It is interesting to me that there is an expectation of performance improvement where older hardware is concerned. There is an idea that as software gets better, it should improve the hardware that runs it, categorically, without consideration for that hardware’s capability or age. Whether this expectation is born out of truth, privilege, or naiveté, I don’t know, but I do find it interesting.
The iPhone 4 is now three generations behind the current iPhone generation, running an operating system that the current iPhone runs very well, the current minus one ran well, current minus two ran acceptably, and it is running it only after more than a few features were cut. Out of the gate complaints were made public across the ether, pointing out stuttering, herky jerky movements throughout. There are some who questioned Apple’s motivation, asking if Apple was forcing the iPhone 4 owner’s hand toward their wallet. There are some who asked, “What did you expect?” The new operating system is a huge change, they said, it is simply going to run slower. And there were some, like me, who had long since said goodbye to their iPhone 4 and were not effected.
I understand the conspiratorialist view. You have a working phone, it prompts you to upgrade, promising new features and happiness, and you do so with a faith that things will be at the very least as fast as they have been. The phone is slower, and it mocks you. Your friends are playing with their 5Ss, gleefully shoving their thumbs at their home buttons, eyes glazed over like anime characters from the 1980s. Your phone looks weird, reacts slower, and you are now painfully aware of the upgrade you may now take advantage of at your carrier. Come in, come in, said the spider to the fly.
The technician and pragmatist in me can also see the side of those who were not surprised and so therefore were smarter (according to themselves) than those who upgraded their 4s. Of course it is slower, why would you upgrade away from iOS 6 on an iPhone 4? There aren’t that many very new features anyway (with the exception of every visual, sure, but…). Yes, in the end, an 800MHz Apple A4 custom SOC has a very finite number of calculations it can perform per second, and yes, asking it to do more is possible, but you must understand those processor cycles can only go so far. Had I remained with my iPhone 4 for another year, waiting for the iPhone 5S, I might have upgraded to iOS 7, but I would have expected it to be slow just because it makes logical sense. It would have been a fact I pre-accepted before mashing the Upgrade button.
iOS 7.1 hits the scene and the update on the iPhone 4 “makes performance tolerable enough” according to Ars. The writers at Ars have an excellent balance of each of the three main emotional thrusts detailed above - they show that they would really like a faster iPhone 4, they are also realistic about how it is unrealistic to expect older hardware to be performant with modern software, and they make the case that upgrading is a vastly better experience than what you would see from your iPhone 4 in the next year.
Let us now consider the viewpoint of the engineers at Apple and the incentive they have to put time and effort into optimizing the iPhone 4 for iOS 7. Historically, we have been told that the teams at Apple are small but brilliant and that there is a good deal of liquidity in those teams, meaning, engineers are moved from project to project quite frequently. If you were the iOS 7.1 upgrade project manager and you had to weigh how much time and effort should be given to the iPhone 4, how many people would you pull from the iPhone 5S team? You know, the team supporting the biggest cash delivery mechanism your company has ever seen, that one? Would you assign a team of ten? Seven? Two?
Whatever the number of people were put on that team, they had the daunting task of optimizing a super sophisticated piece of software on a single core, 800MHz chip with half the RAM of the flagship model. Guess what? That team, the team that had the unenviable task of getting blood from a stone, actually wrung out a few seconds on the boot time, on Safari launch, and on Control Center. The headline that reads, “As good as it is going to get,” should really read, “They did it! Congratulations Apple engineers on iOS 7.1”.
Let’s remove the cynicism and speak the truth, iOS 7.1 on the iPhone 4 is amazing, it’s amazing that they have made a three year old single core phone more performant. But seriously, it is probably time to upgrade.
Are either of you men homosexuals?
You mean flaming?
No, sir, we're not homosexuals, but we're willing to learn.
Google Fiber announced today that they are going to begin deployment of fiber services to 9 more markets in the coming months and it is their intention to enlist the help of civic leaders in doing so. It is an exciting development in light of the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger, a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for communities locked into both artificial and actual ISP monopolies.
Let us do a bit of comparison shopping for consumers wishing to purchase broadband service (only) in the Atlanta area as the market stands now:
Economy Plus: $26.95 - 3Mbps
Performance Starter: $49.95 - 6Mbps
Performance: $54.95 - 20Mbps
Blast: $63.95 - 50Mbps
Comcast has tiers that include 105Mbps service, but they are only included in Triple Play packages, and we’re concentrating on internet only.
Pro Internet: $29.95 - 3Mbps
Elite Internet: $34.95 - 6Mbps
Max Plus Internet: $44.95 - 18Mbps
Max Turbo Internet: $54.95 - 24Mbps
Power Internet: $64.95 - 45Mbps
AT&T’s pricing is lowered, if you agree to a 12 month contract, by $11.05.
Time Warner Cable
You’ll notice a trend line here - in Atlanta, if you want hard wired internet access, you have two choices: Comcast and AT&T. Arguably, the pricing is comparable if you are looking at the higher tiers and dismiss the anomolous Performance Starter 6Mbps priced $15 higher. Where would Google Fiber’s pricing fit in?
Free service: $300 one time installation fee - 5Mbps
Gigabit service: $70 - 1000Mbps
Even typing those three zeros right now felt rediculous. Measured in Mbps, Google Fiber gets you 20 times the speed versus the highest tiers for Comcast and AT&T. Even if you were to spend a ridiculous $150/month with Comcast and get their 105Mbps service, it would still only be a tenth the speed.
Let’s presume all goes well and Google is able to leverage civic assistance for its rollout. Let’s also presume that my neighborhood, which stands on the upper border of one of the areas targeted for installation, actually does get service. The possibilities of what I could do with that kind of bandwidth is a little staggering, and it would make my service choice pretty clear. Comcast, let’s remember, is the company poised to merge with Time Warner Cable and thus reduce their need to innovate or lower prices. Why would I want to stick with that?
What would Comcast’s reaction be in these 9 markets targetted by Google? Would they retain their current pricing and raise speeds as high as their technologies allowed, within reason? Would they lower pricing to a point so attractive to consumers that they would retain customers instead of bleed them?
Unfortunately, my gut tells me they would lobby, litigate, and pressure Google out using out-of-date laws, back handed tactics, and anything else but innovation. The cost of lobbying has got to be the lowest of their cost choices; how much would it cost to “persuade” the civic municipalities in Atlanta to keep Google from even making their play? How much would it cost to R&D a superior product or even lay fiber directly to the home themselves? Pessimistic view, I know, but I would bet the former.