Why a Linux Aficionado Uses an iPhone

A Linux expert realizes that blind loyalty to a platform has its limitations.
Posted February 28, 2011

Matt Hartley

Matt Hartley

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(Editor’s note: Matt Hartley is a Linux expert who has written articles such as 20 New User Misconceptions about Linux and Open Source Alternatives to Google. Why does he carry an iPhone in his pocket?)

What drives some people to use one mobile platform over another?

Although I’m a diehard Linux advocate, I happen to be a reasonably happy owner of an iPhone 4. You didn't just misread this, I actually prefer using the iPhone over countless Android phones I’ve tried in the past.

With each smartphone tested, I kept finding myself comparing the Android phones to my iPhone. Maybe this is because the iPhone was providing me with the kind of experience I wanted from my smartphone. Why switch something if what you have already works?

So what would motivate a Linux enthusiast to use something not produced by the open source community, to instead embrace a walled garden of restrictions and boundaries? Oddly enough as an end user, I simply never experienced anxiety from this issue. Instead, I found the iPhone just did what I wanted it to do: it provides me with a stable, usable smartphone experience that I can rely on.

Initial motivation examined

My relationship with smartphones began long before Apple ever hinted at building a phone of their own. We're talking back when your choices were either BlackBerry, Symbian-based or Windows Mobile phones. Since, I wasn't interested in Windows Mobile, this led me first to a Symbian-based phone, and then later on to BlackBerry.

For years, I had a love affair with my BlackBerry. It was the first smartphone I could operate with one hand. You might think this is a silly thing to point out, but for multitaskers, being able to operate a smartphone effectively with a single palm grip is invaluable.

Yes, the BlackBerry was fantastic for using my calendar, email and keeping everything synced up nicely. What else could I possibly ask for? As it turned out, something pretty darned important! The mobile browser provided on my BlackBerry was terrible. I wanted a browser that didn't make Web surfing a painful experience.

The Web browsing experience brought me around to the first version of the iPhone. While I loved my experience on the BlackBerry (for the most part), the iPhone easily topped the BlackBerry in Web browsing. There wasn't even a contest between the two devices in this space.

Unfortunately I was locked into my BlackBerry for a while with no upgrades available. And to be honest, I'm simply not an early adopter with my mobile devices. I rely on them too much and couldn't afford to wait while any potential “bugs” were being fixed. So I waited. Once my upgrade was available, I switched my BlackBerry to the iPhone 3G.

Obviously, the lack of open source software or even the fact that I could have switched to T-Mobile at the time and purchased an HTC G1 crossed my mind. But after trying the G1, I was convinced that I'd be sticking with the iPhone despite what everyone in the media was saying at the time.

To be honest, the G1 was a terrible phone. That was my earliest impression of Android. I wasn't impressed in the slightest with the G1. That experience left me feeling quite skeptical about Android's development from that day forward.

What about Android and Open Source?

You might think that I'm walking around with an Apple logo tattooed to my forehead. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can't stand OS X.

I find it irritating to use despite many attempts. My wife has an iMac in her office, while my own office is full of Linux PCs, plus one iPhone. I simply find that iOS meets my expectations while OS X makes me want to break things. I am unable to offer any deeper comparison than that.

Remember, this has nothing to do with brand loyalty. I don't use iTunes for anything short of upgrading my iPhone and I stay clear of all other Apple products. The iPhone is simply a tool that allows me to do what I need to do. Owning the iPhone 4 is simply an extension of this access to the functionality I want in a smartphone.

Now today's Android phones are looking sharp. And it wouldn't be impossible to see myself using an Android 3.x+ phone in the near future when my next upgrade comes around.

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Tags: open source, iPhone, iphone apps, Linux desktop, Linux downloads

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