Home > business, personal > iGot iPhone Part 2: The Phone

iGot iPhone Part 2: The Phone

July 2, 2007

My twins with their iPhones

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Arthur C. Clarke

The iPhone is magic.

The very first time you flick your fingers to scroll something, like your address book, I dare you not to grin from ear to ear. Many dozens of people have played with my iPhone over the weekend, and every single one gets a huge, goofy grin on their face the first time. The videos do not do it justice – the user interface is beyond amazing.

It’s perfect. I don’t use that word lightly – anyone who knows me will tell you how anal I am about word precision, especially absolutes. But the touch interface isn’t just great, it’s not just nearly perfect. It is perfect. The speed and acceleration at which things scroll when you flick them is so perfectly timed that you resonate with it on some sub-conscious primal level. It feels like a dream.

And almost everything else about the phone is in nearly the same ballpark. This phone is an earth-shaking game-changer, and exactly what everyone has wanted for a long long time. Not a single person I’ve ever met has actually liked their cell phone company, and this is the first step towards a device-centric world rather than a network-centric world. You and I win, because every device maker on the planet will get to build better phones because of this one, not just Apple. Competition rules.

Now, on with my breakdown of the magic, the mundane, and the wishes:


  • As I said, the touch interface is perfect. Scrolling, pinching, stretching, sliding – it’s all so buttery smooth you won’t be able to stop doing it. I dare you to put the thing down.
  • Speed. The phone never hiccups, stutters, or pauses. Clicking on an app or an action is instantaneous at all times. Smooth fades and transitions make the device a joy to use, unlike every Windows Mobile and Windows SmartPhone I’ve ever used.
  • The battery. I’ve been using Bluetooth, WiFi, Maps, Safari, and YouTube like crazy and the battery just doesn’t drain.
  • Syncing. I long ago switched to Address Book and iCal (plus Spanning Sync!) for my contacts and calendar needs, and iPhone just works with them. Awesome.
  • The screen is drop dead gorgeous. It’s huge, the colors are vibrant, and text is super-readable even at tiny font sizes. Rotating for a widescreen view is just brilliant.
  • Super easy to use. My wife and mother-in-law are a strange combination of technology lovers and user interface haters. They get frustrated faster than my car goes from 0 to 60, but I haven’t had to tell them a single thing about the phone or any of its functions. That’s unheard of in my family.
  • WiFi. There’s WiFi almost everywhere I use the phone heavily (home, work, friends houses, etc), so the EDGE speed hasn’t been a big issue for me at all. I’ve been shocked, to be honest, because I was really bummed when it was confirmed to not do 3G. Not any more – it works great with WiFi. Oh, and Mountain View has free WiFi city-wide – thanks Google!
  • The keyboard. Steve says you need 5 days to get used to it. It took me about 5 minutes. If you forget about mis-keys and just trust it, it works brilliantly. It’s better than any Treo, Blackberry, or SmartPhone I’ve used – at least for what I do. SMSes fly back and forth faster than ever now. (I haven’t done email seriously yet – still trying to tame my Inbox first)
  • Web browsing. Internally at SmugMug, we’ve always referred to Safari as Suckfari. It’s been slow and a real pain to write software for in the past. On the iPhone, it’s like a dream come true. Every web page (unless it uses Flash or Java) just works – no need for a crappy mobile version. Web browsing is finally a non-frustrating experience on a phone – a first. (On a related note, we’re in love with the new Safari 3 Beta. It’s super-fast. The Suckfari era seems to be ending!)
  • Music. Duh.
  • Headphone interface. Squeezing the bulge on the wire to answer, having your music fade out gracefully, then fade back in to exactly where you left off after you’re done, works perfectly.
  • Activation – when it works! – is a pleasure. No more hour-long wait in a store or on a phone with a clueless rep just twiddling your thumbs. 2 minutes and you’re done. Now if only it worked every time…. Which brings me to:


