Archive for the ‘Mobility’ Category (feed)

My case against Acer’s new Android smartphone

Acer just announced a new smartphone, with a large 4.8″ screen, and a 2 MP front webcam. I have a beef with the phone’s resolution and aspect ratio though: it’s 21:9, 1024×480. What pisses me off even more is that Acer actually claims that this is a resolution optimized for movies. Well, guess what, it’s not a practical solution for video. Ideally, this phone should have had a 1280×720 resolution instead. As a videographer, movie buff, and an ex-programmer, let me explain.

Users will have to rip or pirate content to properly utilize the resolution of that Acer phone. Even if Acer comes pre-installed with Netflix or Blockbuster, these services don’t encode their material in 1024 pixels wide. Meaning that, to get an exact 21:9 aspect ratio, at a 1:1 sized movie, you will have to rip it yourself, or pirate it. There’s no way around it.

So, when you rip a BD, you will get 1920 px horizontally. The vertical size doesn’t matter, because it’s never the same for movies. Movie editors just cut as much of the vertical resolution as they see fit. Some movies are really cut with a “thin” aspect ratio, and some are at full 1080px vertically. You never know what you’re gonna get, since there’s no hard standard, and so the only number that matters in this argument is the horizontal resolution.

So, for Acer’s 1024px horizontal resolution, its ratio to the “master” 1920 is 0.533333. For 1280px, it’s 0.666666. 720p’s 0.66 ratio is WAY better for faster computation (because it’s a cleaner number to 0.53), and because it’s exactly 2/3s to 100. Faster computation, and “cleaner” number means fewer resources, and cleaner PICTURE. When you resize down your movie to fit the 720p resolution from 1080p, the pixels will align better than on a random ratio that 0.53 is.

But there’s more. Movies aren’t all what people watch on their phone. They also watch 720p HD clips that themselves recorded, or TV shows, which are shot/edited at exactly 16:9, and not 21:9. This means, that all that content is going to get played back with vertical blackbars (which you would agree, they’re a bigger offence than horizontal blackbars). And if they don’t get blackbars, it means that they get resized on-the-fly to fit the screen, essentially making everyone on these videos look fat and unnatural. Surely not how you want to watch your videos.

Not to mention the HD webcam of the phone, which would have also to get blackbar’ed (or worse, stretched) to fit this odd screen resolution!

The right decision for Acer would have been to use a proper 1280×720 screen. It’s possible that our current electronics are not fast-enough yet to drive such a pixel resolution (1280×720=921600px instead of 1024×480=491520px — 720p requires ALMOST DOUBLE the graphics processing power). But honestly, I don’t care. If they didn’t have the processing power to do the right thing, they should have stayed with either 848×480, or 960×540, the other two 16:9 resolutions that also make some sense. But 1024×480, should burn and die.

Wish dreams could come true

I’m due for a new Android phone, since my Nexus One keeps running out of internal storage (I have about 80 apps installed, most don’t support installation into microSD). I keep cleaning up app caches all the time just to fit my shit in it. Not to mention that GTalk stops working altogether if you have less than 20 MB of free storage left. This is getting old, and I’m starting to curse on whoever at HTC or Google decided to only put 512 MB of storage on such a deemed “superphone” (superphone my ass). From that 512 MB, only about 200 MBs are available to the user. It’s a joke. The problem is, I don’t really like any of the current Android phones out there. They’re all so 2008 in my eyes. What I want is this instead:

* 1 Ghz CPU (or whatever is latest)
* 1 GB fast RAM and fast bus
* A modern, fast 3D chip
* 4.5″ or 5″ SAMOLED at exactly 1280×720 (16:9), 32bpp
* On-board kickstand (like the HTC Evo)
* Unlocked full-band GSM/3G/4G (I need it to work in Europe too)
* Gyroscope, along all the other GPS/compass/accelerometer/proximity/notification-light/etc standard hardware
* Power button on the top (rather than like Galaxy S’ that’s on the side, that makes me push the volume buttons on the opposite side instead by mistake)
* Thin bezel on top and bottom, like the Droid X (leave the goddamn company/cell logos for the back). The thin bezel will make the phone feel smaller, since the suggested screen is already pretty big. Overall, this design wouldn’t be that much bigger than a Galaxy S.

