You’d be forgiven for thinking that we’ve reached peak #firstworldproblems after reading just some of the back-and-forth on Web browsers, mobile operating systems, and the ability to designate default applications for certain tasks. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else, what with all my excitement about Google making it easier for iPhone users to stay within its ecosystem instead of dealing with Apple-built applications and speculation about how the EU might start policing mobile Web browsers.
Many of the complaints stem from the inability to change default applications on iOS. (Other operating systems — mobile or otherwise — are guilty of this as well, but Android, iOS’s main competitor, does allow users to change defaults, along with just about everything else.) Apple’s in charge of the entire experience, routing email through its own Mail.app, Web pages through Safari, directions and locations through its own Maps… Apple isn’t simply a bridgekeeper that controls what consumers are able to do on their devices. It controls how they do those things, too.
Yes, you read that right. Having to use a certain company’s email application, mapping service, or Web browser is a genuine problem people have with their “magic glowing rectangles [able] to access all the world’s knowledge.” Hence the hashtag.
But then, once Google introduced a new feature that allows Gmail users to open links in the company’s native YouTube, Chrome, or Maps applications and reminded developers that they can bake Chrome into their own apps as well, it suddenly became a problem that those applications would become de facto defaults. That’s like complaining that your parents only buy vanilla ice cream and then, once they stop somewhere that sells chocolate, telling ‘em to fuck off and bring the vanilla back.
Still, this is the kind of nit-picky bullshit (I use that term lovingly) that separates the geeks — power users, enthusiasts, whatever — from the masses.The problem isn’t really that iOS only serves vanilla ice cream, or that developers baking Google’s ecosystem into their applications would restrict consumers to just chocolate. It’s that someone else is always making that decision without consumers’ input.
So, yes. All of this is probably the pinnacle of #firstworldproblems, and I’d bet that the majority of iPhone users don’t particularly care about setting new defaults or avoiding Mail.app or using Chrome or Safari. But it shows just how important choice, and the lack of it, can be when it comes to software — at least to geeks, anyway, and let’s be honest: Those are the people who care most about operating systems and their features.
It’s not about the ice cream; it’s about being able to get it for yourself.