Cracker by Damian Christie


Jobs Blows

They almost got me. Almost got into my head, made me one of theirs. It's the same with most cults: It all starts innocently enough, it seems attractive from the outside. Look at them with their good looks and their smooth edges. Contrast it with my mongrel life, a collection of odds and ends gathered haphazardly over the years.

I've certainly dipped my toe into the cultist waters. But I guess the difference between me and the sort of obsessive we've come to associate with this particular group, is that I have tasted freedom. I'm not used to life in a cage, no matter how gilded. And then in the past week, just as I was paving the way for a life in blissful captivity, someone shoved a red pill down my throat and the full horror of the Matrix was revealed.

And so this weekend, when current cultists and hopeful prospects were queuing for the iPad, I wasn't among them. Russell was, of course. He'd even taken the week off our radio show in preparation. He said it was so he could enjoy his birthday, but I'd seen that fire in his eye before. Sure enough, this Monday he emailed to say he couldn't do the radio show again this week. Like a mayoral candidate on a P binge, he already had some flimsy excuse ready. A holiday with his family he claimed, when it was obvious he'd been holed up in a hotel room with his new device, commiting despicable acts and generally invalidating the warranty.

As I say, I've dabbled. I have an old Mac laptop, one of the nice titanium ones, flash at the time, but already outdated when I bought it as an ex-demo model. It won't take the OS updates anymore, has issues with certain websites, but it's served me well. I've had a few iPods over the years too. The first died just outside of its 12 month warranty, the replacement (I kicked up a fuss) a few months later. I have one that still works, but these days it collects dust in my drawer, all but surpassed by my iPhone.

Ah yes, the iPhone. The source of my fallout with Apple. The veil lifted from my eyes. The concerned family members kidnapping me and locking me in a motel room for a week's intense de-brainwashing.

So while Apple gets all sorts of bad press for a fairly major flaw in its iPhone 4, I've been dealing with a pretty fricking major issue with the iPhone 3G. An issue largely unreported (although the message boards are full of complaints), even though it probably affects more people than the iPhone 4 problem.

Put simply, the iPhone 4.0 OS update - the new operating system designed for the iPhone 4, but recommended as an update for the 3G and 3GS as well - is fuct. Sure, it works fine on the iPhone 4 - well aside from the misreporting of signal strength which has been dealt with in 4.0.1; and by all accounts it's good on the 3GS too. But installed on the 3G, it can cripple the phone. Applications now take up to 30 seconds to load, including the iPod, the camera - even trying to send a text. Other applications open easily enough, but then run slow. And any number of applications suddenly don't work at all (however many have now released 4.0 compatible versions).

Apple must've known about this, right? With millions of 3G phones out there, and its emphasis on testing, it would've discovered this pretty easily, and either revised the update, or advised against applying it to 3G phones? Here's what it says on the Apple website:

iOS 4 works with iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G. Not all features are compatible with all devices. For example, multitasking is available only with iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS.

Guess it depends what you mean by "works" I guess.

I don't know whether Apple didn't want to admit that a phone it was selling a year ago is now effectively redundant, or it just didn't care. I can't believe for a second it didn't know about the issue. But what makes it even more infuriating is that you can't simply undo the installation.

On a PC (and yes, I'm a PC man), I could just roll back my computer, and/or wipe the iPhone and reinstall the old 3.1.3 system. But not Apple. No, you're stuck with the new, even if it doesn't work. Of course the Internet is filled with people who have worked out various hacks to do what should be a simple Undo. And so last weekend I spent a good six hours, downloading old versions of iTunes, old iPhone operating systems (no longer available from Apple of course), various programs to manually seize control of my computer's USB ports, to force the old OS back onto my unwilling iPhone, and to force it out of its user-induced coma. Six hours. After which my computer's USB ports stopped working for a bit, and there was all sorts of dodgy software from unknown sources now loaded on it. Six hours of a sunny Sunday.

Thanks Apple.

My iPhone works okay now, but I'll never update the OS again.

I'm realistic though. Just as I spent a lot of the World Cup discussing The Problem with Soccer, before acknowledging that its cumilative audience of 26 billion people meant any issues obviously weren't affecting its popularity, the iPhone 4, which has a pretty major flaw (dropping calls if you hold it in a certain place), is still selling at two a second. Would you buy a car with the same flaw? Of course not. But this is the Cult of Apple. I'm pretty sure that if the first iPhone had been the same size as the iPad, it still would've sold by the million, and people would be holding these massive devices to their ears as they walked down the road. But not me. I won't be buying the iPhone 4. Well, not until they sort out this dropping calls issue. I mean, it's a good looking phone...

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