19 September 2008

Flip flop review of the iphone 3G

A few friends asked me for my opinion on the iphone 3G when it came out, and I humbly admit that the opinion I gave them was wrong. “Just get the ipod Touch,” I brashly declaimed. “Why would you want to pollute a lovely music player/internet browser with a bunch of telephony clutter?” My initial opinion of the Apple/AT&T partnership was that the only merit was that it was easy to alphabetize the partner’s names. I even went so far as to acquire an iPod touch for the monk of the house, and he has been quietly content with it. Then again, his cell phone has more miles on it than my mom’s Honda, and is fairly frequently left in the charger at home anyway, so he probably wasn’t the best test case.

But, seeing his joy in it, I became jealous and got an ipod touch for myself. And became very frustrated, very quickly – all those secured wi-fi networks, taunting me with offers of connectivity and then spurning me when I didn’t whisper the correct password. I got the 8 gb model, and the downshift from my old ipod was traumatic. “What? No Ummagumma? What if I have an urgent need for unintelligible lyrics today?” It felt like Sophie's Choice every time I had to pick which favorite songs to sync and which to abandon to silence on my home computer.

With reservations, I sold the ipod Touch (twice, but that’s another story) and headed to the AT&T store. The wait was a bit long, but once I got through the line to deal with the rep, it went smoothly and I was assured that they would keep my idiosyncratic account configurations intact. (Thanks Lucas!) They had to order the new phone, it arrived quickly and I was set up – again, after a wait – and all worked well fairly quickly (Thanks Troy!), The next day, I had to call in and get help because I wasn’t getting Visual Voicemail or 3G connectivity – after I got to the right person, she analyzed the problem, put in a fix and had me powercycle the phone to resolution – a 5 minute fix (Thanks Kia!), after a 30 minute transfer-and-hold process. All in all, AT&T didn’t do too badly, as awkward as it was, except for being egregiously understaffed and needing 3 contacts to set me up. My past experience prepared me to be hypercritical of the phone company, but they handled the situation about as well as any company might.

Here are a few items that came up as I made the leap into iphonetopia:

  1. My Volkswagen is no longer a compatible accessory. I know, how typical, I’m an Apple Fanperson and a Volkswagen driver. I can’t be held entirely to blame though, since the VW Golf was merely part of the monk’s dowry. (Although that doesn’t explain my nascent R32 desires…) The VW’s ipod adaptor was installed at the dealership and works fine with my old 30 GB, the husbands ipod photo, 1st gen ipod nanos… but not the iphone. I did get a chuckle out of the iphone’s egotistical designation of my car as an ipod accessory.
  1. It is about the socks. Those who know me well won’t be surprised to hear this; they know I have survived anti-sock tyrants before. I’m not thrilled with the available options for the iphone cases, so I repurposed Apple iPod Socks. It fits great, acts as a screen cleaner, and is tactilely distinct enough from the other bag clutter that the iphone is easy to find.

  2. Anti-smutz factor. Previous to the iphone, I’ve used a Blackberry, a MotoQ and various and sundry Nokia devices. The Blackberry was good, but I got thumb fatigue easily (arthritis probably didn’t help). The Moto Q was interesting, but whatever the screen is made from was a magnet for smutz – oil, grease, goo of any sort stuck to it and required a concerted effort and solvent to remove. The ipod screen doesn’t attract smutz like the others do.

  3. Ending typo tyranny. When entering text on other dataphones any typo could be a cause for angst, as editing was so difficult. Apple makes editing a breeze with predictive text that actually seems useful, and a handy magnifying glass that appears unobtrusively when needed so that the cursor can be positioned precisely. For those of us who respect the rules of grammar and spelling even in chat, tis s rly kewl.

  4. Some features I don’t plan to use often get my admiration. In portrait mode, the calculator is the generic 4x6 keypad with display. Tip to landscape, and a full scientific calculator comes into view. Excellent use of the multimode feature, accessible with merely a twist.

  5. The calendar app is actually making a sensible presentation out of my schedule. I can see all my schedules – kids, work, home, home biz – and manage them together. I can also see a segregated view. Although there are still some kinks to work out with exchange.

  6. Favorite iphone applications: twitterriffic, facebook, linkedin, air sharing and granddialer.

  7. Favorite mobile websites: Google talk and NPR.

  8. Forgivable glitches – My exchange mail account nicely syncs deletes with the server, but the other mail accounts don’t. My Bluetooth headset isn’t the default for the iphone when a call is received; I have to select it each time. Where is a quick-silence feature to decline a call or switch immediately to vibe mode? Each of these complains might represent a user device error, I note; I only list them to indicate that these items fail at the seamless ease of use that is apparent for 98.6666% of the remaining features.

  9. Future feature: XM radio? Even as I write that I found rumors of Satellite Radio iPhone aps coming soon. Stay tuned when I try to tune into XM on my iphone. In the meantime, the iheartradio app fromt he itunes store is decent, although it lacks BBC radio and NPR. I do have hope that it is possible and will happen soon.