The Second Biggest Mistake Ever. Or Not.

For a graduation present, I bought Sam an iPhone.

Second only to buying him an old car for Christmas, it was shaping up to be the biggest mistake I ever made.

Family members, friends, and all the AT&T retail sales reps and guys from the Genius Bar at the Apple Store down in Texas have been getting an earful about the Bad Decision Apple Made, one that makes it impossible to assign properties to your contact groups.

It was something his old Nokia phone could do, and he warned me (and has reminded me repeatedly the past four days that he warned me) that without that feature, it was a deal-breaker.

It didn’t matter that he could turn on the navigator to help find an alternate route to the airport today, or to the Apple Store. It didn’t matter that he could play his favorite music on it. Because he couldn’t tell his phone to ring one way for a call from a family member and another way for a call from friends, the phone might as well go in the trash can.

He tried finding apps. He tried work-arounds I found on various help sites. He could create the groups in Outlook, but Outlook wouldn’t cooperate with the sync. Even if he gets that to work, he’d still have to program each individual contact with his preferred ringtone.

A waste of time, Sam said. He’s right, of course. But I told him that if it’s really that important, he’s spending an awful lot of time figuring out the work-arounds. So much time, in fact, that he probably would already have had all 60-ish of his contacts programmed.

Yes, he said, but why should he have to waste his time because of this Bad Decision Apple Made.

Then it dawned on me. He could write an app for that.

We had an animated discussion on the way home from the Apple Store about it. I told him a lot of people learn to make a good living by solving problems people want solved.

His perspective changed. Or he at least stopped saying I made a huge mistake buying him the phone. He recognized developing an app as a project, and one with some big hurdles, but he’s on his way.

When we got home, he made his first “alert tone” in Garage Band, one that he used on his Nokia that he’s upset wasn’t on his iPhone. And we looked up resources for app developers.

This could be an interesting summer, especially as the job hunt begins.

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