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Initial Thoughts on the 3G iPhone [Updated]

apple_chrome_logoBased on some urging from the Kuhn brothers, here are some of my preliminary thoughts on the [16GB] 3G iPhone. Since it’s too easy to find fan-boy sites hailing the iPhone, I’m going to err on the critical side. Also, considering I use non-Apple applications the majority of the time, I think the apps really have the opportunity to make or break the usability of the phone. With that said, I’m going to avoid picking on individual apps for now and stick to the phone itself.

The Good:

1) As I’ve already mentioned, the Apps Store is a huge A+. The ability to download over 1,000 applications, directly to and from the phone, really improves the usability of the phone. Some of the apps I like that I think have created value for the iPhone are; Apps like Yelp, Pandora, Facebook, weather, SmugShot, “My Lists”, and Shazam, to name a few.

2) The default browser (Safari) really makes an extremely nice web browsing experience. Combined with the speed it really does make the iPhone a remote web browser.

3) 3G is fast. Wifi is faster. This certainly isn’t unique to this Apple product, but it’s great to have. Accessing email from any WiFi connection is very fast and the UI for selecting which WiFi network to use is very simple, too.

4) It’s awesome for photo, music, and video management. Absolutely amazing.

The Bad:

1) I’m luke warm about labeling this as bad, since I really haven’t had any trouble with it, but… the keyboard. I converted from the Blackberry Pearl, so in all fairness I haven’t given a full-size QWERTY keyboard it’s due trial. Compared to the Pearl, I can type much faster on the iPhone. However, it does take a bit more visual commitment since there are no buttons to feel around. Most of the speed is made up by iPhones great ability to understand typing and convert the keyboard as necessary.

2) Syncing takes a long time, and the phone isn’t usable while it is syncing. 30 minutes to sync is too long, especially as I’ll often sync when I get home from work (and need to use the phone) or before I go to bed (and want to sleep). I’ve had to adjust my routine accordingly. Not a bid problem, but it caught my attention.

3) It’s more difficult to hook up Google products than it should be – specifically Gmail and Google Calendar. I’ve found instructions for both but haven’t tried the latter and the former (Gmail) still isn’t apparently working fully (I’d like it to archive emails when I delete them from the iPhone).  Update: Getting Gmail hooked up was easier than I expected.  Google Calendar still proves difficult and requires use of iCal and a public calendar.

4) The power cord the phone came with is extremely short (3-4′) so it’s difficult to use it when it’s plugged into most outlets (i.e. outlets under desk at work, far side of bed side table in bedroom, etc. etc.)

5) Lack of cut and paste. This doesn’t bother me too much since, quite frankly, I never used it on the BB Pearl. However, it would certainly be nice to use with the iPhone’s much easier UI and touch screen. (Why can’t you just double-tap to begin highlighting a selection?)  Update: Highlighting would be nice, too – I’d like to be able to highlight and delete an entire section of text.

The Ugly:

1) Unable to make customized ringers. So let me get this straight… I buy a song off iTunes for ¢99, then Apple wants another ¢99 to convert it into a ringer? That’s ridiculous. If I buy an MP3 I should be able to use it on any media device I own.

2) Text Messages – It costs a lot for the unlimted text messaging plan. There are minor ways to cut back on your text messages (AOL) but for essentially the same price I went from unlimited text messages to 200/month. With the simplicity of text messaging it would be very easy to blow past this if you’re not careful. I’m also uncertain if the quota applies to incoming messages as well as outgoing. Additionally, there should be an easier way to add people to text messages when I want to send a bulk-message. Why can’t I just go through my entire address book and check off all those I want to include? Adding them one at a time is too slow.  Update: First, I caved and had to increase to the 1,500 text messages/month plan for an additional $8 or so.  The lack of images with SMS is increasingly annoying – especially since AT&T doesn’t help the issue.  Why can’t they allow you to put an email address on file and automatically redirect the images to your email, thereby sending them to your phone?

3) Finally, and you’ve certainly heard it before, is the battery life. This is my only real complaint. The iPhone is amazing, so I use it more often than I did by BB Pearl. However, so far I have had to charge the phone every night and on one occasion (the first weekend day I got it) I had to charge it more than once. Granted, I was almost constantly downloading something or playing with the GPS. Still, I’d love to be able to go away for the weekend without my charger. A full charge on Friday morning should last until Sunday evening with moderate use.  Update: this isn’t proving as annoying as I expected – it basically requires a charge every night and only more frequently under extremely heavy use.  The image to SMS issue is proving much more annoying.

Overall, I love the iPhone. For $200 or $300 it’s a phone, GPS unit, PDA, and MP3 player all in one. I had my concerns about the first generation iPhone, but they’ve essentially all been answered to this point. Any concern I have about the 3G is fixable with a firmware update or a new battery, the latter which, despite what some may say, isn’t very difficult. I’m considering buying a second iPhone for my wife.

Once you make the leap, you’ll look back at your BlackBerry like it was an old black and white TV.

iPhone's default home screen.
iPhone's default home screen.

Update, Aug 19th:

It’s been almost another three weeks since the initial review.  I’ve crossed out some comments, above.  Additional apps I’ve been playing with: Twitterific, Holdem ($5 Texas Poker).  Overall, the more I use the phone, the more I love it.  I feel pretty confident that any existing issue can be solved with a relatively simply battery replacement or firmware update.  The latter could turn this phone into a very near-perfect too.  I’ve been experiencing some dropped and errored calls, primarily to my wife who is still on Verizon (any correlation?).

Anyone hating Apple for their innovation release pace (Pete) or fearing that this product hasn’t reached maturity (Pete) should reconsider – I think you’d be extremely happy once you absorb the $300 sunk cost.  The only foreseeable update that remains, im my opinion, would be an expanded hard drive (rumored 32gb version coming).  This isn’t too important for me since my 16gb isn’t close to full and I don’t have too much desire to watch full movies on the relatively small screen.

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