iPhone: One Month Review

Posted: July 27, 2007 in iPhone, iPhone user review accessories

Has it really been 4 weeks since I stood out in that crazy line for this amazing piece of hardware? Hard to believe, but in that time I’ve really grown to enjoy the iPhone more each day. The excitement and exuberance has died down, but the pure usability factor has only increased. After this much time, I think it’s safe to say it’s a keeper, as it really has become a part of my everyday life in ways that no other electronic device has ever succeeded in doing in the past.

The iPhone was marketed as merging 3 core functions, so I’ll direct this review with those in mind.

As a phone: first off, I’m not much of a phone person. Meaning I don’t talk a lot on the phone and prefer face to face or email interaction. So that may color my opinion a bit. However, I do tend to carry my cel phone with me just about everywhere I go as a matter of habit. So the added functions of a “smartphone” become more of an attraction to me. In any case, I’m finding this to be the easiest to use cel phone I’ve ever owned. Menu navigation is simple and straightforward. Whether it’s to get to my contacts, sync up with the computer, dial a new number on the keypad, receive an incoming call, switch to speakerphone while in call, it’s all just flat out simple and intuitive with big bright buttons that scream “use me”! The big beautiful screen is a bonus, particularly once you’ve set a photo for your contact. I still remember the first time my mom called me and her beautiful smiling face greeted me on the phone. Sound quality has been good, and I like having multiple options (ear buds, speaker, bluetooth) on top of standard holding to your mouth. I’ve tried them all with good success. I think as time goes on I’ll be leaning towards the ear phone approach for longer calls. Kinda cool to go hands free AND in stereo, to boot. If the iPhone were just a phone, it would still be a remarkable piece of engineering in terms of ease and friendliness of use. Last week I tried helping a friend navigate his Chocolate phone menu to shut the ringer off, and it just felt like I was in the dark ages. Wondering if I was exaggerating the difference, I flicked a single switch to go to vibrate on the iPhone.

Now that there’s a third party solution to custom ringtones, all that’s missing for me is voice dialing (which I believe can be done to some extent through AT&T) and MMS picture messaging (which can be done via email). I believe these are just a matter of time so I’m not concerned. In truth I rarely used either function in the past and can easily live without them, but it wouldn’t hurt to have the options.

As an iPod: much discussion has gone into whether or not this is the “best iPod ever.” My response has been that the widescreen/touchscreen alone gives it that crown. If you are interested in any sort of video content, there’s really no comparison. The screen size and quality are just gorgeous. Sound quality is excellent as well, which I suppose is just expected at this point. On top of that, the interface is considerably easier and more functional than the standard iPod, which itself was better than most the mp3 players out there. Again the interface is the key, it’s simple and elegant and gets you where you want to be more efficiently than ever before. Coverflow was cool on the computer; on the iPhone it’s glorious. You get a new, unique feel, flipping through your album covers with your finger tips, adding a personal touch (literally!) to your music library surfing. The best part of it being integrated into my phoneis that I find myself using the music functions “on the go” much more than I did in the past, simply because I always have my phone with me. In the past I’d only carry the iPod when I specifically wanted it around; now it’s on my freakin phone so it’s always with me! I still forget sometimes but I’m getting more used to the concept. I’m the type of person that will randomly think of a song or artist during the day and want to hear it right then and there. This really gives me that capability.

As an internet browser: as I’ve said to just about anyone who might listen, the killer app for me on the phone has been the portable internet. When I first heard the bold claims that this was the “real” internet, I was 100% skeptical. I’ve had about 5 or 6 different portable devices which have advertised mobile internet browsing capability and not one of them has been usable (independent of connection speed) enough to make me willing to consistently make the effort. My last phone (XV6700) was the closest; I actually used it to check for movie times a few times, but I was never able to do a plethora of other common quick activities like looking up an actor’s name on IMDB or read my regular forums or movie reviews. It used a mobile version of Internet Explorer which was fairly mediocre. Many sites’ buttons wouldn’t show up or the aspect ratio required constant scrolling with the stylus. Simply not a pleasant experience. Also close (though much larger) was the Archos 7″ WiFi unit. It’s OK as a browser using a portable version of Opera. But navigating with the stylus and typing was still a pain. Plus boot up time was long enough that it didn’t have the “instant” feel of a true portable device. Apple has transcended these issues. While the screen size is much smaller than the Archos, the zoom and scroll via fingertips makes navigation intuitive and simple. Safari is loading up full pages with all the correct buttons and cookies. I’ve had no issues (when using WiFi) doing most all the normal things I do on a desktop: general browsing, reading wikis, movie reviews, forums, searches, bringing up images, etc etc. I’m constantly amazed at how much I can do on the fly. Because it turns right on, there are just a few seconds between the thought of a particular question I might have and when I can read about it. This is the kind of feature that sort of just integrates into your everyday life. For the first time I actually feel like I really have the internet at my fingertips (literally, again!) at a moment’s notice. Granted, the EDGE network can be slow at times when connection speed is slow, but even a 3G network in optimal spots (I had Verizon EVDO on my old phone) became useless with the plodding interface and ineffective browser. I am now wondering if an other interface would be as effective. For such a small device (as a phone must be), you are inherently limited in screen size/resolution. This means you absolutely need to be able to pan and zoom in and out fluidly. I’m not sure how that can be done with a traditional stylus.

Other functions: e-mail has been pretty decent for the most part. I’ve had a couple of freeze-ups and minor issues but I’ve gotten push email to work on Yahoo and regular email works fine on my other account. Google Maps is awesome, I use it all the time now. Again the scrolling via fingertip and fast response times make it a pleasure to use. I just discovered it has a traffic overlay as well, which is very nice. The Stock and Weather applets are also great little additions. Updates are a button away and I’ve timed it at an average of 5 seconds to load, even using EDGE. Youtube has been hit or miss for me. With WiFi, it works great and the quality is amazing. Without WiFi, it often dies on me. The Alarm clock function was great on a trip I took, extremely easy to set times. Surprising to me how non-intuitive some hotel clock radios can be! Notes and Calendar I use the least, but both function well from what I’ve seen. The camera, while simple and lacking extra functions like video capture, is extremely easy to use and picture quality is far better than any of my past mobile phones. Not to mention the big screen gives you an advantage in seeing what you want to capture.

Notes on battery life: paranoia has plagued me since release as I’ve constantly read issues with batteries. I know there’s some glitch in the software which is not allowing my unit to recognize it’s fully charged and reset usage statistics. However, I also know that the time I had it working, I had something like 3+ hours of usage and 3+days of standby time under my normal usage conditions (a few phone calls, lots of email and weather checks, some iPod listening, lots of browsing) – with about 50% battery life still showing. I don’t know what other devices are doing but certainly my last phone was not meeting this level. So I’m trying to stop worrying about whether I have a faulty battery; the fact is that for my normal usage this is more than good enough.

Closing thoughts: It will be interesting to see what Apple does with their iPhone strategy in the short and long run. It’s been 4 weeks and we haven’t really heard a peep from them in terms of new content or an update to the software. I have faith they will make significant updates, but it would be nice to hear some infromation directly. I’d also like to see them develop/sell games and other stand-alone apps through iTunes. I think they are just a price drop and a few updates/apps away from really making a stronger impact on the market. The longer they wait, the more opportunities they are missing out on and the more chance for competitors to catch up. For instance, by not having purchasable ringtones at launch, they’ve already lost out on a lot of money since third party users have figured out how to get custom ringtones. I think they’ll hit their modest goals of 10 million by the end of next year, but with a device this good with this much potential, they should really be doing better.

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