Readers of this blog have probably noticed that iLike Apple productsiDo But iDon’t have an iPhone Weird, iKnow

I left the flip phone world behind forever in 2006. My first smartphone was an XV6700, a Windows Mobile phone. I really liked the XV6700 and marveled at what it could do. The web browser, IE mobile, was way better than the dinky mobile browsers I had used on flip phones before it. And it just felt more like a computer with software like Word, Excel, and other apps that I thought would be tremendously beneficial.

In practice, they were not.

The XV6700 was not practical to use. The battery life was terrible. And you had to use a stylus to get things done. It was essentially a PDA. We know what happened to PDAs.

Probably the worst part of my experience with the XV6700 was that the screen would get misaligned at least once a day, usually more. Realigning the screen was a huge pain. I often had to do it at the worst possible times, like when I needed to make a phone call but couldn’t because pressing the 4 key would register the 5 key. Or if I needed to to jot down an important note, I would have to aim 2 or 3 letters to the left or right of the letter I really wanted.

I would classify the XV6700 not as a smartphone but as a special needs phone. It had to be fed, watered, and babysat. It needed a parent, not an owner. I already had enough, more meaningful obligations in life; I didn’t need to spend that much time taking care of an inorganic object. Technologies that draw our nurturing energy away from real relationships should be discarded and discarded quickly.

My two-year contract with the XV6700 eventually ended, and I decided to give the Blackberry Curve a try in 2008. As usual, I deliberated a great deal and did a lot of in-store experimentation. I remember one Verizon salesman telling me that after he switched from the XV6700 to a Blackberry, he literally threw his XV6700 out his car window.

I laughed. He didn't.

Within a day of using the Blackberry, I knew why. I was quickly convinced I had made the right decision by dumping the XV6700, or more generally, Windows Mobile.

The Blackberry had long battery life and a great keyboard. It was a messaging machine. And there were no screen alignment issues to deal with because it didn’t have a touch screen – something I was happy to abandon after my experience with Windows Mobile.

I was very happy with the Blackberry Curve for quite a while, even as I started to notice the makings of a revolution in mobile computing in the most unlikely of places. Apple had unveiled a thing called an iPhone – basically an extension of the iPod with calling ability and a few other features. (These other features would of course eventually be known as apps.)

The iPhone really did not interest me much initially. It had a touch screen after all, and I was still trying to get the taste of Windows Mobile out of my mouth. Touch screens were a waste of time in my mind – a fun idea but not nearly as practical as a physical keyboard.

But after observing the rapid acceptance of the iPhone way of doing things in the mobile world, I realized that Apple was on to something. So I bought an iPod Touch as a way to scratch this new itch aggravated by Apple.

After just a few minutes with the iPod Touch, I realized that this was not of the same vein as Windows Mobile. This was something new, something truly game changing. This was the future, and it looked beautiful. Like most Apple products, it was not about form versus function; it was function encased in form, if not downright art. It appealed to both sides of the brain at once.

I began to notice more and more iPhones appearing around me. But also noticeable were the complaints with AT&T’s service. And I couldn’t help but notice that when I traveled with iPhone users, there were often times when they didn’t have service. But I did. Not only did I have voice service, I had 3G coverage with Verizon.

Experiencing slower web surfing speeds because you don’t have a data signal is without a doubt a “First World” problem. Not being able to make a call in an emergency is a real and potentially life-threatening problem.

It was really those experiences of having a phone that worked while AT&T users didn’t that helped counter my iPhone envy. It reminded me that even though you might own a hotrod, you need roads to drive it on. Otherwise, it stays in the garage and it becomes the subject of what it could do, not what it does.

Speaking of does, in late 2009, a thing called the Droid got my attention. It was pretty clear to me, and remains clear to me today, that Android was Google’s attempt to go head to head with Apple in the mobile hardware market.

After much in-store experimentation, I decided to be an early adopter of Android and bought a Droid in the fall of 2009. It became apparent to me that Apple’s webkit browser technology was worth more than the Blackberry’s keyboard (a vote that the rest of the smartphone market seems to be casting today). While the virtual keyboard in Android is not nearly as good as the iPhone’s, it’s still pretty good.

Android is a remarkable mobile operating system. And while obviously patterned after the iPhone OS, now succinctly iOS, it is a very good take on touch technology.

Android also sports a few things that iOS doesn’t. Most notable on my list are:

  • Integrated GPS navigation in Google Maps. Bye, bye standalone GPS devices.
  • Home screen customization. My tasks, calendar agenda, and weather are always sitting right in a dashboard view.
  • Notifications. All notifications are neatly consolidated in the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  • Global sharing services. This may be the most underrated feature of Android. All sharing services (from email to Twitter to Evernote) are globally accessible. It’s not up to the app developer to build sharing into individual apps.

Android is great, but it doesn’t completely quell my iPhone envy. I think my fascination with the iPhone is about more than its superficial features and design. Sure, it’s a beautiful piece of hardware. As my wife’s uncle recently said of his iPhone, “doesn’t it just look like something that God would have made?”

As usual, I probably over-think things. My fascination with the iPhone is about what it represents culturally. To me, the iPhone is an important beacon in the American innovation landscape.

At a time in American history when it seems we’re sliding backwards in all major sectors of the economy, the iPhone sits atop a pedestal reminding us of what could be; what creative minds can accomplish; what progress looks like. The shiny glass screen gives us more than a beautiful retina display. It’s a window to the future.

Without a doubt, the iPhone is a flagship sailing into new waters with its destination set for worlds on the other side. It’s made computing mainstream – so mainstream that we don’t even consider it computing. Hell, we don’t even consider it a smartphone anymore. What is it? It’s just a device, a truly a transformative, culture-altering device.

Am I over the top here?

Just look around the next time you’re at a nice restaurant. Look at how many faces are adorned with iPhone makeup – that soft glow cast by the iPhone’s screen. And look at their spouses and company and how they implicitly accept it. The iPhone has a welcome seat at the dinner table. In the year 2000, computers predominantly sat on dusty desks. In 2010, they are dinner guests. They lay next to forks and spoons… perhaps symbolizing that these devices are no less vital utensils in everyday life.

The iPhone is propelling innovation forward faster than we realize. And we all benefit from it. I benefit from it even though I don’t own one. Android would not exist in its current form without the iPhone. I would not have an iPad without the iPhone. And it’s difficult to even imagine the innovation we’ll see over the next ten years – innovation seeded by the iPhone that will grow in an increasingly fertile technological landscape.

There is a lot to be excited about. It’s not about always having the most recent version of a phone. It’s about soaking up the possibilities in this new era. It’s also important to realize that there is no need to rush out and buy an iPhone if it isn’t practical yet – like it isn’t for me due to network constraints.

It will all get better and better and better. And things will get better faster than they ever have before. Just don’t ever take any technology for granted, and never forget where we came from. To do so diminishes the joy of progress. Always remember yesterday.

iKnow iWill.