One of the fun things about no longer being an Apple employee is that I'm now much more at liberty to speak my mind about Apple's products. Apple may have a reputation for being a bit of a cult, but in my experience, most insiders are only too willing to call a spade a spade when the company's products fall short, and it's nice to finally be able to do so publicly again without worrying about violating the PR code. And, of course, the opportunity to speak freely came just in time, seeing as the first new hardware product released after I left was a highly significant (but in many ways, still unrefined) one: the long-anticipated iPhone.
I was among the faithful who bought an iPhone the day it was released, salivating at the prospect of finally having a phone built by people who get it–and by "it" I mean UI/VI design and industrial engineering. Where I had become accustomed to years of death by a thousand paper cuts the moment I started trying to use my previous mobiles as anything more than a phone, I knew that the iPhone would be different. And, thanks to Apple's characteristic thoughtfulness, it mostly is. Among the things that make the iPhone such a pleasure to use:
In many ways, the virtual keyboard is the single most gutsy risk Apple took with the iPhone–the essential design decision that shaped the rest of the device. While many–including myself–were skeptical about how well the lack of tactile feedback would work for them, I'm proud to report that after only a week of use I'm a faster typist than I ever was with T9. The on-the-fly auto-correction works admirably (it's right more often than it's wrong and it seems to catch most of my common errors), and the typing interaction design (when was the last time anyone spent much time thinking about that) is wonderfully well thought out–from the way the key set shifts from punctuation back to alpha when you press space, to the completeness of the character set, to the way the space bar disappears and a special ".com" button appears in its place while you're typing URLs. In my estimation, no single feature does more to make the iPhone a less frictionless experience than any other phone on the market than its keyboard.
The Maps App
If any app on the iPhone could be considered "killer," in the sense that its very existence justifies the device's purchase, it's the Maps app. I've spent the last week wandering around a strange and daunting city (New York), and the iPhone's maps app has helped me enormously (I've even been able to give directions to tourists on the street without actually knowing where I'm going myself). Back when I had various Sony Ericsson phones, I was an avid fan of the mobile Java Google Maps app, but the iPhone's large, high resolution display and multitouch interface makes wayfinding a far more natural experience than the typical mobile phone "joystick" experience.
The Web Browser
The iPhone commercials don't lie–having a "real," undilluted web browser on a phone is a breath of fresh air. The page rendering is flawless, the support for web technologies is, with the noteable exceptions of Flash and Java, fairly comprehensive (at least compared to most phone browsers), and the multitouch panning/zooming interface is probably about the best reconciliation of the small screen/full page dilemma I've seen.
The iPod Experience
Steve Jobs billed the iPhone as "the best iPod we've ever made," and I think that's true in many ways: it has the widescreen form factor the iPod has always needed to make video compelling, the Coverflow interface is stunning, the song list navigation (with the alphabet down the side for quick jumps) is clever, the "Now Playing" screen (with its giant album covers) is beautiful, and its On-the-Go Playlist functionality is easier to use than on traditional iPods.
The Physical Buttons
I haven't heard many people mention this (and it seems like such a simple thing), but I think Apple got things just right with the physical buttons on the iPhone (with a few exceptions I'll mention below). The fact that I can lock the phone with a single button press (as opposed to most non-flip phones, which require multiple key presses for locking) solves a longtime, head slap-level annoyance for me. The fact that I can take the phone in and out of silent mode with a single physical switch (as opposed to some deeply buried virtual preference) also strikes me as an eminently sane decision.
No single thing more poignantly symbolizes to me what I've always hated about phones and phone carriers than traditional voicemail–possibly only fax machines piss me off more. Thankfully, the iPhone turns this disaster into a relatively pleasant experience in the most obvious way possible: by giving me random, GUI-based access to voicemail messages without requiring me to remember arcane numeric shortcuts. I almost hesitate to trumpet this as a feature because it seems ridiculous that it's taken us until 2007 to get such simple (and, obviously, in light of the fact that Apple was able to pull them off, do-able) improvements, but as of now, it remains a major coup of the iPhone.
The iPhone's display is simply gorgeous. I think it's probably the nicest–in terms of resolution, brightness, and color rendition–that I've ever seen on a mobile device. The photos I've synced to the phone from Aperture look amazing–better than on my computer's display. The inclusion of a light sensor that controls the screen brightness is also a thoughtful touch.
