Like most everyone the past week I’ve been overwhelmed with iPhone hype and I swore I wouldn’t let it get to me. Well the inner Apple nut in me took over. I became a possessed man in the 11th hour and ended up getting one.
Having used my iPhone now for a decent amount of time I wanted to share some of the apparent short comings and many of its amazing features as it relates to real use in the field.
1. iPhone TTY Adapter
Perhaps the adrenaline rush or fatigue of those involved with the transaction (me and the sales people) contributed to this oversight, but in order to use the iPhone with any other headphones, cassette adapter, etc. requires a special iPhone TTY Adapter. Translation: You can’t use a standard headphone plug in the iPhone headphone jack. The iPhone uses a different plug to accommodate the phone pickup/hangup button on the headphones provided by Apple.
Now perhaps I missed the memo on this, but even if I did I find it amazing that Apple would not include this with the product! As it stands I have to revisit the Apple store to get one or order it online and the last I checked the Apple store was showing this part would be available in 2-4 weeks.
2. SMS vs IChat
I was a little bummed when I found out that the iChat display for text messages wasn’t iChat and in fact an SMS app. As a result each message sent/received counts towards your monthly allotment whether 200, 1500 or unlimited (in which case it doesn’t matter).
The Hack That Almost Was
One of the first things I did to see if I could get around the SMS limit was to access Meebo.com. Amazingly Meebo.com loaded in the iPhone Safari browser and I was able to manually open a chat window, type in my friends IM name and type out a message. The only thing I couldn’t do was hit a return key. The iPhone keyboard return key enters a carriage return it doesn’t initiate the IM to be sent. If anyone from Meebo is reading this let me know when you add a send button to your IM windows. At home the response time to Meebo.com was good, but sometimes the page would hang. An iPhone optimized Meebo page would be the bomb.
3. Text Editing
Much has been said about the challenge of using the keyboard on the iPhone, but that doesn’t really phase me. What has phased with the iPhone in this area is the challenge of managing or editing text. Apple has done a very good job in adapting their software to a hardware platform with no mouse, BUT even still there are basic keyboard and OS functions that are missing that make the most basic edits a pain in the ass. Depending on your approach and I think I’ve tried them all now…
a. no finger maneuvers to select text
b. no shift + arrow keys to select text
c. no copy/paste functions
(the heart of what made Macs successful in the early 80’s… back when I had braces)
4. No MP3 Ringtones (yet)
This seems like a real no-brainer… release an iPod Phone, make it so that you can select songs to be your ringtone. Amazingly with this initial release of the iPhone OS/App you can only choose from a fixed list of ringer choices. Assigning a contact to an MP3 file is not an option. To me this is a total bummer.
5. GMail Productivity
One of the first things I did (besides start using the camera… thats a separate write up to come) after I activated the iPhone was to configure my GMail account for remote access. It’s great in every way except for… threads not being recognized. Apparently with the initial version of the Google Mail app if you have for example 5 email messages part of a common thread you end up going through 5 separate email. I’ll be managing my received mail through my GMail account on my computer so it’s not that big of a deal, but I’d be able to work much more efficiently on my iPhone if the threads were preserved.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I get a lot of email on my GMail account. Unfortunately at this time you can’t multiple select messages to delete. A small gripe but it does impact productivity.
Lastly on the topic of GMail… my automatically assigned labels don’t display for my messages. Again a productivity issue
6. Web Display & Access
Quicktime and Flash
.MOV and .SWF files don’t display on the iPhone Safari browser. I can understand why this would be the case. The bandwidth impact would be considerable for large files and heaven knows the AT&T network would choke on it. If the phone could detect the IP transfer via WiFi and allow the option for display it would be ideal, but this may go counter to Apples lightweight strategy.
No iTunes Access or iTunes Ringtone Area
I find this rather surprising. There wasn’t a module or means via the iPhone Safari application to access and buy music. Even more amazing is that iTunes doesn’t yet have a ringtone area of iTunes to access. You’d think that would be a great revenue opportunity. Perhaps my web strategy work persona is creeping through on this one. If someone from Apple is reading and likes the idea let me know I’ve always wanted to work for Apple.
Three Feature Requests (in case Apple is reading):
1. Put in place a “Forward URL” function in the iPhone Safari browser. It’d be great with the press of a “virtual” button to forward a site URL to a friend via email.