Mockup of my dream phone

* A “slab” edgy look, like the iPhone 4’s or Macbook Pro’s shape. I hate how most Android phones look so bumpy everywhere. Must be completely flat seen from the side (including its sides), like the iPhone 4.
* Real buttons at the bottom (not touch buttons that are so easily pressed by mistake while typing — what a stupid fashion). Designed to be flat, like on the GSM HTC Hero or the G1.
* 720p front web cam
* 5 MP still/video camera with exposure compensation and exposure locking (exposure lock is very important for video). Saturation, contrast, sharpness controls. Less rolling shutter compared to what we have now please.
* 720p video in the *MP4* container (rather than 3GP) with h.264/AAC (rather than h.264/AMR). 24 mbps bitrate (less than that is too bad quality for 720p). Let *us* decide between 29.97 fps (NTSC), 25.00 fps (PAL), and 23.976 fps (IVTC film). With these two last bullet-points, we can have a usable video camera rather than a toy! Best part about it: it’s mostly a software matter!
* Camera flash, somewhat further than the camera (I wonder why the put the flashes so close to the camera, because technically-speaking, the further the better it is for picture quality).
* WiFi chip that’s not as incompatible as Nexus One’s is (Nexus One is incapable of staying connected in congested networks at all times (for VoIP usage), when the paired router sends a specific format of broadcast messages but the chip is in semi-standby).
* Stereo front speakers (why the heck do they usually put speakers on the back and lose 50% of the audibility?)
* Second mic for noise cancellation
* 4-6 GB fast internal storage (no need for more, since music subscription is the future, and their offline clients support microSD anyway)
* microSDHC slot
* microUSB port
* Bluetooth 3.0
* Mini-HDMI out (and UPnP support for wireless streaming)
* Removable 2000 mAh battery
* 3.5mm headset port
* And why not, an FM radio.

* Promise for 2 years (as much a cell contract lasts) of major Android upgrades rather than just security fixes. This upgrade thing has been one of the biggest thorns for me on Android. I can’t DARE to buy from third party manufacturers, because they’re simply not trustworthy with timely updates for versions that are released within 1 year. Let alone 2.

* And the cherry on the cake, an optional accessory: snap-on mini-ND filters for the camera, at 2-3 various strengths. This could help control the high shutter speeds outdoors — especially useful for video.

Is this all too much to ask? All the technology mentioned exists, it’s just that nobody put it in one place yet. The device I’m describing is big enough to fit all that. I’d pay $850 for such an unsubsidized phone, even if I’m sure that this could easily cost $650 and still turn profit. Then I’d be able to stop bitching about this whole thing. One can dream though, right?

The iPhone 4 covers some of what I want hardware-wise (better than any Android phone), but where it fails me is on its software: without a user filesystem, iOS is dead to me. This is my No1 pet peeve with it. Without a virtual, mountable, filesystem where files can be read freely and directly, some kinds of apps simply can not exist (e.g. A/V editors, FTP clients, media players, OBEX Bluetooth, basically anything that needs direct access to user’s files, or requires to share files/info with another iOS app). Some iOS apps have to resort in including full (and buggy) SMB clients/server hacks in order to get access to user’s PC files. This is unacceptable from usability point of view. For me this is a show-stopper limitation of iOS, and so I can’t, and won’t, consider it. I prefer to deal with a less enjoyable Android phone, than to forgo basic amenities like a filesystem.

The pathetic state of things on cell data

I don’t do much calling via a cellphone. Maybe about 20-25 phone calls per year. The bulk of my calls is done via Skype for free, and occasionally Google Voice/WiFi, or a landline. Therefore, I don’t need more than a Pay As You Go, a’la carte plan, which is indeed what I use.

However, while I’m not big on calls and SMS, I’m big on data. I want to check my email, twitter, the news, check for comments on my blog. I need data more than I need phone calls. The phone call functionality on my smartphone is there only in case of emergency.

