A week with the iPhone

iphone

As someone who has been chastised by Apple fanboy’s in the past for being “Anti-Apple,” saying I’m impressed with iPhone is an understatement. The iPhone is probably the most impressive electronic device I’ve purchased this decade. I can never recall a device where a company came in to a mature competitive marketplace, with an offering that makes every other manufacturer look incompetent.

A year ago I was having problems with my original Treo 650, and I went to the Cingular store to pick up a replacement. I looked at every smartphone on the market, and I ended up just buying another Treo 650. Even the newer Treo offerings were disappointing compared to the nearly two year old 650.

When I purchased the iPhone on Friday, it was the first phone since the original Treo that I coveted with a passion. The Treo was the first phone to do a good job checking real e-mail accounts, and the iPhone is basically bringing the desktop Internet and multimedia experience to the mobile phone.

Hardware
The iPhone is a lot thinner than your typical smartphone. Its not light, but it feels really solid. The screen is big, bright, and beautiful. The glass surface was a great choice, since its really easy to clean, and very scratch resistant. The only complaint I have about the hardware design of the iPhone is the lack of a removable battery. There is simply no excuse.

Phone
The actual phone functionality of the iPhone is really solid. The contacts list is really easy to browse, the recent/missed calls section is well thought out, and dialing is simple. The big paradigm shift with the iPhone is the much touted visual voicemail. You no longer get your voicemail, it comes to you.

Mail


The mail application does a great job of displaying and retrieving e-mail. If your a Mail.app user, account settings are automatically synchronized with the first sync. If you use other e-mail applications like Thunderbird, you’re out of luck.

The multitouch display and tilt sensor really shine in the mail application. I’ve used both Treo’s and Blackberries in the past, but the iPhone simply outclasses both devices when it comes to checking, viewing, and deleting e-mail. With a swipe of your finger, e-mail messages are deleted from the main INBOX view.

The main drawback to the e-mail program is using the onscreen keyboard to compose e-mail. The tactile feel of real keys on a Blackberry or Treo is far superior for e-mail composition.

Browser
Safari on the desktop is not even close to matching Firefox in terms of features and expandability. Steve Jobs is outright lying when he claims that Safari is the “most advanced web browser on the market.” However; the scaled down version of Safari on the iPhone is by far the best mobile phone browser. The multi touch input and tilt sensor make browsing on your phone a joy. My only annoyance with the iPhone’s browser, is the fact that it doesn’t synchronize bookmarks from Firefox. Some people complain about a lack of Flash, but I feel that Flash has no business being on my phone.

iphone browser

Music and Video
During the January keynote, Steve Jobs claimed that the iPhone was the best ipod ever. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I heard him make that comment. Steve Jobs is notorious for enthusiastically vomiting hyperbolic lies at such keynotes, while Macintosh fanboys take his word as gospel.

To my surprise, I have to agree with Steve, the iPhone is by far the most enjoyable interface for a portable music player. The cover interface really shines on the phone. Simply hold the iphone sideways to initiate the cover interface. I find the cover UI to be a fluff piece on the desktop, but its perfect for the portable.

There are drawbacks to the iPhone’s media interface. First off, there is only 7GB of storage or 3GB with the cheaper model. The OS really takes up about 1GB of the iPhone. If your trying to use this for playing full length movies, you might want to look elsewhere.

The YouTube application is really fun, and well implemented. Even on AT&T’s slow network, I’m usually only 15-30 seconds away from the time I hit play, to when it actually plays with no pause.

Photos
iphone photo

The photo application is really nice if your a Macintosh user. You can set it up to sync with iPhoto albums. I have it set to sync all my photos from the last 4 months. The multitouch display and tilt sensor provide an enjoyable photo browsing experience. Photos are automatically rezzed down, so they don’t take up too much space. Right now I have about 1000 photos taking up 650MB.

The camera is decent, but nothing spectacular. If you have really good light, the results are acceptable. If something is moving, moving at all, or its a little dark out, forget taking a photo with your iphone. The iphone camera also performs very poorly in fluorescent light.

Linus  and Lindsey

Other Applications
Maps: A nice UI for google maps, but for $600 I expect this device to come with a GPS.

Chat: SMS only, it looks like ichat, but there is no IM application in the iPhone. Quite dissapointing considering I’ve had AIM on my phone for 5 years.

Calendar: Syncs with iCal, but nothing else on the Mac.

Stocks, Calculator, Weather, Clock, Notes:
Similar functionality to the dashboard applets they resemble. I find the notes application to be a disappointment.

Overall
Best in Class features

  • Phone Interface
  • E-mail Checking
  • Music Playing
  • Web Browsing
  • Photo Browsing
  • The User Interface

Disappointments

  • No removable battery
  • No GPS
  • No SDK or third party applications.
  • No syncing with third party applications on the Mac.
  • No support for OGG or FLAC audio formats.
  • 8GB is simply not enough storage space.
  • If you actually use the iPhone to check e-mail and listen to songs throughout the day, the battery goes down fast.
  • E-mail composition with the on-screen keyboard is not close to matching the typical Treo or Blackberry experience.
  • Can’t send SMS photos taken with the camera.
  • Can’t SMS or e-mail contacts.
  • Can’t import vcards from within the phone.
  • Can’t ssh or VNC (re: no 3rd party apps)

Overall
The iPhone is the best cellphone on the market. There are plenty of other phones that have similar features. Nokia and Sony have produced media phones from 5+ years now. Where the iPhone blows the competition away is with the implementation of features. The multitouch interface and tilt sensor, combined with excellent UI design, makes the iPhone the undisputed king of mobile phones.

From a heavy e-mail user’s perspective, the iPhone excels at checking, reading, and deleting e-mail. It only fails, when it comes to e-mail composition. An onscreen keyoard with no tactile feel is never going to match the experience of a real keyboard.
I would recommend an iPhone if you:

  • Want the best cell phone music player.
  • Want to show off your photography.
  • Want to check your e-mail.
  • Want to browse the web with your phone.

I would NOT recommend the iPhone if you:

  • Want to take pictures with your phone.
  • Want to write lots of e-mail with your phone.
  • Want your phone to double as a movie player.
  • Want to use your phone as a navigation device.
  • New iPhone user

    Excellent review. Great accountability on all fronts.
    I agree with you on all points but this:

    “An onscreen keyoard with no tactile feel is never going to match the experience of a real keyboard.”

    While, a week ago I would have agreed with you, I have gotten so used to my iPhone keyboard that regular cell phone buttons / blackberry buttons feel akward, and, well… old.

    “What is this? Analog buttons? eew, how old is this?” lol

    Everything else you said is dead on, in my opionion.

    ..and while the camera is lackluster, it’s just so convenient and easy to use that I took over 800 pictures with it on a week vacation.
    My Digital Camera = 0. None. It was just too easy to whip out the iPhone (if I didn’t already have it out) and snap 2-3 pictures.
    I ended up with great pictures of things I normally wouldn’t have gone through the trouble to photograph with my digital camera, and I ended up with a much more robust collection of pictures of my vacation.

    Once again, excellent reveiw.
    Thank you