What you are about to read is not an indictment of the iPhone platform, the concept or its design. I truly love the device. It’s just not very useful as a phone, PDA or business tool.
Right now, I’m forwarding all of my Verizon calls to my iPhone. I didn’t have the guts to port the number over without a few weeks of iPhoning under my belt. This turned out to be a very good idea.
AT&T Phone Service — What I didn’t know beforehand was that AT&T offers “anytime” minutes as in, “Anytime you can get a signal.” As a Verizon customer, I am spoiled. My Verizon Blackberry 7130e works practically everywhere and it almost never drops a call. Conversely, I have yet to end an iPhone call with “good bye.” All of my iPhone calls have ended with, “Hello! … Hello!” Using AT&T cellphone network is like going back in time 10 years. This is a serious problem. If you are thinking about using the iPhone as a phone, forget it. (Cities of travel with my iPhone: New York City and surrounding metro, central Connecticut, eastern Long Island and Atlanta, GA)
AT&T Edge Network — Actually, it is nowhere near as bad as everyone says it is. But, when you compare the iPhone’s operation in a WiFi environment to its performance on the EDGE network, you think the device is broken. In a year or two when they introduce a new iPhone that’s truly 3G, everyone will be much, much happier.
The Speaker Phone — This is actually my second iPhone. I visited the Genius Bar at Apple’s Fifth Avenue store and exchanged my first one because I was sure that the speaker in my iPhone was defective. As you can imagine, the people at Apple bent over backwards to help me and replaced my iPhone without any problem at all. Sadly, the second device was exactly like the first. The speaker is useless. For all practical purposes, there is no speaker, or speaker-phone capability in the iPhone. It is unusable. If you’re used to putting your Blackberry in the middle of a table during a business call so your colleagues around the table can participate, this is not the phone for you.
Email Threads — The email application in the iPhone integrates perfectly with Apple Mail, g-mail and a bunch of other email applications. Only one minor problem — the device does not support email threading. If you like single-threaded communication, you’re in luck. If you are trying to do business with three-dozen contacts on any given day, you are going to be very, very unhappy.
No Search — I don’t mean limited search, I mean “no” search capability. If you are a Mac user and you rely on Spotlight the way many Mac users do, you are going to be amazed to realize that you cannot search email, contacts or anything else on the device. No localized search, no global search — no search. This is really a serious problem for business users. Try to find an email from yesterday or a name from a very big contact list — the experience is not sub-optimal, it is unacceptable, even personal use.
Highlighting Text/Cut/Paste — Nope! Get used to hitting the backspace area of the touch screen (there are no keys) multiple times. This is a huge pain. You don’t realize how much you rely on simple word processing tools until they are gone.
Not Flash Compatible — Yes, you can get a fantastic HTML experience on the iPhone. It’s really fun to get HTML emails and browse the web. Some Java applications work, Flash applications don’t. (Apple says that the mini-Safari browser will be Flash compatible in a future software upgrade.) This is really important.
Email Attachments — Some popular file formats work, most do not. Ouch!
Battery Life — Don’t ask. Check your email once per hour and take five phone calls during the business day and you’ll be lucky to have enough battery-life left to call home and tell them that you’re going to be late. The battery is not user serviceable and is rumored to be built to take approximately 300 charges. This is unsubstantiated, but the battery life is so awful in the iPhone, you are willing to believe anything people tell you about it. Sanity check: I played a :45 second video five times over the course of an hour, demonstrated the web browser three times and took one five minute phone call and used 50% of my battery by noon today. I’m not sure exactly what to do about this.
Quicktime Files — Apple Quicktime is, well … from Apple. Older .mov files need to be converted to play in the iPhone. This will more than double the size of your iTunes video library. You will need to keep both formats. To make videos iPhone compatible, highlight the video you want to convert, go to the Advanced tab in iTunes and select “Convert Selection for iPod.” Then rename the .m4v file, with a .mov extension and make sure to “Use” the .mov extension when asked, otherwise the converted file won’t play in your iPhone. I have to assume that they are going to fix this very soo
Heat — The iPhone runs very hot. It is actually uncomfortable to hold the handset to your ear in the summertime. I assume that it will be a pleasure in the winter.
Headset — The supplied stereo headset has a microphone so you can use it (instead of a battery-draining Bluetooth headset) to make and receive calls. It is simply an awful piece of technology. The sound is terrible and the microphone has to be held close to your mouth or you can’t be heard. Ugh!
Long Fingernails — If you get a manicure once a week to keep your long fingernails looking Fab, the iPhone is not for you. You must be able to use the pads of your fingers on the touch-screen. I really enjoyed watching my wife try to use the iPhone. You can’t actually write comedy like this, you just had to be there.
In conclusion, I think the iPhone is the great-great-grand-father of the future of personal media devices. I’m looking forward to a software upgrade that will solve some of the issues listed above. However, some of the physical and network issues cannot be solved with a software upgrade, they are simply limitations of the technology Apple chose to incorporate into the device.
Should you buy one? If you want to be the coolest kid on your block, sure. If you are happy with AT&T/Cingular as a wireless provider, sure. If you are willing to carry an additional cell phone to make important calls, sure. If you are seeking knowledge about the future of personal communications and want to “see for yourself,” sure. Otherwise, I’d wait for at least one, if not two, generations. iLove my iPhone. I truly do. It’s just not suitable for the purpose for which it was designed. This may sound negative, but it’s not. We all own many beautiful things that don’t really do much. My iPhone is techno-art and I’m happy to have it.