A look at the iPhone, after all the ritz and glamor

Apple iPhone on white desk

Before delving into my personal thoughts concerning the recently released Apple iPhone, I must apologize for any preconceived notions – expressed via 5thirtyone.com, through IM or email, or verbally [during lunch / coffee breaks] – that the iPhone would have a difficult time standing up against the Nokia N95 or BlackBerry devices. Silly me. Apple, the company that prides itself in beautiful / functional hardware had to know exactly what they were doing.

Waiting for the iPhone curtains to dropHaving admitting that my iPhone had already arrived (Nokia N95), I now sit here, eating my words as I compose an ad hoc review of the device. Maybe an actual physical keyboard isn’t necessary for mobile communication?

The iPhone purchase was far from planned. Rather, a purchase spurred by opportunity. After missing out on the Nintendo Wii launch, the prospect of a guaranteed iPhone was much to hard to ignore. A pat on the back for Roland who helped me realize that Apple’s eyebrow-raising foray into mobile communication / entertainment convergence devices will most likely result in an all-out head-butting session between Apple, Microsoft, Symbian, Palm, and Research In Motion (RIM). The Apple iPhone is far from perfect, but hints at a much brighter / beautiful / intuitive future for convergence, touch-sensitive, mobile communication devices.

Seperated at birth

My thoughts concerning the device were collected over the span a weekend of near constant – real – use. Regular usage of the device including browsing, text messaging, emailing, phone calls, video playback, and all the joys and headaches between. From the “wow this is amazing”, to the “I hope this is fixed with the next firmware update”, the list below may help you determine whether or not the iPhone + at&t service is for you. As a milestone reference, my previous devices used prior to the iPhone release date included the BlackBerry Curve and Nokia N95.

  • Loved the activiation process via iTunes. Although I’ve read numerous accounts of activiation processes being frozen or failing to complete, I was able to activate my own and Syl’s iPhone in less than 5 minutes each. +
  • Amazingly vibrant / realistic looking screen. The screen on my N95 pales in comparison with dull blocky characters, icons, and UI details. The beauty of OS X in the palm of your hands – including Helvetica! +
  • I am in constant amazement each time I compose a text message or email. Rather than being a tedious task (as I had mistakenly presumed to be true), I can confidently admit that I am as fast and accurate typing on the flat iPhone screen as I was with a full QWERTY keyboard. +
  • Cellular reception / signal strength needs improvement. Traveling through the 520 tunnel (Seattle) I have no signal on the iPhone. In contrast, the N95 & Curve both received 2-3 bars of service.
  • Despite 2.5G Fine EDGE “enhancements” touted by at&t, optimal network speeds are only achieved later during the day. In order to enjoy the Safari browser or Google Maps, connect via Wifi. Where is HSPDA?!
  • 2MP camera works, but no flash or zooming does not.
  • No MMS – multimedia messaging. This is killing me. Not everyone configures their email accounts for use on their phones, but most do have MMS capable handsets.
  • Everything on the iPhone is touch sensitive, yet the home button is an actual button. I often find myself tapping the Home button rather than actually pressing it down. I guess it’s a good sign of how intuitive using the touch sensitive aspect of the iPhone is?
  • No select, copy, and paste. As cumbersome as the task was, smartphones need to provide users with this functionality.-
  • Notes on the iPhone do not sync with Stickies on OS X.
  • Why can’t my iPhone and Mac(s) “talk” to one another view Bluetooth?
  • Excellent battery life. Heavy use of the browser, text messaging, and email seem like a walk in the park. I really like the ‘Usage’ found under ‘Settings’ which tells you how many hours and minutes have passed since your last full charge – even going so far as to show users if the device has been plugged-in since a full recharge. +
  • Options for ringtones or customizing SMS alerts? Seriously, I expect to see this in the next software update, but why is there no option to disable the sound alerts for sent text messages?
  • All mobile handsets support multiple “profiles” + the option to edit / create more. The iPhone offers two: ring or silent. Woohoo!
  • Visual voicemail. Where have you been all my life? Visual voicemail actually makes me want to ignore phone calls. Think of it as the DVR of voicemail. Only, instead of having to listen to new / old voicemails in chronological order, you can select which message to play when you want it. +
  • Image control & scrolling with the flick of a finger (or two). Browsing through contacts, emails, text messages, and images is so fluid and [feels] effortless. +
  • The inability to download images or files from the net directly from within the browser perplexes me. So we can stream audio and video – embedded or linked – but we can’t click on a linked image to download? I guess Apple would need to include a file manager (Finder) of sorts if this update were to arrive. + /
  • I was a little disappointed to find out that syncing data between the iPhone and my Mac still required a USB cable. I can understand the requirement of a cable for software updates, but why can’t basic syncing be done via Bluetooth? I guess the iPhone would have to be able to discover my Macs to start eh?
  • Why aren’t my iCal tasks being synced?! Come on Apple, you’re already syncing my schedule, how about throwing in the Tasks to seal the deal?
  • Built-in email wizard creation support for Yahoo!, Gmail, .Mac, and AOL. Advanced setup options for other IMAP, POP, or Exchange (IMAP must be enabled). +
  • Initially I had setup Gmail (POP) but the sent messages being returned as “new” mail + the irritating fact that deleting from the handset does not delete mail from your Gmail account bugged me. I quickly setup IMAP access for my mail server but soon returned to Gmail after I realized how much SPAM slipped through. If the iPhone included mail filtering rules, I could keep SPAM out of site. Unfortunately, such a luxury is not available at this time.
  • Dan pointed out that IMAP + SSL users may run into a bit of a hurdle as far as fetching mail is concerned. Keep an eye out on UNEASYsilence for updates.
  • A text messaging client that emulates the look and feel of iChat, but no mobile iChat compatible for use with AOL (AIM)? Hoping to see a mobile / mini version of iChat with a future software revision.
  • Smooth transition between applications. The only “freezes” I’ve experienced happened while I attempted to delete too many successive emails from my POP account. Overall, very stable with no full OS crashes like those that I had experienced with Symbians S60 v3 N95. +
  • Odd bug with videos encoded as MP4’s which are capable of being played on the Apple TV & video iPod but not the iPhone. I’m stumped and submitted a ticket to Apple for support.
  • Rumor has it that at&t business account holders are having difficulty activating their iPhone’s. What happened to appealing to the business users niche?
  • No option to disable automatic image resizing for any files sent via email. First no MMS? Now 1600×1200 photos automatically resized to 640×480?! This should be a user preference for iPhone Mail users.

