Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The BriPhone Is Now An iPhone

I just bought my first iPhone last Thursday. (Given my love of technology, reader's of my blog might be surprised to know this is my first cell phone purchase in over 5 years.) I absolutely love it!

Ali had been encouraging me to buy an iPhone for some time now, claiming he likes it far better than his MacBook. I thought he was over-exaggerating how good it was. In hindsight, I think he was vastly under-stating his recommendation.

A few initial observations/impressions:
  • The user interface of the iPhone is simply delightful. It's fun, fast, and works almost exactly the way I expect it to.
  • I love the simplicity of the device. From a single button to not allowing multiple programs to run in the background (a little frustrating at times, but worth it for such responsive performance).
  • The ability to purchase and download applications, music, and videos directly on the devices sans computer is wonderful. One of the things I most love about my Kindle is the lack of need to connect it to my computer for any reason. No software to install, not synchronization to do. It is a 100% standalone device. The iPhone is not quite there, but it comes close.
  • It has nearly three times the storage capacity of my netbook. (Which has recently become my primary computer.)
  • The data connection on the 3G network is much faster than I expected -- able to stream live music from Pandora without a problem.
  • The speaker is surprisingly good.
  • I wish I could stream music from Pandora or Rhapsody and use the other functions of the phone at the same time. (You can do this with music played through the iPod application.)
  • It is fantastic to be able to use data and voice simultaneously. (The phone is another one of the few applications that will run in the background while another app is running.) On my Treo, you could not browse the web or use data services while using it as a phone.
  • It's nice having a camera (both still and video) built-in, but I'm not enamored with it (yet). After reading so many good comments about the camera, I think I was expected something a bit better. I find it too easy to get overexposures on pictures that my Canon Powershot has no troubles with and often the photos it takes have significant blur (see below).
  • I love being able to see Google Maps with a small blue dot showing me where I am on the map, with live updates showing the dot moving as I move.
  • Having the iPhone with all its functionality and slim size makes me want to carry less stuff.
  • It's a ton of fun and there are a lot of whimsical applications for it like lightsaber and shotgun apps that take advantage of the accelerometer. There's even a program that makes punching sounds as you make punching motions while holding the phone.
  • My typing speed is rapidly improving. I still make far more mistakes typing on the virtual keypad than I did on the Treo's physical keyboard.
  • I have yet to try out any of the video games on this. Apple is starting to really market the iPod Touch as a gaming platform. Given that the iPhone can do everything the Touch can do and more, I expect good things on this front.
  • It's the fastest way I know of to check e-mail, weather, and sports scores.
  • The App Store is dangerously addictive.
The usefulness of this little device is unbelievable. It can substitute for all of the following to varying degrees:
  • GPS
  • MP3 Player
  • Laptop/Netbook
  • Kindle
  • Digital Camera
  • Camcorder
  • Calculator
  • Video game player
  • Compass
  • Radio
  • Ruler
  • Flashlight
  • Voice recorder
  • Travel guide
  • Subway map
  • Atlas
  • Alarm clock
Oh yeah -- did I mention that it's a phone too?

I downloaded dozens of apps of the weekend, greatly expanding what my iPhone can do. Overall, I've spent a total $0.99 on these so far. Some of my favorites include:
  • Pandora. This works just like the computer-based web app -- allowing you to play a steady stream of music tailored to your taste. What is particularly impressive is that it works flawlessly whether streaming over a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. (I tried Rhapsody and find it a bit buggy, often freezing up and not working with a cellular connection.)
  • Facebook. This app gives you essentially the same feeds and information you can see on the web version. Very well executed. (I tried Flickr too, but am less impressed with it -- particularly how poorly it scrolls from one picture to the next. In contrast, Facebook scrolls through pictures as seemless as the iPhone's built-in photo viewer. Flickr also doesn't display all of my photo sets. whereas Facebook shows them all.)
  • Google. The voice search on this app simply blows me away. It correctly identifies what I've said approximately ~90% of the time -- including the ability to look up phone numbers online by voice while I'm driving. It displays a small button to tap on to dial the numbers it finds.
  • Chipotle. I used this to order and pay for a burrito bowl, walked over to pick it up 15-minutes later, and was able to avoid waiting in a long line to get my food. I simply walked up to the counter, told them I had an online order, and immediately got handed a bag with my food in it. The app will even remember your favorite orders and (using the built-in GPS) tell you where the nearest Chipotle's are located. With this always in my pocket, I will soon need a weight tracking app too...

