iPhone Review

I’ve now had the iPhone for nearly two weeks and thought I’d provide a review of it.  I upgraded from a Treo 700p (Palm OS) on Sprint service to an 8 GB iPhone 3G.

The iPhone definitely shows its Apple heritage–sleek, rounded, and modern.  The form factor is perfect–it’s easy to hold either while looking at it or talking on it.  I like the weight of it; it’s not unwieldy but definitely has enough heft to feel substantial.  It is thin enough to very comfortably slide into a pocket, and I don’t snag it on things when it’s in my belt holster like I did with the Treo.

The iPhone interface has an attention to detail and usability that is unmatched among developers today.  The way the phone interprets flicks, taps, drags, etc. is unbelievable.  After just a few minutes’ practice, I have not had any gesture misinterpreted.  And the zoom in/out gestures are so sensible and ideal for the iPhone.  Apple’s interface has me seriously considering building my next computer as a dual-booting Hackintosh.  It’s easy to make computers and applications complex; making them simple without being dumb requires brilliance.

The downside of the Apple heritage is the sense of elitism that is nowhere more apparent than in the glossy iPhone.  My touch mars it with fingerprints as if I have sullied this piece of genius engineering by daring to use it.  I find myself continually polishing to remove the traces I have left.  (I did find some DLO screen protectors–$20 for 5 protectors at Best Buy–that keep it much cleaner than in its native state.)

The lack of tactile feedback while typing took some time to get used to, but now is no issue at all.  The auto-correct feature seems to take care of 90%+ of fat finger mistakes.

The screen is bright and clear and shows off photos very well.  I’ve loaded some favorite pictures on it and it’s handy as a quick photo gallery.  The camera on the iPhone is quite usable for snapshots–not on par with my Canon DSLR, but not bad either.  Video looks great–I’ve been showing off the iPhone by playing the intro to Top Gun and everyone is wowed by it.  Anamorphic video gives very high resolution display and is quite watchable.

AT&T coverage is substantially better than Sprint’s in my area.  My cell phone was virtually unusable at my house unless I stood near the front door or went upstairs.  I have not had a single call drop or outage spot with AT&T.  I also like the way the iPhone stays on AT&T’s data network all the time.  My Treo would have to periodically reconnect to the Power Vision network, causing a delay.

Another nice feature of the iPhone is the way that it automatically switches to WiFi when I’m at a known network for the best data speed.  This is seamless and other than the annoyance at having to switch between the alphabetic and numeric keyboards on just about every digit when entering the hexadecimal WiFi keys was no problem to set up.  I have seen a couple of times when the phone is on the 3G network when I was close enough to reach out and touch my home WiFi router.

A good deal of my data usage is email.  I quite like the email app on the iPhone–especially that it is IMAP compatible so it manipulates the mail directly on the server.  My two complaints are relatively minor.  Sometimes it spends inexplicably long showing “Connecting” when checking email and there’s no way to cancel this and re-start like I could on the Treo.  Also, it would be very nice if email could be displayed in the landscape view; some emails (especially HTML-formatted ones) are almost unreadable because of the side-to-side scrolling required.

I have found a couple inexplicable omissions.  The iPhone cannot delete only a single recent call or text message–you can clear the entire list but not just one entry.  There is no speed-dial function to call a number with one button press, it’s a couple of levels away from the phone keypad screen.  A double-click of the home button can be configured to go to the Favorites but I’d prefer that it go to the keypad.

I would also like some better application screen management.  It’s easy to get cluttered screens and a pain to organize them.  (I also find that apps are a pain to manage in iTunes.  Let’s hope a fix is on the way.)

My biggest complaint is that there is no way to quickly page up or down with one hand.  There is not enough accuracy in scrolling to do this; I find that I have to scroll very slowly while watching the line that I just read, and I can only do this by holding firmly in one hand and dragging with the other.  Otherwise I have to visually re-acquire the line that I was reading and that definitely disturbs the continuity.

The true “killer feature” of the iPhone is the App Store in iTunes.  There’s such a variety of programs available in the App Store that it’s mind-boggling.  Shazam uses the iPhone’s microphone to take a sample of music that is compared to an online database and identifies the song.  The Google app for iPhone has speech-recognition searches.  Google Maps can use the phone’s pseudo-GPS to give directions.  The Facebook app for iPhone lets you do practically everything you can from a full-size computer.  There are accelerometer-based levels, sports score applications, exercise program trackers, internet radio, e-book and Amazon Kindle programs, planet and star  trackers, the complete works of Shakespeare, and games, games, games, games, games, and more games.  And I have the feeling that we’ve only seen the tip of the App iceberg!  What’s more, you can browse and download the apps without a computer.

In a word, the iPhone is awesome.  It exceeds any expectation of mine about what a portable computing device can be.  Well done, Apple!

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