Month: September 2009

Nifty, the second post in a row starting with a “why.”
I wonder…

Anyways, this was a provocative question for a provocative post as, today, I will try to challenge some misconceptions about what makes the iPhone so great.

Spoiler alert: it sucks.

The iPhone, like any other Apple product, is extremely expensive. You’re also tied down to that AT&T contract. This amounts to almost a thousand dollars a year.
Don’t you have better things to invest your money in?

It’s sleek, it looks cool, it’s gorgeous, but what does this mean exactly?
A beautifully-carved stick isn’t a knife.
A beautifully-designed iPod isn’t a phone.

And because a picture is worth a thousand words, take a look at the following chart:

3G compatibility wasn’t introduced to the iPhone until earlier last year. Prior to that, it was EDGE-based.
The (literally) 4-year old phone I owned (Samsung Z-500) before my current one (Samsung i900) already had 3G speed, and it’s from 2005, not 2009.
It also had a whole lot of functions that even the current iPhone still does not have as you can see in the chart, including video call capability thanks to a second camera situated on the front of the mobile phone.

All of this begs the question:
With such a hefty price tag and such low technological assets tied to it, why do you have an iPhone?

The first answer that pops into your mind will probably be linked to its incredible touchscreen.
Granted, it’s hands-down one of the best currently on the market. That said, its only superiority to other touchscreen phones is the multi-touch function. And not for long. The Palm Pre for instance already has multi-touch technology.
Also, think about it, are you really using actual multi-touch rather than standard touchscreen on a day-to-day basis? Double-tapping is more widely used for Web surfing or Google Maps. And I think that the primary appeal of the multi-touch technology when it was introduced, because it was so brand new, was that it’s cool to “show off.” But now that everyone has either seen, touched, or owns an iPhone, it’s getting pretty old.
There’s also the fact that the screen is far from the only thing that matters in a phone, especially on a smartphone.

And with that, let’s see what other important features you might need.
I’ll try not being too technical.

First, the hardware.
Save for the screen, it’s almost a decade old.

The iPhone camera is extremely limited with only 3 Megapixels (today’s phones can easily attain the 8MP).
Also, you couldn’t even make videos with the iPhone until a few months ago!
I mean, come on, even the most basic camera phones can do that but you’re telling me that for a few hundred dollars more I must have less?

As stated above, another 3G advancement was the ability to make video calls via a mobile phone.
Problem is, you need a camera at the front of your handheld device (let alone it having a decent quality). This little bonus has now widely spread throughout the smartphone landscape.
Not to the iPhone though.

You don’t really own the phone either, certainly not its hardware since you can’t do anything with it.
Try changing the battery.
Sorry, you can’t, the back is sealed shut.

Now on to the software.

Regarding the iPhone’s, it’s also pretty weak.
Customizability is virtually nonexistent compared to its competitors, starting with the most used feature on there, web browsing.
Safari is far from being the best mobile browser. I suggest you compare it to one of the many others available such as Opera Mobile.
That’s right, I said “one of the many,” as elsewhere you can select which one you want to use.
You can’t pick and choose on the iPhone. And Safari can’t even handle Flash content. Sorry about that.

Hey, but good news, MMS is finally coming to the iPhone later this month!
Oh, but wait, it will only be available to 3G users.

Technically, this is only a software limitation, not a hardware problem. An EDGE phone can send an MMS given the opportunity. It just takes two lines of code to fix this (hell, there even have been several apps allowing MMS available for months).
Yet this seems to be way too complicated for Apple.
I wonder why.

It would take way too long to list all the basic functions lacking.
What’s more revolting is that the iPhone is considered by many as a “smartphone,” similar to a Blackberry. More and more businesses have actually started using the iPhone. And yet, there’s so much missing.
You can’t even do data tethering (use your phone as a modem for your laptop)!
A phone from the last decade could do it, why not one introduced only three months ago?

But you can read movies you say?
Did you check if you could read non-MP3/MP4 files, such as DivX AVIs or Lossless FLAC?
The answer is no, you cannot read those on the iPhone (or any iPod for that matter).

Regarding third-party applications, that’s a whole other story.
They were not even officially supported until the release of the second iPhone OS last year!
At the end of the day though, unless you “jailbreak” your iPhone, you’re entirely dependent on Apple’s goodwill via iTunes.
Case in point with Google Voice. Sadly, it’s not coming to the store.

With other phones, like Windows Mobile-based ones, you don’t have to “jailbreak” them since you’re not dependent on the one store to get your apps.
And, unlike with Apple, no one is looking over the developer’s shoulder to check if the app is “good enough” for the phone (read: doesn’t compromise the manufacturer’s evil master plan).
Sure, the World Wide Web is less “cool-looking” than iTunes, and it takes more time to find the perfect app, but they’re usually cheaper, do a better job, and can even be, wait for it, open-source.

The worst part in all of this is that if you look at the iPhone objectively, it doesn’t suit anyone’s needs.
If you’re a professional businessman that can afford such an expensive contract, then in that case you’re better off looking at other, more professional, phones (Blackberry-types).
You might also be a technogeek, and, if you really are one, then chances are you either don’t own an iPhone, or if you do, don’t know what you’re missing.
And in the rare case that you’re an average customer, then, again, go check out the competition.

