Friday, August 8, 2008

Classes of iPhone Users

I've had an iPhone for some time now. While it does bother me that Apple doesn't really give two shakes about contributing back to the open source community on whose shoulders they have built, I'm also pragmatic. The device is simply the best of its kind out there.

I like to consider myself a student of other iPhone users. Any time I see someone with one, "classic" or 3G, I like to snoop on what they are doing. Over the last few months, I've noticed a few classes of iPhone user emerging. What follows is my untrained attempt at social anthropology mixed with humor.

  • The Frustrated Designer - a Mac user through and through. They always buy 1st gen Apple hardware, even though rational people know better. Most easily identified by their propensity to verbally express a tangible frustration attempting to use 97 nested DIVs, advanced CSS selectors and 12578 lines of JavaScript to center an image in the iPhone Safari interface. Would write an ObjectiveC native app, but doesn't know what a compiler or socket or ObjectiveC or a native apps is.
  • The Trophy - doesn't really know why they have an iPhone, just that their wealthy partner gave them one. Most easily identified by well-manicured nails attempting to tap out a text message with the sound at full volume for each key press. Never types faster than twelve keys per minute. Commonly sits next to me on airplanes.
  • The Showman - Doesn't really know why he needs an iPhone, just that he does. Identify the showman by his inability to do much other than talk on the iPhone, set it on the table during meetings so you know it's there, and by the fact that his emails still end with "Sent from my iPhone" despite having the device for nearly a year.
  • The Tech Luminary - Installs every possible application from the iTunes store hoping to gain status as someone qualified to comment on the state of iTunes Store/iPhone technology while at the same time not knowing a thing about the underlying platform. The luminary mocks Windows users for arbitrarily installing shareware from .ru domains, but never questions why he has installed 47 iPhone applications, 43 of which are never used.
  • The Frustrated Developer - Has an iPhone application in the works, but can't talk about it due to an unenforceable NDA. Identify these users by their regular and sanctimonious references to their NDA despite never having really finished an application or by their smug looks at local user groups.
  • The Marketing Director - Only knows that they should have an iPhone because their underlings said so. Loves the speaker phone, thinks it's the major advance of the device. Most easily identified by the fact they are still running the same firmware they bought the device with.
  • The Commuter - Found in urban areas, this individual cannot stop texting, browsing, or listening to podcasts long enough to exhibit any awareness of those around him/her and actually move out of the path of egress for everyone else on the transit device. Likely to accidentally enter altercation with local meth addict while engrossed in something Twitter-related.
  • The Power User - The most elusive of the iPhone users, understands device limitations (most Bluetooth profiles lacking, no Copy/Paste, no Search, AT&T partnership) along with a healthy distrust of anything Steve Jobs claims. Generally refuses to tout the virtues of the device unless overhearing someone rant about how much better a Nokia or RIM device is. Understands there are no better alternatives and that using the device sticks it to "the man" by making consumer opinion matter again. Hopes Android kicks major ass and that people will take Openmoko seriously.
It's probably obvious that I associate myself mostly with the latter category, but there is plenty of commuter in me as well.

There is a snobbery around having an iPhone. It's sort of like riding a fixed-gear bike in Portland; you feel like it makes you cool, you usually go out of your way to let people know you have one. Then you see all of the other DBs using one and realize its way too much machine for them. Some of them even run into walls while using the device you admire. You can't give up your baby, so you're left trying to quietly blend back into the masses hoping nobody noticed and that you don't get associated with the new user population. I'm sure there's a Gartner graph to prove it all out somewhere...

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