posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 11th Feb 2010 14:32 UTC
IconThe fact that the iPhone is a locked-down device, and that you don't really own it so much as rent it from Apple is well-known by now. The supposed reason for this lock-down is to ensure the device's stability and security - in fact, this has already become conventional wisdom. However, where is the proof that supports this statement? Is there any real-world evidence that suggests this model is better?


Popularity

A discussion about the iPhone's flaws - perceived or no - is always difficult because it usually ends with something along the lines of "its popularity is proof enough". Of course, we geeks know all too well the full extent of the idiocy in said statement, so it's simply not good enough. I need more. This got me thinking.

If you had proposed even just a few weeks before the introduction of the iPhone that we'd all clamour the greatness of being locked out of our own devices, you'd be considered a lunatic. Everything goes through one company? We have no control over our own devices? Installing applications on devices we bought could get you jailtime? Surely, you're trolling?

And yet, here we are, a few years down the line. I'm looking at my iPhone right now - in my review here for OSNews I already made it quite clear that I'm very happy with it. It's most certainly the best phone I've ever had - although as a Dutchman, my frame of reference is limited. We have no Nexus One, no Droid, no Pre. My frame of reference consists of Windows Mobile and Symbian on the Nokia E71. I'm sure my iPhone is very tired from besting those two.

Where does this idea that a device or computer needs to be locked down and controlled in order to be stable and secure come from? It's wise to take a few steps back here for a minute, and consider the smartphone landscape in its entirety. For all the press attention the iPhone gets (mea culpa), it's by far not the largest player in the smartphone market. That honour falls solely on the shoulders of the venerable Symbian.

In 2009, Nokia shipped 67.7 million smartphones (39% of the market in 2009), most of which run Symbian. The second largest smartphone maker is BlackBerry, which sold 34.5 million devices (20%). Apple comes in third with its iPhone, selling 25 million of them, grabbing 14% of the market. In total, vendors shipped 174 million smartphones in 2009.

This means that last year alone, 149 non-locked down smartphone were thrown into the world. You can install whatever you want on your Symbian device. BlackBerry owners enjoy the same luxury. In fact, there are even phones out there where hacking the actual operating system is possible, blessed, and sometimes even encouraged, like Android and the webOS. And there's Windows Mobile.

Apple and its devoted followers are trying to convince the world that the iPhone needs to be locked down tight in order to keep it secure and stable. The reality, however, is that last year alone, 2.7 times as many "open" Symbian phones entered the market, and yet, there are no viruses. No trojans. No security breaches. Symbian, despite being a much more lucrative potential market for malicious crackers, is just as safe as the iPhone. The same applies to BlackBerry. Android. webOS. Windows Mobile.

The stability side of things is harder to assess, obviously. My Symbian phone was solid as a rock. I think the phone itself crashed just once during the 12+ months of using it, and the only application I can recall crashing (few times, at most) was a Java-based Twitter client. Heck, even my Windows Mobile phone was stable. The operating system rarely crashed, and applications were stable enough, too. Of course, the overall experience is still nail-bitingly aggravating due to the interface - but as far as stability goes, I had no issues.

In the mean time, my iPhone has already crashed once or twice in the few months I've owned it so far. I've had several applications crash, from complex ones like the Facebook application, all the way down to glorified web page applications like I Can Has Cheezburger. Heck, I've even seen Apple's own applications crash, like Safari.

Is the iPhone any worse than other phones in the stability department? Of course not. However - it doesn't seem like it to me it's any more stable or less crash-prone than any other smartphone out there. Apple makes it seem as if the App Store review process makes applications safe and stable - but the fact of the mater is that a few minutes of usage by an App Store reviewer isn't proper testing. They don't peruse the source code looking for bugs or security issues.

It's a security fence made out of cake and whipped cream - nothing more. Looks fine from 100 metres away, but quite edible up close. It's... Disconcerting.

Table of contents
  1. Popularity
  2. Usage; You may call me V
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