Other mobile devices compare well with the iPhone

Tom Yager urges people who are looking at iPhone to spend an equal amount of time ogling alternatives

I wish I could have peppered my recent iPhone review with phrases such as "at present", “initially”, or “for the time being”. But Apple doesn’t work that way. If I could be confident that Apple would address the major shortcomings that I saw in iPhone, such as the absence of programmability and the lack of access to even a sandboxed portion of the device’s file system, I’d have given the device a thumbs-up for its platform potential alone.

Instead, I had to evaluate iPhone as it is: for the technology, policies and message that Apple and AT&T are selling today. With that in mind, I judged it to be no match for BlackBerry, Treo, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices, all of which do what business needs; are programmable and expandable; can be purchased from multiple wireless operators (at discounts); come with data- and voice-only plans; and have replaceable batteries, as well as nice media players.

I’m glad the iPhone is waking so many people up to the potential of professional mobile devices. I urge people who are looking at iPhone to spend an equal amount of time ogling alternatives, because once you get past $200, it’s easy to find handsets with displays and media players that rival iPhone’s and deliver the kinds of serious features that benefit professional users.

If you’re jazzed about creating iPhone-friendly web apps, spread the love — there are lots of mobile handset users equipped with full browsers capable of running interactive sites. Make your apps mobile-friendly. It doesn’t take much effort. Non-iPhones can support “iPhone apps” with little or no modification. As long as sites avoid using the nonstandard Canvas tag, apps written for iPhone usually just work on other devices. I encourage iPhone web app/site developers to test their sites and applications on at least one non-iPhone device. The native iPhone look and feel, with the exception of gestures and the on-screen keyboard, is being reproduced in CSS and vanilla JavaScript by the people who attended the successful iPhoneDevCamp in early July. Check in on the iPhoneWebDev Google Groups site to join in the discussion.

What you’ll find at iPhoneWebDev doesn’t turn a random smartphone into an iPhone clone; that’s not the point of cross-platform mobile DHTML development, or at least it shouldn’t be. But the iPhone look and feel promises to bring some good taste and common sense to sites that target mobile browsers, and with luck, it will spur web developers to finally recognise that 1,024x768 is not a global standard. That’s lazy design and lazy coding. Make your site mobile-friendly, if you haven’t already. If it takes iPhone to motivate you to make that happen, then go buy some and pass them out to your development team.

Don’t forget that practically everything except iPhone gives developers the ability to store, upload, and download data using its internal file system and to save web pages for offline viewing.

If you’re bored with your smartphone, that’s your fault. The iPhone craze should get a lot of mobile professionals exploring their devices and the accompanying massive libraries of downloadable third-party software. Don’t forget to include MIDP (mobile information device profile) Java apps when you go looking for software for your phone, because they tend to run just about anywhere. If you paid more than about $200 for a mobile device, chances are your handset can do what iPhone does. And it can do a lot more.

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