So far I haven’t had any data plan on my phones. I want to have one, but I find them ridiculously expensive. AT&T and T-Mobile, the two main GSM providers in the US, recently restructured their no-contract data plans. Unfortunately, the prices are as high as ever: T-Mobile’s, and AT&T’s.

I ran a little utility called Smart Monitor Lite on my Android phone for a few months now. It calculates your Wifi or 3G usage of data per month. What I found out using this utility over a long period of time is two things:

1. To use data on a smartphone in a pretty conservative manner (just email, RSS app for news, twitter app, very lite usage of few web sites), I need 500 MB per month.

2. To use data on a smartphone in a modern way (e.g. Google Maps, media streaming, full web browsing etc), I need 2-2.5 GB per month.

The real question is, how much do these options WORTH for me. And the answer is this: I would never pay more than $10 per month for option #1, and I would never pay for more than $30 per month for option #2.

Basically, what I would ultimately prefer is this:
– $120 per year, for 500 MB of data per month.
– $100 per year, for voice/SMS at standard prices (as it is now).
– Both voice/data have roll-over to the next month/year.
– I can roam when out of the country, at least for voice (currently I can’t).
– Ability to tether. Since I’m paying for the actual data, the carrier should stop putting limits on how I’m using that data. If I just want to add mayo on the data and eat them in one go, I should be able to.

So basically, I want to pay $220 per year, and to be done with it (or go month by month, or 3/6 month intervals, with adjusted prices). I want to use my own phone (I don’t need stinking subsidized phones), and I want to have this basic voice/data plan. Why can’t I have something so simple?

Some people tell me that cell data is a very expensive affair for the carriers, and that I need to respect that fact. But when I see AT&T charging $35 for 200 MB, and “just” $60 for 5 GB, I somehow have a very difficult time believing that. I think they’re just toying with us at best, and defrauding us at worst. These words might sound harsh to you, but I’ve had enough waiting for the 21st Century to really arrive.

The next big thing in mobile interfaces

I’m a big fan of futuristic-everything. I’ve worked with user interfaces when I used to live in the UK, and since then I’ve always tried to think of possible ways to better the ways we interact with machines.

First of all, the future is mobile, and there’s little dispute about this. Desktop machines will only be used for very heavy, specialized purposes, the same way trucks are used today. Most of the people will just own fast-enough mobile, portable devices, rather than desktops. Even tablets will hit the ceiling of what people would want to carry with them. Basically, anything bigger than a 4.5″-5″ screen smartphone will be too much to carry with you. It will be seen no different than the way we today feel about 1981’s businessmen, carrying around the Osborne 1 “portable” computer.

The biggest problem that such small devices will face is their minuscule screen, while the web expands to SXGA and higher resolutions as a minimum. Sure, they will all use very high resolution (1080p is around the corner), but the small physical screen poses problems for applications that actually do require a lot of widgets, and a large real screen estate working area (e.g. serious video/still editors, 3D editors, complex js web sites etc).

There are two ways to deal with the problem. One, is holographic projected displays. Unfortunately, we’re far away technologically from something like it. The second way, which is closer to our reach, is a projected display via glasses.

The idea is this:
– Smartphone in the pocket, is connected wirelessly, via Bluetooth or other similar protocol, to special glasses.
– When the glasses are activated, a transparent, high-resolution computer screen is shown in front of the user, at a certain perceived distance.
– Glasses feature an HD camera (or dual HD cameras for 3D, located where each eye would normally be), and they capture the real world ahead of the user, at 120 fps. The “real world” view is overlayed with the computer screen view. This way, the user can still walk on the streets of NY, and use his cellphone at the same time, without having to look down for it. Update: No reason to capture/overlay the real world, you can have transparent glass that can change its transparency to solid on demand. We already have the technology.
– Using gestures, by placing his fingers on the virtual screen, and by “reading back” by sonar (“acoustic location”) and/or the cams, the phone would know what you clicked, and carry out the actions.
– Voice recognition will be an alternative way to use the system. In the last 2-3 years there have been major strides in voice recognition.

