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First Week with an iPhone

Gary Adcock's First Week with iPhone
Creative COW Review


It's a computer! It's an iPod! It's a phone! My first week with my new iPhone

Gary Adcock,
Chicago, Illinois USA
©Gary Adcock and CreativeCOW.net

Article Focus:
Creative COW Community leader Gary Adcock provides a thorough overview of what you'll find in a new iPhone, plus what he'd like you to see in a future release. This is among the most thorough looks at iPhone you'll see anywhere, from one of the industry's most popular pundits, and a proven Mac maniac.


I'm such a geek I had to have one. But I'm still me, so I wasn't going to wait in any line for a telephone—not for 3 days, not even for 3 minutes. So my initial plan was to head out on Saturday morning and see if I could jump on an iPhone early, the day after the launch. I had already scoped out the 4 largest AT&T stores in my area.

About 9:45pm Friday night I got a call from a "mole" inside the Chicago's flagship Apple store, saying that the lines were gone and the store would be open until midnight. So I jumped in the car with my wife, drove downtown and parked nearby. We walked 2 blocks from the garage to the store, spent 3 minutes choosing a rugged-ized case for the phone and then proceeded to the counter. I spent more time walking the lengthy yet empty roping in front of the counter than I actually did paying for the 8GB model iPhone, leaving the store at a mere 6 minutes after we got there, with my credit card screaming in pain all the way.                   

The New Toy
My 18-month-old Razr had been on life support for the last 2 months, so I was more than ready for a new phone. After a good overnight charge (not needed but habit with any new device), I settled in for what I expected to be the usual nightmare when changing over to a new phone.

This time, I plugged iPhone into my laptop, launched iTunes and answered 5 questions. Since my existing cell account was Cingular/ ATT, it took only 10 minutes for the whole registration and setup process.  My chosen mail accounts with all the passwords and server info transferred direct from Mail without incident.



Not a nightmare at all.

Starting pros and cons
This is a computer more than it is a phone. The screen is incredibly sharp and easy to read in all light levels, even outdoors viewed through polarized sunglasses. The scrolling and zoom functions are every bit as cool as they look yet my fingers often trip over the wrong things. I am glad it learns as I go. It is heavier and larger than many phones, more than twice the size and weight of my Razr, and a tad warm when you use it extensively.

So now that I'm getting started.           

Connections
I love that almost all of my iPod accessories work with it. My iPod car chargers from XtremeMac.com works just great, as do all the various iPod connector accessories that clutter my desk like my JBL and Bose speakers.

But one important accessory doesn't. My Bose® noise canceling headphones don't fit into the headphone jack. It seems Apple has decided that we can only use their white earbuds, because the headphone jack is recessed into the unit and most mini plugs are way too short to work correctly with the 1.25 millimeter recessed plug. (Time to go to RadioShack®.) I travel a lot and the noise canceling headphones are critical on planes and the Apple headphones just don't cut it.

While I am at it, when did they stop including the little "booties" that fit over the ear buds so they stay in your ears better?            

SMS text messaging looks and acts like iChat rather than a stream of SMS messages. Incoming text shows up onscreen as a pop up—even with the phone locked—with the subject and sender displayed. I hope Apple will update the text engine so I will have the ability to store messages that I send a lot, a normal cell phone function that's not included here. Even though I expected it from the other features, there's no typing mode in the horizontal-aspect.



 

iCal calendars on my phone is a dream come true. I wish I could use them in the horizontal viewing mode like I can with Safari.  

       

The Photo / Camera function is good.  The interface resembles an iPhoto viewer, vastly superior to the one on your iPod, since it links directly to the integral camera.

The camera leaves much to be desired with a rather small f 6.8 opening. It takes a lot of light to capture images without camera motion. Image capture responds quickly enough so that you are able take images at about 1 frame per second. There are no sequential image captures or video in this first rev.

I don't really understand including YouTube on the device. At least it allows me to view YouTube links that arrive in my mail box daily, so for that I give it a definite plus.



Because I don't spend my day checking on the financial wellbeing of my Stocks, that's something I won't regularly use, if ever. Same for the Calculator, with a noticeable lack of the conversion functions I use regularly in the in desktop version. Unfortunately they are statically locked in place on the display, and the current iPhone OS does not allow me to customize my User experience.



