The iPhone, 10 years later

Ten years ago mobile phones were exactly that. Phones to talk. The few who dared to bring to the market some other device with the “smartphone” tag tried to bring us something that seemed good, but that neither in usability nor in user experience was acceptable (Hello Nokia N95).

But of course, we didn’t know then.

And then the iPhone showed up. An absolutely disruptive and revolutionary product. One that would end up transforming everything and everyone, although we could not know that on that cold January 9, 2007 in San Francisco. Many only saw the gadget for what it was. Few could see its possibilities. They didn’t even care too much about its shortcomings, because we all wanted one to be able to amaze ourselves. I ended up buying one nine months later, even though it was not possible to make calls (officially) at that time in Spain.

It did not matter if other mobile phones had 3G, or better camera, or GPS, because none of them could overcome the iPhone’s user interface and compete with a vision that for the first time turned the phone into a real pocket PC, one in which you could make a lot of good stuff. That sparked something all over the world: industry, users, developers. It was a magical moment.

Clic.

And yet, I’m always amazed at how little we talk about the other great disruption of the iPhone. Without that particular thing, this device would not have had the relevance it had. That second disruption was the one that really set apart the iPhone not as a device, but as a platform.

It’s ironic to see how those original iPhones didn’t have native applications: instead of that Apple made use of web applications in an operating system that did not even have its own name (“iPhone runs OS X” was the sentence used on their press releases). The second disruption, which completed the concept, would take another year to arrive. It launched with the iPhone 3G, that product I spoke about a day before it was launched with one of those predictions logical but invisible to many people:

The big revolution in the new iPhones will not be the hardware they include, no. It’s cool to be able to enjoy 3G connectivity and even GPS, but the really important part of these models is that they are expected to finally offer support for an SDK which developers have been working for for months. That’s the great disruption of this iPhone: mobile applications.

Clic.

Another great revolution was in our hands. One that ended up making the App Store a reference model for the rest of platforms. Not only that: it set the Apple smartphone as an example of everything others wanted to accomplish.

These two disruptions, as I said, changed our world. Giants fell and new ones rose, and in the meantime we started to adapt to a new world in which something singular happened: the mobile phone was no longer a device to (merelly) talk to others.

Clic.

The phone became something much bigger, because these small rectangles of glass, metal and plastic have been transformed themselves and transformed us. All the revolutions have had their lights and shadows, and the iPhone has not escaped from that blessed curse. It doesn’t matter: this a very special day for the iPhone.

Happy birthday. And congratulations for changing our world.

4 questions about the troubling app subscription model

The news coming about the new App Store subscription model -that, by the way, will be applied to Google Play as well– are really interesting, but I find them troubling.

There is certainly content on which subscriptions make sense, but I’m not really sure apps and games can really benefit from this model. The questions arepretty obvious:

  1. Developers won’t probably give everything they have in mind in the first version to ensure they have something new to offer in future releases for their subscribers, right?
  2. Developers that offer the (near) perfect app -at first, or through several updates- will have a tough problem to justify new updates and the subscription model itself. What will users be paying then? New features they don’t need (that can spoil the original app)?
  3. Does this subscription model give the users more rights to ask for features? That’s not the case for video, music or “text” subscriptions, but again, the case is different.
  4. What about security patches? We took for granted that when we paid for an app we had some support associated to it. What will be the new terms of use on this cases? “Only critical updates are free“?

I’m sure developers like the idea, but hopefully this will be just an option for certain kind of apps that deserve that model.

Hopefully.

Microsoft isn’t more evil than Google or Apple

UWP first step towards “locking down the consumer PC ecosystem,” says Tim Sweeney.

Microsoft and its universal platform goes beyond using your smartphone as your PC. It’s all about the one thing businesses want more than anything: control.

That’s what Apple has accomplished with its App Store, and what Google has accomplished with Google Play. If you want to install an app or a game, you must do that through the official app stores. There are ways to side load applications in both cases, but the methods are not straightforward for not experienced users.

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games cofounder, has critiziced this kind of approach from Microsoft, but I wonder why he doesn’t compare that to what happens with Apple and Google:

With its new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) initiative, Microsoft has built a closed platform-within-a-platform into Windows 10, as the first apparent step towards locking down the consumer PC ecosystem,” said Sweeney. “Microsoft has launched new PC Windows features exclusively in UWP and is effectively telling developers you can use these Windows features only if you submit to the control of our locked-down UWP ecosystem.”

There are obvious disadvantages to that kind of control -lack of competition from other stores, for example- but no one seems to be crying out loud for the same situation on the most used Operating Systems in our planet.

The Universal Windows Platform is far from perfect and that kind of control is not desireable, but the problem has been real in Android and iOS for years now. Maybe users don’t have a problem at all with all their apps and games being distributed through just one platform, and I don’t see developers protest against the Apple Store, which for many is a great way to sell and distribute their products. The same goes for Google Play, of course.

Everyone is evil here, not just Microsoft.