Photography, Cycling and the Internets

iPhone Review – Two Weeks In

About two weeks ago I got my team an iPhone so that we could fix some web bugs, mess around with it some and see what neat things it could do. I knew that when I first turned it on I’d want to share my thoughts here, but instead I tried to see how it would possibly fit within my daily life first, and find the real wins and/or frustrations.

Everything about the experience of buying the iPhone, opening it up and activating it was painless. There were no lines at the Apple store and during my ten minutes in the store, nobody else was buying an iPhone, even with a pretty good crowd in the store overall.

Once I brought it home and opened it, the iPhone was the first thing to be seen; no install cheat-sheet, foam insert, or anything else; just the phone. The only stumble along the way for me came after activating the phone, the AT&T Edge network wasn’t available for data transmission for the first 10 hours or so.

As expected, the touchscreen features were very cool, and for the most-part, very intuitive. Using the menu navigation felt natural with nothing more than a couple nit corners that will never affect any sort of daily iPhone use. The only feature that would really be nice is some sort of application switching functionality. Moving between the web, mail, ipod and anything else requires returning to the home screen first.

During the two-week test run, it became clear that the best parts of the iPhone are the iPod, the web browsing and the video quality. Checking email on Yahoo! Mail is pretty painless. Overall, anything that is read-only or point-and-navigate all work wonderfully. It definitely provides a “this is easy and fun” first impression.

It gets a bit more challenging when trying to type on the keyboard. I much prefer typing on the keyboard in the landscape mode that is available in the web browser. The “keys” are a bit further apart and the amount of typos is minimized. The landscape mode is not available when sending emails. Also, once the keyboard is launched in portrait mode, it doesn’t do that oh-so-cool rotation when the iPhone is turned 90-degrees. In comparison to a BlackBerry, I find typing to be much easier with a physical keyboard. Switching between text, numbers and special characters doesn’t seem as challenging on the Blackberry, even though it is the same amount of keystrokes to make it happen on both devices.

Using the Safari web browser is as close to a PC experience as I have ever seen on a handheld device. Double-tapping to zoom a text block or picture, or doing the dough-stretching behavior is very intuitive, and makes reading the web pages a breeze. Using wifi makes it pretty quick as well. Occasionally I find myself browsing the web on the iPhone instead of getting up to go across the room to my PC. This will certainly change the mobile web landscape forever.

While sitting at the airport browsing the web, I found a great article on the New York Times website that I wanted to email a friend of mine. Cut-and-paste the URL. Oops, there isn’t a cut-and-paste feature! My Blackberry, with it’s primitive web browser can do this fairly painlessly. I couldn’t do it on the iPhone and which was both surprising and disappointing. For it to be a serious productivity device, that will need to be added.

Since the iPhone is not really my mobile phone, I have had limited use of it as a phone. I have made a couple calls with it and found that the speaker phone is really lacking as it is incredibly quiet. It can’t be used with any sort of ambient noise, such as in my backyard that is directly adjacent to the freeway with only a sound wall for noise protection. The proximity sensor near the ear piece turns off the display when it is held to your ear. This is pretty slick. Looking at the display again turns it on without pressing any buttons. Very nice.

The video quality of watching The Office downloaded off iTunes was amazing. Keeping a couple shows on the iPhone for those commutes on the train, or quick plane hops across the state is something I could see myself doing. I just need to remember to bring the actual iPhone earbuds next time since my noise-cancelling headphones didn’t fit into the jack on the iPhone.

Overall, I think the iPhone is a slick consumer device. For the occasional email and heavy ipod and web browsing I think it’s great. For other professional-type applications and heavy data use that requires typing, the next rev is worth holding out for. It is a device that can easily fit within a device lover’s lifestyle, and it is the first time I have ever found browsing the web on a phone enjoyable.

I do wonder when the first iPhone cold weather gloves will come out with a flip open thumb/index finger for all those new owners in New York.

I’ll probably have more to review in the next few weeks, more on the developer side of the coin.

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