Of course and it would look a bit funny at first, seeing people on the streets move their hands around like idiots, but if enough of them bite (and Apple has an uncanny way of making people try new things), then it can be deemed “normal.” Besides, silliness didn’t stop people wearing Bluetooth headsets that made them look like they talk to themselves. And Bluetooth headsets are less useful than this idea, which can greatly improve universal productivity and usability on the go.

So, I expect such a device to be reality before 2015. We already have the technology to do all this, it’s just that the experience won’t be perfect yet. It’s just a matter of time though.

Soon, the glasses will just be transparent screens that will couple as your real reading glasses, so they won’t look outlandish and silly at all. The smartphone itself will shrink, and will just be inside a wristwatch-like device, since the main interface will move to the glasses (that was previously optional). Its other usage would be to act as a webcam.

After that, the whole system will move inside your eye (like Futurama’s “eyephone”). And you won’t need your hands to control your device anymore: a simple device implanted on the back of your head, or it could be in the same device as the “eyephone” itself, will be able to read brainwaves (we already have the technology to do this, in a smaller scale, for medical purposes mostly).

By 2050 (maybe sooner), you won’t even need a mobile device with you to pair your eyes with. The device inside your eyes will be able to wirelessly connect to your data/network, using your body as an antenna for the closest “tower”. It (you) will be a dumb terminal for the most part.

The era of true Cyborgs will begin.

Regarding the Sprint HTC EVO

What a beautiful device Sprint announced today: the HTC EVO running Android 2.1. It comes with a 4.3″ screen, front facing camera, 720p video recording, HDMI-out, among other stuff. A very modern device for sure.

However, there are TWO things that bother me, things that are inter-related, in this otherwise perfect device.

1. Only 1 GB of internal memory.

2. What about a 2-year support of major new Android version upgrades (instead of just bug fixes on the existing version)?

See, if Sprint/HTC don’t want to give me a guarantee of 2 years of major Android version upgrades, this is a deal breaker for me. I will not touch a smartphone that stays behind in software. These are not the days of the “feature phones” where “what you bought, is what you get”. I need to be able to stay current with OS versions, so I can run the latest third party apps.

And let’s say that HTC/Sprint will offer me that 2 year major software support.

How in the God’s name are they going to successfully upgrade the ever-growing Android package with only 1 GB of internal memory? After 2 years of usage, that memory will be almost full (even if there’s an 8 GB microSD coming with the device, the internal memory is still going to be full of crap in there in most common scenarios). Can Sprint/HTC assure me that there’s at least *another* *hidden* partition of 512 MB or 1 GB where it can download its latest special Android version, unzip, and install?

Because honestly, I don’t see this happening! I find it HIGHLY unlikely that on a phone that only shows to the user 1 GB of internal memory, to have another hidden 1 GB partition “for major upgrades”. Super, fucking, unlikely. Android grows fast!

And besides, 1 GB of internal memory for user usage? What is this? 2005? My music is already 55 GB, and I can’t fit it in any microSD card. And having two microSD cards is out of the question. And let’s not forget that this phone shoots 720p video, which requires more bitrate, and therefore higher file-sizes. Sprint should have gone with 64 GB of internal memory, even at the expense of making the device a bit thicker.

God fucking damn it. A near-perfect device, ruined by fucking stupidity of short-sightness.

A simple Twitter widget for Android

Developers often over-develop. A grand example for this are the various twitter widgets available presently for Android. They take a lot of space, and they show new tweets, plus they let you update your status. While this might sound to you like a good minimum functionality being offered, it’s in fact over the top.

Except the fact that they take lots of space on the desktop (usually 1/2 of the allowed desktop), showing new tweets by having to press the “next/previous” buttons to scroll in them, and then pressing two-three more clicks to update the status, it makes the whole thing *redundant*. It only takes a SINGLE click (via bookmark desktop link) to load the brand new (and very functional) mobile page of Twitter, which has full functionality, fits more posts per page, and it provides an input box right on the top of the page.

The HTC Hero widget is a bit better than the rest of the Android Twitter widgets since it allows for flicking through the tweets instead of previous/next buttons (they wrote their own code obviously, since Android doesn’t have flicking widget API support), but it still doesn’t offer @ mentions or DM info, it’s very slow to refresh for some reason after I request it to (it takes up to 1 minute here!), it doesn’t use the whole desktop full screen (so there’s lost real screen estate, limiting the amount of posts you can read on a single view), and besides, it’s only available on HTC Sense phones only.

