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5 reasons to avoid iPhone 3G (fsf.org)
58 points by apgwoz on July 11, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 89 comments

A snake oil salesman not satisfied with his business of pushing proprietary software and Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) technology into your home, Jobs has set his sights on getting DRM and proprietary software into your pocket as well.

Is it just me, or does the rhetoric from FSF often times border on spiteful? Snake oil salesman? Come on, guys. You're not going to win over sensible people with this kind of attack.

They're shooting themselves in the foot with their poor communications. I'm basically in agreement in that I don't want some proprietary system I can't fiddle with, but they need to cast hackers as people who want to have fun and create cool things, not as a bunch of venomous haters who are jealous of Jobs' (well deserved, IMO) success.

"into your home... into your pocket as well."

Lock your doors! ...Sew up your pockets! This has to stop, before Jobs has DRM technology dating our women.

We have women???!??!

Shit... I'll be right back...

'iPhone completely blocks free software. Developers must pay a tax to Apple, who becomes the sole authority over what can and can't be on everyone's phones.'

I dislike the fact that Apple has considerable (compltete?) control over the distribution of an iPhone app and even charges the developer for doing so.Frigging unbelivable!

Why are people so upset about this? They provide a great shopping experience for their customers, and a great distribution channel for your apps. This is a service worth paying for.

The problem is that this channel is THE ONLY ONE.

It's not different from Apple's usual way of business. Look at their control of apple hardware and the software that controls the hardware. Things "just work", to quote almost everyone, with apple because of their control. I am happy to elaborate if the comparison to their hardware business isn't sufficient.

I don't mind Apple's pursuit of control over their stuff because they have done little to convince me they can't be trusted with the power. On top of this, their control has led to a consistent and smooth experience with their products.

I must state that I'm not an iPhone developer. I speak as a happy consumer only.

I agree that I'm not upset by this.

No, it really isn't. You can get a corporate distribution license if you have a userbase of a few thousand to serve, or if you have a userbase of less than a hundred or so, you can even do adhoc distribution by authorising their individual iPhones. Or, you can distribute source code, and anyone that has paid the less than $100 for a developer license can use your software.

The iPhone has some restrictions on distribution, but they are far from being as draconian as some would have us believe. Honestly, the price for a developer's cerificate is not a significant barrier, and with the other modes of distribution that Apple has provided (mostly to serve the corporate and academic markets), there are enough options to find a reasonably priced solution for most usecases.

Well, maybe not the only one... http://www.ziphoneunlock.com/?id=yuga

Just sayin'

shame on you if that's an affiliate link.

I do not work for the company that the link points to, if that is what you mean. Just saying you can jailbreak your phone and run anything you want.

There's nothing stopping you from distributing your software for free (no "tax" paid to Apple if it's free) or distributing your source code.

Other developers can modify, compile, run your source code on their own iPhones, and redistribute it on the App Store if they are approved.

As Apple ramps up I believe they will approve more and more developers, and eventually get to the point where anyone can distribute an app on the App Store.

And when the day comes that I can install an application on an iPhone without the permission of Apple, including those I develop myself, I will buy an iPhone. I've made the mistake of buying one device (Sidekick II) that doesn't allow arbitrary applications, and I won't do it again...and I certainly won't pay $80/month for the privilege of only using the products Apple permits me to use.

Blah blah blah... Can anyone say "broken record"?

FSF claims to be about choice. Well, I exercise my choice by choosing to buy the phone that I prefer.

The FSF can be like that, but they also have a good point. Only Apple could get away with creating a smartphone where they hold all the cards - deciding what and who can and can't develop for it. If Microsoft tried to pull something like that, we'd all cry foul.

/yeah, I'm still getting an iPhone today. //hoping that in two years there will be other competitors who are more open and match the iPhone's quality

This is the main reason Apple can ensure quality. They limit the scope of their hardware so there are no unexpected use cases. Visual voicemail "just works", the app store "just works". The problem is that the iphone appeals to geeks, and many geeks are privacy/FSF/EFF purists.

Completely agree. I'd far rather the "locked down" nature of the iPhone than random issues, bugs and crashes.

For most people, the use case is to use it as a phone/browser/PDA etc. Not to use it to hack around with and develop apps for.

