iPhone – iGot One

A couple of days after X-mas, with the blessing and well-wishes of my lovely wife, I headed down to the local AT&T store to pick up my X-mas present. A shiny new 8GB iPhone 3G.

I hadn’t really been big on wanting one in the past. I’ve had Windows Mobile based smart phones, which I liked a lot… it felt like I was carrying around a mini-me version of my computer. My assumption had been that the iPhone was the same type of “toy”, but for Mac users. Being a PC person (not to start the inevitable flame war… nothing at all against Mac, I’ve just always used a PC, I’m used to it, and haven’t had the issues myself that have driven others to make the switch), I didn’t really think a little portable Mac (as was my perception) fit well with my desktop PC.

So… what changed my mind? Peer pressure figured heavily into my decision. At work, everyone in my department has an iPhone. At meetings, everyone whips ‘em out and puts ‘em on the table in front of them. I admit to feeling a wee bit left out. They’d show me the cool apps like Shazam, and Google Earth, etc, all of which piqued my curiosity. I did notice that the interface was fairly generic, and not reminiscent of a Mac, or a PC, but really just an interface for a phone. The techie geek in me started seeing it less as a particular brand, and more as a shiny toy with lots of bells and whistles.

One of the bigger reasons I wanted to blog this was to make it clear to anyone who may have been laboring under the same misconception that I was, that this is not a little Mac. It could just as easily have been a phone by Motorola or LG or any manufacturer. If you’ve not looked at the iPhone because you’re not a Mac person, put that notion out of your head and check out the phone.

So… into week 2, how do I like it overall? I certainly don’t regret the purchase. While it’s bigger than my last phone (Motorola SLVR), it’s not as big as my last Pocket PC, which sort of felt like I was carrying around a small brick (which was the biggest reason I opted to go with the SLVR). The phone itself is… well, a phone. Nothing particularly remarkable. It paired up just fine with my Jawbone headset. Reception is as good as it was on the SLVR (also with AT&T).

Before getting into what I like about the device (and ending on a happy note), there are a couple of small gripes:

  • Small gripe – no video camera. I knew this when I purchased it. My SLVR had a video camera and I might have used it once (and the video quality was poor enough that the video was promptly deleted). However, given the hype around the iPhone, you’d expect that it should match the features found on other basic devices.

  • $30 data plan. OK, again, in the interest of being fair, this isn’t an issue with the phone, but an issue with AT&T. It seems a bit high, but at least it’s unlimited. I was also aware of this when I purchased the phone, but what surprised me was when AT&T guy said, “Do you want text messaging?” The $30 data plan does not include text messages. While i can count on one hand the number of text messages I send/receive in a year’s time, you’d think for $30 a month they could throw in a few text messages.

  • Now for my biggest complaint… the built in “GPS”. We own a Garmin Nuvi 350 (big thumbs up for the Nuvi), which is usually in my wife’s car. Every now and then, I need to drive into the city or someplace that I’m not familiar with. I’ve thought about picking up a 2nd GPS unit, but since I was considering a new phone, figured the iPhone, with its built-in maps, would save me from having to make that purchase.

    As it stands now, the device is not a replacement for a GPS unit. Yes, you can put in “point A” and “point B” and the iPhone (via google maps) will give you the necessray steps. But as you complete “step 1″, you have to push the “next” arrow to get “step 2″ on the screen. Ff you make a wrong turn, it doesn’t recalculate. It’s essentially the same functionality as printing up directions from maps.google.com and following along.

    What’s frustrating about this is that I’m certain the device could be a fully functional GPS. It knows your location at any given time, and could easily recalculate a route. Being somewhat disappointed with the built-in functionality, I hit the app store prepared to purchase something better. However, nothing exists. From what I understand, the app store will not allow 3rd party GPS-type apps that provide turn-by-turn functionality. I’d like to assume this is because Apple has something in the works that they plan to roll out (which I’d happily buy), but in the interim, this is my biggest disappointment.

Fortunately, what I like about the device far outweighs the issues above.

  • The browser (Safari) is a “real” browser. Yes, it’s small, but thanks to the accelerometer technology in the iPhone, you can view in “landscape mode” by rotating the device 45 degrees. That gives a bit more real estate. You can also zoom in on any area of the page with crystal clear resolution. Quite a few sites have pages designed specifically for mobile devices as well (http://m.flickr.com and http://m.directv.com, for example) that actually make browsing on the iPhone enjoyable.

  • In spite of being Flash-less, the iPhone comes with a YouTube app preinstalled. It’s pretty cool to watch videos of the kids on the phone, and of course to show them to anyone who will watch :)

  • The maps application (courtesy of Google), in spite of not being a full-blown GPS application, is also impressive. The latest update brings street view to the iPhone. Again, the clarity is crystal clear.

  • Last but not least, the app store. Sure, there are some apps that you can do without. Arguably, there are many that you can do without. But there are a few that are just amazing in their functionality. I’ll post a follow-up with a list of apps that I’ve got installed, with a mini-review of each.

If I missed anything that you’re curious about, feel free to drop a comment.