iPhone’in it

I have had my Treo 650 for a long time… a quick search of my blog shows I got my Treo in early February 2005 (yay blog). The Treo served me quite well, I have always liked Palm devices. The Sprint service, notably text messages and voice mails have gotten incredibly unreliable – text messages could take hours to come through, voice mails often taking hours to days for the notification to arrive. I’ve wanted to switch from Sprint for about a year – I watched the various phones released by T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, etc. but none of them really appealed to me much more than my existing Treo. I looked at the original iPhone last year, but the lack of 3G was a deal breaker for me and “1.0” products often need to get their kinks worked out of them before they are usable. The reason I owned a Treo was to have the web “in my pocket,” and the idea of going from a slow-ish Internet phone to another slow-ish Internet phone just wasn’t appealing me, despite the other iPhone features.

I am glad I waited, the speed of the 3G web on the iPhone is quite acceptable and the mobile Safari browser is by far the best mobile browser on the market. It isn’t perfect, but it’s really close. The only real issues I have found are that some sites have tailored their site specifically for the iPhone, which is great, but in many cases, sites like Google Calendar don’t go far enough. Sure, I get a iPhone friendly display of my calendar and I can add events, but they don’t appear to provide a facility to edit calendar events. Since there is no way to view the full Google Calendar web page, I am left with half of an experience. I am sure this will chage, but it is a drag for now.

For email on my Treo I have been using ChatterEmail (an amazing program) which provides “Push” email using IMAP. “Push” email is email that arrives on your device within seconds of it arriving on the server. Supposedly this is possibly on the iPhone if you use Exchange or MobileMe, but if you use anything else (such as Gmail) your email will only be delivered (at best) every 15 minutes (or if you manually request it). Most people probably think every 15 minutes is “fast enough” but I really got used to having my email show up immediately -  I got spoiled. I can only hope in the near-ish future the iPhone will support true “Push” with IMAP.

The “soft keyboard” on the iPhone is a bit trickier to use than the Treo’s physical keyboard, but the learning curve isn’t too terribly steep. After about a week with the iPhone, I am “fast enough” on the iPhone. This is aided by the fact that when writing emails and such the iPhone intelligently fixes your “fat finger” typing mistakes. If you type your messages and just ignore mistakes as you go, you will find that the iPhone seems to be able to correct most of your typing mistakes. This isn’t helpful for punching in email addresses, usernames, passwords, etc. but for extended text it works very nicely.

Just like the downloadable Xbox Live Arcade games, demos, etc. the crowning capability of the iPhone is, in my opinion, the App Store. There are now hundreds of programs (most ranging from free to reasonably priced) that can be downloaded to augment the capabilities of the iPhone. I have found some great games and utilities that really make the iPhone the most feature rich phone on the market. The Treo had lots of great apps, but the iPhone 3G has quickly come into its own. Honestly though, it probably isn’t amazing that the AppStore exists, but that it took a year for it to exist. I don’t know how the people who bought original iPhones lived for a year without the AppStore, and the short answer is many probably didn’t thanks “Jailbreaking”.

Google Maps is bundled with the iPhone and was available as a download for the Treo 650. While the mapping part of the application works roughly the same in the two devices, the iPhone’s larger screen is nice and the iPhone’s 3G makes the maps and searching really snappy, but the real win on the iPhone is the integrated GPS. Within a few seconds of starting Google Maps, the iPhone will show me exactly where I am on the map. If I do a search for Starbucks it will show me all of the locations nearby. I absolutely love Google Maps on the iPhone.

So, after my first week I really like my iPhone. The user interface is extraordinary. It is a great size. I love that it is a great iPod, a really solid phone, and a fantastic web browser. There are lots of great downloadable apps and games. The battery life isn’t amazing, but it is adequate if you don’t mind charging every day (which is fine, I use it on the iHome IH9 Alarm Clock for iPod (Black) clock every night, so that charges it up). But, I do have a few complaint (no deal breakers):

  • The iPhone has no method for persistent notification. If I miss a call, text message, or email I have to physically turn the phone on and look at the screen. The Treo had a small light to notify me of missed events.
  • Apple’s philosophy is “they know better”. While most users have no need to change configuration options, I am “old school” and love when apps have tons of configuration options. iPods and iPhones (and Mac’s) allow almost no customization how their software works. I’ll assimilate, I guess.
  • While the Dock connector on the iPhone is the same as with my older iPods, older chargers (and sync cables?) just flat out aren’t supported. If I plug in my old (OEM) wall charger or car charger they flat out don’t work. In fact, I get a message that the iPhone doesn’t support the charger and that charging is disabled. This is really annoying. I would love to hear the rationale for this decision (other than Apple’s greed). Happily, my iHome IH9 clock works perfectly with the iPhone.
  • There is no obvious way to sync my calendar with Google Calendar, although I can easily sync my contacts with Google Mail.
  • Writing (non web) software for the device requires a Mac. Distribution of apps you write is only possible through Apple’s App Store. I am going to explore how to customize some of my own websites to be more iPhone friendly, but if I want to write native applications and I can’t do that until I get a Mac.

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