Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

Closed iPhone Hardware Sucks

I love my iPhone. I resisted getting one initially because many of my coworkers at Mozilla (and people elsewhere) gushed endlessly about it. Eventually, after playing with one, I did purchase one. I can say that having it has affected my usage of the net in ways that nothing else has in many years.

When I had a first generation phone, I admit that I jailbroke it, installed third party applications (including things like ssh) and generally had a good time with it. About two months ago, I bought the iPhone 3G (and my wife will be getting my old iPhone when her contract with T-Mobile is up in the next month). At that point, I started using applications from the app store. First the free ones but now I’ve paid for a few, like Colloquy, the IRC client. We use IRC as an essential part of our work at Mozilla and being able to get into a channel is very useful. I have Enso the meditation timer, Twitterific, Facebook, iGo the Go app, and others. I find myself using it all the time.

One thing that continues to bother me is the lack of a real keyboard. I used to have a Sprint Treo, which is what the iPhone replaced, and I loved many aspects of it. I didn’t appreciate the chiclet keyboard except that it was an actual keyboard of sorts, which made a huge difference for me. I typed out a multi-paragraph e-mail to a Mozilla higher-up this morning in a coffee shop on my iPhone and, let me tell you, the experience there blows chunks.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I realized when I was typing (and I’ve realized it before) that if I could use any one of a number of small, portable and foldable Bluetooth keyboards that are available, that I wouldn’t even need my laptop on many occassions. The iPhone screen is very nice, the connectivity is pretty good and can use wifi, 3G, or EVDO networks. What it really lacks for me is a an input method that doesn’t suck. Why is this the case? Well, Apple purposefully cripples the Bluetooth stack that comes with the iPhone in order to only work with Apple designated hardware or various headsets and nothing else. There is no real reason to do this. What damage would it do to let me use a stowaway keyboard with my iPhone so I could write real e-mail or, my word, blog posts? I’ve got a Wordpress app that will let me post to my blog here but I never use it? Why? Well, hunting and pecking for 30 minutes on a soft-keyboard to write a post that would take me five minutes on a laptop is a complete waste of time.

I know that there are people out there hacking the Apple Bluetooth stack in order to open it up but I really don’t want to go back to having to jailbreak my phone (and possibly bricking it on the next update) simply to use a freakin’ keyboard with it.

All right, Saturday anti-Apple rant (written on a new Macbook Pro) done. Enjoy your day! :-)

Update: As one commenter noted, I should have said “Edge” instead of “EVDO” since the iPhone doesn’t support the latter. My mistake.

Update II: I don’t care if it makes battery life worse (ha ha) on my iPhone or somehow degrades the “Apple experience.” I just want to be able to type on a freakin’ portable keyboard with real keys so I don’t have to lug a laptop around in order to write a freakin’ blog post or e-mail. Am I in crazytown here?