Why Must Mobile QuickTime Suck?

Seriously, it is such a wart.

Apple likes its clean design, eschews things like removable batteries, or folders on the Springboard, etc.

But why must Mobile QuickTime suck so badly?

I use a variety of streaming media apps on my iPhone. Things like WunderRadio, ooTunes, PocketTunes are great apps; they let me stay in touch with my beloved Yankee’s home radio commentary, and listen to Penn State radio broadcasts when I feel the need to relive my college years.

And sometimes, listening to Boston Red Sox radio coverage is sweet for a Yankees fan.

My commute into Baltimore means my local sports radio station (out of D.C.) cuts in and out; streaming it via my iPhone solves that problem. (Except when I drive through the Harbor tunnel, where AT&T hates me)

And finally, streaming Tony Kornheiser’s podcasts is a must.

ESPN Podcenter has all manner of goodies for streaming.

In short, I have very little music loaded on my iPhone, subscribe to zero podcast through iTunes (I sync only for firmware updates anyway), and stream everything.

So what has Mobile QuickTime (MQT from here) shown me in a year of use, under a bunch of conditions?

It’s a blight in the iPhone experience.

Mostly, MQT seems annoyed at you for daring to stream audio. Sure, no screen feedback is important for displaying video, but MQT really penalizes you for streaming audio.

First off, let’s look at the actual display. Minimalism is nice, but when streaming audio, MQT gives you essentially no feedback. It is either working, or not. There is no context info, no stream properties, nothing. No indication of the buffering, the stream rate, nothing. No feedback on the network state.

No cute blinken lights. OK, I don’t really need blinken lights. I like them though. Just saying.

When I listen via PocketTunes, or WunderRadio, etc., there is a wealth of information displayed. Various bit-rates, source information, buffering information, lots of useful stuff. If I put the station in the “background” by streaming it through MQT, I get nothing.

PocketTunes in particular hangs onto its stream like a gangster hanging onto a corrupt politician; it tries hard to be impervious to the vagaries of AT&T’s network, or switches between 3G and Edge, or slides between wifi and cellular. ooTunes and WunderRadio work at this too.

MQT, on the other hand, gets nervous and dies at the slightest provocation. Sometimes it will sit (with the all too infuriating message “Trying to Load Movie”) for an hour. If you hit pause, then play, it works again. Sometimes it just dies, and you find yourself back at Safari, no error message. WTF?

Apple’s Blindspot?

It’s like Apple engineers, ensconced with personal Airport base stations, never considered:

  1. The network would be wobbly.
  2. That people might never sync podcasts, but would stream them.
  3. That people would not bother to load music on their iPhone, but would stream music instead.

Now, when the iPhone was released, these three possibilities might have seem pretty unlikely for Apple; they really do want you to buy stuff from iTunes after all.

But we are past firmware 3.0; there have been three releases of the phone itself.

And still, Mobile QuickTime continues to suck.

Why is that?

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