Scott's Thoughts

iPhone First Impressions

OK, I’ve had the thing for 4-ish hours now, and have run through it pretty well now. Here are some first impressions:

Likes

  • God, everything is fluid. The thing works just like the videos, and nothing on the phone is startling. Everything melts, fades, sweeps off-screen, or into the next. The interface is beautiful.
  • It really does feel like OS X. The sounds for new mail, messages…they’re all the same (by default) as on a Mac. The little fading status things from the Mac (like when you change the Mac’s volume or screen brightness) are identical (obviously smaller) on the iPhone.
  • Setup was an absolute breeze. Plug it in, answer a few questions, and the iPhone connects to the AT&T network and tells you that it’s on a few seconds later. In fact, I got my first call on it (from Pramod) a couple minutes after starting the process.
  • The screen is stunning. If you thought the video iPod had a good screen, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
  • I had no idea that the touchscreen was going to be this good. The swiping and gestures you can do really work well.
  • Safari is amazing on the thing. The effect of zooming in and having the screen not only resize, but adjust the apparent resolution is great.
  • OMG, Google Maps is freaking great!
  • Stock and Weather widgets are nice…in fact, a little nicer than the counterparts on the Mac.
  • Cover Flow is really impressive on a phone.

Gripes

  • It’s a little bigger and heavier than I thought it’d be. It’s a bit taller, a bit skinnier and a bit thinner than my video iPod. The upside of this is that it doesn’t feel fragile.
  • It doesn’t come with a case. Now, I don’t use an aftermarket case for my iPod (or the clear plastic things Mike and Don use), but the little slipcase that came with it. I’d have liked one like that for the iPhone.
  • It came with a cloth to clean the surface, and you’re gonna need it—it’s a fingerprint magnet for sure.
  • I have my wifi network set up to filter clients on MAC address. The MAC address on the phone isn’t where I expected it to be, although I found it after hunting around a bit.
  • It doesn’t work with all accessories that have an iPod connector. I just don’t understand this, although I read that they may fix this with a software update. It doesn’t work with my car adapter, which charges an iPod and gives it a line-out. The iPhone will charge on it, but not play through the line-out.
  • The headphone port is sunk into the top, which only allows narrow plugs to insert. I have to do more investigation on this, but it doesn’t allow the Monster Cable headphone jack I have in my car in.
  • Possibly related to the last point, the headphones that come with the phone are tripole, like the video adapter cable for the video iPod, probably because of the switch to control music that’s built-in to the cabling.
  • Related to the last bit, the iPhone won’t put video out to an external source with a video iPod cable.
  • Not really a gripe about the phone, but the Bluetooth headset that is made by Apple for the iPhone doesn’t have anything that wraps around the ear to hold it on. That probably means that I’ll go with a 3rd-party one. I’d like to use the Apple one that has a dock for both the phone and the headset together. They didn’t have this available in the store, so I’ll wait till it comes out to see how it feels.

Misc Observations

  • It’s the first non-special edition iPod that I can think of that wasn’t available in white. All the accessories that come in the box are still white, though.
  • Speaking of accessories, it’s the first iPod I’ve bought in awhile (maybe since the first couple) that came with a dock, power adapter and usb cable in the box. Other than a Bluetooth headset and a case, there aren’t many accessories you could want right now.
  • It actually doesn’t feel like an iPod in iPod mode. This isn’t a knock really, but the controls are so different (no scroll wheel, different menu system) that it really comes across as a different beast.
  • I could probably, with the exception of the not-working car adapter mentioned above) use this as my primary iPod. I set the iPhone to get several playlists that I listen to most frequently (mostly Smart Playlists whose content changes fairly frequently), the 3 most recent unlistened episodes of the podcasts I listen to and TV shows I’ve got. (That really boils down to The Office, which I bought to watch during the couple of flights I’ve taken recently and today’s line.) Even with all of that plus the contacts and such that are naturally synced, I’m only half full. I’ll probably move more music over once they get a new version of my car adapter out.
  • I haven’t played with photos on it yet, but that’s not the iPhone’s fault. I don’t use iPhoto, but do use Aperture for photos. They recently updated iTunes to be able to sync Aperture photos with an iPod, but this never worked for me on my old iPod, and fails on the iPhone with the same error. It’s got to be a problem with the installation on my MacBook.

