iPhone: Better in Europe

By reputation, the United States is more entrepreneurial and more open to technological innovation than Europe, which means that Americans often get their hands on new technology earlier than Europeans do. Sometimes this is considered an advantage of living in America, and I’m sure that many Apple fanboys over here are looking wistfully across the Atlantic at those lucky new AT&T subscribers with their funky iPhones.

But it’s a double-edged sword. The first version of any technology is generally a bit crap compared to versions 2 and upwards.

A perfect example of this effect is colour television. America got colour (sorry, color) TV first, and they adopted the NTSC standard. Europe got it much later, and went with the superior PAL standard. And here’s the problem: for the sake of compatibility, America stuck with its second-rate system, with the result that even today television looks noticeably worse over there than over here (excluding the recent HDTV variety).

And so it goes with the iPhone. Version 1, shipped to the US and Canada last week, was limited to the EDGE network, also known as 2.5G, with fairly pedestrian data speeds. Laughably, Jobs claimed that this doesn’t matter because the iPhone supports WiFi, so you just need to find a public hotspot to get decent download speeds. Well, I don’t know about Cupertino, but around here all the public hotspots charge about £5 per hour to connect. On the other hand you could stroll down a middle-class residential street and connect to multiple unsecured networks, but that’s not exactly moral.

Lets not forget the world-famous customer service offered by AT&T… a monopolist that always comes back together no matter how many times the government rips it apart.

So, never fear, European Apple fanboys and aspiring iPhone consumers. When we get the iPhone, it’ll probably be a pretty decent piece of kit, with 3G support, a choice of networks and perhaps a few nice extras like MMS (popular with teenagers, I hear). It may even have support for Java — why else would Apple have left the Jazelle module (hardware Java acceleration) enabled in its Samsung ARM chips? It will also have a whole lot of smaller bugs ironed out.

So here’s a big thank you from Europe to America for beta-testing the iPhone for us. What would we do without you? Have a great 4th July.