All of that said, the iPhone is still very much a 1.0 device from a newcomer to the mobile space, and, as such, it's likely to have some shortcomings. Among the ones I've noticed:
The Headphone Jack
One of the first things I noticed about the iPhone's case is that I couldn't plug my Bose headphones into it on flights, because its headphone jack is deeply recessed in a very narrow hole. Even the headphones packaged with most iPods don't fit it. Belkin does make an adapter to solve the problem, but it's rather inordinately long and awkward to use.
The Absence of Traditional Mobile Features
This probably isn't something that will bother everyone, but I think I tend to be a bit more of an "advanced" mobile user than the average American, and the iPhone's inability to send an SMS to more than one recipient, or (in particular) to send MMS messages at all, has put it a step behind even some of my clunkier old phones in certain ways. For example, without MMS, in the absence of web browser file uploads (disabled in mobile Safari), and in light of the fact that iPhone email isn't an option for me right now (see below), I have effectively no way to upload images to Flickr. The iPhone, despite its supposedly advanced nature, is the first cameraphone I've ever had where this has been a problem.
The Absence of Traditional iPod Features
As I said, I do think the iPhone is the best iPod Apple's ever made in many ways, but there definitely are some things about it that make me miss my "traditional" iPod. Foremost among them is that I would prefer the iPod aspect of the device to be less compartmentalized–that is, I'd prefer playback (at least play/pause and back forward) controls to be available no matter what part of the device I happen to be in, as they would be on a "real" iPod. It would also be nice to have disk mode back, although I admit my primary motivation there would be so that I could use PodWorks with it. It also seems to me that the volume increments are too large (and the little on screen volume control is too difficult to use precisely).
I hate to say it, but my last cameraphone, the Sony Ericsson w810i, kicked the iPhone's ass in both performance and usability. The quality was good enough to almost rival many point-and-shoot digicams, and I loved the fact that you could actually use it like a "real" camera by turning it on its side and pressing a shutter button on the top. The iPhone's camera is barely capable of producing a non-blurry photo in broad daylight; it exhibits the sickly, blue-green-ish color shift that seems to be the hallmark of crappy cameraphone CCDs; and its shutter is triggered by an ergonomically awkward virtual camera button on the phone's screen (which makes holding the thing steady very difficult).
The Email Experience
The Web Browser's Performance
Since touching both "clicks" and ends a "rolling" scroll (e.g. when you flick your finger upward to start the iPod songlist scrolling and then touch again to stop it), I often find scrolling a nerve wracking experience. What happens quite frequently is that I'll accidentally register a click and start a song playing or something when I simply mean to stop the scroll. Maybe I'm unique in this concern, and maybe there's a good way around it (using two fingers to stop the scroll perhaps?), but I find this annoying and it frequently makes me miss my iPod's scroll wheel.
Apparent Lack of Vision
Like most other Mac developers, I was very excited to discover that the iPhone, unlike Apple's previous mobile devices (i.e. iPods) was going to be an honest-to-God "handheld Mac" running a form of OS X. As I told Merlin Mann at MacWorld, I was excited about this because a) it had the potential to greatly expand the market for Cocoa apps beyond the Mac market and into, essentially, the iPod market and b) it could foster the creation of mobile social software applications that could go far beyond things like Dodgeball and Twitter (applications I was very eager to develop myself).
As for the social software part, I've had the sense for years that Apple (or at least the higher echelon of Apple) doesn't really "get it," and the iPhone continues Apple's streak of missing the boat on social apps. As Peter Magnusson points out (though I think a lot of his suggestions are a bit Web 2.0 wanky), the iPhone could have been a bold forary into the kinds of social networking applications–particularly location-based services and "lifeblogging"–that it's young, hip user base will embrace. Instead, with the exception of the iPod and the YouTube app, it's stuck in Blackberry mode with mostly prosaic, productivity oriented offerings (and, unlike the Mac, it offers no way for third party developers to bring in the fun).
All of that said, the current iPhone is still only the very beginning of what is essentially a new platform, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple address all of the above issues (most of which can be corrected in software) over time. Even the lack of an API is something I suspect (or at least hope) is more the result of time constraints than a dearth of goodwill on Apple's part. I look forward to the future of what I think will, in the long term, be a fantastic mobile platform.