Why not instead have optional quality? Provide a set of approved programs but still let users install what ever they want.

Doesn't Microsoft Windows kind of do this? You can optionally use these "certified drivers" and software from big vendors, but there are always the long tail of apps, widgets, bleeding edge drivers, smiley faces etc, that people will always download and spoil the user experience.

Point is, it doesn't work for Microsoft. It's a slippery slope, once you open your platform to anyone (which is great), you'll have a nightmare of support.

I agree, the optional policy works fine for power users. I know many geeks who use Vista with no problem because they use the "certified" software.

Right, the problem is, people blame the quality problems on Microsoft no matter where they originate. It's not worth going down that path for Apple, as they've somehow built a reputation around "it just works" despite the fact that it doesn't seem to be any more true from them than anyone else.

But we kind of have that with mac os x... For the drivers and different hardware configurations (admittedly a big part of what can cause problems) not really unless you count os x86. Bue when it comes to software, between input managers, unsanity's extensions and the unix foundation of mac os x letting us play around... we have more than enough things that could potentially spoil the user experience but it still works rather well...

That's why I don't really buy the argument that applications on the iphone need to be controlled centrally for stability sake...

I think the reason that they can get away with this is this motto of excellence. Yes, the iPhone is perilously deficient in ways we traditionally identify quality with smartphones.

But everything it does do, it does so damn well that it's hard to argue with it. Apple is really good at honing down to a core feature set and making that perfect to the deliberate exclusion of everything else. People recognize this and it's a somewhat unusual feeling.

It's kind of like hacker-driven code shops. Someone may run off and ignore your in-shop standards and make something using weird tech or using a different protocol, but if it works like a well-oiled–perhaps magical–machine, then its likelihood of getting adopted is surprisingly high.

>But everything it does do, it does so damn well that it's hard to argue with it.

Its amazing how many people don't actually GET that point.

>Someone may run off and ignore your in-shop standards and make something using weird tech or using a different protocol

Yeah thats the great thing about skunkworks. Lots of great (now mainstream) stuff came from skunkworks.

The mobile phone industry is traditionally very restrictive, it's not just Apple.

The iPhone has brought lots of innovation and benefits to the industry, namely the concept that cell phone interfaces shouldn't suck. Things like visual voicemail are great. And AFAIK the first affordable unlimited data plan. Apple originally wasn't even planning on having a native SDK. So I'm willing to let them do it their way as long as as a consumer and developer I get most of the benefit that a fully open solution would provide.

And AFAIK the first affordable unlimited data plan.

Not quite right.

My Sidekick on T-Mobile has had a $20 unlimited data plan for many, many years (total price of service including data is $59/month, vs. the $69/month price of the 1st gen iPhone with unlimited data, or $79/month in the 2nd gen iPhone). The Palm has also been available for several years from a few carriers with a $10-$20 unlimited data plan.

The iPhone makes better use of the data plan than anyone has before. Disagree with anything else about it, but MobileSafari is by far the best browser on any phone.

I made no comment about how previous data plans have been used. I was merely pointing out that the assertion that the iPhone was the first to offer an "affordable unlimited data plan" was simply untrue. I'm sure MobileSafari is better than donuts, but it has nothing to do with my comment.

Couldn't agree more. What dismays me is that no one else can do better - but like you, I hope it changes.

FSF claims to be about choice. Well, I exercise my choice by choosing to buy the phone that I prefer.

Theoretically, by buying an iPhone, you are giving power to people that want to make sure you can only use your computer to run "approved" programs. Those people will then use their power to make sure that things like the FSF go away, and then there will be no "choice" for you to make. Then you have this:


It's probably not going to happen quickly, but every time closed platforms get good press, we're one step closer. As a programmer, it's not "good for business" for me to support people that want to regulate my trade. So I have an OpenMoko phone instead. (I don't care what you choose, just as long as you're aware of the potential long-term consequences of your actions.)

All cell phones expose "your whereabouts and [provide] ways for others to track you without your knowledge" via cell tower triangulation. At a minimum, this point is FUD.

But do other cell phones provide novices an SDK and a few simple functions to get position via GPS and do a HTTP POSTs while entering an item in "Joe's shopping list" application?

