WiFi-Only Video Calls Makes FaceTime Practically Useless

iPhone FaceTime

I have been wanting video calling on the iPhone for years. In fact, two years ago today I asked my readers if video messages for iPhone would be an appealing feature. I imagined different scenarios where mobile video calling would be practical, useful and fun.

So I was excited about Apple’s announcement today that the new iPhone 4 will feature a front-facing video camera as well as video chatting software, dubbed FaceTime.


The caveat is: FaceTime will only be usable over a WiFi network in 2010, and God knows how long we will have to wait for AT&T to step up and offer video calling over its 3G network.

Again, AT&T lets us down. We have waited for this feature for years, and now iPhone video chatting is here, but it’s crippled because you can’t use it over cellular data networks.

What good is video calling on a MOBILE phone if you can’t use it on the go? I mean, come on. If you live in the US, public WiFi hotspots are few and far between. And if I’m sitting somewhere where I have access to WiFi, then I’ll just use my laptop’s webcam to video call.

Does this bug you, too? How long do you think we’ll have to wait for video calling over 3G on iPhone 4?

Cracked iPhone Screen a Problem for Many Users

A post I wrote on my cracked iPhone screen over two years ago has received over 200+ comments from readers who had similar experiences damaging the glass on their iPhones.

Cracked iPhone Screen

In January of 2008, I shattered my iPhone screen and took a trip to the Apple Store to get it repaired. I paid $250 to exchange my broken phone with a refurbished iPhone. Apple does not repair cracked iPhone screens. Instead they classify your iPhone as damaged, give you a replacement iPhone, and ship your broken one off to be refurbished for the next poor sucker who drops his iPhone.

There are now third-party iPhone glass repair companies that will fix your iPhone for far less than the Apple Store. Of course, Apple might void your warranty if you use a third-party iPhone repair service, but that may be worth the savings, considering the high cost to replace your iPhone at the Apple Store.

Various accounts from commenters on my original post raise the question of whether Apple is being fair to its iPhone customers:

Apple will not even consider for a moment that this very serious and apparently common issue is worth investigating, it is far easier to class it as abuse while reaching their hands out and expecting me to fork over $300 for something that would cost them no more than $20-$30 to fix. So now here I am, with 3 iphones, 2 of which are broken.

My daughter tripped while hers was in her pocket the phone did not hit the ground but the screen shatter. (I saw it happen) The apple store wanted 200 for a new phone. She is 17 and bought it with her babysitting money, after doing quite a bit of online research chose the iphone over the blackberry. No where was it disclosed that the screen is so fragile.

My mother’s iPhone screen cracked not too long ago as well. We documented our experience with Apple’s service department.

In brief, Apple refuses to do repairs on broken iPhone screens because they fall under the category of “accidental damage” and therefore are not covered under warranty. Instead, the only option they give customers is to buy a replacement for $199, the same price as the new iPhone 3G coming out on July 11th.

Is Apple being unfair to iPhone users by not offering a reasonably-priced glass repair service? Readers report Apple’s replacement iPhones are now $199, down from the $250 I paid two years ago, but nevertheless an inflated price to pay for a relatively simple repair.

Given the high risk of cracking your iPhone screen, the lack of available insurance, and the high cost of replacing an iPhone, Apple must be making a killing off of iPhone users who have cracked their iPhone screens.

A couple of attorneys even left comments on my original post, speculating that the iPhone’s commonly cracking screen could be worthy of a class-action lawsuit.

Hopefully Apple’s upcoming iPhone will be more injury-proof.

What do you think?

Are cracked iPhone screens worth a legal battle? Do you think the iPhone screen is too prone to cracking, or is a touchscreen phone naturally more likely to crack because of its glass surface? Please share your opinion in the comments.

Sign the Petition for an Open App Store on iPhone [Video]

Apple has removed countless apps from the App Store. Satire, sensuality and simplicity have all been purged from the listings at one time or another. The App Store is a walled garden that is becoming increasingly difficult to penetrate. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Join the Movement

Would you like to help improve the iPhone? Sign the petition below to let Apple know you want an App Store free of arbitrary rules and regulations.

