Initial thoughts on my new iPhone

iPhone

As mentioned, I got myself an 8GB iPhone yesterday. It was quite the experience… long lines, clowns, and hyperactive Apple employees who ran around the block whipping the crowd into a frenzy, and applauding and cheering everyone entering the store. It was actually a lot of fun. Apple did a great job at expressing their gratitude for those willing to brave the lines.

So, what do I think of my new iPhone? Overall I love it! But, I do have some fairly big complaints about it as well. Let me be perfectly clear though… none of these complaints made me regret getting it. I am anxiously awaiting some software updates from Apple though.

I’m going to run down each of the iPhone’s main features (for top to bottom), to give a quick overview of what I think of each.

iPhone SMS

SMS – It works. I rarely text so this doesn’t mean much to me. But I do like how it organizes all of the messages into threads (It looks like iChat).

Calendar – The calendar is a huge disappointment. Basically, it sucks. For starters, there’s no week view. There’s only List, Day, and Month. Personally, I like a week view and I can’t understand why Apple would leave this out.

Next, there’s no way to search the calendar. This is a must-have feature, at least for me. As of this version, if you forget what day an event is on, you’ll have to just scan the calendar looking for it. That totally bites!

If you use iCal, you know that you can set up different calendars for different types of events… home, work, travel, etc… You can also subscribe to other people calendars. Turning the calendars on and off is a great way to filter the content, and can make it much easier to keep track of things. As far as the iPhone is concerned, there is only one calendar. Even though it can sync all of your calendars, it can’t tell the difference between them. When viewing your calendar on the iPhone, all events look the same. If you create an event on the iPhone, it won’t sync back to the proper calendar on your Mac. All iPhone created events get synced to a single (definable ) calendar in iCal.

In all of Apple’s recent demos, they pretty much glossed over the Calendar, and now I see why.

Photos

Photos – Great! love how photos work. I love the whole pinch zooming in and out, slideshows, flipping between photos, etc…

iPhone Camera

Camera – The camera works well under ideal conditions. It needs A LOT of light. If you don’t have a lot, your pictures will probably be blurry. Outside, on a sunny day, it should be fine. But indoors, even in a relatively bright room you have to hold it very still, and your subject can’t move.

The camera takes 2MB (1600 x 1200) pictures. But, when you email them from the iPhone, Mail automatically scales them to 640 x 480. This is NOT configurable. To get the full size images off the iPhone, you need to sync with iPhoto. On a side-note, the iPhone has to be active (unlocked) when you sync, or iPhoto can’t see the images.

iPhone YouTube

YouTube – Works great! Love the YouTube app. Just make sure you’re connected via Wifi or you’ll be waiting all day for them to load. You can bookmark, or email links to the movies. Can’t wait till they expand the catalog of available movies.

iPhone Stocks

Stocks – Seems to work… I don’t really care about this feature. I wish I could remove it.

iPhone Maps

Maps – I’ve only briefly tested this, but so far it works great. The only thing I noticed is it doesn’t always hold the zoom level when switching from map to satellite.

iPhone Weather iPhone Clock iPhone Calculator

Weather, Clock, and Calculator – Really not much to say about these. They work as you would expect.

iPone Notes

Notes – Notes is a bare-bones note taking app. It works, but it’s not all that powerful. The notes are realistically the equivalent of Stickies. I haven’t found any way of syncing them back to my computer, which reduced their usefulness.

iPhone Phone

Phone – With all that the iPhone can do, the actual phone is pretty average. Sound quality seems OK, but volume level is a bit low. This is hard to review since I’ve only been using it for a few hours.

iPhone Mail

Mail – Love it! Love it! Love it! It really is like real email. But, it does have a few flaws. First, like the Calendar, there is no search function. This is a big bummer. Mail can also be a bit tricky if you’re using it with multiple accounts. From a message compose window there is no way of selecting which account your are sending from. The way it works is you define a default account. If you click on an email address in an email, the address book, or Safari, the resulting email message will be sent from this default account. You can’t change that. The only way to send from a specific account is to go into Mail, select that account, and then hit the compose button. A way to switch accounts from within a compose window is another must-have as far as I’m concerned.

I’m also having trouble sending email while connected through AT&T Edge network. My email accounts are configured to use my ISP outgoing mail server. This doesn’t work through Edge. I haven’t found a way around this yet. I also haven’t tried sending email when connected to a WiFi network other than my own. This needs more testing.

Mail seems to do fine at viewing various image formats, PDFs, and Word files. But, keep in mind that you can’t save an attachment. You can only forward it. The iPhone doesn’t have any kind of navigable file system, so it has no mechanism for saving files. With this limitation, I think IMAP is the best choice for mail. That way you’ll always have a copy on your computer as well. If you use Pop3, you may have confusion later, on which device your email (or attachments) are on.

Also, I could have sworn that in a previous iPhone demo Apple showed Mail as having an option to have the email list on the top portion of the screen, and a preview pane on bottom (like Apple’s desktop Mail). Maybe I’m not remembering correctly, but I can’t find any way of doing this.

iPhone Safari

Safari – I’m lovin this too. I’ve only tested it on a handful of sites, but it’s the best mobile browsing I’ve seen. It’s not exactly like desktop Safari, but it’s pretty darn close. Ironically, a site I created with Apple’s iWeb is the least compatible site I’ve tried.