Perhaps they do, but without a constant connection to wifi or EDGE/3G that the iPhone has, you'd have to authorize it, in order for it to be sent. Probably not so with the iPhone. It's designed to constantly talk to the Internet (it's even got a new notifications framework that relies on communicating with Apple's servers).

I can't comment on whether or not you need to authorize each application in order for it to use the GPS APIs or not, but if you don't (which I assume you won't), this could be scary.

The early reviews I've read seem to indicate that you will need to do that authorization. See:


"I noticed that the iPhone asked me for permission to give both the maps program and the camera app permission to use my location."

You are asked before the first time any application is allowed to use your current location. So, this point is ridiculous.

Maybe not - since you can't see the code you don't know when location info is being transmitted without asking your permission.

Considering that OnStar is apparently being pressured to provide a remote "kill switch" to law enforcement, that printers put hidden codes on each page at the behest of law enforcement etc, would you be troubled if your phone secretly had a feature to pinpoint you within meters without your knowledge, upon the mere request of someone who appears to have the correct law enforcement credentials?

As to already being able to do this via triangulation etc: perhaps, but this would make it even simpler; as I recall in the CDMA world pure network-based location can't get more accurate than 250m and can't do elevation.

And you can globally disable all Location Services in the prefs.

Yes, the majority of other, modern cell phones provide novices "an sdk and a few simple functions to get position via GPS".

BREW: http://www.devx.com/wireless/Article/11195

J2ME: http://developers.sun.com/mobility/apis/articles/location/

Thank god for some sanity. I cannot for the life of me understand why otherwise intelligent geeks fawn over locked Apple products and the iPhone in particular.

Perhaps because it's a delight to use and look at?

Occasionally, when something is designed better than any other comparable device, you have to pay to use it. In this case, you pay by following a few of their rules.


And unless my main reason for buying a mobile phone is "for hacking," I don't see why I should pay $400 for the alternative (i.e. the Neo FreeRunner) when the iPhone "just works"--and nicely at that. How sure are we that the Neo FreeRunner would even be stable enough for use as a main phone?

When the day comes that I want to hack my phone, I'll get the FreeRunner. (Hopefully by then it'll be cheaper.) For now, I just want to use my phone.

I just want to use my phone.

You know, you can get "just a phone" for about $5 these days. Why are you shelling out for an iPhone? (The answer is because you don't want "just a phone".)

Sorry, the emphasis was on the word "use", not "phone".

I just want to _use_ my smart phone.

Only a minority of users need to have the inclination to hack their phone for all of them to benefit. Locking out Free Software is ultimately a short-sighted approach to releasing a new software platform.

I spent weeks getting a USB wireless adapter and a new-ish video card to work with my Linux desktop. Then I moved to a new apartment and the wireless driver can't handle the standard encryption used on our router, so I'm back to square one compiling kernels and blacklisting modules and spending hours booting back and forth into Windows again.

The point is, I don't want to do that with my phone. My phone should WORK. The ultimate solution to the desktop problem will be buying 100 feet of cat 5 cable at Fry's today. I drive too far to make this a practical solution for my phone.

The problem in your case is hardware, not software. If you had hardware specifically designed to work perfectly with Linux, it would work perfectly with Linux. Instead you have whatever you found at Best Buy.

Anyway, all phones designed to run Linux run Linux just fine. They... were designed to.

I heard the same thing about iPods and when I actually used one I found them to be horrible.

I'm curious, what was horrible about it?

I am really disturbed whenever I read about one human being saying he is completely incapable of empathizing with another human being's choice.

Instead of trying to figure out why otherwise intelligent people like something you do not care for, why not just sit back and accept the idea that we all have different likes, dislikes, and preferences, and that we need not justify our particular differences to you before going about our merry way?

I am really disturbed whenever I read about one human being saying he is completely incapable of empathizing with another human being's choice.

Oh, I don't know about that. I am completely incapable of empathizing with the human being who chooses to beat his daughter to death for dating a boy from another religion. Or the human being who chooses to torture an animal for fun. Or the human being who... well actually I can't think of a third example which is significantly different from the first two.

But as far as purchases of consumer electronics goes... sure, do whatever you like! I really don't give a damn one way or the other.

