x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

On everyone's wish list: an iGizmo with no restrictions

I now know how the young diva from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory felt. I want an iPhone. If I could just use it in the UAE to its full potential.

Veruca Salt: Daddy, I want a squirrel. Get me one of those squirrels, I want one.

Mr Salt: Veruca dear, you have many marvellous pets.

Veruca Salt: All I've got at home is one pony and two dogs and four cats and six bunny rabbits and two parakeets and three canaries and a green parrot and a turtle, and a silly old hamster. I WANT A SQUIRREL!

I now know how the young diva from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory felt.

I want an iPhone. All I've got at home is one iPad and one Apple TV and two iMacs and one first generation iPod and one iPod touch and one Mac Powerbook and a silly old iPod shuffle.

This is no endorsement of Apple. Far from it. In fact I've had enough of Apple's retail bullying. There are times when I've felt that Apple has so cornered the gadget market that I've been left with no choice but succumb to the will of Steve Jobs.

But I still want the iPhone.

Now, if I could just use it in the UAE to its full potential. For reasons I don't fully understand, the Emirates restricts the content we can buy for our Apple devices. Something must be done.

Like The Beatles, Barcelona and Heinz Ketchup, Apple's products effortlessly outclass their competition. The Blackberry may remain the handset of choice for the business person, but has a laughable internet browser.

Even Nokia's own chief executive seems to have given up the game. "While competitors poured flames on our market share, what happened at Nokia?" said Stephen Elop. "We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time." Other mp3 players occasionally have better features, like longer battery life and more storage capacity.

But nothing beats the iPhone for sheer desirability. Which, I presume, is exactly what the geniuses at Apple marketing must have envisioned when planning their world domination. And the iPhone is not the only Apple innovation they've got us hooked on, either.

The iPad 2 is slightly smaller than the original, with added cameras. The iPhone 4 is practically identical in looks to its predecessors, with improved functionality - which is fantastic for first-time buyers (though not so much for long-time addicts). And the iPhone 5 is rumoured to have a late summer release.

Meanwhile, Apple recently launched its iCloud service which provides virtual storage space for music, videos, photos, apps, and documents. The content is then wirelessly synchronised and made accessible from all your devices.

It's as if we are being conditioned to want their products in ways that even Pavlov's dogs would have considered beneath them.

And yet we still can't download everything we want. Why?

Residents of the Emirates can only access the UAE iTunes store which, as anyone who has had the misfortune of coming across knows, is not worthy of the name. Far from a store, it's more of a tag sale or swap meet. It offers none of the latest music, film or TV releases that the US and UK stores offer, driving users to download free content from other sites (very often illegally).

We're spending thousands of dirhams on these sleek gadgets but are not being allowed access to the content that would maximise their usage.

What is available for Apple users in many parts of the world remains firmly out of reach for many here. We are in fact under, what a friend who works in marketing succinctly called, an intellectual property siege. And still we follow.

"Why is McDonald's still counting," US comedian Jerry Seinfeld once observed about the fast food giant's tally of burgers sold. "What is their ultimate goal - to have cows just surrendering voluntarily or something? Showing up at the door, 'We'd like to turn ourselves in, we see the sign, we realise we have very little chance out there'."

Anyone who's ever seen the long, over-night queues that await every iProduct release knows that this is a trick Apple pulled off years ago.

 

akhaled@thenational.ae