Later impressions:

  • It needs an RSS reader. Safari doesn’t have its built-in RSS, but I want NetNewsWire. I hope they open 3rd party development soon. There have been solid rumors (backed by accidental screen shots uploaded to Apple.com) that Apple has RSS support coming pronto. Still, gimme some NNW.
  • Oh, one other thing that made the whole thing super easy to get started with: it imported absolutely everything you’d expect it to, before the first use. Contacts, bookmarks, mail settings, everything. A little tweaking (for instance, to set up automatic email checking) was all that was necessary. Good stuff.
  • One more niggle: the dock connector is “sticky” in that if you lift the docked iPhone, the dock comes with it, and is in there so tight that you pretty much need two hands to undock it. It’s not the dock itself…it’s that way on my old iPod dock too. The iPhone connector is just a snug fit.
  • Nice thing: when you select a playlist, you can choose to play the tracks in random order, without having to globally set the iPod to “shuffle songs”.
  • I got an iPhone-to-regular headphone adapter so I can use the iPhone in my car now. Not perfect, but it’ll hold me over until a new version of the Belkin with the line out comes out.
  • I bought the Jawbone Bluetooth headset. It looks cool, comes with many sizing features, and has a loop around the ear. I don’t know if it’s good or not, but it’s certainly got style to match the iPhone.
  • I bought a slip cover for it, so that it’s got some padding while in my back pocket (where I normally stash my phone). I prefer that to a case that’s on it all the time because I want to see it in all its glory when I pull it out. ;)

The next day:

So I went to the mall today and had a chance to use the iPhone out on the road.

  • EDGE is slow, but not unbearably so. If I were using it for extended browsing it would get annoying, but that’s not what I think this thing is really about. It’s a far better broswing device than any phone I’ve ever seen before.
  • Connection-handling is beautiful. You just never have to pay attention to the cell network for data—it just handles it automatically in the background.
  • Filling out forms (say logins) is very easy. Double-tap to zoom in to a form, and it’s clear as day what’s going on.

Compared to my previous phone (a Windows Mobile 5-based Cingular 2125):

  • Contacts, calendars and their management is better on the iPhone, but only because the software is so damned smooth. I used the excellent Missing Sync for Windows Mobile to keep things in sync on the 2125, and it was good, but this is invisible and seemless.
  • The 2125 had one-touch dialing (possible since it had a real keyboard), but the “favorites” on the iPhone is very nice. I’d give the total usability edge to the 2125 for hot-keyed contacts, but give the edge to the iPhone for finding anyone else in the phone book.
  • The home screen of the 2125 has a nice “Agenda” view that has your next upcoming meeting and such on it. You have to click on the calendar app to get a “List” view, which is similar but better, but it’s not on the front page as soon as you turn it on.
  • Alarms, which I use constantly on the 2125, are far superior on the iPhone. The iPhone supports multiple alarms with different rings, snooze settings, etc. Very nice.
  • Sound quality. The iPhone is superior to the 2125 in every respect around the quality of its sound so far. The speaker can be turned louder, and it sounds better. I don’t have particularly great hearing, so I tend to have my phone’s speaker turned rather high. I don’t have the iPhone maxed out, while I always did have the 2125 as high as it would go. I’ve called Val both with the handset and the headphone mic and she’s said that both were superior to the 2125 from the other side of the phone.
  • The iPhone is a pretty good speakerphone so far, but I haven’t stressed it much. The 2125 was fine, but it was nothing to write home about.
  • The email and SMS apps are hands-down, 200% better than anything the 2125 can do, even without counting the input superiority of the iPhone. Counting it puts the iPhone in a completely different (and unfair, given the size difference) league.
  • The iPhone has no Bluetooth modem mode, while the 2125 has a good one. I tend to use that mode to check news and email, so maybe the iPhone is good enough at those things to make some of this up, but this is a definite big “plus” in the 2125’s favor.
  • WinMo is an open platform, which is a nice win. That said, I’ve uninstalled every app I’ve ever put on the 2125 with the exception of GMail Mobile, because they uniformally sucked. GMail was pretty good, but the GMail mode on the iPhone’s mail app is far superior.
  • The iPhone can’t pair with a computer with Bluetooth, which means that you can’t use the Address Book on the Mac to dial a contact wirelessly. That would be minorly nice. In fact, mobile Safari can dial a number if you click it on a webpage, and it would be nifty if they’d make it so that if you click one on the Mac, it would start the call on your iPhone.

Answering a friend’s question about the whether or not the iPhone was “pocketable”:

I think so. I carry my phone in my back pocket, and have been doing the same with the iPhone. I bought a wallet-like case for the iPhone, and it feels like a thin wallet in my pocket. I wouldn’t want the combo in my front pocket, though. That said, I don’t like most phones in my front pocket…even the fairly small 2125.

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