This list surely leaves room for change. Any subsequent posts concerning the iPhone and OS X will most likely hit the front page of 5thirtyone.com in the not-so-distant-future. I’ve noticed a few undocumented [by Apple] “finger motions” that I will need to find a way to record and share.

Despite a few negative points, my overall impression of the Apple iPhone is completely positive with high hopes for upcoming software updates and hardware revisions. Coming from the Nokia N95 & Curve, the iPhone is few steps backwards in regards to applications and customization. From an OS stand-point, the iPhone with its touch sensitive screen feels light years ahead. As development support from the Apple community continues to improve, early adopters will surely begin to feel as though their new handsets may soon hold a respected spot in the mobile handset arena.

If there are any specific questions that you would like addressed, feel free to leave them in the comments . Chime in if you have an iPhone, had an iPhone, want an iPhone, or fail to understand the magnetic draw of the slim keyboard-less device.

Other Cell Phone Options

If you’re not looking for a cell phone as feature rich as the iphone you might want to consider a pay as you go cell phone. These types of cell phones are great for people who are new to mobile phones and don’t want the hassle of dealing with a cell phone provider contract.

Discuss - 25 Comments

  1. Good to hear bro. Really my only qualms about the iPhone so far are its lack of a removable battery, and the fact that you have to use AT&T as a carrier. I think i’ll be getting one quite soon though, especially after finding out it’s possible to use the iPhone as prepaid.

  2. Kevin says:

    I had a feeling you’d end up getting an iPhone. 😉

    So far I love mine, although I did have to wait around 23 hours for activation. The problem was that I was an old AT&T Wireless (pre-Cingular) “blue” customer and therefore couldn’t simply add a data plan through iTunes. My account needed to be transitioned first before the phone could be activated. After numerous calls to AT&T yesterday, I finally spoke with someone early this morning who got the phone activated.

  3. Glenn Wolsey says:

    I really wish these were on sale in New Zealand at the moment, it’ll be hard living another 6+ months before actually been able to test it out for myself.

  4. Nice review, it had points which other major reviewer didn’t include. Although some what off topic, I was at a convention kind of thing on saturday and there was an iPhone auction. It went for a whoopping $1300! I guess it just looks cool. By the way, how many phones do you have so far?

  5. Sam Ryan says:

    Roland usually is right about stuff like this… congrats on working with the Quire guys! I like their site a lot.

  6. sighmon says:

    hey guys, so i hear over at: http://tinyurl.com/2omyst that you can unlock the iphone already. does anyone have any idea whether that would mean being able to run it on an austrailian sim card setup over 3G?

    i know i’m grasping at straws here.. but.. but.. 6months.. eek!

    🙂

  7. wayne thompson says:

    Nice to read a review which tells good and bad. I have a treo 650 and can do a lot but with so many problem even after all the upgrades. I am so fed up with review about eating a greasy hamburg and greasing up the screen my treo keyboard would be unusable. The keyboard that I am using now would not be able to take it. Thank you for giving a truthful review good and bad.

  8. Phil Bowell says:

    I wish it was available of here in the UK. I’m due an up-grade and new contract this month and iPhone is the one I want, but alas it’s a no go. It sounds like there are a few bits and bobs which need working out, hopefully before the UK release (whenever that is!).

  9. Myke says:

    Nice review Derek. I gotta say I was expecting to wait at least another week before we saw anything on the iPhone on 5thirtyone. But I applaud the promptness.

    One thing that I think should be added to your list is the inability to locate exactly where you are in relation to where you want to go on the maps feature. If you travel a lot and need to find a good place to eat, you need to know where you currently are. But with only a weekends worth of use of the iPhone I don’t see why you would have even had to use that feature yet.