HTC Hero’s huge, slow, and cumbersome Twitter widget:

Screenshot by MobilitySite

To make the long story short, all these people who have developed these complicated and convoluted twitter (and facebook) widgets, are on the wrong usability-wise. I’m sure consumers THINK that this is the functionality they want on their desktop, but in reality, it makes their workflow more difficult than it has to be. Android allows to put bookmark links on the desktop, so all they have to do is add the link to the Twitter’s mobile page. This is a way-faster and more efficient workflow than using twitter via a widget!

Make no mistake, I do want a Twitter widget, but this has to act ONLY as a (1×1 icon sized) notification widget, not as a full-featured client. Sure, Android already has a drop-down notification system, but a widget is more visual, and requires fewer clicks/flicks to get to. Here’s a rough idea of what I’m envisioning:

I can pay $100 (via Paypal) to any Android developer who can implement this (which is of course a symbolic amount rather than covering the true cost). It shouldn’t be ultra-difficult to develop it, it’s definitely much simpler than the rest of the Twitter widgets out there. Here are some pointers of how I wish this to be implemented:

1. Make the widget vector-based (or whatever scalable format Android supports). Basically, design the background graphic, the font size, and the font-spacing in a way that scales well from a 2.8″ 320×240 screen to a 4″+ 1280×720 screen.

2. Clicking the widget loads a pre-selected third party client. The settings of the widget should be a separate app appearing in the main Applications list. The UI for the prefs should look like the main settings of Android (various options on a black background). A few other widget developers that I know have taken this approach too rather than loading the prefs from within the widget itself (especially since we’re dealing with a 1×1-sized widget).

3. The prefs panel should include the following options one way or another:
a. Username/Pass login & logout buttons (secure login please)
b. Update interval
– 15 minutes
– 30 minutes
– 1 hour (default, less than that has battery life impact)
– 2 hours
– 8 hours
– 24 hours
c. Preferred client (to load on click)
– web site (default)
– Twidroid or Twidroid PRO (if installed)
– Seesmic (if installed)
– TwitterRide (if installed)
– Twit2go (if installed)
– Twoid (if installed)
– Twitta (if installed)
– web site (older, WAP site)
d. Refresh (forces a refresh, restarts the update countdown clock)
e. Reset tweets to 0 (in case we already read the tweets elsewhere)
f. About info

4. When you click the widget to load the preferred client, the widget’s timeline/mentions/DMs go down to 0, and the refresh countdown clock restarts.

5. If there’s a Twitter API that tells you when was the last time Twitter was accessed with any client, take that into account when downloading & counting the widget’s new tweets.

6. The widget should be free to download via Market worldwide, and open source (same license as Android itself). The widget should not ask for more system permissions than it actually needs to operate. Host it at Google’s code depot, and make an effort to get it included by default on Android by following their code guidelines (it’s a long shot, but you never know).

7. Keep it lean. You don’t need to download the actual messages for example, only get the unread numbers. Test well for memory leaks, crashes, CPU/battery probs, or breakage with new Android/Twitter API versions. Be responsive to bug reports. No new functionality is needed, except maybe adding new twitter clients in the supported list. Only do that for major & popular apps, so the app might not need updating more than once or twice a year overall after it’s deemed “stable” — which is a pretty good deal maintenance-wise.

So, any takers? Please email me if you’re interested, before you start working on it.

Update: Android developer Stu King will start working on it Jan 1st. Thanks!

The smartphone wives

If we were to liken the various smartphone platforms to wives, this is what we would probably get:

The iPhone
The iPhone wife is a very beautiful one. She’s tall, and she’s always taking care of herself. She’s the perfect woman to go out with and show off. She’s an accomplished professional, and a good house-keeper too. However, she won’t let you do everything you want to do: she won’t allow you poker nights with your friends, and won’t allow you to share anything with others. She’s very controlling, but after 3 years of marriage you are already addicted to that control. There’s a way to get her give you more freedom by occasionally shouting at her, but this can attract the wrath of your mother in law. Not recommended.

