Sunday, September 21, 2008

iPhone First Impressions

I've been playing with my iPhone almost constantly since getting it two days ago. It's a pretty amazing device. Here are my first Impressions (and second and third, etc).

Buying it was pretty seamless. The sales guy at the Apple Store had never done an iPhone activation before but we had no glitches. They use their handled devices which I noticed were PocketPCs, which just seemed wrong. I transfered my Verizon Wireless phone number and needed the account number (I had brought my last phone bill) and phone number. I was asked for a password but didn't know what that was aside from my voicemail password, but didn't give it, it wasn't required and it worked anyway. After waiting about 15 minutes I was told it was all set. I made a call and that worked and then I tried making a call using one of the demo iPhones (I hadn't realized they were live) to my number but my old cell phone rang. It turns out when you leave the store you can make calls on the phone but it can take up to 5 hours before receiving calls switches to the new phone. After about an hour I got a text message from AT&T saying I was now receiving calls.

That first night I got another text message from AT&T welcoming me to them. It was at about 4:30 am and the phone made noises when it received a text message. This is configurable but I usually want it on. A friend said I'll quickly get used to muting it before going to bed. I did last night. I suspect this is the case for other cell phones too. I don't send too many text messages but had the issue a few times with my old phone, but muting it was as trivial (on the iPhone there's a separate hardware button that does this).

The phone stuff is very nicely done. They used the touch screen to make the controls big, appear when needed and easy to use. Looking up contacts is easy. My Address Book (about 600 entries) synced fine including pictures. Clicking on street addresses lets you see them in google maps or get directions, etc. There's a favorites list where you can list numbers. Double clicking the home button brings up favorites in just about any app (except when iTunes is playing and this is configurable). It took me a bit to figure out how to delete favorites (click the red button which turns out to be a twisty and click the delete button). Also how to reorder them (drag using the 3 parallel lines on the right, they're supposed to be a grip I guess). I think I'll miss voice dialing but favorites will help a lot.

Call quality is pretty good. I'm getting variable signal quality at home. Between 2 and 4 bars and once it said 3G for a second until the WiFi connected. My first call was dropped as I walked around my home. My second lasted close to an hour and was ok. There was some static at times but it worked. A call in the evening worked fine with little static. I've made one call out of the house and got an answering machine so it's hard to know the quality.

Google satellite maps are just amazing Traffic is incredible. I've had a nav system in my car for 8 years and I've used the iPhone version in stores and I've even told iPhone owners about features they didn't know about. But still, using them is just amazing.

Calendars came over from iCal but their associated colors didn't (I got random ones). The Calendar timezone wasn't set from location or from my mac's settings. I'm surprised there's no week view and that it doesn't rotate if the iPhone is sideways. I have several calendars in iCal (Personal, Events, NY Giants, etc.) I believe you can view one calendar or all calendars but not several like I do on the mac.
I haven't added an event but it looks simple.

I wasn't expecting my safari bookmarks to sync but they do (now I'll have to clean them up). There doesn't seem to be a way to set a home page for Safari. You can save an icon on the device that always opens to a particular page, I guess that's the substitute. I'm still clicking the Safari icon and sometimes don't want to wait for the last page I looked at to load.

The calculator app works fine. The notes app is pretty wimpy and oddly doesn't rotate. And it is surprising that iCal todos don't sync to the device anywhere. In fact, no buitin in app does todos. I've used iTunes and YouTube a bit and they seem fine. The soft controls that overlay on the screen are very intuitive. YouTube seems to only play sideways, not in portrait mode; again that seems odd. The camera is merely adequate; there's no zoom or flash or video. I've yet to use voicemail or configure email (I have gmail that I use with from POP3 and I want to make sure I get it all right before I make the switch).

I have had some issues. Several times I've gotten in a state where many (all?) third party apps won't open. They start and then crash immediately but the builtin in apps work fine. The only solution I've found, and it's worked each time, is to delete one app that's failing and redownload it from the Apps Store. Then it works and all the other failing apps do too. I've seen this with popular free apps like Mobile News and Bloomberg.

