First of all, I made a little video (with the help of the Broadside Online A/V team) about how I use the iPhone and I want to integrate that into this article. I'll also admit that this was the first time that I've ever uploaded to YouTube and it was surprisingly easy.
Here ya go:
So, from that cheery little display, what do I really think of the iPhone? Well on the one hand, I use it litterally every half-hour or so (or more of course) and I have sucessfully integrated so many funtions into it that I don't even need to take my computer around with me anymore. Does that mean I don't carry my computer around any more? No. (Now I can have TWO!)
There are a few downsides to the device though and I'll run through those as I talk about each feature. I think I will do that in home-screen order, just so the folks at home can keep track.
SMS (Text Messaging):
This feature works very well, using the same basic interface as iChat. I'm not much of a texter, but I have enjoyed the experience I've had texting on the iPhone. Right now is probably a good time to mention the keyboard. While many people complain about not having a tactile keyboard, it really has been designed as well as I can imagine. The typing correction is really pretty good once you accept it as part of the system. My only complaint is that the return key and the backspace are very close together and I often hit one instead of the other. I can live with that.
Calendar (Keeps your days straight):
I have to be honest, as I use Google Calendar and don't use any form of Outlook (see: Thunderbird) I can't really use this feature. It looks very nice, but until they get it to sync for PCs in some way other than Outlook, it's a non-feature. I currently use the intuitive gCal mobile page, and that's doing ok as long as I have some signal at all.
Camera and Photos (*click*):
The camera is really pretty nice and looks GREAT on the high density screen of the iPhone. Except for the difficulty of keeping a shot from blurring, the camera can almost replace a regular one if you're in a pinch (as I am now...). When reviewing the photos, you get a great intuitive interface and easy options. Really, did you think Apple wouldn't excel at imaging?
My witty comment pretty much says it all. I really never use this unless I am completely bored. I'm not a regular YouTube user (unless a video just happens to link there). That is to say, I don't go to YouTube.com's homepage and start from there. So I don't really do that on the iPhone. Really, I think this is just a way for Apple to sneak out of Flash support (which isn't too irritating...until you want to watch an embedded video).
Stocks (Apple Roller Coaster Viewer):
Well if you don't own stocks or watch them, you can skip this, but if you do, this is a really interesting feature. Sure you can always look up stocks on Safari, but that's kinda slow. This app lets you sort around your favorite stocks and retrieve financial data from Yahoo Finance. Everything in that sentence was good until "Yahoo Finance." I really don't like Yahoo Anything, but Yahoo Finance is truly lame. While there price data is usually accurate, the graphs don't really show that much information (it's more like an artist's rendition, which may be Apple's fault), but worst of all, when you actually click through to Yahoo's page for a stock, the news is pretty worthless. I have always used Google Finance and I think it has great tools for analysis. I don't know why Apple went with Yahoo on this one.
Maps (Where Am I?!?):
Ironically, the map can't tell you where you are because there is no built in GPS, but then again using Google, it's not that hard to find a local address in most places. I really like this feature because it uses Google Maps, one of my favorite online apps, loads quickly on Edge, and is kind of fun to play with in satellite mode. It really works the way you want it to, though sometimes it can be a pain because it doesn't let you drag the route around. Definitely an A feature though.
Weather (Because Moble Users Never Know If It's Raining):
It's a basic weather app and it tells you the general weather conditions for whatever areas you ask it for. Very pretty and easy to use.
Clock and Calculator (couldn't think of anything witty to say):
Basically, the clock button takes you to World Time, Alarm, Stopwatch, and Timer. The calculator is full function. These are all pretty useful little things that do what they are supposed to.
Notes (Like A Notepad, Only Worse):
I'm kind of impressed that Apple managed to mess up the basic notepad. It has next to no options, is in an annoying scripty font that cannot be changed, and is a little more graphical than it needs to be. Also, these notes can never be moved off of the iPhone. Basically this is only useful for the briefest of notes.
Settings, Other Random Things:
These are kind of boring, but the good thing to know is that there are pretty elaborate settings that offer much more than say, an iPod. I do take issue with the auto-brightness, as it never seems to really seems to be at the right brightness for the ambient light of the room (an advertised feature). Most everything else works pretty well.
I haven't done a whole lot on this because it is basically a music buying service for mobile (something I still don't get), but it only works on WiFi so that's kind of a downer.
Phone (iPhone - i = ?):
I really like the phone feature a lot. It has favorites for quick dialing, recent calls, a very easy to use contacts screen, standard numeric keypad, and visual voicemail. Visual voicemail is cool because it is a really quick way to check your voicemail and then immediately call the person back. Also, no waiting through audio menus. The one complaint that I and others have about the phone is the lack of voice-calling support. This could still be added at a later date, so I'll keep my hopes up.
This works like any basic mail system on a smartphone, but I find flipping through the menus kind of irritating because there are so many screens to do so little. Also, since there is now way to stop spam, it all basically hits your phone, even if your mail client can stop it later. Generally this is only an "ok" feature.
Safari is one of the best things about the iPhone. It really is the best browser available for mobile and the usage is amazingly intuitive. It takes a little while to figure out a couple of the controls (just because it is not really in the native places for a PC), but after this, any non-flash intensive site is going to be fine. Also, there are many mobile apps for the iPhone, so just Google around and you'll eventually find what you're looking for.
This next-generation iPod interface is perfect in almost every way. The navigation is very easy to use and the visual stuff, both video and still images, is very stimulating. There are two complaints that I have. The slider bar is next to impossible to accurately move around so navigation in a song/podcast is difficult. Also, it is sometimes hard to pause a playing iPhone because the screen has locked and it takes at least 4 clicks to really stop the thing. Anytime someone wants to say hi when I'm walking around, it can be a hassle to stop the music. Besides that, I really love having the iPhone as a music/video player. The pixel density is unreal and I sometimes find myself just staring at the Appley goodness of it.
So, what's the verdict? Well, I personally have really had a good experience with the iPhone. Every subsequent firmware update has made the device more stable and more useful. The experience is still a little bit like using a Beta product, but at the same time, the technology that the iPhone uses is, in some cases, second to none. Should you get one? If you think it is worth the price, you can get one now, but I would at least wait until MacWorld in January before doing anything drastic. That's all I'll say on the iPhone for a while, but expect the occasional update, now that I have on surgically attached to my hip.
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