I decided to do my review of the iPhone separated by the areas of the phone itself. So here’s what I like and what I don’t like about each area of the iPhone:
“It’s the phone stupid!” The killer app on the iPhone has to be the phone. At the end of the day, it has to make and receive calls. It has to be loud enough and easy enough to use as a phone. One of the first things besides reception quality that is important to me is call volume. My cell phone has to be loud enough so that I can hear it in busy airports, walking down the street, etc. The Treo 650 was NOT loud enough which meant that I had to buy special software for the phone (Volume Care) just to boost the volume. So how does the iPhone stack up in this important area? So far so good. I’ve been making calls most of the day from the iPhone and the clarity and quality have exceeded my expectations. It’s loud enough, thank you Apple. I can navigate to my favorites and place a call with one hand. It still takes more taps than it should. You should be able to hold down the Home button to get to the Favorites screen (are you listening Apple, that was a great idea I just thought of?). The iPhone comes with a set of white stereo earbuds with an integrated mic. The mic also serves as a button to answer calls, end the current call, decline and incoming call, and do the hold features of call waiting. It also allows you to advance to the next song that’s playing and pause playback of audio from songs or movies. I don’t like earbuds for extended use. However, since they ingrate the mic, I’ll have to get used to them until a 3rd party solution comes out.
For the first few hours I completely forgot about the “pinch” feature which is where you move two fingers closer together to zoom in and apart to zoom out. I kept double tapping on a Google map thinking there has to be a better way. Then I remembered this important finger gesture and it was MUCH EASIER navigating and zooming in on the display. The icons are easy to press. The iPhone is VERY RESPONSIVE. Apple does a good job of magnifying the screen where it needs it automatically like trying to select a popup menu item on a website. Other than a faster way to get to Favorites, I don’t really have any complaints in this area. The User Interface is what lured me to the iPhone in the first place and it didn’t disappoint in this key area!
There are physical buttons for Home, volume, ringer silence (which is GREAT) and sleep/power off. They only stick out just enough to be used without being obtrusive. Great design in this area. No complaints.
This has to be the biggest area of debate when it comes to the iPhone. The competition and naysayers say that this phone can’t succeed because business users and PDA users are used to a keyboard with actual buttons for a tactile feel. Being a business user, I certainly had my reservations too. This is one of those areas that’s going to vary by user. Everyone has different size fingers. So I’m probably one of the worse case scenarios and a good test subject. I gotta say that I don’t love the virtual keyboard. It seems that so far I keep missing the keys on the right side. Nine times out of ten when I try to type an “o”, I hit the “p” instead. So I have to adjust and hit the key a little more to the left. Unlike the Palm, there is no calibration routine. This would be helpful so that the iPhone would know where you’re likely to hit the keys. The iPhone does offer to help by popping up the letters as you hit them so that you immediately see if you hit the right key or not as well as offering to auto correct/complete the word it thinks you’re trying to type. In my experience thus far the auto complete feature is lacking. It almost always guesses the wrong word and when it does guess the right word it usually does so right before the last character. To accept the suggestion you hit the space bar, but since it’s the last character anyway, you might as well just hit the last character.
The virtual keyboard is usable. It does work and I’ve banged out some emails and web forms on it. It’s not as slow as I’m making it sound, but it’s not as great as Apple would like us to believe it is either. Your mileage will vary. Apple suggests that after you get used to it you’ll be able to type faster with two thumbs. While this may be true, I find the iPhone to be too narrow to hold and still have enough room for my two big thumbs to fit on the keyboard side-by-side. Luckily this is all software based and Apple can improve it with a free update. If you don’t like the keyboard on other smartphones, you’re stuck with it. I also find it odd that the iPhone doesn’t have a copy paste feature or the ability to add your own auto complete words. For example, I would like to type mgd and have it automatically put in MacGroup-Detroit, Inc. This is the kind of functionality I would like to see very soon in an update. There should also be some standard replies for email and SMS messaging. At first glance the keyboard didn’t seem to have a Caps Lock feature. However, thanks to blog reader Rich, he pointed it out to me in the Settings->General->Keyboard that you have to TURN IT ON! Not sure why you wouldn’t want that turned on by default, but at least it’s there. Lastly what I found a little disorienting was the fact that the virtual keyboard always displays as CAPS even though you’re typing in lower case (when the Shift or Caps Lock is not engaged). Since it’s a virtual keyboard, why not display lower case letters when typing in lower case and upper case letters when typing in upper case? This is especially important when typing passwords and you can’t see what you’re typing because it’s displayed as dots.
I’ve had such bad Bluetooth experience with the Treo, that ANYTHING would be an improvement. The first bluetooth device I paired my iPhone to was my car. My car has a 3rd party integrated bluetooth module in it that works extremely well. However, most smartphones don’t have the smarts to download the contacts to the car’s display. This was one thing that did work most of the time on the Treo. I could dial right from the radio’s display without touching my phone. I could also see the caller ID and answer the phone as well. While the iPhone does pair with the Argos, it doesn’t download the phone book. Argos does do firmware upgrades, so perhaps they’ll make their solution 100% iPhone compatible. My wife’s iPhone paired with her SUV and it DID download the phone book just fine. You usually have no control over this and it varies by phone/car. Most phones will download the favorites/speed dial list. Surprisingly the iPhone downloaded ALL of her contacts to her SUV. Since the iPhone is also an iPod it would be nice to have the music go over bluetooth as well. No chance of that currently. BMW announced that they will be the first automaker to fully support the iPhone in their vehicles. So you plug your iPhone into the dock connector in the glove box and you have access to your tunes on the stereo as well as your phone via bluetooth. Hmmm, I was thinking about getting a new car this year anyway, hmmm.