The iPhone – the worst possible smartphone for a revolutionary to carry
Yesterday, September 12th, Apple announced the latest update to the iPhone line of smart phones, the iPhone 5. The event reminded me of a rumor that made the rounds late last year, that the importing and selling of iPhones in Syria had been banned by the regime. Nothing eventually came of the ban; iPhones and iPads can still be bought very easily in Syria where there are still mobile stores actually open.
But regardless, perhaps the regime shouldn’t have tried to ban the phones in the first place. Quite simply, the iPhone is the worst possible smart phone for a revolutionary to use.
The first thing anyone going up against a brutal dictatorship learns to do is to take the battery out of his or her mobile phone to avoid having his mobile signal tracked. The two mobile operators in the country are little more than arms of the security services, and precautions always have to be taken when using one’s mobile. Which sometimes include making it go dead by removing the battery. Which, of course, one cannot do with an iPhone, thanks to Steve Job’s design philosophy that treated customers as complete imbeciles who needed to be protected from exposure to a smart phone-battery and all the horrors thereof.
The second thing a revolutionary needs to do is to be able to hide any recriminating videos or pictures, from people who would sooner murder an entire village rather than let a single video of a demonstration get onto Youtube. Since the revolution, Syria has been awash in ever smaller memory cards, easy to hide and conceal. Activists will take pictures, shoot a video, store the material on their phone’s tiny memory card, remove said card and conceal it, and then casually saunter through security checkpoints, safe in the knowledge that if their mobile was searched, nothing would be on it to earn that activists a visit to the nearest security dungeon.
Except, of course, you cannot use memory cards on an iPhone. The phone makes no allowance whatsoever for these kinds of cards. You need special applications to hide any video or picture taken on an iPhone, and the mere presence of such an application on your phone is enough to raise suspicions. And in Syria, it’s one small step from raising suspicions, to being hung by the wrists, dripping wet and getting lashed with electricity cables (or as the “anti-imperial” Leftists would call it, an “act of sovereign defense”).
In addition to hindering the concealment of revolutionary material, the lack of memory cards in the iPhone also makes it hard to disseminate the same material. Videos and pictures have to be gotten to the people most capable in getting them to the attention of the world’s media. Sometimes that means transporting the material from places where the regime has cut off Internet and mobile coverage to those areas with still functioning communications. A favorite way for activists to share information is through Bluetooth transfer from phone to phone. And of course, the iPhone’s Bluetooth capabilities are the shittiest in the industry; iPhone Bluetooth connections only work with other iPhones or Macs, it’s impossible to transfer any file via Bluetooth to devices of any other make.
And that’s not even considering the price of the damn things; for the price of one iPhone, a revolutionary can buy two laptops, or a dozen more modest (and far more useful) Nokia mobiles.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising that, when it comes to over-throwing closed off and control-obsessed dictatorships, products from Apple are by far the most useless and counter productive.