iGot iPhone Part 2: The Phone
“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).