Wet and Wild: The iPhone is Genius [Part 4]
Worth the Wait?
Well, let me say that the iPhone is an astounding piece of design engineering. Although from a hardware engineering standpoint, my iPhone lasted two weeks before developing OS problems. Seemingly, for no apparent reasons, my iPhone started rebooting on its own in about 10-second cycles. Also, certain buttons would frustratingly take me to the “hibernate” or “shut down” screens. However, upgrading the firmware addressed the issue, and I was happy once again.
The iPhone is not perfect, but it is an astonishing device and serves as the bull’s-eye for all pretenders. Before I get to some of the details, the most shocking revelation is that the 3G part of the iPhone, the quantum singularity upon which Apple constructed their marketing approach, is great but overrated and, in my mind, a somewhat minor feature of the phone.
No question, 3G loads Web pages with speed, but at a price. One reason Apple didn’t come out supporting 3G a year ago was that the technology, specifically the chipsets used last year, were (and are) energy hogs when combined with the power-hungry 3G network. Considering the lack of 3G towers outside of major cities, the 3G is a very marginal improvement for most people when one considers that the new v 2.0 OS for the old iPhones gives the old phones just about everything the 3G has, except faster speed in those limited areas, and a headphone jack that no longer requires an adapter.
Despite the marketing crush around 3G, Apple knows the power drain is an issue. That reality is evident when you first get into the settings menu on the iPhone. They almost talk you out of turning on 3G in the network settings box: “Using 3G loads data faster, but may decrease battery life.”
No kidding. You see, when you turn on 3G, if you aren’t somewhere near 3G towers, you will have few bars of strength. 3G networks in general are huge battery hogs by their very nature, so this is not just an Apple problem but, as I said, the main hype was that people could surf the net faster … true, and did we really expect the ads to say, “Welcome to iPhone 3G, just don’t use it unless you really are neurotic and can’t wait for a page to load because we still haven’t solved the battery life problem.”
But, in my home office, the iPhone automatically connects to my Wi-Fi for any data transfers, so the point is moot for data. However, even in my home, the phone will still need to use 3G or EDGE or whatever it can get for voice. That’s not entirely true, however, because certain programs can be acquired, including SoonR Talk, S4iphone, and others that load Skype-like VoIP features, but this gets to be a rather technical discussion, and the bottom line is you’ll consume SkypeOut credits, so why not just call the person? Of course, there are savings to be had for international calls, and you can use the Skype chat features. Look for the developers to jump all over this, much to the dismay of ATT who’d like your long distance dialing dollars, particularly those overseas calls.
Anyway, since EDGE is stronger in my house, in about five seconds I can switch off 3G and just keep the iPhone on EDGE. No worries there. For surfing, Wi-Fi kicks in once I have entered the WEP key for any site. Around town, I’ve already configured Wi-Fi at several businesses and, when I return, it picks me up right away. When Wi-Fi kicks in, 3G or EDGE are turned off for data.
There were other compelling features for getting the iPhone of course, and the ability to link up with Microsoft Exchange Server is a big one. I have two desktops, a laptop, and the iPhone all activated on MS Exchange. So, all letters sent, received, drafted, etcetera, as well as all updates to my calendar on any one device, are instantly mirrored on all other devices. This is huge for me, and by far the most compelling feature. For those not hooked into MS Exchange, typically through an employer, there is Apple’s MobileMe, which has some similar functionality, but on a personal level. Unfortunately, the blogs are filled with ranting customers who claim MobileMe is buggy.
What is pure genius on Apple’s part is the whole Application Store. Think of it: by providing a developer’s tool kit, Apple has essentially created an applications development staff of hundreds of thousands of programmers. There are already about 1000 apps on the Apple Application Store Web pages, and one can get to them from either iTunes or the iPhone. Apple selects the decent programs, and loads them in the store. Apple will take 30 cents of every dollar of the application’s selling price, so there’s something in it for Jobs and company.
I wanted an app similar to one I had on the Palm Pilot for storing passwords and such, and found SplashID. There is both a desktop and iPhone component, and the requirement for synching is that the desktop machine and the iPhone have to be connected to the same LAN. Once the iPhone finds my wireless router, I can synch all passwords and such between the machines in a matter of seconds.
I also loaded a newsreader that is quite good called Mobile News. I can jump on rather complete stories, sports, and what have you. My penchant for Middle East news is easily satisfied, and I can jump on the occasional sports blurb to remind me how immobile my ripped up leg is for now.