While your examples are extreme, we are only talking about degrees of difference. For example, I empathize with people who send their country's youth off to a foreign land to fight and kill for oil even if I don't agree with their choice.

Empathizing is not the same thing as agreeing with or countenancing.

Oh, I don't know about that. I am completely incapable of empathizing with the human being who chooses to beat his daughter to death for dating a boy from another religion.

Amen to that.

Because no other phone/mobile browser comes anywhere close to it in terms of features and ease of use?

For example the nokia n800 browser is terrible in comparison to Safari, using a stylus is a pain, and keyboard entry is slow. Also the battery lasts an hour or so.

Yes, it's open source, but that makes it hellishly hard to do anything with. Updating the firmware involves about 10 steps.

I'll really try to take that whole rant with a grain of salt.

Yes, I realize I'm locked into "apple's DRM" - if I buy from the iTunes store. I buy from Amazon MP3, or I rip CDs (those are the 3 ways to get music on my iPhone, right? ;)) to MP3. No DRM lockin there... Yes, it doesn't happen to play FLAC/OGG but I can easily transcode FLAC to Apple Lossless if I want - and back again - and I have yet to hear anyone explain to me what OGG gives me that mp3 doesn't. Surprisingly, just because it doesn't have GNU/ tacked on the front of it, a product can be innovative and interesting despite it not being Open Source. I know this comes as a surprise to RMS and his FSF hippies.

Also, the single most annoying part of the iPhone 2.0 is the fact that ANY TIME the location services are activated (including by Apple's apps like Camera and Google Maps) it asks you permission to locate you.

Not to mention that, as another commenter mentioned most phones have GPS these days - and my recollection is that the Enhanced 911 features mean that that GPS can be automatically sent to authorities in the case of an emergency. So, pretty much any phone is going to have that 'risk' - if the OpenMoko devices have GPS they may need to comply w/ E911 as well.

> Surprisingly, just because it doesn't have GNU/ tacked on the front of it, a product can be innovative and interesting despite it not being Open Source.

Nobody thinks that only open source (or Free) software can be interesting or innovative. If you think that's the issue, you haven't been reading very carefully.

> I know this comes as a surprise to RMS and his FSF hippies.

Was that sentence really necessary?

> a product can be innovative and interesting despite it not being Open Source.

I don't wanna be an ass, but I need to point out that you may be slightly uninformed about the FSF and GNU with your choice to use "open source."

> and I have yet to hear anyone explain to me what OGG gives me that mp3 doesn't

The right to use - or as a developer, create - a program that can play/record music in that format without permission from, or payment to, the people who developed and patented said format.

The right to read the file format specification and change it to suit your own use without consulting or paying anyone or breaking the law.

You are explaining how you download music in MP3 format to avoid DRM restrictions - but the MP3 format itself is locked-in and restricted.

Yes things are innovative and interesting while being restricted, but they aren't free if they are restricted. That is, they can't be used to build more innovative and interesting things (without permission or payment) if they are restricted.

>> and I have yet to hear anyone explain to me what OGG gives me that mp3 doesn't

> The right to use - or as a developer, create - a program that can play/record music in that format without permission from, or payment to, the people who developed and patented said format.

And the right as a customer to choose to avoid paying indirectly for a technology license (mp3) by choosing to use another technology (ogg vorbis).

Its a bit like the argument of the people who want to buy just a PC (say for a freebsd server); and implicitly must also pay for the included Windows they're forced to take, even though they never want to use it (is this not now illegal in some states)?

Except in this case, you are paying a portion of the cost of the phone, a portion of the cost of Windows (or Mac OS), and a portion of the cost of tune downloads, as a license fee for mp3 (well the vendor is paying the license fee, but guess where its coming from).

Ok, using logic 'n all, a lot of the arguments don't make sense. Which is sad, because put differently, I'm sure whoever wrote them could have made them effective.

The iPhone does not completely block free software. Last time I checked, there was free software available in the App Store. Developers are welcome to release their code I presume.

A lesser argument to the response that Apple decides what is and is not on everyone's phones is that anyone can create a web application, which Apple does not control.