(If you don’t see the petition below, go here to sign it directly.)

Do you agree with Apple’s heavy-handed approach to App Store regulation? Or do you want a more open App Store? Feel free to add your two cents to the comments.

What the iPhone Will Look Like When the Puritans Win [SATIRE]

As you may have heard, Apple has imposed yet more restrictions on the App Store, this time vowing to ban apps that feature swimsuits, skin and even mere sexual innuendo.

They even removed a game because the main character (read: cartoon) wore a skimpy outfit.

The App Store changes are due to customer complaints from a vocal minority of people embarked on a crusade to rid the world of the slightest titillation because, well, “think of the children!” Here’s a letter to Apple from one of these censorship-minded Puritans. Let’s hope these folks don’t have their way or the iPhone is going to become rather… unstimulating:

Dear Apple & Mr. Jobs,

I commend your recent decision to remove sexually-suggestive apps from the iPhone App Store. When I discovered that 8 of my 12 children had downloaded Daisy Mae’s Alien Buffet on their iPhones and iPod Touches, I was deeply agitated by the outfit on that Ms. Daisy. Really, a thong on a cartoon character? Where do these app developers get off exposing my innocent young boys and girls to such provocative imagery? And those bikini photo apps, DEAR LORD are those out of line. Thank you for laying down the law and forbidding these graphic applications.

It was a step in the right direction, however I still have some suggestions for improving the iPhone and making it more family-friendly. Please remove the following apps from the iPhone or I am afraid I can no longer remain an Apple customer:

  1. Messages: After I heard about this “sexting” craze among teenagers, I can’t help but think your Messages app will encourage my children to engage in this lewd and lascivious act. Please remove it.
  2. Camera: Do you realize that innocent children can use the iPhone camera to photograph women in bikinis (at the public pool, on TV, or at the beach), just like those tramps in the apps that you have rightfully banned?
  3. Photos: I would prefer my sons not be able to use their iPhones to store photos of women they find attractive. Heaven forbid he refer to these photos for the sinful purposes of arousal! Worse, photos from the Internet can be stored in this application, opening the door to all kinds of inappropriate content. I demand that Apple remove the Photos app or else lose my patronage.
  4. YouTube: I am sure you are aware of the smut on this vile video site. Once while browsing for instructional videos on knitting and scripture, I inadvertently stumbled upon videos of women in bikinis. What is this world coming to? I would prefer that YouTube be removed from the iPhone as well.
  5. Maps: What were you thinking including this Maps application on the iPhone? I would really rather my children not know that there is an entire world outside of their safe and cozy home.
  6. Notes: The Notes application permits my children to freely express and document their thoughts. I can’t support that kind of behavior.
  7. iTunes Store and iPod: I know that iPhone permits me to ban Explicit Content from the iTunes Store and the iPod, but I would really rather my children not listen to music at all. Popular music promotes free thought and dissent, and I prefer my children do as I say. Beyonce is not the mother of my kids, I am.
  8. Settings: Settings gives my child too much control over her iPhone. I am the one who paid $300 for their iPhones, I deserve the right to control every aspect.
  9. App Store: Now that I think about it, you should just remove the App Store altogether. As I was writing this letter, I discovered my child playing this violent Quake game on his iPhone. Now, I am all for the Second Amendment but my Joey is too young to be shooting a gun. I have also discovered that despite your recent ban on stimulating apps, the Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition app is still on the iPhone! Please remove the App Store altogether.
  10. Phone: When I discovered 1-800-LETS-DO-IT on my phone bill last month, I realized this iPhone is giving my children all kinds of freedom. I would like the Phone app banned, or at least give me the option to set my phone number as the only contact.
  11. Email: The Email app lets my children receive all kinds of inappropriate emails, whether from their prepubescent friends (whose heads are always in the gutter, I tell you!) or from spam lists that deliver pornography or promises to enlarge a certain private part. I don’t allow my children to setup email accounts, so I would rather they not have access to the Email application.
  12. Safari: This is my last request, but my most important. I nearly fainted when I learned that Safari could access ALL OF THE INTERNET, including pornographic content way more explicit than any of those apps you banned from the App Store. I won’t begin to detail the things I have seen in my boys’ Safari history. This app is the devil, it must be removed!

