This is going to be a ridiculously long post so I am putting headers in bold so that you can find any area of interest quickly. I am going to give a full review of the iPhone 3G after a week of ownership and use in these categories: intro, roll out strategy,hardware,software,outro (the bottom line). I am now going to turn on Bajofondo, take a sip of the Macallen 12 year and give you my unabridged thoughts about this fabulous new piece of electronic pimpery we call the iPhone 3G.
| Intro |
I occasionally receive messages from people asking me why I hate Apple, why I slam the Mac, why I refuse to drink the Kool Aid. Let me be clear: I don’t hate any of these things. I have a tendency to like what is best for my uses no matter who makes them. I’m not very brand loyal, I’m usability and financially loyal. Most of the recent “why do you hate Apple” comments come because of my post about iPod versus Zune. I choose Zune. It makes the most sense. It really does.
However, I like much of what Apple does, but most of their products (in my opinion) are scaled toward entertainment, not common business practices. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I wrote my first Apple application before most of you even knew what Apple was (1982 to be exact) and I realize that is before a good percentage of my readers were even born! My first home computer was an Apple, and I used them almost exclusively when I was a graphic designer in the early 90s. So no, I don’t hate Apple. That said, the iPhone 3G is my first Apple purchase is well over a decade.
| Roll Out Strategy |
Certainly Apple was prepared for the massive demand of the second generation iPhone…right? I mean, with the incredible response to the first gen, they had to know that hundreds of thousands of people wanted a piece of the new digital candy, even died-in-the-wool PC users like myself. They had to be prepared for this, right?
iTunes (the only way to activate the phone, and the way to upgrade software v1.0 to 2.0) crashed harder than a new Madonna movie on opening day. Twitter lit up with talk about iBricks and how frustrated people were. Rightfully so! I’m actually surprised that the Apple servers crashed as hard as they did since this is their single point of failure for phone activation. Seriously, did they not prepare for this? You had to know it was coming, Mr. Jobs. Be a Boyscout, be prepared.
That is one of the reasons that I waited for several days before picking up my iPhone. Let’s let the bugs get worked out. Sure enough, iTunes seemed to be a little more stable just 24 hours later, good news for the new phone owners (old as well) since this is the only way to activate your phone. Oh wait, I already mentioned that. Yeah, I’m not a big fan of in-store activation. Let’s talk about the lines now.
I can kind of (but not fully) understand lines on opening day. Dark Knight has lines, iPhone has lines. It’s part of the hype and the fun. However, I do not understand lines four full days later. Another note to Mr. Jobs: the actual process of selling and activating a phone is pretty simple. Two words, sir: temporary labor. Seriously, I waited for a full 110 minutes in line before I could buy your phone. The total time for purchase (including the trip to AT&T that I had to take, and including the return trip to your store to fix the brand new broken phone) was six hours. Just a half a year earlier I somehow managed to buy a pretty nice car, cradle to grave in the process, in three hours. My car costs 200x what the phone costs and I have to be licensed to use it, yet it took me half the time to acquire it. That’s a big word up to Car Max, a big boo to Apple.
Oh, one last free piece of marketing advice for Mr. Jobs and all of the managers of the various stores: it wouldn’t take a lot to talk to the managers from Starbucks and California Pizza Kitchen (or other mall eateries) to get them to walk the line for orders. The other business is happy, your customers that are withering in line are happy, everybody wins. I understand you did this on Friday at the store I went to. Good move. Now repeat it every day that you choose not to have temporary help, forcing people to stand in line for hours. Thank you.
Finally, after 110 minutes of angry Twitters I was at the front of the line. As the Apple employee walked toward me in slow motion, Feist music slowly wafted out of nowhere, and I floated toward the doors as he said, “Hi, I’m Evan, welcome to Apple. Are you ready for your new iPhone?”
The rest of the process was fairly simply and without complication. It took about 30 minutes total to do everything after I told him I wanted an 8GB phone. He grabbed one, unboxed it and signed me up. I love the fact that he checked me out using a Symbol PocketPC. Yes, that is a Windows based device. Don’t think for a second I didn’t notice and give him the appropriate amount of crap about it, because I did. I asked if the three of us (him, me and the PocketPC) could take a picture together. He said no, it wasn’t allowed. No surprise there, but I thought I would ask. So the checkout process went well, and 30 minutes later I was on my way out the door with my new iPhone!
