iThink therefore iPhone

Posted: June 30, 2007 in iPhone, XV6700

Is it possible to fall in love with a gadget? Yes I know that question is a bit disturbing, but so what! After a night and half a day with my iPhone, that’s what I keep thinking and wondering. I can’t seem to get enough of it, I just keep wanting to experiment with it, buy more accessories to protect it, watch the beautiful screen react to my touches, and stare at it’s sleek, sexy shape.  I haven’t been this enamored with a piece of technology in a long while. I remember being extremely impressed with the PSP when it came out, as well as the video iPod, but this clearly blows both of them away.  As a quote in the paper said today, “money can’t buy love, but it can buy cool.”

Now some of you may remember I poo-pooed the phone when it was first announced. I call that my denial, sour grapes phase. I had recently purchased the Verizon XV6700 and signed a new 2-year contract, and hearing Apple’s AT&T exclusive deal really drove me nuts. I also was not impressed it would use the 2.5G EDGE network instead of a faster 3G service. And a lot of the hype sounded a bit overblown without having seen more detail. What ultimately turned me around, months later, was finally getting myself to watch the full demo that Steve Jobs did in January. Watching the phone in action instead of focusing on the specs just blew me away. By the time he had rotated the unit and showed one of my favorite episodes of The Office in widescreen, I was sold hook line and sinker. I wanted to get in line right at that moment! Now while I still maintain a new widescreen iPod would have been really great, the full capabilities of iPhone as iPod, phone and browser give me pause as to whether that would be enough to satisfy me now. Interestingly in my experimental phase thus far, most all I’ve done is play with the non-iPod features (Google maps, browsing, email, etc).

During my sour grapes phase, I had made the argument that my XV6700 essentially had all the features of the iPhone, so saying it was a revolutionary technology was clearly over the top. With that in mind, I thought a comparison of the 2 might be an interesting way to review the phone itself.

Interface: both are touchscreen.  The XV uses a stylus and external buttons as well as a mini-joystick, where by now, as everyone knows, the iPhone uses your fingers and a single Home button. XV uses a Windows Mobile type of OS, iPhone has a very simple, clear, touch based version of the MacOS. Not really a fair fight here, the opening Home screen on the iPhone sets the tone for everything that follows, with an incredibly friendly interface of icon/buttons. Software touch buttons are later contextual to the application you’re running, so for instance, when in Call mode, you have new buttons like Contacts and Recent Calls.

Internet: both phones have WiFi and/or mobile options to get on the net. The iPhone has a much zippier browser and the zoom in/out capability simply makes for a much better, even fun, browsing experience. I haven’t tried the EDGE network yet, but I believe Verizon’s EVDO will probably be much faster. Still it’s plausible the iPhone’s faster browser performance will make the experience a wash in terms of speed. Bottom line, it’s fun to browse on the iPhone; with the XV you know you can do it but it still feels like a lot of effort even at top WiFi speeds.

Email: similarly the iPhone’s interface is much much easier to use. The XV seemed to have a lot more options but navigating the menus just to send/receive was a chore. Clearly not much thought went into making it friendly.

Keyboard: XV6700 wins. The touchscreen keyboard is about as good as I can imagine one would be, but there’s nothing like nice big keys to press. Particularly in Portrait mode typing, I tend to make mistakes typing on the iPhone with a couple of the letters on the edge of the keyboard. I’ve read it just takes time to get used to, but it’s hard to imagine it ever being better than a solid keypress. XV’s keyboard is not quite as nice as my old V (now the enV), but still very good relative to some of the puny keys in the newer Treos. My fingers are kind of fat, I can’t imagine how tough it would be for someone with really huge hands.

Portrait/Landscape: both phones have the capability, but iPhone wins with the sensor technology that auto adjusts. I’m a bit disappointed that the text and email doesn’t rotate, but hopefully that will be changed in later software updates.

Texting: I really like what the iPhone has done to make text conversations flow like blurbs of dialog, but I give the nod to the XV because of its hard keyboard. If iPhone allowed a landscape keyboard for texting mode, it would probably regain the lead due to its superior interface.