One odd thing about iPhone’s Safari is you don’t set a homepage. It always just goes to the last page you visited. I didn’t understand this until Anne Marie said that it may be because if you’re browsing and you decide to make a call, or change your tunes, you would want Safari to be where you left it when you go back. This makes sense as the iPhone would have no way of determining if you were done browsing, so sending you to a homepage when you activated the browser could mess you up.

Also, one thing that you may have never thought about, is Safari has no way of downloading, or uploading anything. For example, if you just snapped a picture with the built in Camera, and you hoped to upload it to your photo sharing service… you should give up that hope, at least for now. Safari can’t interact with any kind of online upload form, because it can’t access anything on your iPhone. This is a bit of a bummer. For me, it means I won’t be blogging from my iPhone as much as I would like to. Technically I can blog through WordPress, in Safari, but I can’t have any images in my post, unless I’m linking to an image that is already online somewhere.

This version of Safari doesn’t support RSS. See this post for more info.

The final complaint About Safari is it’s lack of Flash support. I think it’s only a matter of time before this is added.

On a side-note about Wifi and Edge… Wifi didn’t just work as Apple would have you believe. It did take some configuration and trail and error to get it working properly. Much of the trouble was with how I have my network configured though. I am a little disappointed on the strength of my Wifi signal. It’s a bit weak sometimes, even if I’m standing right next to my router. I haven’t tried joining another network yet. When I leave my house the iPhone seamlessly switches from my network, to edge, and back again without me doing anything.

iPod

iPod – Lastly, is the iPod. What can I say.. it’s awesome! It works exactly as advertised with both audio and video. I can’t wait until the full iPod works like this.

My Conclusions…

Although I think the iPhone has some flaws… some major ones in the case of the Calendar and the lack of any kind of search function (where’s Spotlight?), I’m generally very happy with it. It may not be what everyone is looking for, but I think Apple definitely raised the bar in handheld devices. Not just in functionality, but with the stunning interface of the iPhone. It really is beautiful, and easy to use. Oh, and as far as the digital keyboard goes, I find it relatively easy to use. But, I will say it will probably take some practice to get really fast.

In terms of some of the flaws that I pointed out. I’m actually expecting a sizable software update from Apple in the near future. I think they were under the gun to get this out on time, so they made the decision to drop a few things. I’m betting that some of my complaints are already being addressed.

UPDATE (7.01.07): According to Apple Insider, many of the updates I want are due to be released prior to the release of OSX 10.5, Leopard.

7 thoughts on “Initial thoughts on my new iPhone”

  1. Thanks for the first impressions! I’m probably waiting for the next version (tho if I had an extra $600 on hand, I’d have grabbed one already).

    My main question is about email — on my Treo 650, I use GMail exclusively. It was effortless to configure (literally, since I just point my browser to my Gmail account), and it has all the search, threading, and etc. features I want from email. It filters my spam beautifully, and…well, you get the idea. It “just works” pretty much perfectly for me.

    So far both you and daringfireball have complained about the email — but I’ve never once used Apple’s email app even on my PowerBook. Why keep banging your head against that wall when GMail is so handy and reliable?

    Not trying to be confrontational, just genuinely curious. I agree it would be ideal if the mail app had all the features & functionality you desire, and hopefully it will someday soon. But in the meantime…

  2. Interesting thoughts. I’m still holding out for mine, though all three Apple stores in the state have some on hand still. I really REALLY want one. I think a lot of the gripes people tend to have about the phone will be fixed in a software update.

  3. I have to agree with Josh, great synopsis on your iPhone experience. I’m loving mine. I wish the iPhone would have had Bluetooth connectivity with my Macbook Pro. Why do we have to connect it.

  4. Doublejack – I actually don’t use GMail, but I do have a .Mac account. It has an excellent webmail client that I could use on the iPhone, in order to have all those other features. Although it works fine in Safari on the iPhone, it is just a bit more clumsy than the dedicated mail client.

    On my home desktop, I much prefer a real email app too. I can’t tell you exactly why. I’ve just never embraced using webmail. For me, it just seems unnatural. Maybe because even on a fast connection, it’s still a bit slower than using a dedicated app, making it feel clumsy. I also prefer drag-and-drop where possible. Although webmail clients have gotten better at that, they’re still not as good as desktop apps.

    I’m betting the fixes I want for the iPhone are just around the corner.

  5. I have to agree with the assessment of the Calendar application. I had a chance to try it out at the Apple store, and until this application gets some major improvements (week view, month or week-view when creating end-dates, tap-and-drag event spanning, multiple calendars ala iCal, searching) this is a deal-breaker.

    And what about To-Dos? It’s in ICal, but it’s a no-show on iPhone.

    I would love to dump my unruly Palm pilot in favor of the iPhone, but the iPhone is no PDA – yet.

    Frankly, I’ll be waiting for iPhone 2.0.

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