My wife is now the proud owner of a new iPhone 3G. This is a unique experience for her, the convergence between the computer that she used to use for email and her trusted cell phone. So far, she could not be happier. Here are her initial impressions and a few concerns that have been detected in the first few days of ownership. Do not get the wrong impression, the positives significantly outweigh the concerns. For the first time, my wife can be seen playing with a high technology device, for many minutes at a time. And most of the time she is beaming happily – it has been a strange experience for everyone in the family.
When you bring your new iPhone 3G home after a minor amount of queuing in the mall, you find yourself the possessor of a black cardboard box, about the size of a house brick. The packaging is stylish, happily not the acrylic polymer bubble beloved of some cell phone manufacturers, and reassuringly minimalist. The iPhone itself is a heavy metal and glass monolith with its only outwardly mechanical protuberances one or two slight switches. The impression you are given is that there is little to go wrong from a mechanical perspective, no hinges, or sliders to wear out with repeated snapping. However, the weight and the apparently large amount of glass involved in the touch sensitive screen create the impression that a fall could be fatal. The sale of protective cases will, no doubt, be brisk.
After an initial charge you get to try your iPhone out for the first time. Actually you will have already had a chance to play with it in the store – my wife sent me a message from the store where the initial registration was done. But after its first real charge you get a chance to explore the capabilities that the device offers.
The first pleasant surprise is that the software is beautifully integrated. The black cardboard brick does not contain a manual. When you play with the applications that the iPhone comes with you soon realize that you probably will not need to use a manual, ever. Of course, this cannot be good news for the technical writing community. When software is beautifully engineered it is so intuitive that you can carry out complex operations without needing to try to guess how the programmers intended the programs would be used. The hardware is also nicely integrated with the software. There is a position sensor which tells the software which way up the iPhone is. When a rotation of the horizontal is required it happens in an animated way that keeps the user in the loop, rather than creating a confusing and sudden jump. The result is very intuitive. Similarly, the scrolling of images and the movement of screens are handled with style and finesse, which do not appear to unnecessarily waste the power of the underlying CPU (no unnecessary animations of the types favored by lesser software vendors) but do allow the user to understand what the software is doing and how the user’s input is being interpreted by the device.
Back to initial impressions. Within a few seconds the telephone has been shown to work as a normal telephone, the email has been experimented with, and the user is beginning to marvel at the nicely constructed contacts database which combines a variety of different coordinates for each of your contacts in a seamless manner.
The most impressive application is the Map capability. This gives you an inbuilt GPS like capability. Not only is the GPS inbuilt, it is also beautifully integrated with the Google views of the world from satellite, and integrates with Google’s driving directions as well. Clearly your iPhone will be a great help when next discussing the fastest, most scenic, most economical, etc. route from A to B with your spouse.
The iPhone comes with ATT internet service for a fixed monthly fee. So, to all intents and purposes, once you have signed away your life for the iPhone contract you really ought to use the device as much as possible. So an early question is, how is web browsing on this device? The short answer is surprisingly straightforward. The version of Safari supplied with the iPhone readily scales in various directions, intuitively and typing web addresses is straightforward with the keyboard widget that appears when you touch the address bar.
If YouTube is your web destination of choice, the iPhone comes with a YouTube application, complete with an ancient television image as its icon. Once you brave entry to the application through this forbidding icon you open a fascinating world of all the wonderful content that has been uploaded (rightly or wrongly) to YouTube. Perversely, as the iPhone device has a relatively low resolution display, the low resolution YouTube videos look fantastic and the iPhone YouTube interface has been designed to use as much of the screen as possible for the video image. As with many new technologies, it isn’t immediately clear how YouTube will make money from this use of their content (no adverts are displayed) but now is not the time to worry about the guys at YouTube, now is the time to watch all of your favorite video artists on your iPhone, on the bus, on the way to work.
The final marvel my wife has discovered in her first few days with the iPhone 3G is the ability to easily email photographs to email contacts. This is nothing new for most cell phone users, but the level of integration and ease of use are exemplary with the iPhone and now a steady stream of iPhone taken photographs are coming from my wife’s email account heading to different corners of the world.
Here are some of the things which we have not experimented with yet. Backing up to iTunes, storing and playing music on the iPhone, anything other than the supplied applications. We haven’t tried them yet – but given experiences with the other programs that come with the iPhone our expectations are high.
I threatened some concerns and here they are. My wife’s preferred email account in the past had been a Hotmail account. Naturally, Microsoft do not permit email clients to easily connect with Hotmail and so this does not work too well with the iPhone. The only solution has been for her to switch to a GMail account. The battery life does not seem to be stellar. The iPhone seems to be quite thirsty in power consumption. This raises the specter of battery replacement at some point in the future. Unlike the robust construction of typical cell phones, which permit user battery pod replacement, the iPhone gives the impression of requiring delicate surgery when the time for battery replacement comes. Finally, that touch screen is getting a lot of action, and is getting plenty of marks with all its use.
Don’t let these niggles put you off, however. The iPhone is a wonderful combination of hardware and software brilliance. Get yourself one, and get its peripherals too, and you too will be smiling as you use them!