iGot an iPhone, Initial Impressions and Reflections, Part 3

Before delving further into my initial impressions, I wanted to go back to the topic of iPhone’s display that I hadn’t yet covered – brightness and color. The screen is absolutely the brightest and richest color LCD I have ever seen on a mobile device. In fact my initial reaction upon powering up the device for the first time was that Apple obviously preconfigured these units with screen brightness to maximum strength by default. One of my first actions was to go to the settings screen and turn it down. Imagine my shock when I discovered that brightness level was in fact set at just 50%. Moving the slider to its maximum setting creates a retina popping brightness that could double for a Maglite. So bright in fact that it’s actually painful to look at. Needless to say I don’t recommend doing this. You’ll have no problem finding your keys in the dark with this thing.

To conserve even more battery power I downgraded screen brightness to 35%, which believe it or not is as bright as my Treo 650 set at 65%. I don’t know who Apple contracted to manufactures these LCDs but it outshines everything else out there, literally. The same is true for color saturation and balance as well. I synced my copy of Pirates of the Caribbean that I had purchased off of iTunes to the iPhone (I’ll get to video playback later) and the color and picture sharpness was absolutely eye popping, as one would expect from a device so focused on multimedia capabilities.

At the risk of repetition, the OS continues to wow and impress me the more I use. I’m still awestruck at the fluid nature of the UI. As I said before, after you’ve immersed yourself in the iPhone user interface, you wonder why no one thought of this sooner. Standard smartphone platforms feel so primitive in comparison. How anyone could even look at a Blackberry after using an iPhone is beyond me. Windows Mobile, maybe (remotely plausible). PalmOS is so pathetically out of this league, to compare it with iPhone/OSX is like holding a vintage 1989 Sony Walkman cassette player up against an iPod. It's a joke. Every Treo user should do themselves a favor by donating their smartphone to a third world country, where it belongs. OTPC = One Treo Per Child. Just glue a hand crank to the side of the Treo 680 and maybe there's hope form Palm overall.

Clearly Apple put a great deal of research into designing the right navigation method for user interaction and input. The interface is easier to use and navigate than PalmOS, multitasks more seamlessly and thoughtfully than Windows Mobile, and simplifies connectivity tasks better than Symbian. It’s as if Apple took the best qualities of each platform and rolled them together.

But even more shocking to me, running such complex software – where are the crashes? Shouldn’t my iPhone have locked up on me by now? Again I have to ask this painfully obvious question - how is that Apple, being a relative newcomer to this market, managed to create with such ease a mobile operating system so fast, efficient, stable, and reliable, when device makers with years of experience and pedigree have managed to create such flawed, slow, inefficient, and generally poorly designed software?

Were this a Windows Mobile device I’d be staring at a spinning hourglass as I tap on the screen and make selections, waiting for the OS to perform even basic tasks.

If iPhone were running PalmOS it would be crashing hourly or at the drop of a pin, with a putrefied DOS-era interface to boot.

If it were Symbian under the hood I’d be pecking through menus looking for some feature setting painfully buried away in an unintuitive interface.

And yet Apple did it. I don’t know how, and the dubious side of my brain keeps waiting for some ugly truth to reveal itself, beneath the elegant veneer. Like meeting a beautiful woman in a bar, who smiles back at you, revealing a mouthful of rotting teeth. So far I haven’t stumbled upon any dark cloaked secrets or locked closet doors. And that makes me somehow ever MORE skeptical. This can’t be right, can it? Something MUST be wrong somewhere.

Well there are a few areas that are less than perfect. Aside from the unpredictable predictive spelling, there are number minute features and functions that I would like to see added or changed significantly. One item that I was disappointed by is that background wallpaper is only utilized on sleep/wake. You can set any picture as your wallpaper, which is nice, but you’ll only see when iPhone is wakened. I’d like to see Apple enable background wallpaper on the home screen, with an opacity level adjustment allowing the user to darken and obscure photos so as not to interfere visibility of home screen icons. That’s a minor niggle, I know, but I care about the minutia.

Second, the iPhone interface doesn’t have permanent scrollbar framework. You scroll up or down simply by making sliding gestures with your fingers. That works beautifully! However, if scrollbars aren’t shown it’s not always apparent when a document continues on. I noticed this several times when reading an email or webpage. I would mistakenly assume that I had reached the end of document when in fact it continued on. If visible scrollbars were present I would have known to keep scrolling. Such as it is, you have to basically guess this by continuing to scroll until you encounter a rubber banding feedback effect where the document bounces back again, indicating that you’ve reached the end of the road. That works of course, but I still prefer having some form of indication, be it a scrollbar or a tiny arrow, indicating that I NEED to continue scrolling. But as with the wallpaper thing, this is a minor detail.