Before moving on to the next section, somebody asked me if the six hour ordeal that I endured (I’m not going to talk about the return trip to the store or the necessary trip to AT&T) was worth it. “After all”, they reasoned, “it was a horrible experience but now you have an iPhone!” I guess my feeling can best be described in a parable.
Let’s say you go to Ruth’s Chris Steak House for dinner. You have one of the best steaks that you have ever had! They pour you a Shiraz that curls your toes with its peppery goodness. A dessert of Baked Alaska finishes you off in a way you didn’t even know was possible. Overall, the best meal of your life. Then let’s say that as the waiter is bringing you the check…just as he slips the little leather booklet onto your table and you reach for it…he flat out punches you in the face. Hard. Right in the nose. Blood spurts everywhere and you realize that this wanna be actor broke your nose. What the heck is going on?
This is part of the experience. The fact that you got jacked in the face shouldn’t take away from the fact that you just ate an insanely good meal…should it? Or would you consider all events surrounding the evening to be the sum total of the individual parts, even that really awesome steak? Moving on to hardware…
| Hardware |
If you want the tech specs of the iPhone 3G head on over to the Apple site. I’m just going to give you a summary and a gut reaction. The phone just could not be sexier. People at my work in Portland used to make fun of me for referring to different computer things as “sexy”, but this takes the cake. It’s slim, it’s gorgeous, it’s everything I want in a piece of hardware. The screen is brilliantly beautiful and bright, although I have turned the brightness way, way down to save on battery power. Nice transition, let’s talk about that for a bit.
The battery is understandably underpowered. Between vibrate, 3G and a dazzling screen there isn’t much room for anything else when it comes to electricity. Rumor has it that after a few charges the battery life gets better, but I think a more accurate thing to say is that after several tweaks, the battery life gets better. With the screen brightness at almost the lowest setting and with my new car charger I can make it through the day. I also had to turn off the 3G feature because this is a power drain. Nice transition, let’s talk about that for a bit.
I can tell you that I’m pretty disappointed in 3G on the iPhone. I’m no stranger to 3G, my HTC 8525 sported it well. I’ve noticed two things with the iPhone 3G when it is on. First, the battery gets drained pretty quickly. Second, making a call is painful. Honestly, and I’m not sure why this makes a big difference, but I can hardly keep a call connected when 3G is enabled. What’s more, the coverage in my neck of the woods is terrible. I have 1 or 2 bars most of the time. When I turn it off I go up to 3 or 4 bars. Ugh.
As far as feel goes, that is, the ability to easily navigate, there is nothing slicker than the iPhone 3G. The one-button front and touch screen is incredible. Seriously, just stunningly amazing. It makes moving around the phone, from app to app, so easy. I love this. One-handed navigation in my car (~while at a stop light of course) is super easy, and I can thumb around to wherever I want to go.
I’m not sure if this next piece of commentary belongs in hardware or software, so we’ll just move into the software review after a convo about the keyboard.
The keyboard. Wow. This is my biggest gripe with the iPhone. I’ve talked to many, many people that *like* the keyboard on the iPhone. After a little pressing, most fall into one of three categories. 1) Only ever had a phone where you had to press the number multiple times to type (like a Razr) 2) Had the 1st Gen iPhone and have been beaten into submission so they say they like it but I don’t really believe them 3) Don’t really give a hoot about the keyboard because they barely use it, and only for web browsing. I’m in category #4 folks, and that is this: I use my phone heavily for email and texting. Heavily. Over a thousand text messages a month, countless hundreds (thousands?) of emails a month replied to via my phone. I need to type, it’s part of the business process.
People keep saying to me, “trust me, it gets easier”. My reply so far has been “my fingers aren’t getting any smaller, and the keyboard isn’t getting any bigger”.
