Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I can't believe it, I got an iPhone, and.... I like it.

A few weeks ago my lovely wife got me an iPod Nano for my birthday. This wasn't something on my list or anything I knew I wanted but I swallowed my dislike for all things from that white-clad trouble maker in Cupertino and gave it a try. The interface was very simple, I never had to break out the manual or even go looking for a feature. I thought the accelerometer would be cute and nothing more than a gimmick but it was actually useful in the control of the device (especially in the games). In short, I really liked it and I wanted more.

As a mobile technology enthusiast I have always had the latest and greatest of converged communicators; Smartphone's, PDA's, whatever you want to call them. My obsession started very early and the best device I ever had was an Apple Newton. I would have never made it through college without it.

My 2-year contract subsidizing the purchase of my Treo 750 (Windows Mobile 6) was running out and I had started to research its successor. I will admit that I had kept running into the iPhone in all of my searches and I ended up reading more that I wanted to about it. I couldn't find any complaints really, just happy users. Did I want to be one of those happy people with the white fruit sticker on the back of my car?

After 2 more days of waffling on it I made the purchase. Off to the Apple store I went. It was very busy but I was able to get my shiny new 16GB iPhone in about 20 minutes. It was surprisingly easy and I was even offered a feature tour. It was charged, loaded with great apps and was even able to use it to call my wife to meet up as soon as I left the store.

4-days later and I am still working through the transition. Here's a list of the functions and how I am solving any incompatibilities:

Exchange server and had contacts, calendar and email.Up within 20-minutes, slick wizard, works like a charm. Native viewer for every attachment I threw at it. Supports HTML email out of the box, always wanted that on my Treo. Be warned that there are still some holes, I can't invite attendees to an event but I can accept them. Other differences forthcoming. I also used to be able to schedule when to allow push mail so I didn't get woken up by SPAM at night. There is no option to control when you receive messages on the iPhone.
Outlook NotesNothing native, I am trying Evernote which was able to import my Outlook notes (not sync, import) but it looks very very promising.
Outlook TasksNothing native. Why the heck would Apple ignore tasks?
TomTom Navigator GPSI was crippled on New Year's Eve because this was missing. I can't find a decent Turn-by-Turn GPS solution yet. Lots of rumors about TomTom but nothing is available. None of the apps on the Apps store look right and I read some (now dispelled) rumors that the GPS antenna may never be able to support the functionality I used to have.
Morning MP3 AlarmBy far one of the most frustratingly lacking features. How in God's name did Apple miss this? What's worse is that they forbid developers from accessing the iTunes library so there is no way to get to my music. I was left using a trick to convert my favorite wake-up song to a ringtone (had to trim it to 40-seconds) so I could use the built-in alarm app.
MP3 MusicPlugged my phone into my PC and clicked sync in the lower right corner of iTunes. Easy and awesome. The headphones that come with it are simply fantastic for listening to music and even include a small control right on the cord for pause and skip. It works with both of our cars due to existing iPod interfaces (don't change the iPhone though)
Web SurfingWonderful and totally slick. Blows IE mobile out of the water, even smokes SkyFire for usability and simplicity. I can surf any site and it looks pristine. I love that it grabs 802.11 and makes surfing near wireless easy and fast. It's not all roses though, no flash support and no browsing history (oops, found it in bookmarks) have been kind of a pain.
TetheringI've got to jailbreak my phone to tether, I'm not there yet.
Vehicle ManagerGas Cubby takes the cake for this one, beautiful interface and a much better entry interface. I was always frustrated that the keys weren't locked to numeric's when entering fuel data before.
SkypeAnother missing application. I admit that I used it twice in 2-years so not a huge loss. More exposure that Windows Mobile was well adopted in the industry. Maybe Apples stingy developer rules will really slow down some of the core app adoption. We will see.
Sudoku/GamesHere is another place the iPhone really shines. The games are fantastic. I already picked up Crash Kart, Tap Tap Revenge, Uno, Sudoku and Topple. Great interface. I did finally find one crash on the whole platform with Topple but it crashes cleanly to the home screen and I was able to report the problem through the App Store.
Putty/SSHTouchTerm - easy, simple and free. Now I can even access devices internal to the network instead of having to SSH hop into my network from outside.
WordpressYup, native support. Thank you Wordpress for a beautiful interface. I composed the first two paragraphs of this entry using my iPhone and then saved it to drafts so I could type faster. Don't get me wrong it was a good experience and the touch-board was surprisingly accurate but no replacement for my Microsoft ergonomic keyboard.
Remote DesktopThis was a native application that I used a lot on my Treo. I installed RDP Lite but it doesn't support Vista so I am still deciding if I want to pay for this functionality.
Harvest Time TrackingNever was able to do this on my Treo, native application on the iPhone
PhoneOh ya, almost forgot. I miss the Treo quick dialing feature at the home screen (just start typing the name and it drops down the list of matches). However, the call quality is amazing, speakerphone is crystal clear and I can finally hear/feel the ringer. I saw a few apps that are supposed to give me back the quick dial functionality but haven't needed it yet. I do a lot of answering and not a lot of dialing.
Cut/Copy/PasteThis is a huge complaint that I ran into first day and is a known issue. You just can't, don't ask, it better be fixed soon.
MuteMy Treo 750 had a great mute switch on the top. When you flipped that switch, come hell or high water, the unit wouldn't make a sound. It was my meeting safety blanket; I could play with my Treo all I wanted without any fear of generating a noise. I found out very unceremoniously in the library today that the mute switch on the iPhone does not replicate the option on all.

This is a really tough adoption for me. Apple has a beautiful platform that's early on in the market. There isn't all that much adoption yet but at the rate they are going, they will have everything I am missing and beyond within 6-months. I really enjoyed being on a standard platform like Windows Mobile. Anything I wanted was already available and was usually free. I was gambling every time I installed an application and right before the upgrade my Treo was in sad shape. I had to perform weekly reboots, it would inexplicably lock up and I wouldn't know until I tried to use it. My alarm wouldn't go off some mornings because it lost the mini-SD card. But it did everything I needed, if not reliably.

Overall I am very excited at all of the things that just work on the iPhone. I really like the look and feel of the device; it just feels good in your hand. The App Store is nice and makes it just as easy to spend my money as my Kindle does. I feel like I am getting good value for the cost. When I look back at all the hacking, fighting, searching, downloading, cabling, manual updating, etc., I think $0.99 is a deal. Free is great, even some of the applications that are more than $5 easily pay for themselves vs. their Windows Mobile counterparts. I always hated the whole install process on WM6 and that you were almost always stuck to your PC to install stuff. It's a good platform with a bright future. I am going to stick with it, we will see what the next 2-years hold for mobile technology.



    Please tell me you haven't gone to the dark side??????? ;o)

    I would have expected you to be a G1 fan........what happened?

    Hope you enjoy the iphone.

  2. Good to hear from you Randy. The school system has corrupted me into liking Apple products. I like the G1 but it was just so clunky. Lovin' the iPhone though.

  3. I understand........half the team here has iPhone's, and we have a couple of G1's on the team also. So I have played with them both.......and you're right. the G1 is a great first generation phone, but not quite up to the iPhone yet.