Quickcast – Five things the FTC should ask Apple about iPhone.

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I love my . The 3GS has finally got the right. I can use it without feeling like I am fumbling or fat fingering keys. While the advances are nice, I still have to wonder how Apple can get away with some of the things they do to make me use their stuff. Rejecting competing applications and not giving users a choice to remove apps, all seems to be a recipe for non-competitiveness. Will they continue to get away with it, or will the and EU finally step in? Well if they do, these should be 5 questions they should ask.

Skype. iBoobs. MyShoe. Trampoline. Google Voice. What do these apps have in common? They were banned by the Apple . Some of them need to be, but others have no reason.

Ninjawords was an application that had a very to get into the store. The reason why : the does contain questionable words – Including swear words. It finally was resolved and the application was approved, but who knew the could cause such a .

Some have had it with the iPhone. in a makes those who like to play feel imprisoned. Co-founder Steven Frank of the website Panic was one of them. He put out this statement:

I’ve reached a point where I can no longer just sit back and watch this. The iPhone ecosystem is toxic, and I can’t participate any more until it is fixed. As people have told me so many times: It’s Apple’s ballgame, and Apple gets to make the rules, and if I don’t like it, I can leave. So, I don’t like it, and I’m leaving.

The Google Voice application seemed to be the boiling point in the controversy. The biggest reason was because there was a possibility that AT&T wanted the app rejected. Whether that was true or not may never be discovered. If it was really true, then someone like the European Union or FTC should step in.

Now the stepped in on the Google Voice issue. However, the is about protecting rights on a communications level. The FTC protects consumer’s rights, or as the FTC puts it on their website:

–          seeks out and challenges anticompetitive conduct in the marketplace, including monopolization and agreements between competitors;

There are many ways that Apple is wading into murky water. If someone posed the right questions, you would have to inquire if they are making it tougher to compete on their platform – no differently than when Microsoft was accused back in the late 90’s. Therefore, we pose these questions – to think about – for Apple on the iPhone:

  1. Why Safari and not another browser?

This is a quote from Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner, who created and is CEO of Opera, an alternative web browser:

“Mr. von Tetzchner said that Opera’s engineers have developed a version of Opera Mini that can run on an Apple iPhone, but Apple won’t let the company release it because it competes with Apple’s own Safari browser.”

If that is the case, then why do we have more than one version of the following applications? Cyclops, pic2shop and redlaser are some barcode scanning apps. Tweetdeck can run your Twitter account. Twitter Pro, Tweetie and TwiterFon are some other applications. Shazam and MusicID both identify music and artists.

Personally, I would rather see and use Firefox on the iPhone than Safari. I know that some Google fanatics would rather use Chrome. Won’t mention IE – Does anyone use that browser? Oh well, those that do would use IE6 anyway….

You might be fidgeting in your seat about using another browser – you like Safari and that is well and good. But look at it this way – Safari comes out with an update that causes a Carpet Bomb or similar issue. The only option you have is to wait for the patch to come out. In the smartphone market, iPhone has 84% of all sales in the last quarter.  With banking applications now being written, that is a lot of data you don’t want to have exposed to the public.

The EU should really look into this point. After all, they made Microsoft give people an option to uninstall IE on their Windows OS. How is this any different for Apple?

  1. Why iPhone Mail and not another?

iPhone mail is not as great as I would like it to be. Sure, it can connect to Outlook and Exchange, as well as webmail clients like Google and Yahoo.  Still, it would be great to have the mail, calendar, notes and contacts merged together.  One button to rule them all.

Yet we have to suffer through the iPhone mail. Good thing it’s just a “snapshot” of your actual mail client.  I can still keep it on my servers to deal with at a later time.

  1. How come the device can only sync to one computer?

I have a Desktop and a Laptop. I cannot natively set up iTunes to Sync with more than one device. If I do, the phone will delete items I have on it to put what is on the other machine.

There is a “hack” that can be done to fix this. Basically, you fool one iTunes to think it’s on the other computer. It works OK, however, if I set one to not sync music, the setting will move over to the other. There may be another “hack” to fix that – It’s still a hack though.

What is more disturbing? iTunes can easily delete your files – mainly music – but Apple should not have any control to the content on your phone. It’s no different than when Amazon retracted 1984 and Animal Farm from peoples’ Kindles. Even purchased music can get removed from the phone. At least you can get it back by syncing with the other machine I suppose.

There are other 3rd party applications I can use for sync. Nonetheless, why should I have to use something that is not supported to function properly? When I had the Windows Mobile Phone, the ActiveSync feature would let me set up profiles on different machines. Then I could connect to more than one machine without fear of data loss.

  1. Tonight there’s gonna be a Jailbreak.

I am not a fan of any phone that has to be tied to a certain network. At least the worry of “Bricking” the phone is not as much an issue as it was back in the v.1 days. Still – Apple could easily turn a phone into a useless device if they so choose to by a simple update.

In all fairness, the jailbreak issue needs to be addressed on all phones. If I buy a phone for $200-400, then don’t like the service – I cannot return the phone after 30 days. I want the phone on another plan – but can’t get that phone from that other service. That, in turn, keeps me stuck with a phone and waste of money.

So I HAVE to buy into a certain plan. I cannot choose to not have the data plan, for example. I  only have 2 options from AT&T – 450 or 900 minutes. It would have been nice to get a 700 minute plan and keep at the prices I was at with the old phone. Instead I will most likely have a ton of “Rollover” minutes. Minutes that expire if I change plans or “Default” on a payment. Nonetheless, I guess it’s just a good thing I don’t have to select a business plan – they have to pay more.  And yes, the minutes are more of an AT&T issue than Apple, but is the Data plan that way, too?

  1. How is it that iTunes can multi-task and another application cannot?

This is the biggest issue I believe. 3rd party iPhone applications can’t run in the background, yet programs like iTunes can.  And when it comes to smartphones, you just assume they can multi-task. Once again, my WinMo phone could.

I use Stitcher, a push application. While it will continue to play when the phone locks, it will not let me do something simple like check email or SMS.  I then have to restart the app to continue functionality.

I will play devils’ advocate for a second – with a 3rd party app, a malware program could then easily run in the background without you knowing it. With this way the problem can keep a program from accessing your phone data. Yet, Apple should give some “trusted” applications the ability to become multi-task. They could even create a certification program to justify who gets to make apps that run in the background. Yet I still have to close Stitcher to check my mail, then open it back up.

There are other issues as well, but I think that these 5 are what needs to be addressed. I would expect that if Apples’ rumored “Social Media App” comes to fruition, there may be question as to the other social networks and the Apps that run. Especially if Apple’s social media application doesn’t give a warning about possible adult content.

I am not ready to give up my phone just yet – after all, I JUST got it. However, I am seeing and hearing other people talk about trying out the new Palm Pre, the Android and other smartphones that are not Apple. Even others work feverishly on jailbreaking the iPhone so you can get your desired functionality. But that comes with a price – no warranty support after a jailbreak. So I guess I’ll live in the walled garden – for now.

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