Why Apple’s iPhone 4 Is a Tool not a Phone

You may have heard about the new VGA camera in the iPhone 4. Via FaceTime, users of the smartphones can video chat through the camera. This is why Apple’s iPhone 4 is not a tool not a phone. It allows us to do something—have a virtual face-to-face conversation—without the hassles of 3rd party implementation. Every iPhone 4 does it, without the need to install any possibly incompatible software or hardware. If you own an iPhone 4 then you can FaceTime, no questions asked.

This makes the smartphone a tool. It is something that you simply use. Something that people can find new uses for, like an entrepreneur around New York who is leveraging FaceTime and Craigslist (an unholy combination if I ever have seen one) to create a business that caters to “adult clientele.” I will leave out the details, but it does require a credit card and an iPhone 4. Your imagination can fill in the rest.

Besides uses like these of course, what FaceTime promises is something a lot more. Business deals can be more easily made with video calling. It always reassures people when they can see the facial expressions of whoever they are dealing with. There is no need for Skype and a webcam now. The webcam and smartphone quality microphone are built-in. While I am sure the open-source and open-standards communities are blasting Apple for making it all proprietary, that is the simple beauty. It is Apple and it just works. The majority of problems on PCs and smartphones are due to incompatible hardware, software and firmware. Proprietary solutions fix that despite the limitations they bring with them.

Sure, I remember back not that long ago when AT&T still did not have picture messaging for the iPhone. Apple went with one service provider and thus the limitations of that partnership showed themselves for a while. But Apple gained a lot from keeping everything close to the chest. Only features it knew would be supported—and with knowledge of how well they would supported—were focused on. No problems with carriers not updating as frequently as they should, every time you plug your device in, it tells you if a solely Apple created updated (no tweaks from the carrier) is ready for installation.

While I have never tried to be a supporter of closed systems, or companies that try to prevent users from modifying their software, Apple has made a very compelling argument through its work.  The smartphone no longer is a potential distraction, it just works like it should.

Liking FaceTime? Angry that no one else you want to talk to has an iPhone 4? An opinion on Apple’s keeping everything to itself? Let me know.

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