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Saturday, 12 June 2010

Why I Want An iPhone

Because I am a male, I am inexorably drawn to cool, shiny bits of technology. And unless you have had your head buried in the sand for the past few days, "cool, shiny bits of technology" now includes the iPhone 4.

The new, shiny, orgasm-in-my-pants iPhone 4.
Don't get me wrong, I hate Apple as much as any sane-minded person, and it is for this reason that I have refrained from buying an iPhone until now.

I have sat back and watched as countless legions of Apple-lovers have rushed to the shops on launch day to grab the latest "all-new" iPhone. Laughed at those who looked disdainfully at their lowly 3G as they queued for days to get their manicured hands on the 3GS. Stared in open-mouthed wonder at how these people can spend thousands, thousands!, of dollars on each successive model of the same bloody phone, barely months after they bought the last one. And as for the iPad! Christ. The less said about that, the better.

All of that has changed with the iPhone 4. Now I myself am going to be one of those cool people standing in line outside my local telco dealer, hopping from one foot t't'other in a vain attempt to contain my excitement.

So, why the massive shift?

The wait is over...

The reason I haven't bought one yet is because I just know that 6-months down the line, Apple will shaft me by selling a better version for the same price. It is my major gripe with Apple; I just cannot justify spending over a thousand dollars on something when I know they are selling me an inferior product early simply to line their coffers. Apple sold you the original iPhone without 3G network support, knowing full well they could release another model in a few months time with it included as standard, for the same price, and that people would still buy it in their droves.

The same can be said of the other models. When they finally did put 3G support on the iPhone (not to be confused with saying the iPhone 3G or Touch 3G, which means third-generation; 3G is a cellular network), a few months later they made one that was actually fast enough to make use of it, with the 3GS.

And now we arrive at the latest edition in the guise of the iPhone 4. The reason I want to break my Apple-avoiding trend is because I just don't think they can fit any more on the damn thing. This is finally the iPhone that I can buy without knowing in my heart that it will be rendered useless within a few months. While I am sure they will release a version with proper FaceTime mobile network support down the line (more on that later), its pretty much a non-issue because I highly doubt I will ever use it. You kinda had to have the 3G network support. You kinda had to have the faster system that the 3GS provided. But for once, you kinda don't really need the FaceTime improvements, and so there is no reason to buy the iPhone 4.5 or whatever it will be called. For me, this is the end of the line as far as upgrades go with the iPhone; so I think now is the time to save up and finally get one to see what all the fuss is about.

Stop slagging off Apple, tell us what it can do!

Basically, anything the 3GS can do, 4 can do better. It has the same marvelous, annoy-your-friends-by-constantly-showing-it-off multitouch screen that the iPhone is famous for; the same operating system that allows for email, web-browsing and media playing (and now you have multitasking so you can do it all at once); and retains the access to the all-important app store.

However, the new model boasts a few nice new features that send the want-one factor skyrocketing. If you want to be assaulted by Apple propaganda, questionably correct English and a self-indulgent mastabatory sales pitch, then I suggest you click this link to see what Apple themselves have to say. Otherwise, I'll give you a quick summary.

First of all, I would have to disagree with Apple at putting the FaceTime feature first on their list. Far more impressive is the new 'Retina Display' screen. While the claims that it is simply too brilliant for your feeble human eyes to comprehend smacks just a bit too much of hypery, if the actual numbers are correct, it is a significant leap forward. I am all for a screen that has crystal clear sharpness considering I am going to be staring at it for most of the time I hold the phone in my hand.

Secondly comes the redesigned styling. I must admit that I think, as an object, the iPhone was already a gorgeous thing to look at. With the new metal rim that doubles as the antenna, coupled with the flat glass back (as opposed to the curvy back on the earlier models), its as though the pretty woman has put on some lingerie. If I ever had to showcase a brilliant piece of design, that appeals to me on seemingly every level, I would show them the iPhone 4. Its just stunning, and I want to have sexual relations with it.