The Android
The Android wife is a versatile wife. She’s able to accomplish a lot of things, she’s smart, she’s open to all kinds of discussions, and she’s good in bed — a cool gal overall. Problem is, she’s pretty ugly, and most of all, she’s messy. The only way to get past the situation is to think of your wife — and introduce her to your friends — as one of the dudes. Then the pain gets easier.

The Windows Mobile
The Windows Mobile wife is one ugly cougar. She’s married to a 25 year old, and he’s her virtual slave. He stays with her because she’s rich, she has connections, and a lot of amenities at her huge house. He has even developed a blind-folding fetish because it was the only way to not look at her while having sex. He can’t wait for the day she dies.

The WebOS
The WebOS wife is a handsome wife, almost as good-looking as the iPhone wife. However, she’s retarded. She can’t do much by herself, and when you need something of her, you need to talk to her like you are talking to a child. Every time you go out with the iPhone wife and her husband, the WebOS wife keeps reaching and touching the iPhone’s wife shiny dress. The iPhone wife pulls back, but the WebOS wife gets all close to her again. A very uncomfortable situation to be in for a husband. Not to mention that the iPhone wife will keep boasting about her accomplishments over dinner, while your own wife still keeps drooling over the shiny dress and laughs when no one else is. Doctors say that there’s potential for intellectual growth there, but it might take time. Hang on in there.

The Blackberry
The Blackberry wife is a very religious wife. She brings the most money in the house with her two jobs. She takes care of the house, the paperwork, the cars, the children. At first glance she sounds ideal, but then you will have to put up with her ideals, her need to donate thousands of dollars per year to the church, and the fact that she will only have sex with you only once or twice a month since she’s tired most of the time. Sometimes you ask yourself why you put up with her bullshit, but on the other hand, having everything taken care of is pretty nice too.

The Symbian S60
The Symbian wife is a middle-aged wife that’s never happy with her appearance. She has had nose jobs, and boob jobs, and lip jobs. You keep telling her that she’s fine the way she is for her age, but she keeps wanting change — a change that’s usually for the worse. Every time she comes back from one of these surgeries she forgets stuff. She forgets all your history together, she even forgets how to cook, how to do the bed, how to give a good blow-job. Her identity crisis is what makes you consider getting a divorce, but she gains you back by saying that her next surgery will make everything alright, with minimal fuss.

Editor’s note: My husband says that I am an Android wife. 😉

I hate AT&T too

What the hell? Is this the worst day of my digital life?

I had enrolled for the “automatic refills” payment option with AT&T’s “Pay As You Go” plan last February. The auto-refill worked once in May, and when it was supposed to refill my account last week automatically, it DIDN’T!!!! What the hell is going on here? You setup the fucking thing to automatically refill $25 per 3 months, and it does that correctly once, and then it doesn’t??? How do you even make something like this work only once?

I will be calling them tomorrow morning, because right now they are closed (IMO, they should be having support people 24 hours a day, but hey).

Worst shit ever. I am really pissed off these last two days. Between Apple, AT&T, and Vegas crashing all the time on a time-critical project, I just feel that I want to head for the mountains and never come back to “civilization”. I hate its guts. I feel like when having PMS, times 100.

Update: AT&T doesn’t know what the hell happened. I show up as auto-refill on their computer, and then I am not. Their rep has no idea what happened, but I have my suspicions. Judging from their pay web site, I smell that they now require an SSN number to accept your credit card, while it wasn’t the deal before. The problem is, there are a lot of people in the US without SSN, because US has run out of supported numbers (US now gives SSNs to new residents only when it absolutely has to). AT&T never sent me an email, SMS, or called to let me know of the new requirements. They just stopped auto-refilling my account, while I thought they were doing so. And because of that, I lost all of my roll-over balance that my account had (about $14). Conspiracy theory anyone?

