Did you guys hear? Apple came out with a phone!

A few weeks ago, I said I wouldn’t be getting an iPhone on the day it came out because I wanted to have some questions about the UI, data speeds, and a few other nagging issues sorted out before I took the plunge. It took me a week and a few trips to the Apple store, but I went ahead and got the 8gig iPhone the Friday after it came out. Overall, I’m very impressed with the device, and it has met all of my expectations save for a few minor issues.

First of all, activation was not a problem for me like it was for some. I got the phone, drove home, plugged it in, and within 5 minutes the phone was activated and ready for use. Once this part of the process was done, it was a matter of getting my ’stuff’ onto the iPhone. This was also easily accomplished from within iTunes. I’m still not so sure how I feel about iTunes being the center of my iPhone/computer interaction, but at the same time, I’d rather use that than another standalone app. My contacts, calendar, music, podcasts, email accounts & photos were all loaded onto the device, and I was good to go. I spend the better part of that weekend playing around with the iPhone UI and the apps.

It really does seem like a lot of thought went into almost every decision that was made about the interface of this device. I think almost anyone can instantly get used to how this device works, and easily navigate it’s applications. I think those iPhone commercials were a great idea, as everyone I have let play around with my iPhone try basically the same actions displayed in the ads (play with coverflow, use google maps, pinch and zoom photos). People instantly know what the iPhone is all about, and that gives them a big advantage over Blackberry and other competing phones in the market.

Some of the things that have jumped out at me over the past 3 weeks of owning this device:

  1. Battery life is great. Even using WiFi and browsing the web, I get the advertised battery life. In a normal day (taking a few calls, sending a handful of text messages, checking a few web sites, listening to music for 5-6 hours at work) I only seem to use about 25% of the battery. Even with heavy use, I haven’t gotten much below half in one day.
  2. The phone is a near perfect size. It feels very solid in your hand, and it really seems well-built. It freaking better be, but still … feels great.
  3. EDGE isn’t great, but it works for basic tasks that I use – email, rss/news, twitter, google maps, things like that. I was on vacation last week with my family and got a chance to really put the data network thru it’s paces while I was on the road, and it got the job done … although it was frustratingly slow every once in a while. Overall, I get somewhere between 125-150kb/s in good areas … and something much, much slower in others.
  4. The Google maps app is outstanding. We had to use it a few times to find some places in Orlando, and while it doesn’t have GPS, the driving directions with it’s ‘turn-by-turn’ feature is good enough … especially in a pinch.
  5. Using the WiFi for internet access is ideal, but I have left it off most of the time unless I’m at home, work, or a friend’s house with WiFi. It seems to affect battery life marginally, but I’m not sure turning it off while driving and such makes a huge difference either way.
  6. The touchpad isn’t perfect, but I’m really fast at it now. You really do get used to trusting the software to auto-complete even the most obscure terms, and 99% of the time, it works wonderfully. I have sent out a few emails I didn’t re-read in a pinch, and it included some interesting wording, but for the most part, it’s been great.
  7. No AIM is a downer, but I’ve just had IMs forwarded to SMS and that does the trick. Also, for now, FlickIM fills the actual AIM issue pretty well. Perfect? No way. But hopefully we’ll see an update eventually from Apple that allows me to chat it up on my phone when killing time or in a pinch.

Now, of course the iPhone isn’t perfect. There are a handful of glaring issues – some that can be fixed with software, some that cannot – that annoy me to differing degrees. The ringer is pretty quiet, and I have missed a few calls already when walking in a public place, and the vibrate function is a bit weak as well. Additionally, while the camera phone quality isn’t bad at all, the interface for the camera app itself is pretty abysmal, and in my opinion, counterintuitive. There is one button for taking pictures, and it works when you RELEASE the button, not when you press it. I can understand the logic, since the camera is on the opposite side of the touch screen. If you’re taking a self portrait or something along those lines, the best way to take photos is to place your finger on the button, turn the camera to where it needs to go, then release the button … but I just find that odd, as every camera ever has used the opposite action. A cool option to add would also be to have, say, a 2 second hold of the home button automatically take a photo. This way, no fumbling around finding buttons, no ambiguity. But I doubt we’ll see anything like that – nor will we see an added button to a 2nd gen iPhone for the camera.

The ‘notes’ application, which ostensibly will be updated to work with Apple’s improved Mail application that’s coming out with Leopard, is god awful right now. There’s no way to synch it with anything, so you can create to-do lists while on the go, which is helpful, but you can’t easily get it onto the computer since there is no cut/paste functionality on the iPhone (yet). If there were cut and paste, you could at least email yourself the list.

Finally, the YouTube application is a great idea, but currently there are almost no worthwhile videos on the ‘quicktime version’ of YouTube. Therefore, other than a few great clips of Family Guy, it’s a complete waste of my time.

Mr. Zeldman wrote an article recently about how the iPhone is the only thing that has ever really ‘forced his hand’ and had him switch over to many of Apple’s default OS X apps. I have made a similar transition, away from Google Reader, Google Calendar, and gMail in favor of NetNewsWire pro + NewsGator (which now syncs items between the online & desktop apps so I can read unread RSS feeds on my iPhone and have the same list at home, work, and online), iCal, and IMAP/Apple mail/Address book. There are certain benefits to making this switch, but it has been a process getting used to new habits, workflow, and ways of storing/using my data.

I’ve used the Apple apps on and off over the years, but generally have sought out the best product for each task, not always the default app. Now, due to how easy it is to get all of that data (not to mention it being the only way right now) into your iPhone if you use all of the Apple apps, Using Mail/Address Book/iCal/iTunes/Aperture is a no-brainer.

Overall, I’m nothing short of floored by the iPhone. It’s rare a ‘convergence device’ works as well as this does – it’s a fine iPod, a great phone, and a very useful PIM / web browser as well. Apple hit this one out of the freaking park. Not only that, I really feel it has changed the way I interact with computers and the web. I actually spend less time online, as in a pre-iPhone world I would sit down to check email, then get sucked into AIM, then start reading RSS feeds, and next thing you know, it’s 2am. No more. I’m more accessible to others, yet I spend far less time actually being in one place waiting for this interaction to take place. I definitely text more now, as well. If/when we see iChat for the phone, it’ll be over.

Simply put, the iPhone is the nicest piece of consumer electronics I have ever used. It meets all of my needs in the personal and professional realm, is fun to use, and the best is yet to come. With software updates on the horizon from Apple, you can only assume this product will improve over time. Is it for everyone? Of course not. But it’s a fine device that has ‘enough’ storage to let you throw your contacts, photos, music, videos and calendars onto an easy to use, great looking phone that’s an absolute pleasure to use.

My site is now ‘iPhone optimized‘ as well: the default zoom level & page width have been adjusted for the viewport attribute.

Ok, now what?

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