So what is this FaceTime thing I've mentioned all about? Well, you know how most top phones have had video-calling for a while now? Yeah. Now the iPhone has it too. Reading the trope Apple has put about it makes you wonder whether Steve Jobs has removed his head from his arse for five minutes to see if its already been done. Quite clearly he hasn't, so if we ignore the sensationalist claims that video-calling is now a reality, we can look at it critically. And the big thing to note is that this only works iPhone 4 to iPhone 4, via wi-fi; which I think makes the whole thing a bit useless. What is the point in having the ability to videophone someone on your mobile when you can't use the mobile phone network? I think we already have something for that. Its called Skype. Correct, you can't Skype on your phone (unless you have the app), but considering the only wi-fi hotspots I generally connect to are at home and at Uni, when I have my netbook with me, its not such an issue; and I am willing to bet its the same sort of situation for a lot of the people buying an iPhone.

Things do look up again when you look at the tech supporting FaceTime; there's a new 5 megapixel camera, with flash (html5 doesn't provide physical illumination, much to Jobs's chagrin), and a front-facing camera. Hardly revolutionary, my LG phone has had these things for years, but its a welcome addition at any rate. Especially if you are the sort of person that needs to justify their existence by taking pictures and videos of themselves, as you now have the iMovie app to make pretty slideshows.

When will I be able to buy this magnificent piece of technology?

Well that all depends on where you live. Should you happen to reside on the Moon, then you may have to wait for a while. For the Earth-bound among us, it is going to be anywhere between the end of June and the end of July. The US and UK are getting it around June the 24th I think; while those of us in this gloriously sunny nation of Australia will have to wait a bit longer until some unspecified date in July. Which suits me fine as it gives me enough time to save up to buy the damn thing.

So, its everything you've always secretly longed for from the iPhone, with cool extra bits to sweeten the deal, and a new design to drool over.

Yes please.
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Monday, 1 March 2010

What If We Are the Videogame, and God is the Player?

Two of my favourite things to complain about have come together in an orgy of potentially epic metaphors and unbridled hatred in textual form. Namely, religious interference and the R18+ debate.

For those of you who do not know, the R18+ Debate is an ongoing discussion by the government's censorship boffins about whether or not to allow Australia to have an 18+ age rating for videogames. Currently, we do not have one, and so any game that is deemed too violent or too mature for a 15+ rating is merely banned. This frustrates Australian gamers because videogames are an even greater media than both the box office and DVDs, which do have the 18+ rating. Every other Westernised country has a classification for these type of games, and it is highly unfair, gamers say, that we should be discriminated against because our government does not know what they are on about.

Which is almost certainly the case.

Currently, the department that governs these sorts of things is under the outdated illusion that videogames are for children. Not so. A survey conducted in the US by the Ipsos MediaCT for the ESA shows that the average age for an American gamer is now 35; players over the age of 18 also take up a much larger proportion than those who are 17 and under (33% versus 18% respectively). In Australia, the average age is a bit lower, at 28; however, more than 50% of gamers are over the age of 18. [You can view the Ipsos findings for yourself here, and the article linked to below for the Australian figures]

As such, the lack of a category for games rated 'for adults-only' causes a major problem for the gaming community. The arguments of the South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson are perhaps the leading view of the anti-18+ group. One can gain an insight using this news article, but to summarise, he essentially opposes the classification because he is concerned that there are not enough measures to stop children from accessing this adult content. Which is all social and voter-friendly; who wouldn't vote for a man who wants to keep kids safe?

Well, I wouldn't vote for him because he is a madman who refuses to see past his own blind, misinformed opinion. He still labours under the view that videogames are for children, when the facts quite clearly indicate that this is not the case. He tarnishes the videogaming community as a bunch of blood-thirsty, adrenaline-fuelled potential murderers. He even once claimed that he is more scared of gamers than he is of bikies (gangs of bikers that murder people and intimidate). What soundbitish nonsense. I wonder if he is even aware that the Wii exists, in all its family orientated goodness? Is he aware that just over 40% of gamers are women? I think not.

His concerns over children being allowed to access this adult content is morally applaudworthy, but in practise entirely irrelevant. The state smacks a big 18+ sticker on the front of the box and it is then up to the retailer to check the I.D of the purchaser to see if they are, in fact, 18 plus. If they are not, then you refuse to sell them the game. Job done.