The iPhone is not only overhyped and expensive; it is also very limited and limiting.
Sure, it’s probably the best iPod player there is, but since it’s supposed to be a smartphone, it’s far from being enough.
I suggest you either look into an iPod Touch if you’re only interested in the iPhone’s multimedia capabilities. And if you want a true multi-task phone, go take a look over at some of Sony Ericson’s, or better yet Samsung’s, most recent mobile phones.

Unfortunately though, you’ll have to trade your cool “pinch to zoom out” feature…

I’ve been recently thinking about why some people seem to love Battlestar Galactica’s latter two seasons even though they’re tragically awful. I dare say the same thing about Lost’s latest season.

I’ll be here mostly using those two series as primary examples because they’re so popular, and are still held to very high standards.
Fans have widely criticized Lost’s fifth season. However, if you’ve just very recently watched for the first time the first four seasons, you probably disagree, or, if you agree, you’re probably not seeing how big of a slap the season is towards everything that came before it.

I should point out now, since this will come into play later, that I’ve found the common link (save for some flukes) between the people who like BSG’s third (possibly fourth) season, and Lost’s fifth.
They were peeps who, in the span of days, or weeks, saw the whole show for the first time from A to Z in a few sittings only (or at least are not the people who have been following the shows since the first or second season).
Why is this important? Well marathon-like screenings do not really allow the spectator to “think things through” so to speak.
Basically, mythological shows such as Lost and Battlestar Galactica have overarching storylines, supposedly thought-out, complex, and well-developed. In the case of BSG for instance, that would mainly be the twelve Cylon plotline. Now, I’ve already exposed in previous posts to what extent both Lost and Battlestar Galactica have had more than disappointing revelations exposing their poorly-planned mythologies, so I’m not going to talk about that again.
This post is more about the way their mythology is being perceived and how in the long run, more often than not, such shows are idolized with all flaws removed.
In marathon-like screenings, the mind is somewhat submissive to the story told and the episode. The brain is passive, not active. You don’t have time to really think about the many twists and turns since you’re watching them unfold. You’re “eating” away the episodes, not “digesting” them. Everything will probably seem to blend into a unified storyline instead of finite stories broadcast every week or so with hiatus lasting months in-between seasons. Watching the first three seasons of Battlestar back-to-back won’t be the same thing as having been there since 2003.
For one thing, you didn’t theorize during Season One or Season Two. That might not seem all that important, but not being able to think for several months or years (or even only days in the case of a marathon) about who the twelve Cylons are won’t make you aware of how preposterous the introduction of the Final Five during the show’s third Season is. If you care a little bit about a show, you’ll surely think about it, start asking yourself questions. Let’s be honest, we all have way too much time on our hands and we love to theorize. Shows such as BSG or Lost work because you can theorize about them all day long… Until you can’t due to a faulty mythology.
Turns out, when watching episodes back-to-back you don’t have months to think about “what’s in the Hatch” or anything else that deserves theorizing. You’re not expecting special answers either, so you rarely end up disappointed either.
The poor planning of Lost’s mytho was shown with such glaring plot holes and atrocious revelations (or rather pseudo-revelations out of the blue) as featured in its fifth season finale. Despite this, to what extent it nullifies the preceding four seasons would be hard to tell without hindsight, an asset nonexistent with a marathon since there’s no time to look at the big picture.
You’re also head first in the story itself, not what goes on outside the series. By that I mean that at the end of, let’s say, watching Battlestar’s first season, you’re not going to look for news article dating back 5 years. The same goes for Lost with Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse’s various contradictory interviews between when the show started (2004) and now (2009), especially regarding questions/mythological plot points that would get answered (or not). You’d be surprised at how antinomic some of their remarks are (same goes for Ronald D. Moore). They’re also very hard to track down.
The bottom line here is that, in the end, you need to be able to take a step back. You need to have time to think things through to really enjoy in a more objective fashion a show and its mythology.
It will be interesting to see how all of this will play out with FlashForward, given that not only has the “FF date” been stopped (April 20th), but flash-forwards are already being shown in the pilot.
The X-Files is considered to be a great mytho show. Ironically, it only has a fourth of such episodes. And, if you really take a look at them, you’ll see how many plot holes there are. Despite those, The X-Files is idolized and remembered as one of the greatest mythological show in TV history.
Battlestar Galactica is already branded as the greatest sci-fi show ever.
In five-year time, Lost will probably join the ranks of such cult show as Twin Peaks, regardless of its “objective” lack of mythological planning.

But, hey, it’s the thought that counts, not its execution. Right?

Hi there!

Alex Freedman

I'm Alex Freedman, the writer behind TV Calling.

I started this site in 2008 to chronicle my own journey in television writing.

693 posts and 9 years later, TV Calling has also become a comprehensive resource dedicated to the full TV writing industry — from spec to success.

Everything here is written by yours truly (unless otherwise credited), so feel free to blame me for any missed deadlines.

I hope you'll answer your television calling, and join me in this creative journey.

Write on.

P.S.: New around? You should start here.

What’s Alex Watching?

The Good FightThe LeftoversThe Chris Gethard ShowMaster of NoneLegion
TV Calling

TV Calling