Excuse Me Sir, Your Tarball is Showing

In the June 21 issue of Newsweek, Daniel Lyons had this observation about the WWDC keynote.

“When Steve Jobs took the stage for his keynote address at Apple’s annual developers conference last week, he had plenty to say about the new iPhone 4, calling it ‘the most precise, beautiful thing we’ve ever designed.’ He waxed on about its mind-blowing video-chat features and its gorgeous display—even though the Wi-Fi connection failed during his demo.”

Those who are technically deeper than Mr. Lyons, in contrast, struggled with the details. Glenn Fleishman at ars technica required a long and detailed explanation and appealed to the counsel of two gentlemen with career-long expertise in wireless networking: Phil Belanger and Phil Kearney (formerly with Apple). After the kind of analysis not often seen at technical sites, the conclusion was that the iPhone 4 drivers may have been at fault, but also that the over 500 Wi-Fi bubbles created by MiFis would also contribute to the problem. “It is my professional opinion that having that many WiFi networks would cause congestion, and the visible, noticeable experience a user would have is that whatever they were trying to do would run slower,” Phil Berlanger said.

In contrast, Mr. Lyons’s sparse words were so much more concise, leaving little room for explanation or technical nuance. Mr. Jobs and his iPhone failed. I suppose when you have so little to say, technically, every word must be pressed into valuable service, taking on as many meanings as the multitude of readers will allow.

Later, in Mr. Lyons’s essay, he notes, for our edification:

“Right now the most advanced smart phone on the market is arguably not the new iPhone 4 but rather an Android device called the EVO 4G, made by HTC, a Taiwanese company. That phone has front and rear cameras, and shoots hi-def video, just like the new iPhone 4. But the EVO has a bigger display, its camera shoots in higher resolution, and it can turn itself into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, something the iPhone 4 can’t do.”

I found that illuminating because I had just finished reading David Pogue’s review of the Evo 4G at the New York Times. Mr. Pogue noted, regarding video calling, “this feature is head-bangingly unstable. After two days of fiddling, downloading and uninstalling apps, manually force-quitting programs and waiting for servers to be upgraded, I finally got video calling to work — sort of.” His estimation of the device was that it is “basically a technology demo.” Oh, and that Wi-Fi hot spot the iPhone doesn’t have? It’ll chew up your EVO battery “in as little as one hour.” It’s amazing what hands on experience can do for one’s writing.

TANSTAAFL applies with these technology gadgets. Manufacturers are bound by the current technology state of the art, and when you push in on one feature area, limitations pop out in the other. For example, more megapixels in a camera generally means smaller pixels and less dynamic range. Bigger displays mean worse battery life. Never mind. It’s comforting to know that a simple check-box list, conveniently provided by Mr. Lyons, tells us all we need to know about the smartphone competitors. Again, we can thank the technology gods for the principle of parsimony in Mr. Lyons’s writing when addressing his Newsweek audience.