With the news today that the iPhone may be offered by non AT&T carriers by next year, this might be a good time to post a personal review of the iPhone for anyone interested in what I have to say on the topic. However, don’t get too excited yet; there is plenty of evidence suggesting that AT&T won’t easily bow out of their exclusive contract.
I have put my 3G iPhone through an extreme gauntlet, tossing at it anything and everything I could, to see just how much it could flex, multi-task, and serve double duty. The latter has to do with maximizing the additional $30 Internet fee per month and eliminating my need to purchase other desired technologies, such as a GPS device or XM radio a la carte. Make no mistake – I have drunk the Coolaid and won’t look back. This little device suits my techno-personality to a tee and allows me the freedom to multi-task anywhere/anytime I choose to, using many of the same software products that I would use on my computer, in iPhone format. At the end of a long day, instead of firing up the computer at home after sitting in front of one all day long, I check my must-see items (Facebook and email) and am good for a long night’s rest.
You will note that I have many items listed below under the “My Dislikes” and “What’s Missing” sections below, but that should be no surprise. As humans, we are all too capable of immediately locating faults and expressing our desire for fixes. The iPhone is only in its second generation for Pete’s sake, and the anticipated release of the new OS this summer should incorporate several of the “What’s Missing” elements. So, I will be reasonably patient and await whatever enhancements come through updates and OS version releases.
- Great call quality (no complaints, can’t remember any dropped calls after 100 days)
- Ease of use, smooth and very responsive finger touch, finger slide
- Web material moves from portrait to landscape with phone rotation (not true for all apps, however)
- Access to wireless 3G network wherever you get cell phone reception – that alone is pretty impressive
- Doubles as a mobile GPS unit. Its built-in GPS function is simply awesome. It’s a mashup of an online search capability, retrieving search hits and respective addresses/phone numbers, mapping software for all hits, and GPS. Plug in what you’re looking for, anything at all, and the phone will map it out for you, complete with a route and directions from your current location
- Doubles up as an XM-like radio source so you can get streaming video or music via AOL Radio, Pandora, and satellite radio stations. I rarely listen to standard radio stations in my car anymore. With the MP3 jack in my car, I just plug my phone in and listen over my car speakers
- Doubles up as an iPod, podcatcher, and mobile game device
- Ability to search the Web while talking on the phone. However, this is about the only two things it can do at the same time; see dislikes for more on that
- Having built-in keyboard and softphone (dial pad) pop up automatically when you need to use them.
- Easy app download
- Availability of so many apps, with most being free and the rest being quite inexpensive (between $2-3 for the most part; some are higher)
- That the usual favs have already been designed in iPhone format (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, Google including the sub-Google functions, such as Google Reader and Google Docs
- Free app updates
- Camera is decent enough for me for a 2 megapixel shooter, but you will find reviews which say otherwise
- Although it took some getting used to, I do like the Contacts navigation by touching the letter of the person’s name and then easily flicking to pinpoint exact location
- Good output on speakerphone
- Battery to date has been quite adequate, but some reviews say otherwise. To be sure, the rich media capability is a power hog. If interested in technical review, see link at end of this post
- Super easy email integration with the built-in email app. You add your non-firewalled accounts the same way you would using Microsoft Outlook on your home computer
- Great email-reading format
- Data fields in emails integrate effortlessly with Contacts list. Anything that shows up in an email such as anybody’s email address (say in the cc: list) or phone numbers – it all can be imported into a new Contact record or added to an existing contact record, eliminating the need to type any new info in. Awesome!
- Being a Windows user, it’s not Windows-like. There’s no menu or back key for navigation. It’s a single “app-at-a-time” OS and therefore doesn’t multi-task well (by design apparently)
- Browser pages are not great to view if the app isn’t formatted for iPhone. They work ok, but everything is quite small, especially finding and working with login boxes. But for general reading-oriented Web sites (blog posts, magazines and journal articles) you can double-tap and the iPhone will resize the output to best fit your viewing window (very cool feature)
- Can’t put app icons in folders to organize them (i.e., put all your news feed or music apps together). You can move icons, but it is ridiculously clumsy, especially moving icons across pages. As you download more and more apps, you have to scroll across several pages of icons to locate what you’re looking for. This has to be my worst complaint. Who invented this system?
