30th June 2007

Apple iPhone Review – Part 1

I decided to add the words “Part 1” to my Apple iPhone review because, well since I just got it yesterday, I’m still in the first blush of infatuation and getting to know it. I imagine that after I’ve had it for a month or so, I may have additional opinions and ideas, so I plan to post an updated review – Part 2 – after the first 30 days.

First – a couple of notes about the Activation and Synchronization process. Activation is done through the iTunes interface, which requires iTunes 7.3 and, if you’re using a Mac computer, OS 10.4.10 (which, despite some initial negative reports, has not given me a bit of trouble on either my G5 PowerMac or my G4 PowerBook). The Activation process is very simple, regardless of whether you are already an AT&T customer (as I am) or not. After activation comes the sync process – I don’t know how this process works for Windows users, but for Mac users it was very simple and intuitively is able to sync with your Address Book, iCal, and Safari bookmarks – you only have to make one choice up front – to “Auto Sync” or not…….I recommend that you **NOT** choose the Auto Sync on that first screen unless you are positive that you want everyone in your Address Book and all your Calendars copied to your iPhone – I didn’t give this enough thought the first time through, because I have a huge Address Book and I don’t necessarily want all of those contacts in my iPhone, however, “fixing” my mistake was very simple. I just created a New Group in my Address Book (which I named “iPhone Contacts”) and I copied only those contact cards I wanted to be sync’d with my iPhone to the new Group. From within the iTunes interface, a few clicks to tell it to only sync that one Group, and then when I clicked on the Sync button, it replaced what it had previously copied over to just the Group I wanted. Very quick, very simple. You have the same control of what music, videos, podcasts, etc get sync’d – you can choose All or by Playlist. After your first sync you can set it back to Auto Sync when connected, using your custom settings.

I read someone else’ iPhone Review, in which they complained about not being able to “drag and drop” individual songs the way you can with an iPod. Maybe that feature will come with a future software update, but for now the process is simple and easy. If you really want only certain songs, then just create a New Playlist for those songs, and just sync with that playlist.

So now for my initial iPhone review.……..first the “pros:

  • Like everything else Apple produces, the iPhone itself is beautiful. I plan to get a case or a skin for it as soon as possible, to avoid scratches (I’ll do my research first to be sure I get the best possible protection, and will post whatever I wind up with). Even the packaging is elegant.
  • Using it is a breeze. After Activating and Synchronizing my new iPhone, I made my first call – with just three touches to the screen – the Phone icon, the contact I wanted to call, and the phone number button for that contact. The screen backlight is crisp and bright – better than I’d expected and much better than my old Razr. To save energy (and I imagine to not be distracting through my peripheral vision) the screen went black while I held the iPhone to my ear, then became bright again so I could easily see the “end call” button when I pulled it away from my ear. The sound was very clear – sounding like a land line, not a cell phone. The person I called said my voice was also clear and strong.
  • The voicemail feature is fantastic – I called my iPhone from my home phone to test it – my greeting sounded very clear – much better than the usual cell phone voicemail greeting – and left myself a message. My iPhone notified me within seconds that I had a new voicemail message, and using the visual feature to listen to it was both simple and nifty, as was deleting it (no more “7” or “9” – now you have clear large buttons “Save” or “Delete”….nice…and a temporary storage area for Deleted Messages, so you can undelete one if you’ve accidentally deleted it…..very nice…
  • Modifying the Settings is also easy and intuitive. I changed my ringtone, sounds, email settings etc. All with very easy to follow navigation.
  • Browsing the web was simple too, and all things considered, faster than I expected for a page to load. I doubt that I’ll be doing a lot of web browsing, but I can see myself using it from time to time so it’s nice to know that it’s easy to do and relatively speedy.
  • The camera really does take nice photos. Not professional quality, but very nice indeed.

Okay – here comes the “cons” – I have to be honest, there are a couple…..

  • The stock ringtones the iPhone comes with are not all that great, but there are a few fun ones in the mix (a barking dog, a motorcycle engine revving, crickets chirping to mention a few). I do wish that I could use snippets from my iTunes songs as ringtones, and hopefully that will come with a future software update and not a new hardware revision.
  • Yes, the screen does get a bit “smudgy” from your fingertip – but not bad enough to make it difficult to see what is on the screen clearly (despite the parody video showing a totally smudged screen – made with an earlier version of the iPhone that had a plastic screen). Apple includes in the box a nice little black chamois cloth for cleaning the screen, but unless your fingers are greasy from eating french fries or something like that, it’s not going to be a big problem.
  • The scrolling will take a little getting used to because it’s the opposite of browser scrolling, where you click, slide the bar, or roll your wheel down to scroll down. On the iPhone, you “flick” upward to move the page up which results in the downward scroll. It takes only a few times scrolling the wrong way to figure it out, so I imagine it will become second nature in no time.

I haven’t had a chance to play with many of the other features yet, but I will today so feel free to ask questions using the comment form and I’ll answer fairly quickly.

In case you’re wondering, yes I waited in line yesterday – at a local AT&T Store instead of the Apple Store, but only because the AT&T Store had a shorter line. I arrived a little past 2:30pm, but the time passed fairly quickly as I chatted with several fellow geeks in line around me, and the folks at the AT&T Store did a great job of making sure we were all okay – passing out free water, chapstick, and little hand-held fans to try to cool ourselves. It was over 110° but thankfully the line was on the east side of the building, so we had shade instead of sun – a blessing here in Arizona. Once the doors opened at 6pm, the AT&T staff also did a great job of expediting everyone through the purchase process, and encouraging folks to do the activation process themselves at home, through the iTunes interface (I’m sure so that they could keep the line moving through as quickly as possible). If you didn’t get one yesterday, I’m sure it will be a much easier process for you now.

So why did I wait in line? No, I’m not the type to “drink the kool-aid” but I do suffer from gadget-holism. It was a need that had to be filled. Life is short, so I believe that fulfilling some needs, provided they are not harmful to others, is something we should just do. And I slept MUCH better last night than I did the night before.

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