You definitely point out my biggest gripes. I would add:
Ah, excellent points Ben. The battery life one in particular has been a big gripe for me. What's funny is that I think I was still having bad battery problems even *after* I turned off promiscuous Wi-Fi mode because at some point I had joined an open network called "linksys" and now my iPhone was trying indiscriminately to join *every* network it came across in New York City with that name. I had to tell it to forget the network "linksys" before my battery situation improved.
While there's no official API, it seems that with the iPhone filesystem access that's reportedly available now, it wouldn't be too hard to put something together. I'm surprised most of the hacking has been focused on unlocking the iPhone rather than this type of stuff.
Wow! Great tinkhing! JK
Here is another issue I have found:
I have set up Gmail to work thru the Mail button on my home screen.
that cut off my post completely, I will try again.
Here is another issue I have found:
I have set up Gmail to work thru the Mail button on my home screen. I go into Mail and see that I have received an email message with a Microsoft Word .doc file attached. I open the attached .doc file and when I scroll through it, I see a hyperlink. I tap the hyperlink (the hyperlink is highlighted with a gray background) and the webpages opens inside of the document. I am done viewing the webpage and want to go back to the attached Word .doc, so I tap the button at the top, Message. That takes me back to the e-mail message, so I scroll down to the bottom and tap the attachment icon and it takes me back to the webpage I last viewed. I did not want to go to the webpage; I wanted to view the word .doc file again. I hold down the Home physical button for a few seconds and then go back into the e-mail message again and I am able to view the word .doc file again. Although, if I were to tap a hyperlink at this point, nothing happens. There is no gray highlighting background or any response. At this point I hold both the Sleep and Home buttons to reset the iPhone, and after it completes I am able to recreate the entire issue.
I can't help but wonder if your comment about a green shift in the iPhone's camera isn't related to the issue detailed in the links below. My pictures show no such problems, and in fact are impressive in quality.
I've had many portable audio devices that fail because the stress on the headphone jack eventually pops the solder connection on the board. I think the recessed iPhone jack tries to solve this problem by providing a stronger mechanical connection, i.e. the plug shroud, at the expense of being incompatible with existing headphone plugs.
Best solution I found for GMail was from another blog somewhere … and that is forwarding my GMail account to one with IMAP … and setting my iPhone/Apple Mail to get mail via IMAP … but to still send via GMails SMTP server.What this does is let me have IMAP for retrieval which I need … but retain my @gmail account, since GMail will automatically replace the FROM with my gmail account (or whatever I set the default to in GMails prefs) if I sent through their SMTP.It works great!Ben
You suggest that you "have effectively no way to upload images to Flickr". Have you considered getting an account, for example perhaps a Yahoo one or a second Gmail account, and using that only for sending messages from your iPhone?
have you tried http://m.gmail.com ? It's not pretty, but it seems to get the job done.
Buzz, I really enjoyed your comments. They're very well balanced and totally reasonable. There's something about the iPhone that makes pundits become unreasonable (no matter if they're in the "pro" or "anti" camp), but you've avoided that trap.
Just go to this page to upload photos by email.The problem is any photos emailed are at lower resolution and there is no EXIF data. There should be a way to set it so full resolution photos are sent.The "button" for the camera shutter should be on the other side. I've gotten my finger in the shot too many times when using it in landscape mode. Better yet would be real button for the camera. It takes way too long to get to the camera app. I'm also not sure why it can't take video. The EXIF data even shows it using QuickTime on some photos. It would probably be pretty crappy video, but we should at least have the option.
