Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Steve Jobs' decision to omit a memory card slot in the iPhone, iPod touch was/is wrong (for a few years, at least)

During a Management Information Systems [MIS] class at Korea University Business School, one of the class groups made a presentation in which the folks recommended that Apple should add a memory card slot to the iPhone [they also suggested adding removable batteries, allowing third-party Web browsers, as well as other additions, in an apparent effort to add every "missing" feature to the iDevices].

At that time, I vehemently opposed the idea of adding a memory card slot to the iDevices. Why? Because I use a Nokia N72 phone [based on the Symbian OS] which uses a dual-storage structure and I find this structure unnecessarily complicated and inefficient [some photos are on the internal storage, others on the SD card, some applications on the internal memory, some on SD, and so on]. I had argued that the internal-storage-only structure used by the iDevices is clean, simple and straightforward, and that it has added benefits such as an absence of accidental/malicious tampering with the file system and its contents [since the iOS itself is largely a locked OS, so raw access to the file system is available neither via hardware nor software].

I realized that I was wrong about at least one thing [memory card slot] in November of 2012, when my much beloved iPod touch mysteriously and suddenly died one day, with no warning whatsoever. Dead like a dead fish. No heartbeat could be felt. No buttons to push, no lights to be seen, nothing to be opened.

I lost several gigabytes of critical data.

It was then that I realized the importance of a removable memory card. Had my iPod touch had all my data on a SD card, I wouldn't have lost a byte when it died [assuming that all notes, etc., were stored in a human-readable format]. It also occurred to me that since the iDevices cannot be opened [normally], you can easily lose several gigabytes of your data simply if/when your iDevice accidentally falls down and breaks - since you cannot yourself remove its flash memory chips to recover your data [one will almost certainly need professional help, assuming the data isn't stored in an encrypted form]. n00bs will argue that one can/should take backup of one's iDevices, but n00bs aren't aware that it's not easy to backup all your iOS data.

The latter - losing gigabytes of data when your iDevice falls down and breaks - is such a probable event that it has become a dealbreaker for me for my future purchases of iDevices.

Does it means that Steve Jobs was wrong? He was wrong to assume that his iDevices wouldn't break - I had assumed this too, until mine broke. However, Jobs' vision wasn't wrong - in the future, when high-speed wireless networks are as pervasive as air is, there will not be any need of external memory cards, since all data [whether notes or photos or videos or emails] will be automatically stored online. Until then, I'll buy only those devices where the data is decoupled from the device.