Why I probably couldn’t own an iPhone


You mean I just bricked this thing?!

If you haven't been following the latest Apple controversy surrounding the update to the iPhone, essentially a bunch of users have been hacking their devices to allow them to be used on other mobile phone networks and if said users updated their phones to the latest 1.1.1 version of the software provided by Apple it caused all sorts of havoc. It's been a pretty hot button issue because it raises several questions:

  • As the owner of an iPhone, should I be able to do with it as I choose?
  • Should I be able to use other carriers?
  • Seeing as unlocking phones is not illegal under the US’s DMCA laws, is Apple pulling a swifty doing this?

And herein is why I could probably never bring myself to own an iPhone, at least in the context of American or European use. As a user increasingly of open source and open standards based software because I'm paranoid about future-proofing myself, I see what Apple are doing to this device and it really rubs me the wrong way.

I know Apple are under contract obligation with AT&T in the United States and other mobile phone companies in Europe, but to me they brought it upon themselves. What I want to know is why did Apple feel compelled to launch this device with only one company in each market. I dismiss all the arguments about the extra functionality needed to get Visual Voicemail working and so forth as pure BS, and I know they get a cut from each iPhone contract that is signed with respective phone carriers, but it still doesn't explain why that would mean they have to limit themselves.

Say what?

To me they are seriously damaging not only their reputation but also any prospects for stellar future sales by doing all this nonsense. Nokia have even started an advertising campaign leveraging on the iPhone's ridiculous terms of use and closed nature by saying they're open.

As a consumer and an owner of mobile phones since I was in primary school, the concept of phone locking also really irks me because I've never had to put up with it before. I've had half a dozen phones with Singapore Telecom, Maxis in Malaysia and Vodaphone in Australia and none of those handsets prevented me from using other SIM cards in them when I went overseas or even locally. To me locking a phone reeks of pure greed, arrogance and lack of respect for customers.

It will be interesting to see how all this negative publicity affects the iPhone not only in the markets where it's currently available but here in Asia where the closest we can get to one are the videos on Apple's website. Will people think twice now before buying one? Will it be as successful in future markets?

Asia is the world's largest mobile phone market and people here get new ones almost every other month. Phones here are like disposable fashion accessories, or at least in Singapore, South Korea and Japan. If you piss off people here with ridiculous prices or vendor lock-in, it won't be long before a mountain of second hand iPhones flood local eBays and garage sales as people move on to the next thing.

Don't get me wrong I think the iPhone itself is a beautiful device and I can't wait to get in iPod Touch soon for that very reason, I just wish stupid politics wouldn't get involved. It's a crying shame.

EDIT: Screenshot of the iPhone site from my Nokia e61i. Irony anyone?

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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