Apple has been in the mobile phone business for about 3 years now and the signs of platform differentiation have appeared with the introduction of their newly named operating system iOS4 (what was previously called iPhone OS).

Platform fragmentation is a term that basically refers to the different versions of an operating system running on different types devices. The classic example here is the Android OS(operating system) which has different devices running on different versions of the operating system. This latter issue is Android’s Achilles heel but that is, a topic for another day.

Apple has, over the past three years managed to keep things consistent by maintaining a single version of its OS running on the original iPhone, iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS. The introduction of the iOS4 changes things as the iPhone 3GS and the 3rd generation iPod touch will be the only older generation devices that will have complete functionality of the OS. The iPhone 3G will only receive limited functionalities of the iOS4 as its hardware will not be able to cope with the multitasking and background wallpaper functionalities. Of course, the iPhone 4 will have it all and the iPad will receive the iOS4 update in 3rd quarter of 2010.

In my opinion, this isn’t exactly platform fragmentation but is perhaps better referred to as  platform differentiation. Apple, to their credit have maintained a single OS platform and older devices will certainly become outmoded as the OS continues to change. So, it is relatively predictable that an iPhone or iPod touch will have a two year product cycle before the capabilities of the iOS exceeds the hardware requirements of the device. The owner of an iPod touch may be able to live without an upgrade but an iPhone owner will certainly be tempted to upgrade to the newer version of the device, once their one or two year mobile phone contract ends.

I had upgraded my father’s 3rd generation iPod touch to the iOS4 and it appears to work without a glitch. The multi tasking functionality is muted in comparison to devices running on the Android or Symbian OS but it is simple and straightforward to use. Apple has clearly geared the iOS to non tech savvy users and that is, a very sound business decision. It is a decision that continues to bring Apple tremendous profits, much to the envy of the tech industry.

I had recently received the unlock codes from my previous mobile network provider and my iPhone 3G is now free from the shackles of a locked SIM card. I decided against hacking my iPhone earlier for fear of Rick Astley appearing as my screen wallpaper.The phone, now works smoother than ever, thanks to a complete system restoration. I will not upgrade my iPhone 3G to the iOS4 as there have been reliable reports on poor phone performance.

So, please, do not upgrade your iPhone 3G to the iOS4.

The iOS4 also appears to further reduce the battery life on the iPhone 3GS. A Norwegian journalist, Jarle Aasland had emailed Steve Jobs asking whether there would be any reason for the iPhone 3GS to have a poorer battery life when running the iOS4 as opposed to the iPhone OS3. The CEO replied with the word “Nope”.

There was an unofficial response from a certain puppet named Steve Jobs which makes an interesting watch.

This platform differentiation within the Apple ecosystem will continue and it is a fact of life. What it also illustrates is that there are inherent limitations in one of the most tightly controlled mobile operating platforms.

Even Apple ain’t perfect.