- The phone, while quite sleek, is slippery, evading a grip without some means of traction. This makes having a skin of some kind mandatory
- You can only have one window open at a time; so whenever you jump to another application, say via a link, your first app is automatically closed. I would really like to see cross-application functionality, via a back button or a minimize/maximize function
- You need to be connected via a wifi connection to download apps or updates over 10 MB. But I’ve found when camping onto area wifi networks, I can’t get into the App Store for these big downloads. I get an error message, saying no connection to the App Store. So that leaves me generally unable to download large updates
- Small keyboard resulting in making a fair amount typing of mistakes. It’s pretty much one-handed operation, rather than the old two-thumb mode used on prior phones. But I can go as fast as my old phone, so the speed isn’t terribly frustrating. Would like to see frequently used symbols placed on the alpha page such as the @ sign and . (dot). Now you have to toggle back and forth between a numeric page and an alpha page, but it’s still easier than button-type phones, I think. All of this could be augmented by having a landscape keyboard which would give the finger far more breathing room for less errors, and possibly allowing the frequently used symbols to co-exist on the alpha page. You can download a landscape keyboard for a small fee, but it’s only for emailing, not texting, and takes few more clicks to transfer your message to your email application
- Touch is overly sensitive sometimes. If you don’t get completely out of an app you can easily find your phone calling someone or surfing a Web page unintentionally, as you move your phone from hand to pocket or purse. On the other hand, if you are successfully closed out of your Contacts application, dialing someone inadvertantly cannot happen, as it can with a button keypad phone
- Touch is not sensitive enough in the car – exactly where you want it to be. Seemingly, the road vibration puts up a barrier to the touch recognition. Taking triple the effort to get the phone to accept your touch instruction, this delays the return of your attention to where it should be, on driving. Voice dialing would resolve that
- Quite slow to load Web pages in spite of claims of faster browsing on the 3G network. I was expecting something closer to the speeds you get on a computer using a wifi network. Not so. I’ve timed page loads at anywhere between 20 and 45 seconds. When reading multi-page articles, that means multiple wait times between pages. Apple recommends always using an existing wifi connection if one is available for faster surfing
- Lack of effective search results in the App Store when using search terms by subject or topic. Excellent results if you happen to know the exact name of an app. I’m glad I have a DVR when watching the iPhone TV commercials. They don’t tell you the name of the app, so I rewind and carefully watch for the name of an app just before the finger touches it. Their search enginge needs better tagging, to be sure
- The camera’s white balance can’t handle bright sunlight, but that’s not unusual for a camera phone
- Video recording
- Multi-messaging text (coming with next OS)
- Landscape keyboard (coming with next OS)
- Voice dialing, although you can purchase an app for this
- Flash support for the Web browser (disappointing)
- Memory card for file transfer
- Built-in office software. To create documents, you’ll need to purchase Quickoffice Mobile Office Suite – $19.99. Or for read only access, use Google docs; a perfect solution for mobile document viewing
- Copy and paste functionality (coming with next OS)
- Retrieving email (personal only, as my workplace does not support the iPhone yet)
- iPhone apps for Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds which include my favorite news sites and blogs
- Streaming radio/music stations: satellite radio, Pandora, AOL radio, NPR radio (includes podcasts)
- GPS – I can find my way to anything
- Games – while waiting anywhere
- Checking the DOW
- Identifying songs/artists of music heard on the radio or played anywhere, even at a coffee shop (very cool software available to do this)
- Watching streaming videos (YouTube, streamed TV clips, news streams)
- Listening to my iPod tunes
- Checking movie schedules – except during my annual Academy Awards chase, when this will definitely move into first place :)
I’ll post some of my favorite iPhone applications in a future post.