If I am going to criticize you for what you have done wrong, I should also praise you for what you have done right. I love the Clocks app, it is very useful for waking my children up in the early morning to milk the cows! The Calendar is wonderful for keeping my kids on track with schoolwork and extra-curricular activities. The Calculator is of great assistance for their math homework. And the Weather and Stocks apps are fine, too. Nevertheless, the majority of iPhone apps I consider inappropriate, for the reasons outlined above.

I understand that iPhone has certain Parental Controls, and that you could simply implement Parental Controls in the App Store to keep the adult apps out of sight from my naive children, but really I would just rather you remove all of the applications that can potentially be used to access graphic content. It would give me peace of mind and it would establish Apple as a family company in my mind.

Thank you for your understanding.


Prudence Virtue

P.S. Oh, and those sexy rounded edges on the iPhone body… please fix that too.

My opinion (video)

What do you think?

What do you think of Prudence’s letter above? Should Apple take more care to protect children from the leagues of inappropriate material they can access on the iPhone? I welcome your opinion in the comments.

Update: Commenter reinharden thinks Prudence does not go far enough in her call for app bans:

As lust for money is the root of all evil, the stock app should be removed as well.

If the map app is removed so as to not pollute the minds of the young with notions of faraway places, similarly the clock app should be modified so as to only show the time at the current location. And the weather app should only show the local weather.

And frankly I’m not sure how I feel about all this touching, especially when combined with all that pinching and zooming. It’s all too sensual and likely overly stimulating for young minds (and hands!).

Video: My Top 10 iPhone Wishes for 2010

iPhone wishes for 2010

I’ve asked my readers what one iPhone feature they would like to see in 2010, and the responses have been trickling in.

Here are my top 10 feature wishes, including some that my readers have mentioned:

  1. Increased SMS privacy. For a long time, Apple caused humiliating situations for many iPhone owners because of its SMS Preview feature, which interrupts you to display an excerpt of the content of an incoming text message on your screen. You couldn’t turn off SMS Preview, so an inconvenient or naughty text message would pop up on your screen for anyone to see. Read: How Has iPhone’s SMS Preview Gotten You Into Trouble? Apple fixed the problem, but I would like them to take it one step further and allow me to turn off all notifications for text messages.
  2. Locking native apps like Messages, Email and Calendar. I don’t want to Passcode Lock my entire iPhone, I just want to lock certain apps. Let me put a password on my text messages, emails, and any app I want.
  3. Delete native app icons from the home screens. No longer are the Weather, YouTube and Stocks apps the highlight of iPhone’s magnificence. I use more apps from the App Store than I use the native, rudimentary ones. Let me delete native apps from my home screen, they are wasted space.

    Ritchie Champagne says:

    I want to delete the stock and weak weather apps that came with the phone.

  4. Multitasking. I want a Google Latitude app that broadcasts my location to friends even when the app is closed. I want music from Pandora to play while I browse the web on Safari. I want multitasking on my iPhone.
  5. Better battery life. No doubt the main reason Apple has not enabled multitasking on iPhone is that it would be a battery drain. For that reason, I hope to see a better battery on new iPhones in 2010.

    Laura T. Rush says:

    Better/longer battery life

  6. Removable battery. The iPhone’s lithium ion battery will weaken over time, and you will have to replace your entire iPhone, instead of just the battery. Also, if your iPhone battery drains on any given day when you are away from an outlet, you’ll have to own a backup battery add-on if you want to add battery life to your iPhone. What if I could just pop in another battery instead. iPhone’s fixed battery is inconvenient, and an unfair way of forcing you into buying another iPhone. This is the reason some people don’t buy the iPhone, including my step-grandfather Virgil, who is interested in one but does not like the idea of not being able to remove the battery.
  7. A hardware switch for custom uses. I would like a switch to turn off WiFi, or to launch the camera or any other app. Essentially, I would like a switch that I can use for whatever I want… a Settings Switch?

    Itasara says:

    A custom button to add your own text sound alerts.

