The iPhone Review

100_3678.jpgSo I was swayed by the screen. Like The Steve said, touching is believing, and it really is as beautiful as he promised. Sales of nearly all my cool, but less shiny-new gadgets, should about cover the cost of the iPhone itself, and the monthly plan is pretty close to what we’re paying now. With June being a 3 pay check month for us, Nicole grudgingly allowed me to cover the small difference from the bank account, and Friday evening I went home with a brand new baby iPhone — the smaller (4gb) one, of course, because alas, I have been whipped.

One review said the iPhone was 95% brilliant and 5% infuriating. That about sums it up for me. You can tell that they went back to the drawing board with every part of the UI, and did an amazing job of fixing how we interact with computers — they just completely forgot about that last 5%. The multi-touch screen is jaw-droppingly intuitive. If you want to scroll to the next photo, you just flick your finger. If you want to scale a picture or website down, you just pinch your fingers together. It works as advertised, and it just feels right.

There are some missing things, and some things that are frustrating. I haven’t had a lot of luck with the keyboard. Its OK for text messages, but when I had the chance to tap out an e-mail this morning, I opted for a real computer because I’m not a patient person. The predictive input is good only for dictionary words, so if you’re typing something technical, or if you’re trying to input an e-mail or web address, prepare to be disappointed.

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Taken on my iPhone.
Click to enlarge.
There’s definitely some software missing/busted. No IM client, a crappy camera program (although the camera itself isn’t horrible), you can’t send a text message to more than one person — and you can’t copy/paste so sending the same message 3 times drives you nuts. You can’t attach more than one photo to an e-mail, and you can’t upload a photo to a website for blogging or anything. YouTube is super cool on the iPhone, but not all of its content is there, so unless your video is really popular, you’re not gonna be watching it online.
Safari is also less-than-great. It renders websites beautifully, but actually reading a site, pinching and scrolling all the time gets tired. Its also pretty crashy, and frequently quits on me without warning.
Fortunately most of these issues can be addressed by software updates — the first of which is rumored to be coming in a week or so, and supposedly will include a version of iChat.

There are some hardware issues they could have addressed. The lack of hardware buttons seems elegant at first blush, but doesn’t take into account one-handed/in-car use. For example, the iPod feature is wondrous — especially Cover Flow — but skipping to the next song while driving, after the screen has gone to sleep, is annoying at best (touch the home button, slide to unlock the screen, find the next button.) All of the software could benefit from 2 “soft” buttons that could be re-mapped for the active application (a Shutter button for the camera would be way nicer than an on-screen button.) And I would prefer that the “home” button be used as a back button.

Nonetheless, the iPhone is a beautiful piece of kit. It does what Windows Mobile has been promising for the past 6 years, and it does it in such a thought-out way that anyone can pick it up and start using it. You don’t even have to think about how to do something — the features that are there are so intuitive that it just seems natural.

A note on the carrier: the Edge network is slow. They were rumored to have boosted the speed the day before the iPhone came out, and if thats true, I don’t want to know what it was like before! Its fine for e-mail and even for low-quality YouTube, but Google Maps is a little sluggish. Fortunately the phone seamlessly transitions over to WiFi when available, and that hugely improves its online performance. And Nic and I have never had any complaints about AT&T’s voice coverage (which is something we can’t say about our friends with Verizon).

Overall, I’m very pleased with the iPhone. 4Gb is a little small, compared to my 60GB iPod, but I’m disciplining my syncing and its working out OK. I have high hopes for future software updates, and I am totally confident that this is a game-changer in both Communications and UI design. Its the best cell phone I’ve ever used, the best portable e-mail reader ever made, and an outstanding portable media and computing device. Well worth selling all my other gear for!

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2 thoughts on “The iPhone Review

  1. I hear changing the battery is going to be a BIG problem. Hopefully that will change with the next generation.

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