  • AT&T & Apple: Business accounts can’t use iPhones. I’ve blogged about this before, and we went through hell all weekend to get ours working. I’ll blog about exactly how to do this shortly, but the bottom line is: disconnect your phone # from your business account. Which sucks. Money quote from AT&T rep on the phone? “We had no idea this many corporate accounts would want iPhones!” (after telling us how swamped they’ve been with these requests). Ya think?
  • Apple: The SMS tone is too quiet and too short. I rely on my phone to page me when there are problems with our site, and the tones aren’t loud or long enough for me to notice reliably when I’m awake, let alone asleep. (I thought this was just a business complaint at first, but coming into the office this morning, all of the employees who just use SMS for fun are complaining that they’re missing messages cuz they don’t hear it in their pocket too). Please, Apple, let us configure the length & volume of the SMS tone. Better yet, offer a “don’t stop playing until acknowledged” option for us network geeks / doctors / on-callers out there.
  • AT&T: Shipping on a Friday night when most of your staff is at home on the weekends. Um, did you really not expect tons of calls about these things? According to every rep we could get on the phone, that’s the case – most of the company was off for the weekend and those that were on were swamped. Poor souls.
  • Apple: No drag-and-drop in iTunes to your phone? I can drag music/movies/tv shows onto my iPods, but not my phone? Why not? Most of us have libraries >8GB, so picking & choosing is the best way to get the good stuff onto our phones.
  • AT&T: None of us have been able to browse EDGE here in Mountain View all day. Lots of phones without connectivity until we hop on WiFi. I’m not complaining about EDGE speed – I realize the limitations there, and I’m ok with them. I’m talking about getting any data whatsoever.
  • Apple: Some fields do spell checking and others don’t. Very awesome when they do, very frustrating when they don’t. Confusing when you come across one that doesn’t too – jars you out of the experience. Why not do it everywhere? One great example: Entering a new contact, why doesn’t it know that there are lots of “MacAskill” names in my contacts already and recognize it as a word? It does when I’m SMSing, afterall.
  • AT&T: The error messages when activation isn’t working for some reason aren’t human readable. I realize these are being displayed in iTunes, but it’s clearly not Apple’s fault – their writers always write with humans in mind. Some non-human wrote this stuff and it’s terrible. Almost like having to deal with some clueless sales rep again.
  • Apple: IMAP folder support is iffy. Some folders show up, some don’t. You can’t subscribe/unsubscribe on the phone.
  • Apple: Can’t send SMSes to multiple recipients. wtf?


  • GPS. Maps needs it, photos need it, the phone needs it. If you can’t do GPS, do cell tower-based triangulation. Or if that’s too tough, use something like Skyhook. WiFi’s already built in, so why not? Charge me more for it – I’ll gladly pay.
  • A “keep beeping until ack’d” setting for SMSes. See above.
  • 3G. I thought I’d want this a lot more than I actually do, but hey, if wishes grew on trees…
  • Videos. It has a camera, it has storage, why isn’t this here?
  • .Mac syncing. Why can’t my phone sync “with the cloud” like my desktops and laptops already do?
  • 3rd party apps. Not AJAX web apps – that’s a cop-out, and I’m saying this as an AJAX web app developer. Flash would be a good first step, but a real development platform is what we all need.
  • IM. iChat, GChat, whatever. I love the SMS-as-conversation metaphor, but it’s still not IM.
  • Better Bluetooth. It works great in handsfree & headset modes, but it’d be nice to Bluetooth sync with my Mac when I get close, without docking. And I already miss sharing things like contacts via Bluetooth, something I did often.

Bottom line: This phone is at least 100X better than anything else I’ve ever seen (including plenty of prototype phones coming out that you probably haven’t).

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest store and buy one.

Want more? Read about how we got our phones (and where the pink hair comes from).

Categories: business, personal
  1. Jay
    July 2, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Agree with every word of your review. Love mine btw! ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Richard Goodwin
    July 2, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    Agree with every point! The whole SMS/reminder/ringtone issue is ridiculous on a 1.0 product. (As is the related issues with lack of volume on call/speakerphone/notifications).

  3. July 2, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    Agree with above 100% as a smugmugger with an iPhone does this mean we’ll be seeing an ajax smugmug app, be great to not have to use the space on the phone for photos, as i keep everything online at smugmug and wish it was better formatted, best to beat ‘the flickr’ to the punch. my wife and i both have an iphone and are loving it and our smugmug!

  4. Darryl
    July 3, 2007 at 2:34 am

    So — how does Smugmug look on the iPhone? Does the Slideshow work? Seems like it should, since you’re not relying on Flash or anything, right? Pics, please. :-}

  5. July 3, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    I agree with most of your points but don’t you think you are being a little over-exuberant?

    Stating the battery doesn’t drain. Well obviously it does. And it does so faster if you play a lot of videos and use wifi a lot.