If the author wants to call the $99 developer's fee a tax, I don't care. But it does have a purpose. You also get access to Apple's development program, and if you're distributing your applications for free (as this person seems to like), you get a free distribution platform and free bandwidth for people to download your app.

The iPhone does not expose your whereabouts or allow other people to track you anymore than any other phone in the United States does. How he got this, I have no idea. You can turn off the location based services that will stop any application from tracking you. Law enforcement in the U.S. can track any phone's location, so the iPhone is not unique in that respect. Furthermore, some people will want their location tracked so that applications can tell them what's nearby.

Now, I'm not against free software, but please, if you're going to argue for something, make it logical and rational.

> The iPhone does not completely block free software. Last time I checked, there was free software available in the App Store. Developers are welcome to release their code I presume.

Yes, there is software in the AppStore that is gratis, and developers can of course share their code. However, I can't recompile it and run it on my iPhone right away without it being distributed through the AppStore. Will Apple reject applications that have only minor tweaks? What if the modifications I want to make are not changes that the original developer wants and they are unwilling to merge them? Where does that leave me? Not with Free Software as it fails to meet the requirements.

You're right, the definition of free software they use makes things very sticky. But while there might be restrictions on what applications can be made, Apple hasn't said they will restrict free versions of other people's software. I mean, sure, you can't probably get Firefox on your iphone, but if people wanted to get together and create a free version of an application that someone else is selling, sort of like Open Office vs. MS word, I don't see that being shot down. The author implied that would never be allowed, but I don't see why not.

He is correct though, and I acknowledge, that Apple is a closed system. There probably won't be more than one web browser on the iPhone, or more than one music player. Some applications there won't be open source or free versions of. But as many people have said, they are perfectly fine with that. If you want to play OGG files, buy a different phone.

I think what the author fails to note is that its unlikely there will ever be a completely closed industry again. Apple may not allow some free apps, but someone else will. Gone are the days where every choice in an industry was closed or propriety. So what I say to him is, if you don't like Apple's system, don't buy it. Buy the phone that's better.

"if you don't like Apple's system, don't buy it. Buy the phone that's better."

exactly what i will do with the freeruner. Screw apple :D

You've got it right. Its all about value. If you value having a phone that can play OGG files, then you won't buy the iPhone. If you can't stand iTunes, you'll do it different. The original author's argument would only be compelling if there were no other alternatives. But with Android coming out, his argument falls short. Just don't buy it.

Actaully, you can recompile it and run it on your iphone by getting the SDK and dev tools. How do you think that developers test their programs? I tell xcode to compile the app and if my phone is plugged in it automatically uploads it. The AdHoc distribution model (still be be enabled or explained in much detail) also suggests that you will be able to distribute your app to up to 100 other users.

Oh. That's cool. Obviously the SDK has the emulator. I didn't realize you could compile and install yourself on the actual phone.

Yeah, from what I can tell, ad-hoc distribution will take care of a lot of the issues. My understanding is anyone can develop any application and install it on their own phone and up to 100 other users, without authority from Apple. You save the $99 fee, and you can make whatever you like.

Presumably you can distribute the source and recompile for an infinite number of iPhones.

Do you really think downloading from the App Store is the only way to get software onto the phone? If you want load recompiled software, you need the SDK. But then, you need the SDK to recompile the software in the first place, so it's not much of a burden.

re: free software, he probably meant this


This is really a ridiculous article if you can call it that. "iPhone won't play patent- and DRM-free formats like Ogg Vorbis and Theora."

Why do I care that a few cents of the price of my iPhone went in licensing the mp3 format from "Thomson Multimedia and Fraunhofer IIS-A". As a user, it plays mp3 files. Which is all anyone cares about.

If it only played DRM files I'd have a problem with it and wouldn't buy it.

Looks like there could be a long wait for the new iPhone in the UK as it seems to be pretty scarce.

I have quite a few ogg files. Converting to mp3 before using on an mp3 player is very annoying.

Plus, libogg is BSD licensed, so why not include it?

ogg has not been legally tested. The developers read through what they believe to be the relevant patents and declared themselves clean, but no one knows what those patent holders think and what patents may have been missed. Only when a company with deep pockets releases ogg vorbis in a high volume device will we see who is waiting to come out of the woodwork and start a patent suit.

