A webpage is often a dollop of information with a smattering of design. We are not aloof of this reality. In general, websites were created in the same oversized mindset that dictates suburban sprall around major North-American cities.
There are phone-friendly pages out there that break articles into succinct links, but even with such concessions, those pages are mere masques. They are not the “real mobile internet”. I spent two years in Japan in study and later in work. That time taught me many things about the mobile: the first being that phones should not require a manual to use. The Japanese handset market is booming with clever designs that house everything and anything that can be printed onto a circuit board. And, they do about 95% of the things you don’t need. If all you need to do is set your alarm or find our your email address, you had better go diving for the manual. Then we have the iPhone. It is simple to use and efficient for use as a computer substitute but I can’t help but feel that Apple are missing something. Apple have brought a truly usable UI to market and many other companies are creating similar small devices sometimes better implementations. Apple have the UI technology, but they lack a culture which is ready for real-time portable internet life. Apple keep pushing the phone’s “real internet” capabilities but neglect the heart of the device which is unrestrained by tethers and heavy components.
Phone-friendly internet does not only mean truncated links, plucked pictures and fast-loading pages. A mutiplex of functionality that should not require the use of zoom and pan modes already exists in countries like Japan: and I am not talking about cheap text-links and funny vectored graphics. Each phone connects to something both bigger and smaller than The Internet. Each phone connects people to services, customisations, graphics, apps, investments – all more succinctly than our best “real internet” pages do here. But, Japanese phones lack usability and are hindered by adherence to a design philosophy that says, “if it will fit, smack it in”. Considering the shrinking of today’s laptop, one can imagine the platforms of tomorrow; we are wasting time if we continue to design information that is targeted toward dissemination on the clunky old desktop. Even the growing game culture at the App Store should teach us that hard-core gamers don’t need to be plugged into the mains anymore.
If our society maintains the status quo – continuing in the modus operandi of adapting the internet into friendly masque for our mobiles,we will lose the internet race. Quite simply, we need to re-fashion our stake in the online world to include the growing trend even in Western society to be mobile. If we don’t, those countries who are already way ahead will continue to lead with the baton until the next technological leap is discovered. This next spurt forward will be heralded by philosophies pushed by service providers, not by individuals and companies who specialise in creating unique, easy-to-use GUI’s and devices.
It All Changes with OS 3.0 and the 3GS
With the advent of the 3GS and OS 3.0 in mere days, there is even more to fear. Evolutionary hardware means greater expectations from customers and corporations. The new phone is a piece of plastic and metal with bits of both inside. In a year, both the 3G and 3GS will feel tired and old – they are pieces of technology – relegated to a future of recycling. The real news is the OS which perennially evolves; this piece of technology is compliant to any configuration of hardware. The iPhone OS is a thing of beauty and a few missteps, but it needs an equally beautiful market and environment in which to fly.
America is at its core a market which lightly uses mobile phones, but does not according to them. Our carriers play hide and go seek and skimp on the barest of essentials because they know they can. However, the 3GS and OS 3.0 will change everything. As will Android. Unparalleled integration between phone and hardware will drive fewer people to dependence on their computers. A longer battery life will sustain mobile internet usage time even longer. Telephony and internet will blend. Hardware and software will be ready for the mobile internet revolution. Users will find greater interaction between themselves and an awareness of the world – if we as a market can adapt away from the computer.
Apple need to look outside their borders now more than ever if they want to continue to drive the demand the they created. If they don’t they face the iPhone’s demise at the hands of its own uniqueness yet unwillingness to admit that its own strength is on the go.