After a week with the iPhone, what's great, what's not

I've had my iPhone for a little over a week now and figure it's a good time to settle in and talk about what I like and dislike about it. I have not really changed my calling habits too much as a result of having the iPhone; the way I use the phone in general is about the same as I've done in the past. Where it has changed my daily activities is in the additional stuff I can use it for outside of being a simple phone.

No longer do I get stressed out about having to waste time standing in line or sitting in an airport terminal waiting for a family member's flight to arrive. I simply whip out the iPhone and check my e-mail or hit the Newsgator mobile site to see if there are any new developments on my Washington Redskins. I haven't tried the full iPhone version because I've been so pleased with the web based model.

I love the Safari web browser built into the iPhone. Other than Flash sites everything I've pulled up renders great and is readable easily by zooming in. If the font is reasonably sized I can sometimes pick it up without even having to zoom in. Scrolling is also a wonderful experience. The best part? Coming across a site that's been optimized for the iPhone. This is going to be a requirement for any web products I build in the future.

The 3G access in my area of Northern Virginia is excellent with 5 bars in many places, 4 in others. If I can't tap into a good wireless spot the 3G provides a reasonable alternative. When I'm in Southern Delaware I don't get 3G but I do get excellent Edge signal. It's significantly slower than 3G though serviceable.

Sending and receiving SMS messages with the iPhone is great. I love the iChat style presentation since it makes carrying on a conversation much more natural. The fact that I have a real keyboard means that my text messaging conversations tend to be more human readable too.

The Mail application is fantastic and works very well with my Gmail account. I love that it works with my online folders via IMAP, can quickly pull my recipients out of my Contacts and can deal with attachments so easily. Someone has a phone number in their e-mail sig and a simple tap allows me to call them.

The Calendar application is a nice implementation of iCal, though I don't like that fact that once I create an appointment I can't seem to change it from Work to Home calendar. Since I sync my calendar through iTunes with iCal on my Mac if I make a mistake and place something on the wrong calendar I can change it there.

The Contacts list is also a strong point, syncing seamlessly with my Mac Address Book. I have found myself dropping in pictures for all of my contacts because it is so easy and I like seeing the face of the person calling me.

The battery life on the iPhone has been decent for me, considering how I am using the device. I can generally get a full day out of a charge with reasonably heavy use. This is not a "I can go for 5 days before I have to charge my phone" kind of device; I plug it in at night while on the road or sync it up with iTunes on a daily basis when operating from my home office.

Not quite perfect
On the downside I've had to restart the iPhone a couple of times now after it locked up on me. There are also times that the iPhone can respond very slowly, especially in the Contacts application. If I activate it and then try to pull up a contact record or click on the alphabetical list on the right it can sometimes take about 5 seconds before I get a response. Once it starts being responsive everything is fine; it's just that initial delay that's an issue. This is not a regular occurrence but it is often enough to be noticeable.

If I could pick one feature that could be added to the iPhone that would be very helpful it would be a modest clipboard function for Copy/Cut/Paste.

Finally the camera in the iPhone is pretty weak. If the lighting is perfect—basically outdoors on a bright day, sun at your back—it can take an excellent picture. Indoors with decent available light it can take reasonably good pictures. The lack of a flash and white balance controls makes it pretty unusable if there is any back-lighting. Want to take a picture of a person that has a window behind them? Forget about it.

These little complaints aside I really am happy with the iPhone. When I consider all the things that the iPhone does brilliantly it makes the list of complaints I have seem pretty weak.


RetroMacCast said...

You ought to give the NetNewsWire app a try. I've used the NNW mobile site since day one, but I prefer the standalone app now. It remembers your place if you leave the app and indicates the number of unread items in the app icon, and it allows you to open up the original story in Safari allowing you to jump back into NNW to resume where you were.

Jason S said...

You said:

"I like that if I hold down on a link in the Safari browser it opens the link in a new browser, allowing me to keep my place. It's like having tabs in a little browser."

Are you sure? My iPhone doesn't do this. I wish it did.

Trisha, KI4PCM said...