Yet another iPhone review? Your comments are consistent with the many in depth reviews found here:
I disagree with some of your points here. iPod:Everyone talks about Cover Flow. Wow, whoopdee doo! I'd sacrifice Cover Flow any day over the ability to create, edit and manage playlists for my music. C'mon Apple!? What were you thinking? You have an on screen keyboard, yet you can't put two and two together when it comes to the iPod playlists!?!Maps:You say, "If any app on the iPhone could be considered "killer," in the sense
that its very existence justifies the device's purchase, it's the Maps
app." This completely contradicts other reviews I have read. Infosyncworld writes, "Google Maps was even worse than I thought in my initial impressions, and though I could spend an entire installment detailing the bugs and frustrations, needless to say that very little on the app works well. It looks better than the version on my Treo, but it is completely unreliable, and a few times it tried to navigate me from Wyoming to California for a brewing company I knew was just in town."Hmm, looks like they need to work on their maps app.The headphone jack is lame, the camera has no functions and takes shitty pictures, the e-mail isn't reliable, you can't SMS to more than one person or MMS at all, no IM client, no Cocoa applications, has trouble connecting to Wi-Fi, EDGE sucks for loading YouTube and heavy webpages. Do you guys need any more reason NOT to buy an iPhone?Sounds like to me you are still under the PR code Buzz.Save yourself some time (and money) and get a Blackberry Curve.
A good set of comments, I especially agree about the iPhone portion – it would be nice to be able to play/pause, and FF easily. At least you can control the volume…Since you are able to pause/skip tracks with the headphones that come with the iPod, I was thinking a great adapter option would be one that also let you do those things with a simple squeeze.
Why don't you use m.gmail.com? works fantastic on opera, so why not iphone?All samsung and most sony-erricson lets you shift from/to "manner mode" by pressing and holding # for one or two seconds. hardly "tons of sub menus".All nokia have a dedicated button for changing profile, much more powerfull than what you describe.If you go to Japan or Korea, the iPhone display would be considered – at best "mid range" (im just saying, Id still love the auto turn feature as well as automatic light adjustment, that is KILLER!) at least when it come to resulotion (I have the cheapest prepaid, and it sports a very nice qvga display, here in japan.) 800×640 are already announced as the upcomming models, as well as digital tv (not streaming, but highres tv from the air) is
A great review which avoids the typical sensation grabbing rants I've seen. Very well balanced.Buzz – we wrote an application which you might like given your complaint about not being able to upload to flickr. It's a iPhone base photo twitter app called iBloggin.http://www.ibloggin.comCheck out the video on info about how it works, it's super simple. Check my blog here:http://matt.ibloggin.com
Wow, so I'm screwing around on Digg, I see something about the iPhone, I look at it, I'm thinking… thinking… comprehension begins to dawn… my god, I know this guy!Hi!
Derek, did you take time to read some of the other comments that were posted above yours? I have been very impressed by the constructive comments that others above offered, and I am sorry that you did not take the time to read them before venting your spleen. For example, you complained about the headphone jack. But a thoughtful person noted that the jack might be recessed to reinforce the jack from breaking off under heavy use. It might not make us happy that our current headphones won't work, and that the Belkin solution is Soviet-era clunky. But I have a feeling that someone is hard at work on a more elegant solution. Given that only a couple of weeks have passed since Version 1.0 of the iPhone, I am willing to be patient with updates and corrections to this amazing new device. It's promising to see that others have presented thoughtful work-arounds and information that helps us both better understand how to use the iPhone, and corrects what some of us did not clearly understand. One person posting above, who is clearly an Apple employee, made a very insightful and balanced comment about pundits, is a good example of the tone I have seen here. My point, Derek, is simply this: please be constructive instead of being bitchy. Americans complain so, and I find it tiring. Instead, reading many of the comments above is refreshing, simply because people understand that the iPhone is presently a Version 1.0 device. That may be a source of frustration to you, but to me, it's exciting, because I know that this will improve dramatically, and soon. Please take that to heart!
Lifeblogging? I am not one of those look at what all the cool things I am doing type persons. I simply want a cell phone that is great a making calls and helping me manage time and information. The camera could have been left off the iphone for it's lack of performance and is not great for capturing those spontaneous moments. Web based apps just dont cut it for what I need. Other than those helping me manage information and time it would be nice if my phone could provide me entertainment in those few spots in time where I don't have access to my computer and the iphone does this task 'greatly' whether its browsing the web or listening to music. My blackberry pearl pretty much fit the bill for what I needed in a PHONE save the web browsing and user interface experiance.
Hey, good overview.. I wrote out a list of 5 things the iPhone needs, and at the VERY top of that list are the [lack of] bluetooth capabilities.
Added complaint – no search in contacts! I have 300 contacts and I know more than a few people by first name only. I know I can change the preferences but then I have other complaints.Who really uses their phone to take photos? Even the Sony sucks compared to a cheapish stand-alone camera. 2.0 will take care of most of the shortcomings. I just hope a quick software update takes care of them so I don't have to shell out another bank to get them.