I _HATE_ Apple

So today I got an unlocked iPhone 3Gs, from a Canadian store (that was for a unit agreed to get acquired a month ago btw, before my decision to stop my Apple purchases a week ago). It came with firmware 3.0.0, and I went ahead to upgrade to 3.0.1. I wasn’t afraid of activation, since my iPhone 2G works just fine with my AT&T prepaid SIM card (the voice part at least). So when I got it, I simply put it on iTunes to update its firmware, and when it would ask me for a SIM card, I would just put in my AT&T one.

Well, things didn’t exactly went as planned. The iPhone 3Gs got activated all by itself, and I was wondering why. Well, when opened the SIM tray there was another fucking SIM card in there!!!! The Canadian store forgot their FIDO sim card in! The Fido sim card didn’t work in the US, so I really thought that this was just a bare iPhone that I received. But it wasn’t. The Fido SIM activated the iPhone with the Fido network, with a SIM that doesn’t really work anyway (at least in the US)!

So I go ahead, and I do what I have to do: jailbreak and unlock the phone. The jailbreakiness and unlockiness of the 3.0.1 firmware worked, and my AT&T card was recognized. So now, I thought, if I restore the firmware again, and not keep any data, it should default back to the AT&T network and won’t be locked to Fido anymore. I thought, I would be able to use the iPhone 3Gs as I do with my iPhone 2G, which doesn’t require special activation as long as I am on AT&T.

But this is not how it works.

Once you have activated an iPhone ONCE, then the iPhone’s “default clean slate” is not “clean slate” anymore. It’s now FOREVER locked to the FIDO network, and it now requires jailbreak/unlock EVERY TIME you upgrade the firmware. If the Canadian store had not made the mistake to put the FIDO sim in there, then I would have activated the iPhone with the AT&T sim card for the first time, and so it would be “locked” to the AT&T network instead (which is what I wanted). Every time there would be a new OS version out, it would just work.

Don’t get confused. There are TWO kinds of SIM locks on the iPhone. One kind is the “easy” lock, which is what the hackers are hacking at, the one that lets you use any SIM. But the other lock, is the REAL fucking lock, which is NOT MODIFIABLE once you have activated the iPhone with a certain network. That lock is much more lower level, and part of the baseband/radio firmware, and not the OS firmware. And that’s a part that no hacking tool can touch, except Apple’s own tools that are not freely available (unless you know of one that can really flash the actual baseband firmware of the iPhone, and not the OS part).

So basically, between the stupidity of the Canadian store to leave their fucking SIM into the phone, the stupidity of Apple to lock things in such a way, and my laziness to put my SIM in the phone immediately after arriving instead of waiting for the firmware upgrade, I am now left with an iPhone that can only be used with the jailbreak/unlock combination. Each time Apple releases a new firmware, I have to jailbreak/unlock the phone manually, and honestly, I rather not since I shouldn’t have to (since I use an AT&T sim, and AT&T doesn’t really mind). I am simply against jailbreaking because it’s just not safe. But now, I have to fucking use it in order to be able to use the phone. And no, don’t suggest to me to buy an iPhone with a full AT&T contract, because I simply don’t need such a contract — I barely do 5 phone calls a month. But I still want an iPhone, and I still want my prepaid sim. This should have worked.

I put the biggest blame on this situation on Apple, because locking phones this way SUCKS GOATS. I hope someone taps Apple’s ass, to feel how good a locking really is. Apple is THE ONLY company that could have bring REVOLUTION to the industry by saying “no” to the carrier-manufacturer phone locks. Apple is successful and big enough to give the FINGER to any carrier that demands locked phones (at least starting with iPhone 3G). But noooooo! Apple WANTS its EXTRA BUCK that it gets from the carriers by locking the phones like that. So instead of bringing revolution, Apple brings me headaches instead.

Apple, AT&T, shame on you

After Adam and Thom, I will be putting a break on my Apple purchases too. I have already promised days ago one more Apple iPhone review to a third party store, so when I am done with that too, it’s over for me as well.

Apple is quickly becoming the new Microsoft in the eyes of the people. The funny thing is though, that Apple was always like that, it’s just that people outside of the Bay Area didn’t know all of the juicy details most of us residents know. You see, Silicon Valley is a small place. You will be surprised how small it is. Word goes out easily. So while I might not have been blogging or reporting much about small tidbits that I happened to hear over the years (in order to protect my sources), the truth is, Apple never had a good name as a workplace/business in the area. Not before Steve Jobs came back as a CEO, and certainly not after.