While it's amazing what the iPhone can do, I find it equally amazing what it can't do.

No copy/paste, no picture text messages, no way to alter what email account is used when emailing a link or a picture, only one email signature for all accounts... and so on.

I love my iPhone and don't think I could live without it at this point, but some of the omissions seem rather glaring.

And since I'm in the same region as you (live in Manassas, work in Tysons), I thought I'd ask, how is the signal on your phone? I get plenty of bars and it connects for calls fine, but I am getting a lot of static that I never got on the original iPhone, but have now on the 3G. I reloaded the software and it doesn't seem any better.

andydclark said...

"I like that if I hold down on a link in the Safari browser it opens the link in a new browser, allowing me to keep my place. It's like having tabs in a little browser."

I just tried this and it doesn't seem to work for me. can you elaborate? maybe the specific site this happened on just opens new windows by default

David Alison said...

@Andy & Jason: You are correct - turns out the few links I tried that on opened them into a new browser window. Sorry; that would be a great feature.

@Trisha: The calls from my phone have been very clear for me, even when I'm in an area with fewer bars. That may be something to talk to the Apple folks about.

David Alison said...

@RetroMacCast: Thanks, I will check it out. I hadn't heard good things about the first version of it but apparently they have updated it so maybe it's better now. NetNewsWire is one of my top Mac apps.

Quix said...

I agree with retromaccast - give the NetNewsWire iPhone app a whirl. The initial version that was released was a stinky mess, but the newest version has fixed most of those shortcomings. Definitely a step-up from the Web version now.

Jeff said...

No copy/paste, no picture text messages,

I agree with copy/past, but I think it's coming.

For picture messaging, I just use email. Any phone that accepts MMS has an email address. It is the phone number "at" the carrier address. For example for AT&T.

For the other person to send one to you, they just have to enter your email address into their contacts on their phone and select it instead of your phone number.

It's not hard and for iPhone users, it's included in the cost. An MMS package would cost extra. I'll take the free email option...

wcarr3 said...


Your comments seem to mesh almost exactly like mine with thoughts about the iPhone. Yeah, I believe cut and paste will be coming with the next major update. I work in Arlington and get 5 bars on Edge and 3G. I live in the Maryland 'burbs and I'm just outside the 3G range but my Edge works fairly well at home. When I'm at home I'm using my WiFi any way for surfing the net.

I see many people making a big deall about the lack of MMS, which I don't see as a major hindrance. Emailing and attaching picture more than makes up for it I think. Just my 2 cents.

Even though your're now almost fully entrenched with Apple products, I say keep the blog going, I really enjoy reading your perspectives.

Darren Wheatley said...

I think the iPhone 3G is a fantastic device, surprisingly close to my perfect, converged phone-pda-portable.

As you say though, there are a few niggles:

1. Updating installed applications seems to kill the phone. There is a lot of traffic out the web about this. I've had to restore my phone twice because of this (first time restored from backup, but that restored a broken install...)

You should remove the app and then install the new version to avoid this issue.

2. I'd like to see landscape mode when writing emails and SMS messages. It would make typing a little easier.

3. We need cut-and-paste. Apple... what were you thinking?

4. A better camera would be nice, although for image capture rather than normal photos.

Anyone tried Evernote? It's fantastic. A better camera would improve the performance of Evernote no end (you can take a photo of an image, and Evernote OCRs it and then lets you search for the text. Got a pile of your business cards from all those people you met over the years? Take a photo of each one with your iPhone (or iSight) and then stick them into Evernote. You can then search them all by name. Nice...)

5. Provide a manual with the phone!!! Very frustrating that I had to Google to find out basic information like how to insert the SIM...

David Alison said...

@wcarr3: I plan to keep the blog active. I'm just going through a slow time right now while taking some extended vacations. I'm glad you like reading the blog!

Pecos Bill said...

@Darren: the iPhone "manual" is online at (direct link).

