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"but I feel incredibly limited in what I can actually do with my iPhone"

That's because they're intended to work as media consumption devices rather than productivity ones. If someone feels productive on a phone, he or she has very likely adapted herself to the device than the other way around.

I had to struggle yesterday with my GF new phone because her lawyer sent her a paper in .doc format using Whatsapp (no kidding[1]) and she had no capable reader. Fine, I thought, let's fire up the app store and find one. Now I just have a couple old tablets I keep at home 24/7 and don't use smartphones at all: no feature in the world can convince me an € 5000 smart phone can be more usable than my €20 dumb one plus my € 400 used Thinkpad, so I'm not exposed to the level of annoyances the usual phone user experiences every day. Back to ther phone, I knew the google app store wasn't that wonderful land where you tap the equivalent of apt-get install name-of-a-free-as-in-unicorns-and-fairies-doc-redaer and it magically installs, but man... I didn't expect that level of crap! I tried a couple "free" reader apps and every attempt to run them had either popups appearing asking to click to buy something, or more subtle ones where the click to buy button was a lot bigger and dangerously close to the window really small X (close) button. In the end I installed f-droid, dns-66 and libreoffice reader, but what if she had to do all for herself and could only find those pieces of crapware?

[1] apparently that practice is widespread among non IT professionals, and I find it rather dangerous. The privacy implications should raise some big alerts.

"I would absolutely love a phone that could let me run the "real" versions of apps when I need to. "

That's my dream as well. Give us an open (hardware) phone and OS plus apps will follow. Manufacturers however would hate this because the phone (tablet, etc.) as a platform allowed them to undo what Open Source achieved in the last decades on personal computers: now they have again a piece of hardware they can fully control; the software is closed and incredibly dumb, and it forces you to connect to online services to do anything. We're sort of back to mainframes, that's like killing over 40 years of IT development!. Also by keeping some parts of the firmware (mainly drivers) closed they can ensure no FOSS hippy is going to ruin their dominance. If there was a way to install a working native mainline Linux image (no chroots/VMs/frankendroids etc.) with full hardware support all those phone left in a drawer collecting dust could magically become useable again, with some important side effects. For starters, I'd dare to say every 10 of them at least three new phones would remain unsold, then it would become a lot harder to put spyware into user phones, and third, what would happen when even a few thousand users in the world started showing their colleagues, friends and families that their old phone isn't just faster than new ones but also safer and cheaper, shows no ads, doesn't steal personal data, doesn't require constant updates (==cheaper data plans) and supports the same software they could have installed on their PCs. Definitely, phone (and their OS) makers would hate that.




> in .doc format using Whatsapp

Word (and the rest of Office) is available for Android, and is free for devices with a 10.1" screen or smaller (though you need to sign up for an account and give MS your info; for larger devices or more functionality, you need to buy a Office 365 subscription)


>> "but I feel incredibly limited in what I can actually do with my iPhone"

> That's because they're intended to work as media consumption devices rather than productivity ones. If someone feels productive on a phone, he or she has very likely adapted herself to the device than the other way around.

What are you talking about? Literally millions of people use their phones to create every day. They take pictures and post on Instagram, create videos with apps like Clips, iMovie, SnapChat, make music with GarageBand, and yes, also consume video. But iPhones are every bit intended to be creation devices as much as desktops. The form factor lends itself to a different type of content creation, but it's stellar at letting users create in addition to consume.


There's no doubt you can create lots of stuff, and I would not say otherwise; the iPhone has a nice camera and the tools for media production on the iPhone are actually pretty ok.

All that being said, I don't do any of that stuff; I write software and write the occasional blog post. For me, I need a compiler, text editor, git, a good terminal etc. In this regard, my old Packard Bell is honestly more powerful, and despite my iPhone having objectively awesome hardware in comparison, I accomplish much less.


I think Steve Jobs old Car vs Truck analogy is still very relevant. There are some things you really need a keyboard, and possible a mouse for. That's not the fault of the phone though, or a failing of it, or the people making it. Sometimes trying to make something do what it's not naturally adapted for can make the overall experience worse rather than better.

Funny. I do all of those things on my iPhone XS these days. Not that I do any heavy work on but it works on the go if I have to.

Blink Shell and mosh = terminal, vim, git, etc.


Well, that's kind of cheating; that's not using the "phone" to do any of the real work, you're offsetting the work to a server. I've used my iPhone for that stuff too, but that really doesn't require all the horsepower that modern iPhones give you.

Hear hear!


They may be creating stuff but it's constrained by input and UI built to be unintimidating versus efficient for experts. Aside from the lowest common denominator UI designs, touch screens and OSKs are terrible compared to mice and keyboards for human-to-computer bandwidth and precision. Those who disagree usually (in my experience) have no basis for comparison, never having reached proficiency with any keyboard+mouse centric creation tools.

> Give us an open (hardware) phone and OS plus apps will follow.

I've been very happy with my OpenMoko FreeRunner for about 10 years now. It's running Debian (QtMoko), can send and receive calls and SMS, has WiFi, a Web browser, games, text editor, etc. I can also do anything from the terminal (locally via a terminal program, or remotely via SSH), including "apt-get" from the standard (although outdated) Debian repos.

My only annoyance is that the old QtMoko on-screen keyboard had really good predictive text, but it got removed in an update (apparently it only worked well in English and German; but that didn't bother me as I only know English)


Would you happen to know at which version the support was dropped?

