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06. 30. 2007

An iPhone photo diary

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Even though Brian, Stuart, and pretty much anyone who knows me predicted I'd be unable to resist an iPhone, I really didn't expect to get one yesterday. After seeing all those pictures of sweaty delirious people in line for five days, I didn't think I wanted to be anywhere near an Apple store. But curiousity got the best of me, and a couple of hours after the iPhone went on sale, I dragged my husband to a local Apple store, and although there were obvious security measures in place (mall security guards, crowd control barriers), there was only a normal amount of traffic in the store, and there was just one person waiting in line at the register. It took exactly 2 minutes to get an iPhone.

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As Brian mentioned, the iPhone is unbelievably sleek.

From left to right, the smartphones shown are the HTC 710, which is candy bar style and the smallest smartphone I've ever used, the Cingular 8525, the iPhone, and the Treo 700p. In height and width, it's pretty similar to both the 8525 and the Treo, but just take a look at how thin the iPhone is compared to the Treo, although I see now that the Treo suffers even more in that picture because it's wearing its fat clothes.

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As someone who's probably spent a sum total of a couple weeks on the phone with various mobile phone carriers, it's a comparative pleasure to just connect the iPhone to iTunes and do everything online. Although I've read there are some slow-downs due to the rush, it generally only takes a few minutes to pick a plan (you can either start a new account, or use your current AT&T number) and activate your phone. You need to submit your social security number for a credit check and have an iTunes account, but no additional credit card needs to be submitted. There is a one-time, unavoidable $36 activation fee.

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If, like me, you use several phones with your AT&T sim card, you'll be able to do that with the iPhone as well, but the iPhone's sim card needs to be activated and then shared in the other phones - you can't pop in your old card.

The first thing I did was text Brian. The keyboard is a lot better than I expected. The buttons are quite large, larger than on the slide-out keyboards on my other phones, so it's possible to type quite quickly, but you do have to carefully strike at just the right point on the key or you might as well be typing with your feet, meaning if you get cocky and look away, you won't have a few typos, you'll have ALL typos. Somehow, my "hi Brian" came out as "Hi del". The iChat like chat structure is great, much easier than the unthreaded chat application in Windows Mobile phones.

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The absolute killer app on the phone is the browser, Safari. Even on the slow EDGE connection (anywhere from 40-150 kbps), pages load quickly.

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Give the phone a quick swivel, and you're in landscape mode, which makes it much easier to zoom in and easily read text. You get a quick zoom, and then it takes a second or two for the new image to be in clear focus.

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The zoom function is just amazing. You can double click to zoom, or my favorite way is to put two fingers on the screen and spread them outwards, like a reverse pinch. You can zoom out again by pinching inwards. It makes the browser truly usable. Even though I have a very fast connection on my Cingular 8525 (HSDPA, which averages about 600 kbps in 3G areas, which admittedly are still quite limited), pocket Internet Explorer is so dopey and slow, that I might as well be on dial-up. At this point, the only time the fast speed is significant is when I'm using the phone as a modem for my laptop.

The iPod functions are mostly great. The screen - gorgeous, the built-in speaker is passable. The earbuds work as a remote control, letting you control calls as well as navigating through your playlists. Sound quality through excellent headphones is, as expected, superb.

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I had a couple of frustrating moments when transferring music. You can't just drag and drop from your iTunes library in the same way you can with previous iPod models. You have to choose entire playlists so you can't just put in albums you want, or just a few favorite songs unless you've already organized them into a playlist. You can move in single tv shows or videos, but what's frustrating there is the amount of space it takes. My 40-minute episode of Top Chef was more than 500 mb, or 1/8th the storage space if you have a 4 gb model. You really have to be picky about what you carry with you, so to me this would never replace a regular iPod with its 60 or 80 gb of storage.

The worst app? Email. Unlike everything else, which worked so well right away, email drove me a bit crazy. First, it took ages for it to connect, even over wifi, and then the default setting downloaded fifty messages, and that included old ones which had already been read. Also, the iPhone changed the account settings so that even when mail is deleted, it remains on the server. This was the case even when I checked the same account from a Windows Mobile phone which was set to delete from the server. I'm not sure what's going on there but now my mail just doesn't want to go away - ever.

Most frustratingly, you can't delete more than one message at a time, and if you are deleting from the message list, rather than from the opened message, you need to slide your finger across the message subject to bring up the delete option. Very time-consuming, especially as the whole process repeats itself when you want to empty the trash folder of deleted emails. And then they may all come back anyway. It's annoying enough that I may forgo using the mail app altogether unless I'm just stupid and overlooking some obvious way to delete emails quickly. Also, some emails were only partially downloaded and even after clicking "download the rest," they never fully loaded. It didn't seem to have anything to do with the size of the message either - some large attachments loaded, some short text-only emails were truncated. Also, no landscape mode for email.

So to sum up, the iPhone is truly a different experience, even for someone who tests drives a new smartphone every week. The browser is brilliant, the screen is gorgeous, calendar and contact list is very intuitve and easy to use. There's not enough storage, but it's a beautiful iPod. And there are some notable things missing which make me think this won't really be my primary phone:

- There's no way to encrypt notes, so even though the notes application, which looks like a school notebook, is easy to use, you can't really store passwords or secure information in there.

- Google Maps looks amazing on the iPhone, but unless I'm missing something, you can get directions from one address to another but you can't do a search for nearby businesses.

- Battery life just won't hold up if you watch a video or two. After a couple of hours of fiddling around, maybe watching a total of 10 minutes of video including the dumb ones on YouTube (now in smaller file sizes so looks even crappier!), but mostly just playing around with the browser, sms app, phone (about 10 minutes of actual talk), and email, the fully charged battery was down to about half . So you really have to be judicious with how you spend your battery time if you're not going to be plugged in for a while.

- The keyboard and dialpad are easier than expected, but because touch is the sole method of navigation, editing large amounts of text is next to impossible. You can touch the spot where you want to start writing or editing, but there's no way to select a whole line of text or click through letters individually.

- You can read some document attachments, but you can't create new ones.

I love it, but I can't wait to see what third-party apps will surface. And I really can't wait to see what the serious hackers will come up with. I was thinking that the one thing that makes the lack of apps almost okay is that the browser is so good. When you have access to a browser that works well, you don't so often need a specialized application like a dictionary or a movie guide because you just go right to the web. I'm hoping that's how I'll start to view the iPhone.

Despite the $1000-$2000 Craigslist and Ebay listings for the iPhone and a few locations which have sold out, the iPhone is still widely available in most AT&T and Apple stores, and available online as well.

Oh and one last note: you'll definitely want to use a headset and carry around the included wash rag, because once you see the screen after it's been held to your overheated ear, you'll feel like you secrete Crisco from your pores and walk around carrying a KFC drumstick in each hand.

Posted by Mia    Category: cell phones | current affairs | highlights
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