On the other hand, Google Maps rocks. Select a place to navigate to using an either an address in your contact list or just type in the location. It also allows for airport designation codes like LAX, ORD, JFK. View your content as a map only, the hybrid map/satellite view known to Google users or a list of turn-by-turn directions according to your route. Try the reverse route button and you can see why the maps feature really jumps out.



One of the coolest functions for Maps is the arrow button. Activating it jumps to a close-up view of the next intersection or turn when viewing in map or hybrid mode. I see a GPS enabler in the iPhone's future.

Weather is another function I like a lot. I have 10 locations stored in mine and it looks like the weather widget on my desktop. You browse between the cities using a single finger to scroll just like with songs in iTunes.



The Clock offers the functionality direct from my OSX widgets, with a World Clock, a surprisingly good Alarm Clock, along with StopWatch and Timer Functions, although the rotating timer dial did take a minute to understand.

Yet the heart and soul of the iPhone are the 4 applications that are fixed at the bottom of the screen—the iPod, Safari, and Mail functions and some other one - umm - ahhh - mmm - OH YEA and the Phone! More about that in a bit.

iPhone as an iPod
We all love our iPods. While I am not one to live with headphones on every minute of the day, I cannot imagine traveling without mine. With the 60GB video model I catch up on TV, watch a movie and even review client work while I am away from my computer. My 8 gig iPhone holds over 7 hours of video, 2000 songs, about 1000 images with nearly 1.5 gigs still available.



Bless Apple for finally understanding that much of the content on iTunes uses a widescreen aspect ratio and giving us a device that allows us to choose that. It's a shame, however, that Apple failed to include the ability to output the video to an external device like my iPod does, partially inhibited because of the recessed headphone jack and lack of controls to do so.

One interesting note is that the iPod app is really the only place on the phone were one can truly customize the interface. Nowhere else can you rearrange the icon positions on the screen to suite your personal tastes.

Now if Apple could only translate that to the main screen. I wish I could turn off the album art when looking thru songs in list view.  And I want the Cover Flow album art scrolling to work in the vertical orientation, not just in the horizontal aspect ratio.

One other iPod function I desperately would like to see is storing files. The current version does not allow one of the most basic of iPod functions, the ability to store data and access it from a computer. I suspect that Apple did this to not alienate Windows users. Since it is running in the MacOS, it most likely has HFS+ formatting instead of the Windows friendly FAT32 used on the current iPod models. Treating

Music fades out when an incoming call arrives, but many users don't know that when a song is playing in the background while you are surfing, there is a play indicator arrow next to the battery usage icon in the upper right of the screen no matter what application you have open. And yes, you can use the internal speaker to listen to music, even when plugged into the included base, if you want to listen to a nostalgic AM radio-like sound.          

Browsing the Web
Like many Mac users I use Safari for most of my surfing. The version here isn't quite what I have on my desktop version, and has a number of deficiencies. My main problem with the application lies in the lack of Flash and only limited Java support. When transferring bookmarks, it did not transfer my saved Safari passwords from my laptop, yet it is smart enough to move all of my bookmarks. Safari on iPhone does not have a home page setting either.



Surfing on the phone is very cool, yet incredibly slow when using AT&T's EDGE connection network, even in downtown Chicago, where one might expect the network to be faster. Yet with the wireless connection the phone is nearly as fast as my on laptop.

iPhone has got to be one of the best wireless sniffers I have ever seen. At one point, stopped at a stop light in one high rise neighborhood in Chicago, I was able to view a couple dozen wireless points, with indications of which were available or locked and how much signal power each one had.

Apple really needs to allow us some customization with Safari. I hate the Add Bookmark function on the top of every web page. I erroneously tap on it dozens of times a day. When I add a bookmark in the phone, it shows up in Safari on my desktop when I sync, a somewhat annoying feature to me. I would like to be able to choose where and which version of Safari I have uses specific bookmarks.

To manually add an URL, touch the screen in the URL window and the "web" keyboard comes up with specific buttons for a period, slash and a .com button along with a standardized qwerty key layout, making it very easy to type in URLs.

Unfortunately, that it is the only time you see this keyboard layout. It would be invaluable in typing in your email address and passwords when you are reloading the security for your bookmarks.

Below the URL window is your chosen search engine input area, and you can currently only choose between Google and Yahoo for that function.       

Selecting hyperlinks automatically shows a grey "mouse down" button in Safari and there is a "pop-up" blocker setting in the application preferences. Multiple pages can be viewed. The greatest number of pages I have been able to open is 8. There are very small indicators on the bottom of the screen to tell you where you are in the page order.