Now onto a potentially more worrisome issue, if it is an issue. I haven’t yet spent enough time testing the device to draw hard conclusions, but given my extensive experience with wireless devices, I am beginning to suspect that iPhone has some reception issues in areas of weak coverage. I say this because, having travelled with my iPhone in locations where AT&T coverage in my area is known to be poor, my iPhone has several times lost coverage COMPLETELY - as in NO SERVICE, where other smartphones I own maintain active connection, however weak. Again I stress that I need to spend much more time before placing a period at the end of that sentence, but as Poirot famously said, “My little grey cells are busy”.

Battery life is another feature that needs to be thoroughly tested before passing judgment, but based on what I’ve experienced so far I feel comfortable is saying that it is every bit as good as claimed. And once again that opens more questions that indict incumbent smartphone players who preached so loudly that in no way could such a thin device, with a large 3.5” display powered by a desktop class OS under the hood, offer even barely tolerable battery longevity. But it does. So I ask, once again, how is that such a product DOES offer these qualities while you numbskulls at Nokia and RIM can’t even produce a touchscreen device? Shouldn’t my Windows Mobile powered HTC S620 deliver TWICE the battery life of iPhone rather than a meager percentage more? Shouldn’t my Treo 650 with its brick-like form factor and puny postage stamp sized display go days on end without needing recharged? A foul oder of lies and excuses is blowing past my nose, and it ain’t coming from Cupertino. I’m beginning to think handset makers have sat on their hands for years using battery consumption and hardware requirements as an excuse for their lack of innovation. Knock knock fellas, this is your wake up call.

Ok, so that rant is out of the way, for now. I’ll brow beat the handset industry further another day.

For now I will turn my attention back towards Apple. How about brow beating iPhone for a change? Sound good? Alrighty then, how about this – iPhone is only compatible with the included earphones provided by Apple. You read that right. How is that possible you ask? Well the geniuses (and I don’t mean the Genius Bar employees at your local Apple Store) at Apple made one of the dumbest and easily avoidable design mistakes ever made. The iPhone’s headphone jack is countersunk within the brushed metal enclosure, made precisely the same diameter as the iPhone/iPod earphone connector. This means you can NOT ( I stess NOT) use the iPhone with your favorite pair of earphones, or in-car audio adapters.

I have a pair of Shure headphones that are now useless. Thank God I didn’t buy that pair of $60 Senheizer earphones I was about to purchase. If the iPhone has any serious design flaw, surely this is it. Apple could have a least thrown us a bone by including some kind of mini adapter enabling compatibility with standard headphones, but no. The reason why I am shouting so loudly from my soapbox is because this shortcoming is so blatantly unnecessary and avoidable. There is absolutely no reason why such a trivial yet damaging decision was made in the iPhone’s design. Flat out, this was a dumbest decision on Apple’s part.

I’m not finished yet. As wonderful as iPhone, and believe me it honestly is, I still disagree with Apple’s decision to lock out development. As it is, iPhone feels like an empty treasure chest. You have this absolutely amazing smartphone running the a mobile operating system that utterly awe inspring, that puts everything else to shame. And yet the more you use the iPhone the more you want it do, but can’t. I feel like we are all waiting for the other shoe to drop - that Apple has something up its sleeve they aren’t showing us yet, and that’s probably the case. But as it is, I feel like I’m being served a delicious appetizer as I wait impatiently for the main course to arrive. The question is when it will arrive.

Apple seems to have concentrated on getting iPhone’s core functionality and operating system right rather than worry about extending its capabilities. In that regard they passed with flying colors. iPhone is far more advanced, far more reliable, and far more innovative than any other device or software platform on the market today - not only surpassing the competition but making them look stupid in the process; a feat that Apple prides itself upon.

And yet the more I use my iPhone the more it leaves me wanting more. It’s like watching a new blockbuster film only halfway through. What happens next? Apple is leaving me in suspense! My instincts in guessing where device makers are heading are usually pretty good, and in this case I think Apple has a winning hand that it isn’t ready to show just yet, and I can’t say I blame them. Step one was generating hype, silencing the critics, winning analysts, and growing an iconic status before the product even shipped. They managed to pull that off marvelously. My hunch is that by the fourth quarter of this year we are going see some rather shocking and interesting surprises from Apple in the form of value added software and features.

And now comes one of those scandalous rumors that I love spreading, but I spoke with a “source” (you know it’s credible whenever the word source is used within quotations) that Apple does in fact plan opening the iPhone to third party developers. It’s not a matter of if, but when. The exact words my source used was…”you’ll be hearing some interesting “news” on that later this year”.

That winds up the third portion of my so called “initial impressions” pseudo review. I’ll be posting more later in the coming days.