The only way that kids under 18 could acquire these games is through their stupid parents. The same stupid parents that need the state to keep adult content out of their child's hands, when, really, it is up to them. If your child asks you to buy Killing Murdering Assassin II, then surely the title would warn you that perhaps they shouldn't be playing this game. And to quote myself from an earlier post, doesn't the fact that the boxart shows the image of a ninja slashing people to bits with a sword larger than the Burj Khalifa alert you to the possibility that this game is not appropriate for your child? If you do not think the game is suitable, then you don't buy it.

The 18+ classification seems to work just fine for movies, and for gamers in other countries, but it is the arrogance and unwillingness to face the facts shown by Minister Attkinson that continues to ruin the Australian gamer's hope of fair treatment.

And now, forever wanting to give their opinion on something they know nothing about, the Christians have waded into the battle. If one clicks on the post title above, or on this piece of text here, then one will be taken to the article at the centre of today's post on The Sydney Morning Herald's website.

Read it? Good. Perhaps you too are staring in open-mouthed bewilderment at the biblical levels of idiocy put forth by the Australian Christian Lobby. I know I did when I first read it. Then I laughed the laugh of a man who had read the most fundamentally flawed argument ever conceived by humankind. But that's Christianity for you, so I suppose I should not be surprised.

Take, for instance, this:
"The consultation process appears to be structured in a way to primarily encourage participation from people with a pre-existing understanding of the R18+ gaming debate, or from those who have a prior stake or interest in its outcome," the Christian lobby wrote in its submission. "It seems to be geared strongly in favour of gaming interests."
Seriously, do they not see the flaw in their argument? They are complaining that the debate is favouring those who already know of the R18+ gaming discussion. So, what...? ... the people who know what they are talking about? The people that it affects? The people that wanted the debate in the first place? The people who want their voices heard on a subject that matters to them? I was under the impression that these are exactly the sort of people one needs to gauge the opinion of if one wants an informed discussion.
"Certainly the predictable weight of numbers for submissions in favour of the legalisation of R18+ games will be presented by gaming interests as conclusive evidence of widespread community support for their sale and distribution in Australia, when no such support actually exists."
Well, it seems fairly obvious that a 90-year old farmer living in the rural north-west is not going to give two scrotums about whether Australia has an 18+ rating or not. So why then does his opinion seem to matter more to the Christian Lobby than that of a gamer who is fully aware of the ramifications that such a rating would entail? The introduction of this rating affects primarily gamers, not the ordinary public. Certainly it does not affect those who do not play videogames. If they wish to submit their opinion on the matter then that is entirely within their rights. But suggesting that we take the views of people who the law would not affect, who know nothing of the debate and who in most likelihood couldn't care less, over the opinion of an informed person, there is something deeply flawed.

The argument that an 18+ rating for games exposes children to adult content is absurd. It is a protection law at its very heart, to restrict who has access to it, so why then is it deemed by Minister Attkinson and the Christian cohort to be a morally wrong and dangerous piece of legislation? I do not understand this. I do not understand why Attkinson thinks it is his duty to take the responsibility of protecting children from mature content out of the hands of the parent and into his own. I do not understand why the Christian Lobby felt the need to get involved. Who next? The Jews? Homosexuals? Does videogaming incite prejudice against the RSPCA?

It is not the duty of Attkinson or the Christian Lobby to tell adults how to live their lives. Adults are quite capable of making their own decisions, and to choose the content that they wish to view. It is not up to Attkinson to decide that videogames are for children, or that they should be restricted because he personally does not agree with them. The 46,000 people who signed the petition calling for the rating outweigh his 1, and also shows that he is not in tune with what the public wants. I thought it was the job of a politician, a senior politician at that, to do what the public wants. To Attkinson, I say this: this is a democracy, not a dictatorship; the reason you have power is purely because it is easier to get things done by having one person represent many. It does not mean your opinion is worth more, nor that you hold more of an authority than any of the voters who elected you.

The quicker he remembers that, the quicker we will have a 18+ rating, and then Aussie gamers will have the fair treatment they deserve.

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