Screen: iPhone, no contest. Size matters. And more importantly, the screen is every bit as gorgeous as you might imagine it. Nuff said.

Size/weight: hands down the iPhone is the winner. The XV is, simply put, chunky. No way around it. The iPhone is sleek and sexy, not much larger or heavier than a video iPod. I was a bit surprised it was a bit weightier than I’d imagined. I was thinking it would feel more along the lines of a larger size Nano, but it’s definitely more substantial. It’s still really slim and slides right into your pocket.

Memory: I got the 8GB iPhone, but I wish I could still have more memory or an upgrade path. My XV can take a 2GB miniSD card but it’s removable which is convenient if I want to expand. The big difference? With iTunes I have a ton of content that I can, and would like to, put on the unit. With the XV it’s a lot more work so even the 2GB is kind of a waste. Motivation to get the content, then convert to the right format, then copy the files over, quickly gets beaten by laziness.

Music/movies: not even a fair category for comparison, but you have to give the XV points for trying. Good MP3 and WMV support, as well as a few other formats. iPhone’s new iPod functionality, though, far surpasses anything on the XV, and in fact is much better than the present iPods. There’s a reason why iPods still sell so much better than other portable media players with better specs, and the iPhone honors this tradition by making it even better. Flipping through album covers with your fingertips while listening to your favorite songs is just plain cool.

Games: finally a category for the XV! Because it’s Windows Mobile, there are a ton of great games available. Sadly at the moment the iPhone has NONE. Come on Apple, at least throw in a token free game! A stylus-free touch screen would seem to have tons of possibilities for games, but oh well.

Google Maps: both got it, but iPhone does more with it. Interface is easier and more intuitive to use, from start to finish. The speed (on WiFi) is just amazing, particularly when you bring in the satellite imagery.

YouTube/Internet Video: this one surprised me, the iPhone has a dedicated YouTube application. The quality is awesome and it’s just plain fun, even if you aren’t much of a YouTube fan.  I tried to use it once on the XV but it didn’t work. On the XV’s side, I was able to get Slingbox Mobile to work on it pretty well, so we’ll call this category a draw. The YouTube app/interface is better, but being able to watch Live TV on your mobile trumps that.
Camera: haven’t tried the iPhone yet, but I suspect it will be about as lame as the XV’s. I think both are 2megapixel but I have little expectations. Tie.

Bluetooth: haven’t tried iPhone yet. The XV’s worked well but was a pain in the ass to get working each time you wanted to use it. iPhone takes a few keypresses to get to it as well, so we’ll see.

As a Phone: still TBD, got a lot more testing to do. Reception, talk and standby time as well as quality will all be issues.

Pretty much you get the gist. Both phones have tons of features, almost matched up one for one. One might argue the XV can do a few more things than the iPhone and has more versatility for customization. So making the big fuss that the iPhone does internet, media and phone all in one,
is really not a big deal on paper. What is revolutionary is the way the whole thing is finally put together, and the way it is so seamlessly integrated together for an easy user experience.  Will it revolutionalize the cel phone industry? Probably not.  But for now it’s hands down the coolest gadget I’ve ever owned.

– —

Finally, backing up a bit, I should mention waiting in line for what amounted to 4 hours in the sun turned out to be a great experience. Apple store folk came by and gave us water and free Starbuck’s coffee periodically, people were taking our pictures, restaurants were taking orders for food, drivers by were asking what the hubbub was about, and police and security roamed around constantly. I ended up between 2 really nice people and we chatted the entire time. The lady even shared a dark chocolate Godiva shake with me. Without sounding too corny, there was something magical about the entire experience, the collective social energy and enthusiasm had a big concert kind of feel. By the time I left the store with the Apple employees clapping and cheering, I felt like I had been through a very special event.

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Comments
  1. rittchard says:

    Hey doofus, check this out!

    http://www.tuaw.com/2007/06/30/experiencing-iphone-the-keyboard/

    One of the comments below the article (#7 by Kai Cherry) pretty much says you have to “let go” and just type (basically allowing the error correction, which is actuated by the space bar, to fix things). I just typed in 2 test sentences and had only 2 errors. Amazing!

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