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Handhelds

sootman's Journal: iPhone, a year later

Journal by sootman
Originally posted Friday, September 19, 2008. Slightly edited (just a few small fixes) 9/21/2012.

Wow. I've had my iPhone just over a year. And to think that when it came out I wasn't even planning to get one. (Long story short: neat, but had nothing I needed. Then I got a raise at work at the same time th price dropped so I got one after all.) Let's see how a year of use matched my predictions:

I have a video iPod, but I don't watch movies on it, so a widescreen iPod is not something I need.

I don't have any media on my iPhone. At all. I have plenty on my 60 GB iPod. I had some music on my iPhone just so I could see how coverflow looked, then I ran out of room for taking pictures, so I just tossed it all the next chance I got. I have almost every pic I've ever taken on this thing. The only video I've seen on this is a handful of YouTube clips, which I usually watch when I want to run down the battery to zero before recharging. I've never come close to watching a 22-minute TV show, let alone a whole movie, on this.

I do a decent amount of text messaging but the fact that it saves my conversations in an iChat-like interface is not something I need--most of my messages are read once and tossed.

And this sucks. MOST of my messages get quickly tossed but SOME I like to keep. No middle ground. So I have EVERY MESSAGE my wife and I have sent each other since 9/26/07. Grr...

Speaking of texting, I have a Nokia 6820 with a QWERTY keyboard. I'm sure the touchscreen will be nice, but it'll be hard to beat a physical keyboard. I'll reserve judgment until I try one out, but regardless, I already have a real keyboard, so even if it's decent, the iPhone's full keyboard won't be a huge step up--it's not like I'm coming from the world of texting with 12 buttons.

The virtual keyboard works great... AS GOOD AS a physical one. A bit better in some ways, a bit worse in others. The great spellchecker is what makes it work. (Never having used a 12-button phone for texting, I don't miss T9.) And I miss physical buttons for some other reasons. Like, to press # to skip a voicemail greeting, I used to be able to do that without taking the phone away from my ear. Now I have to pull the phone away from my ear so the screen will light up (PLUS press the 'keypad' button) and then press pound.

visual voicemail looks great--and it's about damn time!--but I don't get that many messages. When I miss a call and get a message, my Nokia offers to show me the number I missed before it offers me the option to listen to the message, so before I call in, I generally know who it is that called. I don't stack up a lot of messages since I don't get that many calls and am usually available when people want me. So it's another cool feature that I don't really need.

Yup. I'm not kidding--I've gotten maybe a dozen voicemails in the last year.

the Internet stuff looks great. Despite the fact that my Axim X50v has twice the screen resolution (640x480 vs. 480x320) I don't doubt that Apple will make browsing better, especially since web browsers on handhelds mostly suck. But again, I'm rarely someplace that I don't have Internet access and an actual computer. Would it occasionally be useful to check the weather while I'm sitting in a movie theater, or look up the price of something online for comparison purposes when I'm in a store? Sure. Would this really be life-altering stuff? No. I doubt (I hope, but I doubt) Apple will make Cingular offer a decent data plan to go along with this. You'll probably be looking at $100/month to really use the Internet over a cellular network--and I don't think the speed via anything but 802.11 will be that great. (Plus, using Google with a regular phone is pretty great.*)

The Web works great. A bit slow but generally acceptable over EDGE for those times when you just really need it. And it's handy and fun to have the rest of the time.

email. This is the one thing I would kinda really like to have... But again, I don't live and die by email, so this isn't a huge deal for me.

I set up a special email account that is used only on this phone so I can send pics to Flickr. That's it. Otherwise I use the yahoo mail and gmail through the browser, mainly just for the occasional "I wonder if anyone has written" when I'm out, about, and bored. I've composed a dozen, maybe 20 emails on this thing? I have two jobs and am otherwise usually home so I'm never far from real email.

2 MP camera. Nice. I actually find myself using the incredibly crappy camera built into my phone surprisingly often--mostly for odd-but-useful things, like taking a picture of a store's door to capture the hours it's open. And I wish it were a lot better than it is (352x240) and I wish I would remember to carry my real camera with me for when I see cool stuff. But that alone is not worth shelling out the money for. I really should just keep my PowerShot in the car.

I love the camera to death. Sure, it's not great, but its quality is very good, and I've almost ALWAYS got my phone on me. And even if I did keep my PowerShot in the car (it died this summer, btw.) there are plenty of times when my car is not nearby.

All the other stuff, like the fancy address book, is nice, but again, just not something I need. Sure, it looks great, but I can use my current phone pretty easily. 90% of my calls are to 10% of my contacts, so I usually just use my 'recently dialed numbers' list, which is 1 button away on my Nokia. Maps looks nice, and I'm sure it's great for finding "nearby' businesses, but I'd rather have real GPS capabilities.

Maps has been useful. Since I mainly call a handful of people, I use favorites instead of recents. (Which is good, because iPhone's "recents" suck--either "missed" or "all"--no way to only show "recently dialed" or "recently received.")

So it does lots and lots and lots of cool stuff, but it doesn't do a single thing I really need. I'll probably get one in late 2008 or early 2009, when my Nokia is dead and the iPhones are $249.

I bought one of the very first refurbished 4 GB phones--$399 is just so much more reasonable than $499. Then came the infamous price drop a week later--soon enough that Apple credited me the $150 difference in price. So I got it for $249. :-)

But for right now, my Nokia will do. Plus there is one mark in favor of my Nokia that the iPhone will never reach--since it isn't also a widescreen iPod, it's quite small. If you haven't seen one, it's about the size of a candy bar. Bigger than the smallest of phones, but much smaller than the iPhone. Maybe not thinner, but probably shorter and about half the width.

Wow, are looks deveiving. The iPhone is just a bit wider and taller than my 6820 and quite a bit thinner. Even with the protective case it slides into and out of my pocket easily. I liked the way my Nokia fit into my pocket a little more but the iPhone is fine. Mainly I miss having clear tactile cues about which way is up, and indentations and texture to really get a grip on it.

* Google's text messaging features are pretty great. Just put together a short query and text it to GOOGL (46645) and get a text message response back with your query results. It's not a text portal to the full Google site--it's geared towards local stuff and stores and it gives short answers, but it's handy. I've used it to... - get the number and address of businesses - get weather info--send 'weather' and your zip code and you'll get the current temp, wind, etc., plus a week's forecast - check prices--I was in a Best Buy and they had an amp on sale, but they were out of stock. I sent the brand and model to Google and found out that not only was it available at bestbuy.com (just so happened to be the match that they sent back) but that it was $40 less online! (I did the actual purchase at home.) - and I'm sure there's tons of other stuff it can do, like movie showtimes and whatnot.

... but having a real browser is just so much better. I do all these same things on the real Web and it's just so much better. :-)

So, long story short: the little things (maps, etc.) are nice to have, a great mobile browser is great to have, and having a decent camera with me is my favorite thing about it. The main thing missing is GPS, but it looks like I can sell this one for enough to buy a new one.
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iPhone, a year later

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