But I guess, the cat is out of the bag now.

Between the crude iPhone application authorization process, the no-background processes allowed, to selling only locked phones (something that’s pretty illegal in other countries and I hope it would be here too), it makes me loathe what Apple is doing. They have created the best smartphone experience, they started the true smartphone revolution with the iPhone, but at the same time they try to limit progress in other areas.

It’s not a coincidence that the un-approved, and previously approved by Phil Schiller himself, iPhone apps were ALL Google Voice-related (I think there were 2-3 Voice-related apps un-approved, plus the Google Voice official app that was unauthorized from the get-go). The hard work and sweat of these developers, all went to waste. It’s more than obvious here that AT&T is behind this plot. You see, Apple has nothing to lose with Google Voice, if anything, Apple has everything to gain from it (it makes their phone more useful)! But AT&T is the one who has everything to lose. Google Voice allows for free US-bound calls and dirt cheap international calls (just $0.02 per minute for US to France/Greece), which of course, puts AT&T’s business at risk.

What Google is doing with Google Voice is nothing but progress. They have the bandwidth, so they go with it. AT&T on the other hand, is nothing but a new RIAA/MPAA, scared of the new realities that technology brings! They can’t, or they don’t want to, change their business and/or technologies, and so they fight against the new kids on the block, who use technology in a more flexible way.

Put that in addition to what AT&T did to my iPhone last month: they cut off my EDGE support. My iPhone is LOCKED to AT&T, and it is NOT jailbroken. It is as vanilla as it goes. The only difference here is that I didn’t buy the iPhone from AT&T at the time, as I only needed to use their PayAsYouGo plan (since I do not do more than 4-5 calls per month).

Think about it. AT&T blocks NO OTHER cellphone-maker for that plan! They single-out the non-AT&T-bought iPhones, like they are a plague, EVEN if they might be as vanilla as they get. THIS ALONE can be used for a class action lawsuit. I had no plans contacting EFF about it, but be sure I will do so now, after the latest Google Voice fiasco. There are too many things to hold a grudge now, I am afraid.

In the meantime, I have emailed Apple with feedback about their practices, and I suggest you do so too.

Update: Kroc wrote on Twitter that “I think you peeps should create a charter that defines “iPhone fixed” and publish it“.

Here’s my list, in this order, for Apple:
1. No more locked phones. Phones should also be able to be purchased at full price, with no ties to any carrier. Subsidized phones with a contract should also be unlocked.
2. Authorization denial of iPhone/iPod apps should be restricted to malware/spyware/buggy apps, and to illegal apps (e.g. a Nazi-related app). All other apps should be allowed to go through to the Apple Store. Sexual-related apps should be allowed, but with age verification or warning.
3. Allow background processes on the iPhone/iPod, as long as they are don’t seem to be compromising the system (e.g. battery life, system software, towers). The iPhone is not a real smartphone without background processes.

For AT&T (and ANY other carrier):
1. Stop dictating to manufacturers what software they can put in there and what they can’t. It’s not your job. It only becomes your job if your towers are compromised. Otherwise, SHUT IT.
2. No more locked phones. Period. You can still subsidize phones, but they have to be unlocked.
3. Allow EDGE/3G/GPRS for all phones. Artificially limiting the non-contract-bound Blackberries and iPhones, is unacceptable, even if I am willing to pay up your crazy prices ($10 per 1 MB of data transfered)!
4. Allow “PayAsYouGo” calls from Europe and other places within US (e.g. the Ukiah area in CA, USA). It’s *unacceptable* to not be able to use my phone when I am on vacations (I am blocked from calling out in these areas), even if I am willing to pay up your crazy ass prices!

Finally, if Apple can’t design protection to open the app CPU without compromising the radio CPU, they need better engineers. The notion that the towers aren’t designed to deal with faulty clients is just bullshit. Who would design a client-server system where the server trusts the client?