For the tiny and shrinking set of people that want ogg vorbis, it isn't worth the legal risk.

(Sidebar: I don't mean to imply that vorbis is vanishing now, but as storage gets cheaper I expect mp3, aac, and vorbis to drift away in favor of lossless formats which are not subject to the body of psychoacoustical patents. I rip at 192kbps AAC or 256kbps mp3. Lossless encoders end up around 750kbps. I never fill my 8G iPhone. Using lossless on a 32G device would be a no brainer decision.)

amen to lossless support on the iphone, I'm tired of reencoding my flac files

Because it doesn't have a chip to decode ogg, so it would have to use the main CPU which would quickly drain the battery.

Maybe. I have Rockbox on my 4G iPod, and the battery lasts plenty long playing Ogg (and FLAC) files. It may be an hour shorter than MP3s on the stock firmware... but you only pay for what you use. If you don't have Ogg files, you don't drain the battery.

it'd be a nice to have, sure, but I don't think it's a deal breaker. Majority of people are likely to have mp3s. It's nice not to add too much complexity and potential for bugs/issues...

Some of us just want a really nice phone with great applications. Go iPhone! It's as simple as that.

Can any iPhone developers chime in on the location tracking?

Is it not so that ONLY one application can track your location at a time? Additionally, when using a downloaded iPhone application you should assume that it will access some form of your personal data, in most cases that is the utility of the application.

You have to opt in to location based tracking (although the cell phone company can always know where your phone is, and give it to law enforcement). If you turn off location based tracking, I believe all applications are supposed to reset and stop tracking you and ask for your permission again. We can always ask people to test this to see if developers have implemented it properly.

Is it true that the iPhone can't play .ogg? Couldn't you write an app for the iPhone that plays ogg, or would that be impossible because the audio files can't be accessed from applications?

I've started using ogg again because I couldn't be bothered to make my Linux system encode MP3s...

practically speaking, it would be all but impossible for a third party to add ogg support to the iPhone. you get audio files onto the device via iTunes, so it would have to be changed as well.

Anyone else think the FreeRunner looks like crap? Aside from the hardware, the UI looks like Windows Mobile on the top, and iphone on the bottom..

You can install other Linux mobile os(maybe even non Linux im not sure about that) if you don't like the default. Im currently saving for a notebook, so im not going to have the money for a new phone, but the freeruner should be usable by the time i have money to buy it.

I don't think it looks all that bad. But, I couldn't figure out how to buy and use one. There seems to be no actual way to purchase one, or any way to activate it with any carriers. I'm sure it's possible...but it's not obvious to me how to do it.

But, I couldn't figure out how to buy and use one. There seems to be no actual way to purchase one, or any way to activate it with any carriers.

Here's the page to buy it from:


(It's linked from the main page, BTW.)

Once you have one, get a SIM card from your carrier, and put it in the phone. That's it; GSM doesn't require that your carrier has any idea what phone you have. They only care about the SIM card.

(It's linked from the main page, BTW.)

Yes, I clicked that link. And then what? There is no "add to cart" button anywhere on that page. Maybe you're far better at browsing a website than I am, but I simply could find no way to click on something I wanted to buy, find out the price, and fill in my billing details.

that free runner neo phone is ugly and obviously far far from being market ready, sorry fsf but your alternative looks lame.

I have the older version (Neo1973). It works fine; I can browse the web and make phone calls. The browser is WebKit-based, so it's basically like the iPhone browser. Same codebase.

But basically, OpenMoko's icons aren't quite as pretty as the iPhone's. I know most people value icons more than their freedom, so that's why the iPhone is doing so well.

jr, what image and ui are you running? it's almost impossible to make calls on a 1973 (or FR) from what I've tried so far.

FSO (http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/FSO) is the only thing that reliably lets me make calls but that's ALL it does.

What're you using?

i really doubt openmoko's browser is like the iphone's. does it have multi-touch? i'm pretty sure it doesn't. that means no pinching, which is a vital part of the iphone experience.

and then there's the tired old argument that the only difference is that apple's products are prettier than everybody else's. not so. the difference is that apple's products are more fun to use, easier for people to figure out, and easier to get the most out of.

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