As I have often said, Steve Jobs is the world’s foremost expert in making me buy stuff I don’t need with money I don’t want to spend. In this regard, the 8GB iPhone is his ultimate achievement. It is, by far, the most viscerally exciting, aesthetically pleasing piece of technology I have ever held in my hands. And, on the Monday “after the madness,” it took me less than 15 minutes to spend $649.95 at the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York. And, unlike some published reports, I was able to activate the phone in under five minutes using iTunes on my MacBookPro.
A little history, in January of 2007 I did something that I thought I would never do — I replaced all of the PCs in my office with Macs running OS X and Windows XP using Parallels. We had been “bi” for years; Macs for creative work, PCs for business. That all ended with Intel-based Macs and, to be honest, they are the best Windows-compatible computers we have ever used. So, for context, I have used a PC for business since the IBM PC-AT and I have used Apple Computers since the Apple II. But now, we live in a completely Mac-based world. MacPro desktops, MacBook Pro laptops, iPods of every description — actually, it looks like Steve Jobs threw up in here! This is important to point out because I am a born-again Mac-person, PC-people who have not seen the light may have a significantly different opinion about the iPhone’s value.
Until last week, I carried a Blackberry. There was no need for a change. Its job was phone, email, address book and scheduling. Music, video and stills were (and still are) the job of my iPod collection. I don’t think that the iPhone is a replacement for the three iPods in my briefcase (80GB iPod Video for video, 60GB iPod Photo for music and stills, a clip-on iPod Shuffle for the Gym). Three batteries are better than one and I will burn a full iPhone battery everyday just doing email, texting and phone calls. But, that being said, I love the iPhone.
First, the good stuff.
– The email is perfect! HTML emails look like you expect them to look. If you have had a non-HTML displaying PDA, you will lose your mind when you see how the iPhone handles ordinary HTML email.
– The Calendar is perfect! If you use iCal or any of the compatible calendaring applications, you will simply love it. Could it do more? Yes. But straight out of the box, it will do 90% of what you need it to do.
– It’s a pretty good phone. Voice mail is outstanding.
– It’s the best iPod you can buy right now. The small capacity (8GB) is only an issue if you need to carry your entire media library with you. For that you need a nice 80GB iPod Video. However, consider the fact that you are going to charge and sync this phone by attaching it to your computer every night. You can pick and choose your media by making a special iPhone playlist – don’t worry, you won’t have the battery life to consume more than 8GB of songs, videos and stills.
– The YouTube video trick (you can watch selected YouTube content on the iPhone) is mildly addictive.
Now for things that really need work.
– Contact management and search is somewhat sub-optimal. If you have a large contact list (mine is over 14,000) you are going to be very, very sad when you try to find someone’s name. There is no global search function on the device, in the contact list you have to scroll using an alphabetic sidebar that works very well, but is not up to the task of dealing with 14,000 of anything. That being said, if you have 500 people in your address book, it’s fine.
– You must convert all video files to .m4v iPod comptable (H.264 codec) or they will not play in the iPhone. This includes many of the movies and television shows you have already purchased from the iTunes store. How? It’s on page 59 of the manual buried in the middle of the page. In iTunes, go to the “Advanced” tab and select, “Convert Selection for iPod” or use a third-party program to do it. Otherwise, the iPhone will reject the file. m4v files are 10-30 percent bigger than the .mov files they replace and they are not compatible with many popular upload services.
– The battery life is going to be an issue for everyone.
– AT&T’s EDGE Network sucks. When you are not on a WiFi network (which the phone is built to seek out), you are at the mercy of AT&T’s EDGE coverage map. Did I mention it sucks. Even when you can get a connection, it is slow and painful to use, especially if you have used the phone with a WiFi connection. The speed difference is remarkable. But remember, this is not AT&T’s fault. Apple did not want to delay the iPhone’s debut, so they made a conscious decision to use a slower, more ubiquitous, network over a faster option with sparser coverage. Consumers will vote on this issue with their checkbooks.
– How will you deal with your Verizon number and existing contract? A non-trivial question that is outside the scope of this writing. By the way, people who were attempting to port numbers from other carriers experienced the bulk of the activation delays.
In practice, the iPhone’s telco network connectivity and performance is no worse than any other 2.5G device on the market and AT&T’s EDGE network is more than fast enough for email and minimal Internet browsing. The weather and stock widgets work fine over EDGE as do all of the dynamically populated programs. Would the Internet experience be better if it were faster? Of course. Does it stop me from loving the iPhone? Not a chance.
I cannot remember the last time I “had” to have something the minute it came out and loved the reality as much as the fantasy. The iPhone not only lives up to its hype, in many ways, it exceeds all reasonable expectations.