what the iphone can’t do

Iphone5Jon Lech Johansen, better known as DVD-Jon (remember, the sixteen-year-old who cracked the DRM on DVDs so you can play them on your Linux computer, and he was sued by Hollywood but Norwegian courts found in his favour – you buy a DVD you have the right to play it on any device you choose) has released a method to “activate a brand new unactivated iPhone without giving any of your money or personal information to AT&T NSA. The iPhone does not have phone capability, but the iPod and WiFi work.” The photo to the left does not show Jon Lech Johansen’s method – that’s a European’s attempt to build his own iPhone from available materials.

You see, we can’t get iPhones here in Europe yet (Britain, France and Germany get it by the end of the year, the rest of us in 2008), and based on the list of what the iPhone can’t do that European mobile phone users are used to being able to do, it looks as though the iPhone was very much designed for US users. That’s appropriate, of course, since that’s where it’s been released, but it’s also another reminder of how different things are valued – or simply expected, perhaps – in different parts of the world. This is another aspect of the tyranny of digital distance Tama Leaver wrote about yesterday – we appear so close on the net, but there are small but crucial differences in how we use technology between continents. Americans have had Tivo and on demand television for years – Europe has PVRs, or personal video recorders, but they’re awful compared to the ease of Tivo, and though Norway’s switching to an all-digital broadcast network way on demand television doesn’t seem to be mentioned as part of that at all. But we’re real good with SMS, MMS and sending eachother videos on mobile phones!

On the iPhone, Nettavisen writes, you can’t:

  • Record video.
  • Use an mp3 of your choice for its ringtone
  • Buy music online
  • Play games
  • Send MMSes
  • Use 3G – to have a video conference for instance (not that I or anyone I know actually does this even in Europe – and they don’t, I think, actually have 3G networks in the US so no point for iPhones to do 3G in the US market)
  • Listen to FM radio
  • Enjoy built in GPS (OK, practically only the Nokia N95 does this)

On the other hand, the iPhone is gorgeous, and the touchscreen interface looks just unbelievable – remember quite recently we were all oohing and aahing over multitouch interfaces, and now this consumer device has it! What it means? Well, for instance, you zoom by moving two fingers apart from each other. That sort of thing.

Robert Scoble, who also owns an N95, writes that the main functional difference between the phones (that he notices) is that the N95 has terrible battery life compared to the iPhone, but that the N95 takes vastly better photos.

Of course, my SonyEricsson Z600 is nearly three years old and honestly, so long as I have the bright stripy cover on it I feel no imminent need to upgrade it. Dorky of me, I know.

05. July 2007 by Jill

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