(A photo of the line I avoided at Chipotle, taken with the iPhone's camera. Click on them for a larger view. You can see they are much more blurry than I had hoped.)

A few negatives I've found:
  • Battery life is not long enough. The iPhone is so useful, I find myself always finding a reason to use it. Unfortunately, this leads to me running the battery down. I would need about double the capacity for it to be optimal. (I am looking at various options for expanding this. It seems iPhone batteries come in three basic flavors: 1) power sleds; 2) snap ons; and 3) cabled varieties. I'm still trying to figure out which one would be best for me. I've heard the power sleds can impair reception, so I will likely avoid those for now. Some of the ones that look interesting are the 3G Juice (compact size), Duracell Instant Charger (compact and cheap), and Just Mobile Gum Pro (massive capacity).
  • Poor reception in some areas. I had one dropped call over the weekend -- driving in between Fairfax and Arlington. I haven't used it as a phone enough to evaluate how much of a problem this will be. This rarely (if ever) happened on my Treo. The data connection doesn't work well inside of GMU's law school and it seems to have trouble keeping a Wi-Fi connection there. (I think the Wi-Fi issue has to do with our school's network, not the iPhone.)
  • Flaky apps. A few of the programs I downloaded, including Rhapsody and Time Magazine freeze from time to time, sometimes completely exiting the program. I'm not sure if this is because of an incompatibility with OS 3.1 (for good for for bad, I updated the OS first thing after getting it home) or something else?
Aside from these issues, I couldn't be happier with this phone. It is quickly becoming my favorite gadget I own. Possibly of all time. I'm excited to think, given the rapid rate of technological innovation, that this is likely the most primitive phone I will ever own.

Bottom Line: I used to call my Treo a digital swiss army knife. I'm afraid the speed and versatility of the iPhone makes my Treo look like an old pair of rusty tweezers...


Shawn said...

battery: i have a just mobile and an incase power slider. i take the jm on trips, and use the power slider every day. I'm having issues with it syncing through its cable (uses mini-usb, not apple 30-pin to charge/sync; which I would say is worth the purchase price much easier is it to find a mini-usb than an apple cord to charge up a dead battery?) following the snow leopard/itunes 9 upgrade...i'm not sure if those caused it or not. additionally, incase has removed all vestiges of the power slider from their website, so either it was selling poorly, or it caused them some problems....

I emailed them about the sync issue, and they told me to fill out a return form, which I did. we'll see where this goes.

Ali Hasanain said...

I just make sure I have easy access to my charger.

Glad you like it. I don't really think I understated how good it is though: have you ever seen me so unequivocally in favor of ANYTHING before? =P

And try Weightbot. It's weirdly addictive.

Apps I like (that you haven't mentioned):

WeatherBug - more detailed than the original weather app

NumberKey - ;)

NYTimes - Daily News

iBlueSky - The mindmapping app you've already played with

PointerRemote - For presentations

Skype - Only really helpful if you have a 'wifiancee' in Pakistan you want to call...

Games: Scrabble, Bejeweled 2, Checkers Free, FlightControl, iFighter, Labyrinth, Sudoku, Boxed In, BMW Z4 Lite

Anyway, welcome to the dark side!

thinking said...

It's about time.

There's no doubt the iPhone is the most captivating piece of technology to be introduced in a long time.

I still maintain that historically the introduction of the iPhone will go down as a milestone in technology.

Shawn said...

dude...your first case:

anti-recession case