Understanding Apple: John Gruber's review of the iPhone 3G revisited 5 years later

October 07, 2013

As a company, Apple gets more attention from the press that any other tech company in the planet. And as a very polarizing company, much of this attention translates into extremely harsh criticism, but also into unconditional, unreserved praise. This has been true for almost the entirety of Apple’s history, but with its meteoric rise in the past decade, the effect has magnified tremendously.

The thing is, it’s pretty easy to write a sensational piece about Apple. Virtually any event even remotely linked to the company can be grounds for an article, no matter whether it’s actually true or not. We’ve seen it time and time again and frankly, it’s tiresome. However, not all pundits are created equal, and time puts each and every one of them it their place. Like they say, the Internet never forgets. A couple of quick searches and you can find out just how full of bullshit our beloved “industry analysts” really are.

Fortunately, among the boatloads of stupidity and nonsense that get written about Apple every day, some professionals manage to stay true and keep their focus sharp. People like John Gruber, who is routinely disqualified as a “fanboy”, but who has a nearly spotless track-record when it comes to Apple. Of course, that is not to say he’s always right (“there’s no such thing as psychics”), but rather that he seems to understand Apple’s intentions and strategy at any given time better than anyone.

Case in point: I was recently browsing through the archives of Daring Fireball (which is a great way to kill off a couple hours of your time, by the way), when I ran into John’s review of the 2008 iPhone 3G.

This is a remarkable article, not for what it says about the iPhone 3G itself (there’s nothing particularly surprising there), but because it shows just how well John understands Apple as a company. 5 years after he wrote it (an eternity in this industry), many of his thoughts remain not only valid, but impressively spot-on. The article opens like this:

Let’s just say it up front: the iPhone is the greatest piece of consumer electronics that has ever been made.

Now, that’s how you start a review: no-bullshit, clear and to the point. John has never been one to sugar-coat his opinion, and I think we could all use a bit more of this attitude today. Besides, I have to agree, the iPhone is clearly the rock star of consumer electronics’ history. Not even the iPad has been this revolutionary, though it’s a close call between the two.

John goes on to describe the impact that the iPhone has had in the world. Even though this is well known and almost universally accepted today, back in 2008 it was still a very controversial topic of discussion. During his exposition, John comes up with a very interesting thought:

Everything Apple as a company has ever stood for, good and bad, was to get to the point where they could make this. It’s a computer you can take with you everywhere, so small you wouldn’t really even want it much smaller, even if it were possible.

This is absolutely true. The iPhone is a device that embodies all of Apple’s core values like no other device has ever done, not even the original Macintosh. Regarding size, John’s comment is also accurate, as we’re clearly seeing now with the recent trend towards bigger screens. Even Apple eventually had to adjust its strategy and offer a bigger screen iPhone. But there’s more:

In another five years, one of today’s iPhones will be no more than a sentimental curiosity, painfully slow both in terms of networking and computation. The iPhone has significant and obvious shortcomings. But it is an order of magnitude better than anything that came before it.

Right again. And if you don’t believe me, try using an iPhone 3G today, in 2013. To me, this shows that John clearly gets Apple’s vision. He sees right through the marketing parlance and into the reality of a company we all feel very passionate about. His great gift is that he’s able to articulate that remarkable insight of his into clear and precise words for our benefit.

Perhaps the greatest example of this can be found at the end of the article. Here John perfectly captures the essence of Apple in just a few words:

_“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”_ — ANDY WARHOL So too with the iPhone. A billionaire can buy homes, cars, clothes that the rest of us cannot afford. But he cannot buy a better phone, at any price, than the iPhone that you can have in your pocket today.

That right there is what so many people don’t seem to understand about Apple. They’re not about creating luxury devices that only rich people can afford. Any such criticism of Apple misses the point completely.

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Jack Ryan author Tom Clancy dies →

October 02, 2013 |

BBC News:

Best-selling US author Tom Clancy known for Jack Ryan novels has died aged 66, his publishers say.

One of the great writers of our generation. He will be missed.

