Thoughts on the iPhone
3 July 2007
Before I begin gushing about the iPhone I have to mention, especially for those of you that do not have one yet, that you can win one of two free 8Gb iPhones that we're giving away over at Viddler just for doing simple MeToday videos. Each video you do (one per day per person) is an entry into the contest. No, you don't have to do one every single day. But since each video is an entry one would think that the more MeTodays that you do, the better chance you have at winning! We'll give someone an iPhone on the 15th and 30th of July. So don't read the rest of this post! Go get a Viddler account!
Ok. So what do I think of the iPhone? As you might have already guessed, I love it. For the entire weekend I rarely got onto my Macbook to do anything except sync my latest settings of my iPhone to the computer. The iPhone is a great mini-computer for getting most of your core Internet activities done like checking/responding to email, surfing the web for information, or other simple daily tasks like this.
I won't get into the speed of the EDGE network or how the virtual keyboard is. To me these are non-issues thus far and I don't have much to compare these two things to since I have never had a cell phone that used the Internet, nor a full sized hard keyboard. I can type pretty fast on the keyboard and the Internet is nearly as fast as being home on Wifi. So again, both are non-issues.
Again, it is the little things
One of my fellow line-waiters John Gruber did a fantastic job giving his general overview of each feature of the iPhone the other day. My impressions are on par with John's except that I've found myself typing just fine. Be sure to read his thoughts if you'd like to catch some of the nice things about each "feature" of the iPhone.
However, I'd like to extend his list a little bit to remark on some of the little things I've noticed while using the iPhone that I think make the experience all the more enjoyable.
The weight of the iPhone came as a surprise to some. Yes, it feels heavier than it looks. To me this make the iPhone feel tough and rugged when compared to the way it looks. I think the fact that we're seeing people surprised at how tough the iPhone actually is, is because it doesn't look very rugged. It looks elegant, which doesn't usually mean tough. However the weight of the iPhone makes it feel very rugged to me.
The speed of the interface is something that I was very skeptical about. The commercials led me to believe that the interface was just as fast, if not faster, than switching windows on my computer. In my relatively little experience with mobile phones - the interfaces on these things have never been described by me as "snappy" or "fast". However the iPhone's interface, in general, is incredibly fast. When speaking with John Gruber in line, he remarked how the iPhone's "one app at a time" focus really lent itself to being able to be very fast. The iPhone doesn't need to show windows inside of windows or multiple layers or even windows on top of windows. The application that you are currently looking at is obviously getting the priority in the Operating System which makes the iPhone blaze.
The sleep, volume, silent, and home buttons are the perfect combination of buttons that were decided to be "hard buttons". Although one can easily adjust the volume in most applications within the iPhone's interface, you can also use the hard volume control on the side of the iPhone. The same goes for the silent and sleep buttons - I never have to "turn on" the iPhone to use these options. And the home button is definitely far better than keeping the "doc" visible and having a "desktop" button or something. I'm really glad the iPhone has a home button.
Within each application on the iPhone there are small, hidden gems that you will only find through experimentation or someone telling you that they are there. Like the ability to turn on the caps lock key, or tapping the top bar to auto-scroll to the top of the page in Safari (both tips came from John Gruber's site), etc. None of these small interface features are handed over, but once you find them you love them.
Of course, I want more
Keeping in mine that, technically, this is iPhone 1.0 which includes all the hardware and software that came in those beautiful black bags on Friday, I have a few things that I'd like to see improved. I'm sure that, internally, this is build 10,000 of the iPhone's OS and its applications, but from my perspective it is still 1.0. Being such, I fully expected to have the wish list that follows.
- Better integration with Gmail. Right now Gmail marks things as "being downloaded" when I look at them either via Mail.app on my Macbook or on my iPhone. This causes some frustration since I'd like all of my email to be "everywhere". To fix this, I think either Google or Apple will have to update it so that it marks it as being read on the iPhone or not. Either way, the email "works" - but it could work a little bit better. (Side note: On the first day of release, the Gmail integration was wrought with problems ranging from getting duplicate messages to simply not working with Google App's hosted domain email. These issues have been fixed, presumably by Google, over the weekend. So to them.)
- Though I haven't used the "Notes" feature yet, I could see a huge amount of improvement being done here, which might make me want to use Notes on the iPhone. Simply saving the notes saved as RTF files that are synced to your computer into ~/Documents/iPhone Notes/ would suffice for me. Why create notes that you can't really use? A work around is taking a notes contents and creating an email out of it, which can be done fairly easily.
- iCal integration seems to work "ok" but I have the same complaints as others. If I have separate calendars within iCal they should also be separate within iPhone's calendar application. And, when syncing with my Macbook, I shouldn't have to choose only one calendar that the iPhone can write to. I am not sure why there is this limitation. Something else I noticed is that if I setup an iCal alert on the iPhone it works perfectly but it doesn't work within iCal. It shows up in the application but iCal never shows me the the alert when I asked it to. Not sure why, perhaps this is a bug.
- The camera feature should allow a photo to be taken by tapping anywhere on the screen. I think some people would hate this because it would cause a lot of accidental photos to be taken, but taking photos of yourself and someone else with the iPhone is very hard with only a small button to push. Perhaps this could be a setting? Can has Photobooth for the camera? I don't care about the crazy bulging eyes and stretching chins stuff, but it'd be nice to have the ability to take black and white photos or something simple. Obviously this is a minor, minor update that I'd enjoy seeing to the Camera feature.
- Small browser cache? From what I've been able to tell Safari on the iPhone only caches the current page you are looking at. Reloading a page is fairly quick but the second you navigate away from a URL the cached version is lost. I have an 8Gb iPhone, I wouldn't mind dedicating even a few hundred megabytes to Safari's caching if it would mean that hitting the back button wouldn't reload the page.
- Normal headphone jacks "don't work" with the iPhone because the iPhone's input jack is sunken so low into the casing of the iPhone. Jason Kottke resolved this by actually cutting his headphones a little bit to allow the jack to sink in deeper. There are several add-ons being offered to make this easier, but I am unsure why this was done in the first place?
- The iPod allows you to update your set of icons on the button of its menu. I think this should be an option in all applications on the iPhone including the home screen. There are a few web applications that are being released for the iPhone that I'd love to create a shortcut to from my home screen. The first button I'd get rid of from the home screen? YouTube followed by Stocks. I simply won't use those things on my iPhone too often.
- Google Maps on the iPhone is amazing! But I feel this application will probably receive the greatest number of updates over time. It is perhaps one of the most "complex" applications on the iPhone and using it is a delight most of the time. However, there are a few usability problems when you switch from searching for a location to getting directions to that same location. (I've found that it is easier to save locations in your Google Maps bookmarks.) I'm sure these little things will be improved soon and that integration with the rest of the phone's applications will happen in the future. One of the first things that comes to mind is to tell the camera application where you are using the Maps feature, which would in turn write the Latitude and Longitude to the photos.
I'm going to cut this list short because, as I said, this is a 1.0 release and one that I'm overwhelmingly happy with. I've found the iPhone becoming an extension of my laptop in ways I hadn't considered before. I knew that I'd find the iPhone useful, I didn't expect to want to use it more than my laptop.
What are your thoughts on the iPhone? Any wishes that I didn't cover?