This post was originally titled “Two Weeks with the iPhone”, but as noted previously, I was sick last week and didn’t have the mind power to do it justice. So, with another week, and more usage under my belt, I might also call this post my Ode to My Happy, New, Digital Pal. Here we go…
I’ve been a Blackberry user for five years, across three different devices, including the old two-way pager. I’ve been interested in the iPhone since its release, but without real Exchange support, the first iPhone was not an option. Then it became a personal challenge to keep my Blackberry alive as long as possible. When the click-wheel finally augured in, it was time to make the switch.
It hasn’t been a huge transition. I’m using the iPhone for most of the same things I used my previous Blackberry:
- Email and text messaging
- News from the web, mostly from Digg and Google
- Local listings and traffic information
- Phone calls
Here are my experiences and impressions so far, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- The screen: It’s really beautiful, and large. Most of the surface area of the device is screen, vs. less than half on the Blackberry.
- The screen: The touch-screen is what makes makes it possible to be large, since now surface area is required for input devices. Sadly, the lack of tactile feel is the primary reason for The Bad (see below).
- Slim and light: The new iPhone is much thinner and lighter than any phone or PDA device I’ve previously owned.
- The Google Maps app: The addition of the GPS on the Google Maps app makes this much improved. Traffic data is also much improved.
- Full-on web browser: Though not as useful as a full-size browser on a laptop, I can make use of many more “real” web sites than on the Blackberries I’ve owned.
- Social Networking apps: I’ve added the apps for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. It’s very nice to have access to this stuff without need of a full laptop.
- Built-in iPod: This comes in handy every now and then, though so far I’ve made minimal use of it.
- At long last, I have a phone with a camera built in. I missed a couple of photo ops the first week, but now I’m making better use of it.
- Did I mention the screen?
- The On-Screen Keyboard: I’ve become very proficient at touch-typing on the Blackberry keyboard. The tactile feedback makes it easy, or at least possible, to figure out when your on one key or another. Not so with the on-screen keyboard on the iPhone. It’s been one of two things that’s made the experience inferior to the Blackberry. The other being…
- No Cut-and-Paste: Every computer system I’ve used since at least 1990 has had cut-and-paste built in. Most of the mobile phones I’ve used, including the ones that simply make calls and do text messages, have had cut-and-paste. The Apple Newton, also a touch-screen device, from 14 years ago, even had cut-and-paste [ouch!]. So why can’t the iPhone do it? The only reasonable thing I can speculate is: Apple hasn’t decided what the right gestures should be. I hope the figure this out soon.
Actually, it’s a very pretty phone. Until you touch it. After only a day, both the screen and body became noticeably smudged with fingerprints. Plus, the surface is very slick, and wanted to slip out of my hand. This was easily fixable with a protective sleeve (see below), and it still looks very nice.
A Few Nitpicks
- I don’t miss Flash particularly, since it’s mostly used for annoying, animated ads and skip-intros, but it would be nice if the iPhone could play Flash videos as well as it plays Quicktime.
- I miss the blinkenlichten on the Blackberry that lets me know if I have new messages without having to wake up the screen. A cool, throbbing, white LED, like the one on the the Macbook or on the Jawbone headset would be sweet
- The email view would be so much better if it had: a) an “unread only” view for the inbox, and b) a separator between dates in the email list, similar to the list view in the Calendar app.
- [updated] How about a feature where the iPhone turns itself on and off at certain times of day. This is huge battery saver on the Blackberry, plus it keeps your email from beeping at you all night.
I am very pleased with my switch to the iPhone. I’m slowly getting used to the keyboard, and the lack of cut-and-paste has only been annoying about six times so far. My hope is that this too will get fixed in a future product release.
Read on for more about the accessories and applications I’ve chosen for my iPhone, and why…
I usually prefer the bare metal, but because of the smudging and slipperiness problems, I opted for a screen cover and protective sleeve.
The Power Support Anti-Glare Film does a nice job. It comes in a pack of two, and was easy to apply straight and keep the air bubbles out. The matte finish helps with glare, but there is also a glossy version. One bonus: The protector seems to have slightly dampened the touch screen sensitivity, which I found to be a bit too high. With the protector, the finger-flick scrolling goes just the right distance I would expect, an my typing accuracy seems marginally better.
I chose the Incase Cover for the sleeve. I wanted something that to increase the grippiness of the phone, while not adding as little girth as possible. The Incase is as thin as they had at The Apple Store, and it’s very rubbery. It feels very much like my old Newton MessagePad. Also, it should provide some, small protection should the device get thrown or dropped, except in a toilet.
The extra grip of the protective cover keeps the phone in place when I sit it on my truck’s center console, though I suspect this will become less effective over time, when the grip wears off. Because of the friction, it’s much harder to slip the phone into my back pocket. This could be a good thing, since it’s less likely I will sit on it by accident, but it can be a pain to stow the device when I need both hands free.
I’m a little unhappy with the extra thickness of the phone when the sleeve is on. I’m thinking about ordering an Ultra-slim Silicone Case as a replacement.
I’ve been looking for a new Bluetooth headset for a while, and with the new phone, this seemed like a good time to make a choice. I’ve owned several over the years, and they’ve all sucked in one way or another. Either the sound quality sucks, or it’s uncomfortable to wear for any amount of time. Usually they’re hard to wear with glasses. I went with the Jawbone. It works great, has decent sound quality, and is very comfortable to wear, even with glasses, and on long conference calls.
My goal is to keep my apps to a minimal. Most of what I’m using are the same or similar as apps I had on my previous Blackberry. I’ve tried a few and removed more than one.
These apps have stuck:
- iSSH: I had an SSH app on my Blackberry. Critical for when a server gets jacked and you’re no where near your laptop or a Wifi link. This one has a translucent keyboard option, which gives more screen real estate for terminal output. This would be a great option in other iphone apps.
- Facebook: I’ve been doing the Facebook thing recently. Having it on the iPhone makes it that much easier.
- LinkedIn: Facebook is for fun, and LinkedIn is for business. The LinkedIn app is nice, but it seems to have a bug, or perhaps a feature, that makes it forget my login. This is doubly annoying on the iPhone, since text input is more difficult.
- Twitterific: I use the desktop version of this on my Macbook. The iPhone version can generate Google Maps links based on location data, and auto-post photos from the camera to Twitterpic.
- Texas Hold’em: Also had a Poker app on my Blackberry. The one game I play consistently over time. This one is much prettier, and the ability to swipe the screen at any time to fold your hand is a real time saver.
- PhoneFlix: Seemed to be the most preferred NetFlix app. Nice to be able to add a disc to my queue from anywhere. On the Blackberry, I would have to send an email to myself.
- Discover: I like the simple ability to expose my phone’s stuff via a web interface. The new version seems to allow you to mount it as a network drive.
- iTunes Remote: It’s occasionally nice to be able to control the iTunes music from my couch.
- Weightbot: A weight tracker app with novel uses of the iPhone’s interface widgetry.
These apps I tried, but promptly deleted, and I don’t see much point linking to them:
- Lightsaber: This was amusing for about 3.2 minutes. Deleted.
- Bubble Wrap: Not as good as the now-classic Virtual Bubble Wrap, and started annoying me to buy the “pro” version very quickly. Gone.
- Crazy Pumpkin: Cute Halloween idea, but amusing for less time than the light saber app, and it displayed a blank screen the second time I ran it. Whacked.
- Safari Bookbag: I like the idea of having my Safari bookshelf readily available, but it doesn’t seem to actually work that way. What it seemed to do, at least for me, was generate PDF’s to download from the Safari website. Kicked to the curb.