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Quote of the Day →

October 02, 2013 |

I shut my eyes in order to see

Paul Gauguin (1848 - 1903), French Post-Impressionist painter.

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El País, serious candidate for 'Jackass of the Year' award →

October 02, 2013 |

Mind-bogglingly bad article about Apple in El País, Spain’s highest circulation newspaper. This is how it starts:

Suddenly, the Apple store resembles a Walmart.

Unsurprisingly, it’s all downhill from there. This has become a shameless trend in El País lately: their Apple-bashing pieces are often filled with false information and downright misleading, nonsensical claims:

They are selling less, they are no longer the ones to start the rumors, they are not in the media spotlight as often, they keep issuing apologies, competitors are cropping up everywhere, response is no longer as quick as it used to be, and Wall Street sharks appear to be toying with Apple shares the way they once toyed with Spain or Italy’s risk premium.

So sad, to think that newspapers like this one were once the guardians of journalistic integrity, and have now been reduced to little more than click-bait whores.

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Judge tosses Apple motion, allows patent troll Lodsys to continue rampage →

October 01, 2013 |


Lodsys became one of the most scorned patent holders in 2011 by making seemingly small cash demands just 0.575 percent of your revenue, please! against small app makers, who it said were infringing its patents that cover in-app purchasing and upgrades. Within months, that brought a legal challenge by Apple, which saw a clear threat to its ecosystem. Apple had already paid to license Lodsys patents when they were in the hands of an earlier owner—Intellectual Ventures. So Apple went to court, arguing that Lodsys cant demand additional payments by threatening iOS developers. Now, after two years of litigation, its back to square one. The East Texas judge overseeing Lodsys systematic patent attack on app developers has refused to even consider Apples motion. Instead, he allowed the patent-holding company to settle all its cases—and then dismissed Apples motion as moot. By doing so, US District Judge Rodney Gilstrap—who has inherited the patent-happy East Texas court that once belonged to patent-troll favorite T. John Ward—has enabled Lodsys to threaten developers for months, and perhaps even years, to come.

Unbelievable. The US patent system is broken beyond repair, and this is a prime example.

EDIT: There’s more. This is just insulting, plain and simple:

Lodsys can be sure it will continue to draw Judge Gilstrap as long as it files its cases in Marshall, Texas. The other judge who considers patent cases filed there is US District Judge Leonard Davis, but since Judge Davis’ son William “Bo” Davis is Lodsys’ lawyer, the company’s cases will all be redirected to Gilstrap.
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Quote of the Day →

September 25, 2013 |

I’m not dumb. I just have a command of thoroughly useless information.

Bill Watterson, US cartoonist (1958 - ), Calvin and Hobbes: It’s a Magical World.

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The Myth of Steve Jobs’ Constant Breakthroughs | TIME →

September 25, 2013 |

A very smart take by Harry McCracken on how Steve Jobs is frequently seen, in retrospect, as the man that revolutionized a new industry every two years. The reality though, is that he was as much an advocate of refinement through iteration as Tim Cook is now:

Back to incrementalism. I don’t understand why Cannold — and plenty of others — think that it’s at odds with Steve Jobs’ legacy. For every great leap forward Apple ever made, it accomplished at least as much through small steps that made its products easier, faster, thinner, lighter, more polished and/or more useful. Apple’s most important products may have been the game-changers, but its best products, always, have been those that benefited from smart, evolutionary improvements. And as far as I remember, Jobs never seemed guilty about the profits they brought.

Via Daring Fireball.

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The iPhone 5s Review by AnandTech →

September 19, 2013 |

Anand Lal Shimpi reviews the iPhone 5S in mind-blowing detail, like only he can. Very impressive review.

From a CPU and GPU standpoint, the 5s is probably the most futureproof of any iPhone ever launched. As much as it pains me to use the word futureproof, if you are one of those people who likes to hold onto their device for a while - the 5s is as good a starting point as any.

Who am I kidding, my wallet already feels a few hundred dollars lighter.

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