Cracking my iPhone 4

The whole debacle surrounding New York Times writer Catherine Rampell’s article Cracking the Apple Trap holds almost no interest to me. However, after yesterday’s The Talk Show during which John X. Gruber and very special guest Paul X. Kafasis devoted a fair amount of time to ridiculing the entire enterprise, I feel it at least merits some attention.

I have had an iPhone 4 since shortly after the 4S came out; it was a hand-me-down from my mom when she upgraded. For the most part, I have remained very happy with the phone. As time went on though, it began to show its age: through a combination of hard use — I took it on a week-long, 184.5 mile bike trip from Maryland to Pennsylvania equipped with naught but a simple shell case — and age — already two years old at the time of that trip, and more than three now — the lock button has virtually ceased to function, one of the two speakers at bottom no longer works, and I have a sneaking suspicion the battery is no longer what it used to be. Nevertheless, I still enjoy the phone greatly: of all the computing devices I own I easily use it the most. I listen to podcasts, peruse Twitter, and browse RSS feeds exclusively on this almost-four-year-old device despite these faults, and despite the perception of decreased computing power over the years.

I won’t pick apart Catherine’s article point by malformed point — John and Paul did that well enough on The Talk Show, Gizmodo did an even better job in There’s No Such Thing As an “Apple Trap”, and TUAW followed suit — but I will, however, speak to my own expectations regarding technology, evidently wildly divergent from hers. Unlike Catherine, I have no expectation that the best device I buy today will remain at the top of the line for even a year, much less three or more. The new MacBook Pro I shelled out a hefty sum for just three weeks ago, I expect it to remain best in class for a year until Apple releases the next generation; any longer than that is an added bonus. And even if Apple does wait eighteen months to update its Pro laptop line, even then I know after that first year my computer is already woefully out of date.

This unrealistic expectation that Apple not only should but could ship technology capable of contending with the latest and greatest devices three years down the road is not only preposterous, but indicative of the light in which many see the world’s move valuable company. A carryover from the days when Steve Jobs could stand on stage and proclaim that his new phone was five years ahead of the competition, Apple (arguably) cannot still lay claim to such an extraordinary designation. At least, not in this market: with the reasonably adept competitors Catherine cites like Samsung and HTC, the march of progress only allows Apple to remain so far in the lead — and certainly not five years ahead, much less three. Perhaps Apple will be able to once again make a similar claim in the future, but only in another, as of yet untouched by Apple industry where it can come in and blindside the incumbents, catching them with their pants down. It took the mobile phone industry’s incumbents five years to pull their pants up and start running after Apple, which left us in the situation we find ourselves now where Apple is inarguably the most technologically-advanced phone maker in the world. Until Apple does what it did to the phone industry to another though, Catherine will continue to be disappointed by not only Apple, but every device she ever uses.

Poor Catherine.