    My favorite part of your review (read: the part I agreed with most) is when you said the iPhone isn’t perfect. Which I had expected, but hints at a much brighter / beautiful / intuitive future for convergence, touch-sensitive, mobile communication devices.

    That is dead on. Anyone that thought the iPhone wasn’t going to have its weak spots was just full of wishful thinking. But it’s a step in the right direction. This is how technology advances. When someone sticks a fork in the road and tries to take ideas in a new direction it becomes a ripple effect and can only improve on what we already know. So I’m excited for whats to come and can’t wait to see how the iPhone improves and influences the future for the better.

  10. Long N. says:

    From everything you say, it sounds like the iPhone is just an eye-candy. It also sounds like going back to the Nokia N95 is a good idea and perhaps the next generation of iPhone will finally really take the lead without raising any eyebrows.

  11. John says:

    Really Long? How did you get that impression with comments like this:

    “am in constant amazement each time I compose a text message or email. Rather than being a tedious task (as I had mistakenly presumed to be true), I can confidently admit that I am as fast and accurate typing on the flat iPhone screen as I was with a full QWERTY keyboard. +”

    “From an OS stand-point, the iPhone with its touch sensitive screen feels light years ahead. ”

    How is this eye candy? Its fundamental stuff. The iPhone will change things.

  12. Mike says:

    Thanks for a solid review of the iPhone and most importantly congrats on your purchase!

  13. J David says:

    I really love the look of the phone and I hear the functionality is pretty good, but it seems to me that Apple may be overextending itself. They should stick to their core competencies; that is just a good business practice. In fact, these resources should have gone into a redesign for the powerbook or imac or most obviously into the latest OS.

  14. Amber Yount says:

    I want one, but have more important uses for my money right now. I saw an iPhone go for over $15,000 on ebay. I bet the buyer will feel like an idiot by the time it gets to his doorstep. I mean COME ONE ITS A PHONE. I am a MAJOR apple geek, but even I’m not that stupid. Thats like one iphone for the price of 30…there’re not even sold out yet. jeez.

  15. Excellent post – realistically shows the good and not so good parts of the iPhone. I played with the iPhone in the Apple store yesterday. Safari is nice. Although I have no need to get an iPhone at the moment. My BB Curve does everything I need it to do and it’s smaller/lighter.

  16. Derek says:

    Really my only qualms about the iPhone so far are its lack of a removable battery,

    This had me a little worried at first. I’m just thinking back to all the iPods that I had ever owned. Not once had a battery died on me (or had performance deteriorated to the point that a replacement was needed). I’m thinking the next revision of the iPhone will be released about the time that this internal battery begins to show its worthlessness. Maybe one of those iPod battery replacement services will cater to iPhones?

    By the way, how many phones do you have so far?

    I like to offload older phones that I don’t use so at this very moment, the phone drawer stands at three. I just don’t see a point to having phones sitting around that do nothing.

    does anyone have any idea whether that would mean being able to run it on an austrailian sim card setup over 3G?

    My understanding is that the current iteration of the iPhone does not have the necessary hardware to support higher 3G speed networks.

    One thing that I think should be added to your list is the inability to locate exactly where you are in relation to where you want to go on the maps feature. If you travel a lot and need to find a good place to eat, you need to know where you currently are. But with only a weekends worth of use of the iPhone I don’t see why you would have even had to use that feature yet.

    In order to enjoy this "convenience" the iPhone would need GPS or some type of method to triangulate its position relative to cellphone towers. The device has Bluetooth. It would be great to use a Bluetooth GPS dongle with the iPhone – similar to what I was able to do with the BlackBerry Curve. Unfortunately, this is all very much dependent on the iPhone platform.

    My BB Curve does everything I need it to do and it’s smaller/lighter.

    My phone right before the iPhone was the Curve. I thought the keys were a little cramped but that is probably one of BB’s better phones to date. A slim body like the Pearl, but a full QWERTY. Sure is nice 😉

  17. […] My trust and beliefs still within the iPhone stayed strong. And I was not surprised when I read this blog by Derek P. I quote: Having admitting that my iPhone had already arrived (Nokia N95), I now sit […]

  18. Kevinn says:

    SMS layout, can you change it away from the iChat-ish style?

    Can you change the fonts say on the notes app? The felt pen typeface looks iffy and quite unreadable on some of the photos circulating around.

    It’ll take a while till it reaches the Philippines – or it may not, a lot of time for Apple to update it to 3G and add that copy/paste thing. 😛

  19. Derek says:

    SMS layout, can you change it away from the iChat-ish style?

    Can you change the fonts say on the notes app? The felt pen typeface looks iffy and quite unreadable on some of the photos circulating around.

    It is not possible to get rid of the iChat-style messaging. Neither is it possible to change the felt tip font in notes. Irritating as it is somewhat difficult to read notes glancing at them while moving.

  20. […] don’t want to get into a whole in-depth review on the iPhone, mostly because others have that covered. I’ll probably instead just be typing up a few observations I have about my experiences every […]