It was about four months ago that my 4GB Apple iPhone showed up and, after an initial scare that it was broken from dropping it – screen down – on a hard tile floor, connected to the network, replacing my Blackberry Pearl. I got the $100 credit for the Apple store after having watched the price drop $200 a month after I bought it, and I’ve gone through a number of cases already (!) and have a stack of different ones from the folks at Marware that I’m using now.
But after months of having it in my pocket, plugged into my car, on lunch tables with colleagues, and in various cities and states throughout the United States, what’s my opinion of the phone now? What do I really love about it, and what drives me batty?
First off, I admit that while I have pushed the phone into all sorts of different functions, I have not gotten into “modding” the phone, unlocking it, putting unauthorized third-party applications on it, or any of those quasi-underground activities. My reasoning is simple: it’s my phone and I can’t run the risk of breaking it, making it unreliable or gaining any sort of malicious software. The idea of having an update from Apple brick it is a bit alarming too, though I haven’t heard any substantiated stories of that actually occurring. You might have gone a lot further into this area, which I’d love to hear about, but since it is an essential piece of my business equipment, I’m very reticent about anything that might have an unintended, negative consequence.
So what have I learned?
Visual Voicemail Rocks!
First off, “visual voicemail” is very cool. I somehow expected something more, um, visual but the simple idea of having all your voicemail messages accessible directly, rather than having to skip and skip and skip to get to message #6 or similar, is so intuitive that it seems daft every phone doesn’t have this capability. I wish my regular phone had this capability too.
Wireless Networking has a Glitch
Wifi is cool except for when the phone gets “wedged” trying to log in to a wireless network that’s in range and has the same name as one you’ve used before, like linksys. Problem is, you are stuck and can’t actually go online because it’s trying to connect, but there’s a login screen or prompt that’s actually waiting for input. My solution? I temporarily disable wireless and use the AT&T EDGE network instead. Clunky, but slow is better than stopped.
Still, there should be some smarter way to manage this problem, something where there’s a user-adjustable timeout setting on how long you’ll wait to get a working connection from a default wireless network before the phone just rolls over to either asking you to pick a wireless network or just hops on the EDGE network. This is definitely an advanced setting, but even a default setting of a 20 second timeout would at least avoid you feeling like your phone has gone DOA.
iPhone Battery Life is Decent
I also find that the battery life is pretty decent (I have bluetooth off, which helps, but am generally a fairly heavy user of the phone’s features) but since you can plug it in to any USB port or iPod charger, it’s easy to “top up” the battery most days in my experience. One complaint, though: when the battery is running out, it seems like you go from “20% battery left” to being completely dead as the proverbial doornail in just a few minutes. My experience is once I see the “20%’ warning, it’s time to plug it in before it’s too late. This is a common problem with electronics, of course, because as far as I can tell batteries don’t discharge at a steady rate…
The Apple iPhone has Massive Cool Factor
On the plus side, this phone gives great demo! I have probably single-handedly sold at least fifty iPhones by simply letting people play with it and/or showing them the photo album, iPod features (including watching a movie I poured onto it from my DVD collection directly), and elegant phone book. There are so many wonderful details too, like when you get a call from an unknown caller, pressing the “details” button next to the record of the call in “Recent” shows you the city and state of the call by doing a simple number lookup. Any phone could do this, but only the iPhone actually does it.
Don’t Ignore Those White Earbuds
Until recently, I’ve completely ignored the little white earbuds that came with the phone too, and what a mistake that’s been! Those little earbuds are also a very nice handsfree mic tightly integrated into the overall phone functionality, and they work great! This morning I was going for a bit of a walk, listening to some music on the iPhone, when the music stopped and I heard the phone ring in the earbuds. A squeeze of the tiny mic on the wire and the call was answered. I chatted with my friend for a few minutes and when he hung up the music came back, exactly where I’d been. Didn’t even have to take my gloves off or pull the phone out of my pocket.
Not Such a Good Winter Phone, Though…
Speaking of gloves, though, the iPhone touchscreen doesn’t work if you have a bandaid on, gloves, mittens, or anything else. Pencil erasers, anything that’s not an actual fingertip won’t actually register, which is a bit annoying as we move into the Winter and I won’t particularly want to take my gloves off to use my phone. (Those of you who live in warmer climes will not really get why this is a drag, but mountain folk will be sympathetic!)
Cell Service Overall, However, Still Stinks
My experience with AT&T/Cingular has been fairly mediocre. I often find that I have weak reception as I’ve traveled, and that reception can be very strong in one spot and three steps further be so intermittent that I lose the call. However, I had Verizon before this and was unimpressed with their coverage too, so it seems like maybe the problem is that cellular coverage technology just needs to keep evolving. Just don’t expect your iPhone to be better than whatever coverage you have. Most of what I’ve heard from other iPhone owners, in fact, is that they find AT&T worse. Of course, I’ve complained about cell service before too.
Where are the Third-Party Apps?
There’s a huge tension in the iPhone user community that’s worth acknowledging while I’m writing about the phone: on one side is Apple exerting maximum control over what ends up on the phones and on the other side is a vibrant third-party developer community who are eager to produce additional games and applications for the phone. Us consumers are then stuck in the middle, having paid for a powerful handheld computer then being saddled with Apple’s control over everything that goes on the phone. Why can’t I buy third party games? Why can’t I get applications that run standalone – approved by Apple – rather than the inadequate sop of Web-based applications that then suffer from the strengths and significant weaknesses (Flash?) of Safari on the iPhone? This is a significant problem and one that I can only hope is resolved in the next few months. I know I’d put down some hard-earned cash for additional applications for my phone, applications that I could trust wouldn’t mess up the phone or become non-functional in the next system update.
In Summary, The iPhone Still Rocks!
Nonetheless, am I happy with the iPhone? Heck yeah. It’s a great “gizmo”, fun to have, play with, and use. It helps me keep on top of my email and what’s going on with my Web sites, supports SSL connections so I can tweak the backend as needed, and it’s small enough to fit in my shirt pocket. What’s not to love about the most advanced cellular phone on the market today? I just wonder what we’ll have available in 24 months, personally.
Are you an iPhone owner? Thinking about getting one? Tell me a bit about your favorite features and what you hate about the phone, and let’s see if we can find some common ground!
And don’t forget, I have lots of Apple iPhone Help on my site too, detailed tutorials on everything you’d want to do with your phone!