Strong opinions, weakly held

iPhone Questions

In thinking about the iPhone, it occurs to me that it is more a small handheld computer with a telephony application than it is a traditional mobile phone. In this vein, I have some questions about the iPhone:

  1. How easy is it going to be for third party software developers to create applications for the iPhone? Clearly the phone will have some different APIs than the desktop version of OS X, but will developers be able to build applications using their regular development tools?
  2. How will software for the iPhone, from Apple or third parties be distributed? Will it be easy to install applications and system updates via the iTunes syncing? If the answer is yes, the iPhone is clearly vastly different from other mobile phones, which most people never update at all.
  3. Can you turn off the phone features and still use the music player and other non-communications features? In other words, can I use it on an airplane?
  4. Is the IMAP push protocol the phone uses going to be open? Will Gmail be able to offer it as well as Yahoo? Will I be able to deploy some software on my own server that enables IMAP push to an iPhone?
  5. If it’s a little computer running a Unix-like operating system, how easy will it be to crash?
  6. How long until we see the first iPhone virus?

In other news, David Pogue has posted some first impressions after spending an hour playing with an iPhone.

Update: Apparently it is more a mobile phone than a tiny personal computer. Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg says it’s a closed box.


  1. Is any device that features a modern web browser really that closed?

  2. Jeff makes a good point. The fact the iPhone has Safari means many web apps will immediately have access to this phone.

    The fact you can’t install any old app is an issue though. For example, no Skype on my iPhone. I’d love to be able to use Skype when connected via WiFi instead of my cellphone plan. Cingular probably wouldn’t like that much.

    There are other examples as well, where it’d be real nice to be able to install your own apps.

    I suspect in the future it may be possible. But for now, Apple wants to keep it tight, so it always works.

  3. Hi Rafe,

    maybe this is (partly) what you were hoping the iPhone to be: http://www.openmoko.com/ (of course in many other ways it isn’t).

    an open software development platform based on GPL’d software and in slick hardware. Not only does the first device (Neo1973 from FIC) look a little bit like the iPhone, it goes for a similar UI: http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/smartphones/fics-linuxbased-smartphone-213016.php

    Given that it’s orders of magnitude cheaper, of course it won’t have a lot of the goodness announced for the iPhone, but in terms of potential, it has certainly piqued my long-term interest. Maybe your’s too.



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