It doesn't have 3G. It doesn't have true GPS. It doesn't have instant messaging or 3rd party apps or even cut and paste. With all it's current shortcomings, the iPhone is still a worthy "Swiss Army Knife" of smartphones that you can confidently take with you through airport security, on a plane, and throughout your trip as an excellent traveling companion. In fact, I'll boldly exclaim that the iPhone is all that I could ask for in my travels and I really put it through it's paces on a recent trip.
Read on about my trippin' with my iPhone!
Starting the Trip
Last Friday I caught a late afternoon flight from Salt Lake City to LAX. A quick check on Flightstats on my iPhone (http://mobile.flightstats.com/go/Mobile/), a neat little web app, allowed me to check on my flight status and learn my flight was running on time. The weather app confirmed that L.A. is like the movie "Groundhog Day" --- 73 degrees and sunny now and forever. Hmmmm.... I've always wanted the weather icon on my iPhone to display the current temperature instead of the perpetual 73 degrees, but if you live in L.A., the point is moot.
Sitting on the plane, I made a call home, sent a couple text messages, checked email, and buckled up for my flight. Heeding the warnings about electronic devices singlehandedly downing commercial aircraft, I activated "Airplane Mode" and tucked my iPhone away until we had reached the magical "safe altitude" where everyone can power-up their electronics without fear of aerial armageddon. Plugging in my earphones, I turned my iPhone sideways and immediately immersed myself in a gritty movie, "The Departed." Nothing like some Jack Nicholson with an ensemble of other talented actors to pass the time as I flew toward Hollywood.
Hitting the Town
Arriving at LAX, I called my friend to let him know I was at curbside and ready to roll. He picked me up and let me know he had tickets for a night of comedy at "The Comedy Store," a well-known hole-in-the-wall kind of club with big-name comics strutting their stuff and trying out new acts for the small crowd before taking their game to prime-time. Not having been there before, we used Google Maps on my iPhone to map our route and we got their just in time for the show. Fourteen comics and an excellent ab workout later, we called it a night (by the way, did you know the iPhone makes for an excellent flashlight when trying to find the bathroom in the dark?).
The next day, with my iPhone freshly charged, we hit the road and headed for the Griffith Observatory. Again, Google Maps was handy. After seeing a stellar (pun intended) show narrated by an enthusiastic-to-the-point-of-creepy volunteer, we walked around to look at all things spacey, including a moon rock (it's gray and can not be mistaken for cheese).
In keeping with the theme of space (you know how those Hollywood types are "out there"), we killed some time with our own version of "star tours" -- my iPhone was less helpful here due to no "Star Maps" available on Google Maps, but we saw some insanely-enormous houses (estates?) and did our best to satisfy our curiosity at how the "other half" lives.
We left the mansions behind and headed to the newly-renovated Graumans Egyptian Theater for a one-night showing of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" [ed. note: RIP Arthur C. Clarke]. Although my iPhone lacks the all-seeing red eye and pleasantly hypnotic Valium-esque voice of the HAL 9000, Google Maps once again performed admirably in giving us the best route to the theater. Watching the movie, I couldn't help but be amused by the gigantic plastic push-buttons on all of the spacecraft --- man's best attempt in the 60's to envision what our interaction with machines would be like in the year 2001. I suspect the iPhone's touchscreen with all it's "pinching" and "stretching" would seem like witchcraft.
The next day, my friend and I were talking about the movie. I couldn't help but liken the monoliths to the iPhone (if you've seen the movie, you know what I mean), but apart from that, we were trying to decide if it was possible for a human, sans helmet and gloves for his space suit, could withstand zero pressure and extremely cold temperatures for even an instant. This was important, of course, because this happens in the movie and, the geeks that we are, we wanted to know if it was possible or if Stanley Kubrick was full of you-know-what. Again, my iPhone was helpful. I opened Safari and we Googled until we learned that the temperature in space is 2.725 degrees Kelvin. Hmmm... sounds kinda cold. But what does that mean to us? Try -454.765 degrees Fahrenheit (yes, that's roughly 422 degrees below freezing). We both concluded that this was the temperature where Hell must surely freeze over.
The last notable part of my trip was our visit to Amoeba Records. Wow, what a store! You can find just about ANY music CD, cassette tape, vinyl, DVD movies, even laser disc. Again, Google Maps pointed the way and, as you can see here, the iPhone makes a suitable camera in a pinch. If you are in the L.A. area and have a list of media that you can't find anywhere else, Amoeba Records may just be the place for you.
During my stay in L.A., I had to mix business with pleasure. I attended a work-related conference for a couple days and utilized my iPhone often during the less interesting portions of the conference: text messaging, browsing the internet with Safari, and email. The iPhone is an excellent back-up when a laptop is simply too conspicuous.
I wrapped up my trip with a flight out of John Wayne Airport for my journey home to Salt Lake. Again, Flightstats confirmed my flight was running on time. In fact, we ended up pulling away from the gate fifteen minutes EARLY. Can that happen?? I'd like to give my iPhone credit for that one, but we know it can't do everything (yet). I also checked the weather in Salt Lake City before leaving L.A. so I would know how to dress; no surprise that dressing warmer was prudent.
Flying home, I used my iPhone to listen to Phone different's Podcast 14 (nothing like Dieter's soothing voice to get you through the turbulence). I arrived in Salt Lake, listened to iTunes while I made the long walk to baggage claim, and called my wife to let her know I was at number 7 on the curb for pickup. Home in one piece -- mission accomplished.
Besides learning how cold space really is, where to get a few laughs, and my flight status, what did I really take away from this trip? Well, I learned that even without the much-anticipated 3rd party apps, true GPS, 3G and multimedia messaging, my iPhone is an exceptional traveling companion when only using the built-in apps and the available web apps that are out there. I can think of no other complete package that slips so easily into your pocket that provides as much information, functionality, and entertainment than an iPhone. I'm looking forward to the next time I can go trippin' with my iPhone.
How has your iPhone been trippin' for you?