  8. Allow media downloads. If you can download songs, movies and applications from whatever sources to your Macbook, why then does your iPhone forbid you from downloading media to your device? Apple has too much control over my iPhone. I demand the right to download whatever media I want to my iPhone.
  9. An open platform. I don’t expect Apple to go ahead and reveal all the source code for the iPhone platform, but I would like the iPhone platform to be more accessible to developers so that they could be free to build apps that interact with native iPhone features. For example, an app that accomplishes functions like hiding text messages or putting your calendar as your wallpaper. A more open platform for iPhone would be very appealing.

    TheJunkMonger says:

    The thing I would really like my iPhone to be is an open platform…

  10. No more carrier exclusivity in the US. You don’t need me to tell you AT&T has made a lot of iPhone users very angry, most notably for dropped calls and weak 3G coverage. I would like to see Apple drop the US exclusivity deal with AT&T, and allow me to use my iPhone on any carrier.

iTunes Giftcard Giveaway

Let me know your iPhone wish for 2010 and I’ll enter you in a drawing to win one of ten $15 iTunes gift cards. Tell me if you agree with any of my iPhone wishes, or if you have an iPhone wish of your own. To enter, go here: 10 iTunes Gift Cards for 2010! [Comment to Win] Update: The giveaway is now over. Happy New Year and thanks for playing!

What is your #1 iPhone wish for 2010?

What One iPhone Improvement Do You Want for Christmas? [Contest Results]

What one iPhone improvement do you want for the holidays? I asked readers to chime in for a chance to win some donated iPhone accessories, and here is what they said:

Lori Attack —

I love my 3G iphone and I use it all the time. In Ontario we are not allowed to talk on the phone while driving so I have a bluetooth earpiece. Problem is I can’t call out because the 3G doesnt have voice activated calling. I would love an update that would fix this.

xbbradley —

I would love to see a flash added to the camera. Would be great to fire off
a flash when needed to add light to photos at certain times.

itasara —

I would like :

  1. a glass or glass substitute that DOES NOT BREAK or at least a special protective cover that will prevent breakage that Apple provides since they charge so much for repairs.
  2. replaceable battery that I can change myself
  3. open carrier so I can move to a company with better coverage
  4. Definitely want an earpiece like I used to have at Verizon that lets you call the no. you want without touching the phone. The voice feature on the newest OS is nice, but still required looking at the phone while driving which is not good enough.

Ritchie Champagne —

I’d love it if my iPhone wouldn’t completely stop responding when it’s receiving an email. I’ll be typing away and there’s no response for a bit. Suddenly, I get the audible notice for new email. Also, I’d love it if I could assign ringtones to texts so that I know who is texting me without looking.

Anne —

I love my iPhone 3G but there are a few changes I would love to see. Can I mention a few?

The one that would make me the most happy is for my iPhone to be able to sync with the Tasks list in Outlook on my PC. It will sync my calendar and my notes but not my to do list.

I would also love it if the iphone would support Flash media. It can show youtube videos so why not other short videos, like ones people post on facebook?

I would also like it if you could disable the sound that the camera makes when it takes a photo.

Shannon M. —

I want a keyboard that folds out or even that attaches so that I can actually type a document or email that is lengthy without having to get on my computer and lug my laptop around. I seriously can really only type with one finger on their stupid keyboard. how hard would it be? come on, Apple!!

Richard Regan —

I would like to have more than one app open at a time. And beef up the battery to make this possible.

Steven —

they need to make it where we can run more than 1 app at a time

Jim —

front facing camera
outgoing s/mms previews
background youtube playing
multitask. even just a few apps
call log editing
ipod integrated sleep /wake timer function
flash support
better battery life

Dakota —

i think it would be great to give the iphone camera the option to take pictures in black and white etc. and give the camera and video better quality

Congratulations to Lori Attack, Itasara, Anne, Richard Regan, Steven, and xbbradley for winning the drawing for iPhone gear. Thanks again to the following companies for donating the gifts for this contest.

  1. Pro-Fit International
  2. FSP Group
  3. Bicio
  4. Otterbox
  5. Ten One Design
  6. Just Mobile

Feel free to add your iPhone improvement to the discussion by commenting on this post. Thanks and Happy Holidays!