So far my overall impressions are best condensed into one sound bite - iPhone is an absolutely amazing first generation product that surpasses even third and fourth generation smartphones, which are now best described as dumbphones by comparison.

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Reader comments

iGot an iPhone, Initial Impressions and Reflections, Part 3


The one iPhone rant I have that you missed is the web browser - it's horrible for reading text-heavy sites like blogs, because it doesn't have the Treo's "Optimized Page" feature that wraps text to fit the small screen. Sure it's great for blocky sites like CNN, but I find it unusable for Bloglines and news stories, which is most of what I read on my phone. And it should be trivial in software to have Safari just render to a smaller resolution. OTOH, the "tabbed browsing" UI is freaking amazing.
There are a bunch of other annoying UI quirks (no searching through contacts? But I have hundreds of them!), but hopefully they will be addressed in software too. But when the UI works, it sure is fun!

I haven't found that to be a problem. The UI is so fluid by design, you merely double tap an area of any webpage you want to view closer and the brower zooms in. Or you do the "pinch" gesture and scale the page up or down as you please. Treo's "web optimized" feature is obsolete as far as I'm concerned.

Hello to all who read,
I apologize in advance for my rant.
To my un-amazement my Iphone crashed on me after playing with iTunes ,Safari, YouTube, Mai ... etc for about 8hrs striaght. Totally cool and all... oh and by the way if this happens to you just hold the power button down for like 10 seconds the unit will reboot and the reboot process a little longer than expected so be patient. It may be because it's writing the error log it sends back to apple after being plugged back into your computer. (Smart error handling on their end )
My only real issues that i hope are resolved at one point in the future iPhone's inability to display flash. It would have made a great development tool for a fully touch interface. Also where's the speech recognition for my contacts?

I cannot wait for this Product to come to the UK, I have 2 phones both with varying PDA functions wished they were both merged into one, life will be a lot easier and because I travel on the the train a lot I do have my music on the go (Ipod). I have often wondered what life would be like if carried just one device that allowed me to make calls, organise my schedules and documents and surf the web.
I wonder how long we will have to wait for and no doubt we will be paying double the price......

The reason the audio jack is counter-sunk is to protect the circuit board of the iPhone in the event of a drop or a hard yank from the side. Save your money for a future set of killer bluetooth headphones. After all, a cord hanging off this device is just plain wrong to begin with.
What's really needed and Apple should have provided: a small rubber plug to protect the head phone jack from lint and dirt. I keep my iPhone in my pocket and already find myself having to clean lint out of that jack.

There are some small software points I hope they fix soon.
* Not all applications turns sideways with the iPhone
* No copy+paste
* Can't save an e-mailed JPEG to the Photos library
* Google Maps application doesn't have all the functionality of the Google Maps web page
But it's a nice toy!

Jeff - the problem is that with no A2DP bluetooth profile, you aren't going to get much use out of any stereo bluetooth headphones!

Wonderful, amazing review :)
Unlike tons of other articles, it introduces some analytics. Keep it up!

My Wife and I fell into the hype and like a lot of suckers we bought two iPhones on Friday evening.
We have tried all weekend to get the phones activated and still nothing. Dozens of calls to AT&T have been worthless. (I'm amazed at how little the phone tech people at AT&T actually know about the iPhone). We now have dead, glossy $600 bricks. They simply don't work. A real waste of money.
Steve Job's was bound to fail, and now he has. The emperor finally has no clothes. Apple blew it.
AT&T has ruined a potentially great product. We all knew AT&T stunk, but now Apple too?
You are known for the company you keep. Shame on Apple for partnering with AT&T, a network that is dead last in customer service. Awful.
The whole experience has been so bad it has soured our impression of Apple. I'm returning the two iPhones to the Apple Store today for a refund. They are not worth the hassles.
Apple made great hardware...but the awful service of AT&T has 100% killed the iPhone user experience. Shame on both Apple and AT&T.
We're really sorry we bought them. We were HAD.

listening to all these reviews is making me cry !!!! i am from the UK and we dont get them until September time this year...
but i think this may be a good thing, waiting for software updates, upgrades etc. :-) thats my excuse anyway lol
i think i will wait though until 3G.... and *deep breath* what has Apple done with the absolesence of earphone jacks.... :-o

isn't there aim to sell as many iphones as poss? restricting the access will not allow this surely?! am i being silly or what :-s lol
if you know or have any ideas could you email me:

I totally agree with you about the audio jack and blue tooth headphones don't solve the problems for those people who have auxillary inputs into their car stereos for devices like ipods but can't be used plugging directly into the iPhone now due to the way the jack is designed.
I was able to get around this by using the iPhone base. There is a line out on the iPhone base which allows the standard auxillary or headphone plugs to be used. However, who wants to carry around the base with them wherever they go.