@All: AT&T 3G coverage here in the Denver metro is spotty at best. They really need to invest more in their network! I've found OS 2.01 far better in many ways but still get dropped calls when on 3G as it fails to change over to 2G. It sux and I'd return the phone if I didn't like so much of the rest of it. I've not been one to use the phone much so I'm living with it. Still, it would be nice to not have to constantly turn 3G on & off.

Trisha, KI4PCM said...


For a manual, I bought "iPhone: The Missing Manual", David Pouge, O'Reilly Press.

The new version covering the 3G phone and the 2.0 software just came out.

Excellent book, easy to read, and actually quite humerous.

Darren Wheatley said...

Thanks for the iPhone manual links, I appreciate you taking the time to post them.



Anonymous said...

Only you guys in America would think email is a better MMS substitute!
You forget that everybody around the world can receive multimedia messages on their cheap phones, but less than 1% can(or want) to read emails in their Nokias - no fuss, no nothing!
You (Americans) are really living in a parallel universe to ours.
No ofence intended.

jamdaddy said...

i agree with prev posts that NNW standalone works pretty well, though the earlier versions froze up my iphone a few times. The latest seems a lot more stable...

I think not having picture texts, esp. the ability to accept them is crazy. You get a text saying a username and password which you have to write down (no, copy/paste 'member?) then go to a at&t site to put them in and view!!!

I understand that I could tell all of my friends, 'hey i have an iPhone... yeah that super new techie thing... well it doesn't take pic texts so can you update your phone with my email and send them there instead???'

I'd feel almost as big as a jacka$$ as I do for standing in line for this thing.

Add'lly concerning use of the iphone as iPod, not having scrolling of the artist and song names in playlists and when listening to songs is inexcusable. Especially since this functionality is available on iPods starting with my gen 1 20 gigger (granted it came later with firmware updates but I've still had it for years). And that it also happens/works within the Remote app.


David Alison said...

@JamDaddy: I was wondering why picture mail that my daughter was sending me never arrived; I didn't even get the message you got.

Anonymous said...

Check out MagicPad in the App store. MagicPad adds copy and paste, rich-text editing with fonts, colors, and styles. It goes for $3.99

Martien van Steenbergen said...

What's the iPhone optimized site you refer to? URL?

Buckley said...


There are quite a few sites that automatically detect that you are on an iPhone and present you an iPhone optimized site instead of their regular website. Last time I checked and both worked this way (try typing those URLs in your iPhone and your regular computer browser to see how they are different).

However, I am not sure if these are the best examples of iPhone optimiazation...

MaxPug said...

FYI... Found this on CNET...

David Alison said...

@Maxpug: Interesting story - thanks for the link! I haven't experienced any connection problems yet. My service has been good; flippin fantastic compared to Sprint.

@Martien: You should see the Wunderground weather site on the iPhone. I use that instead of the built in weather checker.

Partners in Grime said...

I like how Mail displays pics and Microsoft Word docs.

theMikeSwan said...

I would love to see Copy/Paste as well. I do have to say though that everyone that thinks it should be there already should figure out how. By how I mean how do you select text. All the intuative ways I can comeup with are in use for scrolling and zooming in and out. Do we really want some little button always on the screen that we have to press to go into select mode and then press again to come out of it?

David Alison said...

@theMikeSwan: That's an excellent point, one that I was thinking about as well. Maybe this is where the accelerometer comes in. Shake it like a Polaroid picture to enter select mode.

Seriously a gesture (make a circle with your finger to enter select mode) is probably the best way to handle it. Perhaps keeping your finger pressed to the editing surface would pop it into that mode.

sd said...

@David : "Shake it like a Polaroid picture to enter select mode" LOL good idea, but may be a bit risky! ("oops i just wanted to copy some text, and now my iPhone is lying on the floor...")

The main criticisms about my iPhone are:
-no keychain, so typing passwords again and again is a pain
-random landscape mode, so I am often stupid when rotating my iPhone in Mail or Notes...
-no plugins in Safari (goodbye Flash, hello again ads)
-diacritics input: to write a "à", there is no virtual "à" key, but one must perform a long click on the "a" key, that will bring a submenu. Too long for an efficient typing in French.