    The iPhone UI/OS also pauses sometimes to catch up with operations. I’ve found several times that I press on a button and it doesn’t do anything for a couple of seconds and i have to press again.

    I’m totally in love with my iPhone too but let’s be a bit more real.

  6. July 3, 2007 at 4:00 pm


    Compared to every other phone I’ve ever had (I got through them like water… many per year), the battery feels like it doesn’t drain. Of course it does actually drain, and my blog readership tends to not be morons, so I think everyone gets my point. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve never had the UI pause for anything, so I can’t agree with your point there. Never had to press a button twice, either.

  7. July 3, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    You can now watch movie trailers on iPhone!

    Just goto from your iPhone:



  8. dre
    July 3, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Use https://www.meebo.com for IM. Requires Ajax

  9. PanMan
    July 4, 2007 at 3:07 am

    Nice review. It seems strange that some things work so perfectly, and other stuff that has been a no-brainer for 5 years, doesn’t (You can’t set the SMS tone? Common, I think my FIRST phone, 10 years ago could do that! No video? No wireless sync? How could the leave those out?!).
    Anyway, it makes the waiting so much harder, for us Europeans…

  10. Alan
    July 11, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    Some additional points:

    * If you ‘double click’ the switch in the headphone/mic cable, it will skip to the next track.

    * It does actually hiccup/stall for me rather more often than I would like, especially when I am showing people how cool it is.

    * Things will crash, esp the web browser.

    * If I am listening to music, and browsing the web, the music will stop inexplicably, at random.

    * I expect that there is no video because the iPhone only plays back H.234 format, and encoding that format is rather computationally expensive. They would want to put HW encoding in the phone to make sure the experience was optimal.

  11. July 11, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    In regards to the IMAP email on the iPhone; have you messed with the Path Prefix in the advanced options? I had to add INBOX (all caps) and i was able to see my entire account, folders and all. Hope that helps.

    I’m loving my iPhone too!!!

  12. July 12, 2007 at 12:24 am

    Correction to my last point, the iPhone uses H.264 (numbers are hard ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. July 23, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    I have to say, that the lack of push email for the iPhone is driving me insane. Once you are used to push (whether it’s BB, Good, ActiveSync, whatever), you can’t live without it. I also don’t understand the complete lack of an SDK or even the ability to change some of the root settings (Good bye Airplane Mode, hello to letting me turn off cell service and leave WiFi active) without hacking the device.

    Overall – I have to say that if Palm could thinify their 750p and add a larger screen, I’d be using that. But I think my new new phone is the Sony P1i with Opera Mini and Symbian.

  14. September 23, 2007 at 3:59 am

    You say: “If you canโ€™t do GPS, do cell tower-based triangulation.” Done! http://navizon.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/09/a-version-of-na.html

  15. AuntRobin
    December 31, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    For awhile now, I’ve been agreeing with Tristan: your review didn’t sound real. I now see that I had skipped the most important part for me, the part about how you haven’t had to answer any questions from your wife and mother-in-law. A month or so ago I got an iPhone anyway, real or not.

    Oh my word. A friend asked me to help her enter her brother’s name into the phone book of her cell phone today. I did so, but you know… we concluded that it would be easier all in all for her to forget about the so-called phone book. Teeny tiny icons that a person couldn’t quite make out. Instructions that weren’t instructive. I am so glad there’s an alternative to fighting with one’s cell phone. It’s not a problem figuring out how to do stuff on an iPhone. I can imagine you laughing as I say this: before the fact it looked like so many minutes on the plan I have! That was then.

  16. FormerLoyalAppleCustomer
    July 15, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    I have always been a loyal Apple customer, but will never purchase another Apple product again….it’s a decision based on principle. I just got back from the last apple store in my state to have iphones. The website indicated that the store had phones left last night, so I went at open and they only allowed about five people to purchase phones, because they only had a few left. In sum, I had to make three tripes to Apple stores over the past five days and, because I didn’t have time to wait four hours at a time, was never able to get an iphone.

    I believe this is all because Apple has decided to ONLY sell the phone at Apple stores and not stock enough of them in order to increase hype and publicity around the product. They are using their customers as pawns in a chess game, in which they win a few extra billion dollars.

    I’ve decided, based on principle, to refrain from buying an iphone or any other Apple products in the future. They should think about their customers first and worry about marketing tactics second.

  1. July 2, 2007 at 8:59 pm
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