 

Getting POPed by Mail
Now I have to admit, I like my iPhone far more as a computer than I thought I might, never having succumbed to a "crackberry" and studiously avoiding getting email on my old phone. Now I can see why there are so many rear end collisions with the darn things. It is way too easy to get lost in the device while driving a car or walking on the street.

As I said in the beginning, transferring my preferences from the Mail app settings from my laptop was a breeze, until I found out that one of the accounts I wanted to transfer was available only as a POP account. This old style "Post Office Protocol" mail server downloads the mail to your computer then deletes it from the server, originally because the servers were not smart enough to keep track. However in my case it is a requirement for one client due to their security concerns of leaving confidential emails on a public accessible server.

Be careful about how you set up your email accounts. For example, one of my main accounts dumps up to 400 emails a day in my In Box. With this level of traffic it took everything I had to keep up. My mistake took more than a few hours to clean off my phone, as there is not a function to delete multiple emails at one time, but I did learn something with my fumbling. Sliding your finger right to left on a mail message brings up a red delete button that did speed up the process.     

Apple offers Mail users easy setup for Gmail, Yahoo, AOL and the Dot Mac accounts, with manual entry for other mail servers. Preferences allow you to choose how many lines of each mail can be pre-read without opening the email how each message is viewed and how often it pings the server looking for new mail. Typing is easy and intuitive, and it gains intelligence on your typing patterns with each use. When an alternate spelling pops up, you tap on the space bar or hit return to accept.

Now if you could just type emails in the horizontal viewing mode, copy and paste text, blind copy someone or make a selection for a highlighted inclusion in a return email. It is the little things like those with the iPhone that just drive me batty. But I'm hooked anyway.

 

Can You Hear Me Now?
In spite of all functions the iPhone has, it's just a slightly better than average cell phone. It is heavier and larger than many phones, more than twice the size and weight of my Razr, and a tad warm when you use it extensively.



I have run into many locations where I can't get a signal to make a call in the downtown Chicago area. On the city's lakefront with clear line of site to at least 10 cell towers, I could not make or receive a call or text message in the middle of a weekday. My Razr may not have been the best phone in the world, but I could send a text message with it from inside of elevators and in the bowels of a heavily wired machine room. The iPhone continually drops calls and loses the network when I walk away from the window in my office.

While I have heard this same whining from Treo users and numbers of people keep trying to tell me it is the AT&T network, I have had an AT&T/Cingular Cellular account for 15 years. It is not the network, it's the phone.

My whining aside, I love most of the features. The "visual voicemail" is even cooler in reality than you may have heard, with an iTunes like scroll function to jump to later parts of the Voice message and the ability to retrieve them from the trash, should you throw it out by accident. The phone sounds great on both ends of the call, even using the Apple headset, with it mic/mute/next tune button function. So I'll finally be relegated to using a Bluetooth headset, something I have never liked after a bad experience with multiple versions of the poorly manufactured Jabra headsets.

One of the coolest things that Apple did not tell us is the Recently Dialed section of the phone keeps every number you make or receive until you clear the list. This is a welcome addition since my Razr only kept the last 10 calls for each -- an annoying pain when you get 20-30 calls on some days. Missed calls show the number or contact info in red, noting that phone number is already in your database, giving you direct access to the contact's info.

The Contact section of the phone has the tiniest alphabet you've seen to allow you to click on a letter to jump to that letter group. It is a shame Apple did not include voice dialing, something that many of us use.

 

Finally
Even in spite of these issues with the operation of the iPhone, I do love it. Many of my complaints here can be fixed with an update to the phone's operating system, several of which have been announced or heavily rumored from usually reliable sources.

I am now mercilessly hooked. I don't care that you have to constantly clean the fingerprints off the screen, or that I have to recharge the phone nightly. It won't replace my laptop, but then my laptop has not replaced any of the desktops I have even though I use it for all but my editing.

I have to admit Apple has really delivered with the iPhone. I instantly fell in love with even this first generation, one we'll all be laughing at in 4-5 years, just like I did finding my first Gen iPod a couple of weeks ago. By 2010 this may have replaced my laptop for 70% of what I do.

My only question is how do I get FCS2 and the Adobe Production Bundle on this thing with only 8 gigs of available space?

###

If you'd like to compare notes or comment about your experiences with the iPhone, visit the iPhone forum here at the COW.



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