I've had some issues connecting to my home network. Configuring it just worked, I had to enter the wifi password (my network is encrypted) but it remembered it and connected and speed is good. But sometimes when I turn the phone back on it doesn't reconnect to the network. At least a few times (I'm not sure about every), if the wifi doesn't seem to be connected (zero or one bars in the indicator) if I open Safari I quickly get all bars. Maybe it's just not connecting until it's needed? I'll need to do some more testing.

I've had some problems connecting it to my mac with the cable to sync. iTunes doesn't always recognize it. I believe the cable is connected firmly on both ends, but nothing happens. Usually trying again (or again and again) gets it to work. Last night I took some pictures, when I connected it today, I already had iTunes open but then iPhoto opened and it wanted to download pics which is nice. I said yes but it had a problem, it said it couldn't read the 3 images. I reconnected and it worked fine. I also left the photos on the device. Now, whenever I connect the iPhone, iPhoto opens too.

One time I was zooming in on the radar map on the National Weather Service page and the device froze. I mean everything froze. I had to surf to find the following key sequences. Holding down the home button for 6 seconds should force quit the running application. That didn't help me. Holding down the power button for (either 6 or) 10 seconds restarts the device. This solved my problem but I had to try it a few times for it to work and when I did I held it down for longer so the device shut off and I was confused for a moment. For completeness, holding down both power and home for 10 seconds resets the device (deleting all your data, but a sync should restore it).

Several apps let you click on links which open in safari. The problem is there's no easy way to go back to the original app. If I'm browsing Twitterrific and I click a link, I just want to see the image and go back to Twitterrific, not start surfing in safari. Same in Facebook.

I'll do another post in a few days with the 3rd party apps I've settled on. Also, advice on accessories would be appreciated. I think I want a car charger and perhaps a screen protector or case. Have you liked or disliked any models? I'll be checking iLounge for reviews, anyone know of a better site?


grahams said...

Twitterific has a built-in browser, so if you click a link it opens up in it's internal browser, with an option to open it up in Safari as well.. It's possible that this is a configuration thing, I don't remember what the defaults are.. I'm also using the pay version of Twitterific, so perhaps the browser only comes in that flavor...

Howard said...

Huh, there is a mini-browser. It's in the free version, the pay one I think the only difference is the ads. Not sure what happened because I'm pretty I clicked on a short url in twitterrific and went to safari. I'll have to keep watching.

Howard said...

Ah, it was the Facebook app and I was following a link that led to TwitPic; so that was my confusion.

Roman said...

"Several apps let you click on links which open in safari. The problem is there's no easy way to go back to the original app."

iPhone only runs one app at a time. So, there is no concept of "going back" unless the launched app re-launches the previous one.

Roman said...

"Several apps let you click on links which open in safari. The problem is there's no easy way to go back to the original app."

iPhone only runs one app at a time. So, there is no concept of "going back" i.e. putting an app in background or foreground, unless the launched app re-launches the previous one.

Howard said...

I understand, but something like a referrer header could solve it easily. Though I haven't looked at the api to see if there is such a thing, I doubt it.

But it should have been something apple realized since the Address Book can open a google map. I guess they got around it there by having a push pin labeled with the contact name which is a link back to address book.

Ryan said...

I've been using a Griffin Nu Form case for my iPhone 3G. I like the shape and feel of the case, but have a couple of problems: (1) the rubbery coating on the bottom half is starting to rub off after only 6 weeks (2) the screen protector produces an occasionally annoying moire pattern on the screen. I think this is because it is stiff plastic as opposed to a stick-on silicone.

My favorite productivity app so far: Evernote

My favorite game: Enigmo (haven't tried Spore yet)

Frotz just got released for iPhone, but I haven't had time to try it out yet.