I think you had some good points. However, I'm surprised with the "nerve wracking experience" related to the scrolling. In my opinion I found the scrolling (and the stop scrolling) to be the most natural UI I have ever had in any device I've messed with. For me it seemed to work "like magic" as Stevie puts. Of course sometimes it actually registers a tap when I didn't intend to. But it is accurate for me about 99% of the time. And the 1% that didnt work was actually a tap that I did but didnt intend to do, so the phone did what it was supposed to. Which is ALOT more than I can say for the click wheel. I grew to hate the click wheel and I've always found it very inaccurate. And the fact that it generates "anxiety" makes me concerned about how critical we have become as a society as a whole. Overall I thought u had good points however 🙂
The ear buds offer play/pause and next controls at all times. Volume on the side. This works fine for me. Since it is an iPod you're using the headphones right? I guess people like their own headphones, but using the buds for the controls seems like a nice compromise.
Hi great review. A simple solution to the gmail problem is great another gmail account just to receive messages for the iPhone. In your main account forward all, or some, of your incoming mail to the new account. In your pop settings on the iPhone, set the pop username to the new account while leaving the smtp settings to your main account.
Yikes–was not expecting this kind of response. I don't have time to respond to this now because I'm going out of town for the weekend, but I'll try to address any inaccuracies or misunderstandings on Monday…
It's got a microphone. It's got a system. So the true KILLER APP for the iPhone will be DICTATION software—that would let a user dictate an outgoing Email, or a text file to go into a simple word processor, like TextEdit, and later, perhaps to a printer.
Hi Buzz, I tried to post this from my iPhone, but I couldn't select the text field.Anyway, about your scrolling problem. After you flick and you want to stop, hold down your finger instead of tapping the screen. It will register it as a scroll instead of a click. Works for me anyway.And I've had 0 problems with the battery life. I can squeeze about 7 and a half hours out of use according to the "times used since last charge" area.
Oh yeah, the other thing I wanted to say was.The only thing that bugs me a lot is it's lack of integration with Mail. I'm considering not checking e-mail on the phone just so I won't have to delete mail twice. When everything else syncs so well, it just falls on it's face.
Hey thanks for the shout out on my blog (johnmurch.com). There are plenty of issues, one that I WANTED TO POINT OUT was EMAIL and deleting. Say you get 100+ emails a day, deleting them on your iPHONE BLOWS! I am talking about spending a solid 5 to 10 minutes hitting the delete button. On the blackberry you can set dates to delete from =
Totally agree Jon–the lack of mass delete capabilities sucks.
No push email through the use of the Microsoft Exchange is this phone's biggest flaw. After the initial surge in sales dies down, a phone at this price point will need the corporate world to embrace it.
Without the functionality of a Blackberry, that will never happen.
iPhone is great, I am using it here now in the Philippines. All the features are perfectly working.
I don't have one yet, but hell yes I plan on getting one! (as soon as I have an extra half-a-G to put out). I'm so disappointed to hear so many complaints and criticisms (as far as recommending people against it and returning the thing). It is a first-gen and it's going to have its minor
Thanks for the info Buzz, right now I can't see all those imperfection yet. As I am using it outside US. So far, I use it whenever I am in a wi-fi zone. It works well. The only thing that bothers me now is that, as soon as I got ou of the wi-fi zone.. the E (edge) comes up and there were my charges (roaming) starts. I wonder, since you worked from there. You might have an idea how to turn the E off… answer will be much appreciated.
I hope the author of this passage reads this.
Great review! I share your opinion in most of the points. Let's remember that iPhone is still at its first generation so it will surely be developed further.
I love those iphones, simply an amazing device
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What is the best iPhone games to play at pub, for 2 players in a single iPhone?
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The iPhone is a line of Internet- and
multimedia-enabled smartphones designed and marketed by Apple Inc. It
functions as a camera phone (also including text messaging and visual
voicemail), a portable media player (equivalent to a video iPod), and an
Internet client (with e-mail, web browsing, and Wi-Fi connectivity). The user
interface is built around the device's multi-touch screen, including a
virtual keyboard in lieu of a physical keyboard. Third-party applications are
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