Now, when you flip the phone sideways during web viewing (on Safari…please let me install Firefox…please…) everything on the screen including the keyboard orients to a landscape view. The keyboard gets bigger and is almost usable for typing. Not entirely usable because it’s not tactile, but almost. Close enough. If it could do this for email and texting I would be so happy…but so far it doesn’t. Perhaps I’m ignorant, and if you are less than ignorant, please point me to a hack that lets me type everything in landscape. Please, for the love of all that is good, tell me how to do that because I don’t know.
| Software |
Now we get to the sweet spot of the iPhone. Some of the software on this little glistening beauty is incredible. From “Slide To Unlock” to the daily weather, it almost brings a tear to my eye it’s so beautiful. The Stocks app is pretty silly (download the Bloomberg app, so much better, and free), but most apps are quite useful. As I’m new to the iPhone, allow me to bask in the wonder of it all, I know that many of you have been using the 1st gen for a bit, but allow me to bask.
Even the software of the phone is superior to anything that I have used. The visual voice mail is excellent, so much so that I have actually disregarded SpinVox for now (don’t hate me SpinVox, I still love you). Actually, I would probably still use SpinVox but I can’t figure out how to apply it to the iPhone. Maybe WhatleyDude knows.
The “Settings” tab allows me to change some things, but not all. As a PC user I appreciate the ability to change all kinds of junk around, to modify whatever I want to my needs. Before you go on and on in the comments about viruses and junk, I haven’t had a virus on any of my computers is years. YEARS! So please don’t start up with “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” crap because I won’t be baited into it. </rant>
Anyway, about the settings…fairly useful, but not completely giving me control. It’s okay though, I’m fine with this. My favorite silly app is “Phone Saber”. Ha ha ha! I have a light saber on my phone and I’m going to attack you with it! Oh, I love it. Seriously, I do.
The two best applications of all for the iPhone 3g? Not even made by Apple, but that’s okay, they work marvelously on this phone. The runner up is…Twitterific! A beautiful Twitter client, I love how it is laid out on the iPhone. I love how I can differentiate by color reply to @mattsingley and direct messages to @mattsingley. Brilliant! So, so user friendly. Replying is a snap (save the ridiculous portrait keyboard) and if Twitter is up, Twitterific is up! I’ve found myself using this more than the actually twitter.com site.
And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The winner of the very best iPhone application goes to…YouVersion!
My friends over at LifeChurch put this together and they have absolutely hit it out of the park. I have to confess something to you…I got pretty lazy with my daily Bible reading habit. Once I installed the YouVersion app I actually got back on track because it has a button that says “Daily Reading”, and it updates automatically. So now even lazy guys like me can be just one click away from two OT and one NT chapter. Incredibly useful. I love this app, go download it now!
I desperately want to leave you on this very positive note, but I have to point out a pretty major problem that I’ve found. When I try to Sync with Outlook (Apple says there should be no problems), it syncs everything *except* calendar events that I put into my iPhone. So if I’m meeting with somebody and they say, “hey, let’s get together Wednesday” and I put it into my phone it will not move into Outlook. I’ve tried everything I can think of, including re installation of software. Ugh. Outlook to iPhone is fine, but not the other way around. Totally unacceptable.
| Outro |
I am going out of my way to find reasons to love the iPhone because it’s just incredibly innovative and cool. I want so desperately to love it! Right now I have a switch inside my head and it has just two settings. The first is “love the iPhone 3G” and the second is “hate the iPhone 3G”.
The GUI is incredible. I love it. It makes it so easy to cruise between apps, check voice mail, make phone calls, read my Bible. I love it!
As far as a business machine goes, the iPhone blows. My productivity has come to a grinding halt as I am not able to reply to emails very easily except for short sentences.
The final judgment…
I’m keeping the iPhone, but I may have to pull an uber-geek move and carry two phones. One for being cool and the envy of all around me (the iPhone), one for getting things done (my HTC 8525, perhaps even an upgrade to the HTC Flip).
“Wow, very lukewarm”, you say, “so what do I do?”
Thanks for asking. I think the iPhone is beautiful and brilliant if you don’t need to do business on it. I think for most people, the iPhone is the best thing on the market. Although I have experienced moments of mind-numbing frustration, I’m glad I got mine. That, and I am working on apps and communities that iPhone users will use, so I want to see up close and personal what they will see.
If you are a heavy business user, if you rely and fast thumb typing for emails and you need to view docs, etc, you should probably stick with your Windows Mobile device or Crackberry.
Bottom line: the iPhone 3G is absolutely brilliant! I love it! Just not good for business folks.
I would love to hear your feedback, let me know what you think of your iPhone 3G!