2. Enable image uploads directly from the iPhone to services like Flickr and Zooomr. As it stands you can’t select “Upload Image” from a web page on the iPhone. Perhaps this would require a web service app from Flickr or Zooomr. So if Flickr or Zooomr employees are reading let me know when you have something available.
3. In the SMS application add a button to “add a contact” when a message is incoming from an unknown user. I’ve not been able to add every friend to my contacts and as I receive messages from people it would be nice to add contacts in the SMS application as easily as you can in the GMail application.
As many have said the iPhone indeed lives up to the hype. The iPhone is to the cellular phone industry as the Macintosh was to the computer industry. How you interact with a cell phone will never be the same. There will be many imitations to come, but Apple is so far ahead on the software front that by the time someone replicates the current functionality Apple will be a step or two ahead.
What more needs to be said? The overall usability is incredibly refined and as a result every phone function is simple. First and foremost it’s a phone and it’s super easy to use.
2. Phone Size
The phone is small. Sure it’s not tiny like many other cell phones, but for a smartphone it’s size is quite small.
3. Screen Size
The screen size is great. It’s pretty much just one big screen with a button, speaker and microphone. I’m not sure a bigger screen would be possible with out making the phone bigger.
4. Image Quality
Building on the impressive screen size is the image quality. Watching videos and, more important to me, viewing photos is incredible. The contrast, color range and resolution exceeds expectation. I uploaded some of my favorite images to my camera and they display beautifully!
5. Sound Quality
The external speaker sounds like you’d expect, but the sound quality via headphones is superb for calls and music. In relation to music sound quality I’m not sure this will be much of a surprise for anyone that currently has an iPod.
6. Network Management
Only Apple could make network management so easy. Detecting and connecting to WiFi networks couldn’t be any easier.
7. Random Access Voice Mail
Being able to access Voice Mail in any order I choose is amazingly helpful. It may seem like a small thing, but being able to jump past low priority messages to higher priority messages is a big productivity boost.
Beyond the slide bar to activate the iPhone after it’s been idle (which minimizes accidental use of the phone while in your pocket) there is a mechanism to add a passcode to restrict access to the iPhone. For those that haven’t found this yet it is under “Settings”>”General”>”Passcode Lock”. I’m the paranoid sort so I haven’t implemented this fully yet, but the prospect of securing data on my iPhone is a great option and something I’ll likely employ in the near future.
9. Ring Off Switch
There are only 4 mechnical buttons on the iPhone: Volume Up/Down, On/Off or Sleep/Wake, “Home” button and the Ring/Silent switch. The later is indeed what every phone should have… a very simple and obvious switch. Before going into see a movie tonight I had no concern what-so-ever that my iPhone would accidentally shift in my pocket and start to ring (like my old phone had the tendency to do).
10. The Camera
Being so focused on photography I’ll write more about this in the future, but plain and simple the iPhone has a great camera albeit a little limited. Even with its limitations its by far the best in phone camera I’ve had to date.
11. GUI (Graphical User Interface for the uninitiated)
There are two killer components to the iPhone interface:
1. Pinch Open and Close to enlarge or shrink the view to a web page or photo. Not only is this functional it is a lot of fun to do. This is one component of phone interaction that is so different it really feels revolutionary.
2. Shifting Views via the internal accelerometer is exceptionally cool. Shifting your phone 90 or even 180 degrees for most applications will result in an image that is always in the correct viewing orientation on the iPhone. This may seem like an unnecessary feature, but the moment you realize that you have one less thing to think about while using it the more you’ll appreciate the iPhones overall simplicity… that and it’s incredibly fun to mess with. I would bet money that games leveraging this function will be forthcoming shortly. The Wii has already shown how the use of an accelerometer can add another dimension to gaming.
Overall I’m really enjoying my iPhone. I’m really glad I got it and for a first generation product it is extremely refined. Any and all criticisms I have, aside from the adapter, are easily addressed with software upgrades. The iPhone operating system has been incredibly stable, but that is no surprise for anyone using OS X which it is ultimately using. If you’re on the fence about getting one drink the Kool-Aid and get one. You won’t regret it.
[tags]Apple, iPhone, Review, Safari, AT&T, iPod, web, cell phone, pros, cons, GMail, Google, MP3, TTY Adapter, iTunes, hack, Meebo, text, edit, image, sound, quality, voice mail, productivity, Wii, accelerometer, camera[/tags]