I am wondering what the 350,000-plus users who have bought iPhones will do for cellphone service once their iPhones' batteries go dead? You're supposed to send the phone to Apple for a battery replacement. Are all of the users really going to go without a cellphone for 10 days or so while waiting for their iPhone to come back with a new battery? Did the buyers think this aspect of the iPhone through? I sure wouldn't want to go without a cell for 10 days.
And how can Apple claim that the iPhone is its "best iPod ever" when the iPhone has one-tenth the memory capacity (8 GB to 80 GB) of the top-of-the-line iPod? For users like me, who have been waiting to get an iPod till the iPhone came out, to find out that the iPhone's iPod has such little storage capacity for almost twice as much money is very disappointing.
I don't expect anyone at this site to have any answers. I'm just thinking out loud.

The device is great - BUT - it has two fatal flaws that will force me to go back to my blackberry if they are not fixed soon.
1) I am shocked that Apple of all companies neglected to add the basic contact search ability that exists in Address Book on OSX. I have nearly 2,000 contacts. In order to place a call ... I can select the first letter of first or last name - If I have a hundred entries that begin with that letter - I have to scroll. For email this is not the case - it works properly ie. I type a partial or complete name and it finds it. It even works properly for SMS.
2) Select, Copy and Paste! This is a very basic feature that every blackberry has and completely missing from iPhone. So if I type a note with a phone number - there is no way for me to call that number without re-typing it!! Or ... if I get a phone number texted to me - I cannot simply select and copy and then paste into the phone to call - I need to retype it!!!!
This one misssing feature renders the device nearly useless in comparison to a BlackBerry

"Every Treo user should do themselves a favor by donating their smartphone to a third world country, where it belongs. OTPC = One Treo Per Child."
This is lame and offensive to the poor people in developing country. You, sir, should be ashamed of yourself. Developing countries are not a place where you dump your old stuff and possibly your trash too. It's also offensive to the OLPC project. On the contrary of the frivolous iPhone, aims to really help those folks. A little respect, please.

I'm curious whether anyone knows the maximum resolution that photos are downsampled to when they are synced into the iPhone.
I wanted to put a subway map into my phone; I tried pulling in a large jpeg (1600x1200, which I read was the resolution of the camera) and I can't zoom all the way in - the image is scaled very poorly.
I haven't been able to find this information anywhere yet...

Look, it's all very nice and all, but it's still phone - check out the phone HTC just launched - or even the really slick interface and functions that you can download onto your existing phone from Yoober. When the hype dies down and the glitz wears off... is the thing anywhere as useful as what's already out there? Probably not

I like the fact that you are a smartphone expert. I have been holding out to replace my TREO 600 for something substatially better (had the TREO600 for almost 4 years). I was glad for the pre-announcement and the TREO held out for 6 more months (Jan-June). I love the iphone and want to be as optomistic as you, but I just returned from a visit to the Apple store to answer a list of 18 questions stemming from my first week with the iphone. Unfortunately there were 16 No's, 1 yes and 1 kind of. I hope you are right with the 3rd party apps and something up Apple's sleeve, because I am giving up many features I had on the Treo. Here is a highlight of my biggest concerns:
- No cut/copy/paste - had this almost 20 years ago on my MAC - Where is OSX on this primative front?
- No search - of notes and other desired content (word, excel, pdf, etc. - wasn't Google in on the iphone?)
- No grouping of notes - Folders are used elsewhere, why not for notes. No backup of notes on my computer.
- Contact info - no grouping by category or company. Missing key fields like job title (business use)
- ebooks - would like to read on the airplane, but no way to save an ebook to the iphone.
- read email in landscape mode.
- fast locating of contacts. Scrolling is great, but I have over 150 contacts starting with "M" alone. liked the Treo's first initial/last name that got me to the contact I wanted (out of over 2000) in 3-4 letters.
There are more, but these are some of the more substantial issues.
Would love to have a conversation with you and plan to follow your continued findings. Fortunately the shortcomings identified should be solved by improved software not require purchase of iphone generation 2.
Great info from you and hope you can help in finding a way to overcome some of these shortcomings.

For all of you guys who want to use their favorite headphones with the Iphone, good news there is a audio jack adapter available at BELKIN.com!

PJAY ...... dont be ignorant .... u can pull the Sim card out of the iPhone and place it in another phone. And for the iphone being a ipod its not. Put like 3gs of songs on ur iphone and ur good.

Are the new models out yet?? My son told me all the employees where he works were going to be given one of their own because they totally outdid themselves in production last year. I told him he could give it to his mother, but he said, "I don't think so." How's that for gratitude from the child I gave birth too? LOL

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