My iPhone review: How's that for timely?

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I admit it, I plunged headlong through the Reality Distortion Field, was enthralled by snazzy UI and blinded the promise of browsing my precious, precious internets from wherever I may be, in their full HTML/CSS/Javascript/AJAXy glory.

So I paid $600 (plus tax!) for a phone web browsing, youtube streaming, music playing, WiFi enriched picture taking gizmo (with a phone in it somewhere).

It is sleek. It is shiny. Chicks dig it. Ok, you'll have to take that guy's word for it. So far all it's attracted is geeky coworkers and the staff of Lenny's Sub Shop. My wife thinks it's silly, but has come to accept my eccentricities. One of the many reasons I love her.

So to the point - does the Jesus Phone live up to the hype? (I'm working under the assumption you've been living under a rock since July 19th and haven't read any of the 1.2 million other reviews out there).

Well, gentle reader, the answer is 'sorta'.

General comments

As promised by The Steve the user interface is what we engineers call "frikin' sweet". It's fast, fluid, and intuitive. It's got shiny glassy buttons, and me likes the shiny.

But it's missing some key things... like the ability to copy and paste. Seems pretty basic. Hopefully in the next software revision they'll fix this.

Also mising:

  • Over-the-air syncing, or at least Bluetooth syncing. Having to plug the phone into my laptop to get my calendar updated is something I'm having trouble getting used to.
  • Bluetooth OBEX support. The phone only supports headset/handsfree profiles, so you can't move files (including photos) unless you're tethered, or you send 'em via email.
  • It's not 3G. That's right, this $600 gizmo is not only limited to one carrier (that may rat you out to the NSA), but it's also limited to their barely-better-than-dialup Edge network. Frankly this doesn't matter much where I live, since none of the wireless companies offer 3G speeds in our market, but it would be nice to have when travelling.

The keyboard

Of course, it doesn't have one. This caused much hand wringing prior to the launch of the product. But I've found with a little practice, I'm just as fast and probably more accurate typing on the iPhone's on-screen keyboard as I am with my old Blackberry 7100i. A minor annoyance is the lack of a caps lock, and the lack of the crackberry's automatic addition of a period when you type to spaces in a row.

Email

The built in mail app supports a limited number of account types - POP, IMAP, some sort of Yahoo mail. And that's about it. The other listings - Gmail, Exchange - rely on either POP or IMAP. In the case of Gmail, it requires you to enable POP for your account, and is a bit clunky. I'm hoping that Gmail either supports IMAP some time soon, or that Google builds an app/plugin like they did for the Blackberry. 'Exchange' only supports IMAP connections, not OWA or OMA, so I'm SOL. I'm not going to go through the hassle of setting up IMAP on my Exchange box, let alone punch a hole through our firewall for it. So instead I rely on Outlook Web Access through the...

Web Browser

This is where the iPhone really shines, and what I think almost (but not quite) justifies the cost of the damn thing. I've been surprised at just how much is supported - on one of my work sites you get just about the same experience as on a Mac or PC. The CSS renders correctly, even the AJAX elements work perfectly. Flash and embedded video do not work, as Apple hasn't built in these capabilities (yet). It doesn't support any audio either. One other gripe is the lack of an Autofill feature to save logins, etc. for frequently visited sites that don't save this info in a cookie.

Phone

I don't make or receive a ton of calls, but so far, the experience has been very good. It's as good or better than my Nextel reception, and the intuitive features of the phone app are far superior to my cursed Blackberry. Visual Voicemail is a cool touch that lets you pause, rewind, and view voicemails without having to listen through all of them. Plus, the nifty screen lock makes it damn near impossible for my pants pockets to make calls on their own.

iPod

I've got a gen-3 iPod (with the four buttons) and a first-generation shuffle. I used the latter at the gym and the former...almost never. So now I actually listen to music since I don't have to carry a separate device around with me. Of course, like my four-button iPod, it's impossible to use without looking at it, so using it during any sports/exercise activity is just about impossible.

Miscellany

  • Youtube: I don't really watch a lot on my computer, so I don't see myself viewing a whole lot on the phone. I guess it'll come in handy next time I'm stuck in a profoundly boring meeting (and have wifi access).
  • Weather, Stocks, World Clock: Meh. Eye candy. Where's the damn Puzzle???
  • Google maps: The animation is slick, but for some reason, it doesn't support the same typing correction as Apple applications, so it's a PITA to use. Their Maps application for the Blackberry is better for actually finding what you want, and how to get there, even if the iPhone version offers more visuals. Oh and despite the fact that GPS chipsets are getting so small you could probably accidentally inhale one, the iPhone doesn't have any GPS, or at the moment any way to connect to a bluetooth GPS receiver. So no real navigation on this toy. Drat.
  • [img_assist|nid=386|title=Crappy iPhone pic|desc=Blondie is not impressed.|link=popup|align=right|width=188|height=250]

  • Camera: Well, it has one. That's about all I can say. It's OK in bright light, downright awful when it's dim. There's no zoom. It doesn't do video (yet). My advice for would-be mobloggers or journalists - buy a Nokia N95 or N93 instead.
  • SMS: Wait, you want to charge me to send a text message? I think not. I fire up Safari and connect to BeeJive to log on to my AIM account instead.
  • Battery: It's not as bad as people say. Quoth the guys at Lenny's: "I listen to (insert some random radio show) and they say the battery only lasts two hours." Well, maybe if your downloading porn nonstop while talking on the phone. In reality, the worst performance I got was when I was using it all day in one of The State's underground-bunker-like conference rooms, where the signal sucked and there was no wifi. By the time I got home at 9:30 pm, I was getting a low battery warning. In more moderate use, I could probably go a couple of days between charges.

Oh, and that picture on my phone at the top of this post is (apparently) what the Simpsonizer thinks I'd look like if I lived in Springfield.

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Comments

It was so funny to me that apple jumped in with visual voicemail on the iphone. I even went as far as to sign up with youmail in order to get a visual vm log but now a phone manufacturer gets it too... awesome.

Just when I think you can't get any geekier...you surprise me. It's precious.