Privacy concerns, oh please? Around here (Southern Morocco) we send a photo of the filled out tourist card to the Gendarmerie with WhatsApp! Name, Date of Birth, Passport Number, Profession....

Just in case you thought it could not get any worse...


They could have used Facebook directly. Around here a number of companies use Facebook and/or messenger as consumer support channel :-)


I don't know if you're trying to avoid using Google Products, but Google Docs has support for opening those types of documents. It's fairly popular so I can see why her lawyer didn't think twice of it.


> apparently that practice is widespread among non IT professionals, and I find it rather dangerous. The privacy implications should raise some big alerts.

Is using an end -to-end encrypted service worrying?

I assume whatsapp encrypts media as well as messages (I hope so). If you sent that document to any kind of corporate email account (many people use work accounts for non work stuff) it's liable to be opened by your company. Unless you think Facebook is backdooring Whatsapp it's about as secure as a typical email account.


> Is using an end -to-end encrypted service worrying?

I trust tptacek that WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted. But it definitely leaks metadata. Nobody is denying that.

Facebook now knows gf is communicating with a lawyer.

Your threat model may vary, but my assumption is Facebook will sell that info to anyone who pays. (Not directly, but definitely using some sneaky ad targetting: all girls, 27-35, this zip code, this education, etc, and who has contacted to a lawyer recently.)

If this isn't possible it is just because they are so busy doing all kinds of worse things that they haven't gotten around to it yet ;-)

I'm only halfway joking: this is the company that fools people who try to be secure into giving up their mobile phone number, then shortly after starts using it for targetting.


I think he meant the same kind of attacks that happened in '90's where you got word docs on your computer filled with malicious macros and now this is all over again as the same attack vector due to widespread of Office360 for mobile.


I certainly think that companies have been optimizing the phone for media consumption use, but I think it's because that's actually the only thing the phone is good for due its limited form factor.

Even if the phone becomes a more open platform, and we can snap our fingers and get superb battery life, better CPU, better screen, better storage, etc., typing even a few sentences on the phone is still pretty awful. Nothing short of serious improvement to digital assistants will help here.


That's why I would like to have the option to "hop in" to the desktop version of the app. I realize that most of the time I'll want the more-consumer version, but I would definitely prefer to be able to utilize my tools when needed. Ubuntu Touch was great about this, but obviously it didn't do well.


A couple years ago (before I got the GPD Win), I thought about trying to hobble-together a Raspberry Pi or Odroid with a 3D printed case and a tiny screen, keyboard, and USB 4G adapter and use that as my phone. I bought all the parts, but I never assembled anything.

It was a bit overly ambitious (maybe), but I actually think that it's not an inherently bad idea.

EDIT: Also, don't want to be "that guy", but doesn't Google Drive support .doc files? In that particular case I wouldn't think it's terribly hard.


"It was a bit overly ambitious (maybe), but I actually think that it's not an inherently bad idea."

That's a great idea to me. There are too few choices on the cheap side to consider, like the Pinebook. Even the GPD Pocket 2, which I find gorgeous, is still too pricey IMO. A smaller Pinebook without trackpad would probably be our dream pocket device.

"but doesn't Google Drive support .doc files?"

Probably yes, though I'm used to always look for offline solutions: Once I get the data on my device, backups aside, it stays there for processing until I have to send it elsewhere. The concept of applications as services and cloud computing is ancient and totally unwanted to me, probably because dumbed down terminals connected to a do-it-all central server is something those of us who are over 50 see for what it really was: a huge limitation of the past, rather than a technological advancement. Forcing users to get online to load or edit something is just a way to control access both to the data and the code to treat that data.

Personal ideas aside, my GF family she often visits lives in a poorly covered area and being forced to depend on connectivity for editing a document or any other thing easily doable the traditional way, would be problematic to her. Luckily the world isn't made exclusively of hyperconnected cities with tall buildings.


> doesn't Google Drive support .doc files? In that particular case I wouldn't think it's terribly hard.

Mine always tries to open doc files in a painting app I use. And yes, this even happens if I manage to get them into docs and try to open them from there. I have to uninstall or disable that app to open doc files :-/


Check out the new Planet devices.


Non-android support relies on libhybris, sticking you with an ancient kernel and proprietary drivers on Debian and Sailfish since only Android has "proper" support form Mediatek. Also the keyboard on the Gemini is crummy. Alt-tab occasionally triggers caps lock (fn tab) and some key combos like ctrl-alt-v to scroll other window in emacs sends a totally different signal and doesn't work. Their layout pushes normal keys like minus to the fn layer while wasting four keys on dedicated arrow keys. Why they couldn't just look at a 60% keyboard, I don't know. Something 50% and ortholinear like the preonic could work well for a UMPC also if they couldn't even give us a 60% equivalent. Also the screen has curved corners which cuts off info visibly on the Debian side. Android hides it better. Oh, and every time you close it, a key is pressed. There's not enough space between screen and keyboard when closed. It also leaves an imprint of keys on the screen. The GPD devices seem similarly disappointing in regards to keyboard layout. I have not bought one to give more specifics like with the Gemini. I want this form factor to work, but no one is doing it right.


> sent her a paper in .doc format using Whatsapp

If this happens again in the future it might be easier to connect to web.whatsapp.com in a desktop computer.


Especially that connecting to the web version is so brilliantly simple (just scan the QR code on the computer screen with your phone). Maybe OP didn't have a computer at hand?



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