Thursday, July 31, 2008

Warming Up to the iPhone

I've been playing around with an iPhone 3G for the past week, and I have to admit...I'm warming up to the device.

While I'm still not too keen on touch-screen typing, it is getting easier and easier. However, I still haven't mastered the "two-thumb" typing method, and continue to use one thumb or finger to type one letter at a time. If you're used to sending quick e-mail replies and text messages from your mobile device, the touch-screen will probably be just fine. But for those who often compose long e-mails on-the-go, you might find the task a bit trying at times. For example, I'll often attempt to hit a key 2 or 3 times until I accurately hit the one I want, constantly punching in the one beside it by accident. It's a pity that the keyboard doesn't orient horizontally when e-mailing and text messaging so I'd have a larger space to work with, but it does expand in the web browser.

There are small, intuitive features that I appreciate as well, like logical button placement, easy navigation of menus, and that one, centre button that always brings you back to the main screen. Another feature I like is that the device can be set to automatically pick up WiFi signals whenever they're available so you can instantly connect and get off the cellular network to save minutes. Cute, but fun, features, include the option for a "swooshing" sound whenever an e-mail is sent; and the slide to unlock function. Of course the popular "pinch" action to zoom in/out (just pull your thumb and index finger together to zoom out or move them apart to zoom in) is amazingly useful. Within the web browser, each site you visit is automatically saved as a different page, which is really handy if you're often surfing several sites at a time.

Some drawbacks: you can't send MMS (multimedia messages) to other mobile phone users, which is odd since the built-in digital camera offers only 2 MP resolution (what else can you do with a 2 MP photo?) There's also no ability to capture short video clips; and no tactile feedback (slight vibration) which you depress keys. When web surfing on sites that require a lot of scrolling (e.g. long news stories), I found that it often took two or three finger swipes for the scroll-up act to actually register and the screen to respond and take action. Speaking of finger swipes, I feel like I have to wipe down both the screen and back of this glossy-finished phone every 5 minutes because it's so prone to smudges!

The biggest drawback with the phone, however, is the battery life. I don't think there has been one day that I haven't had to recharge it because the battery was either fully, or almost, depleted. This is even with just a few hours per day of downloading e-mails and Web surfing; plus a few phone calls. My advice to anyone buying the iPhone 3G is to charge it whenever you're not using it! And buy a 12-volt charger, because you'll almost definitely need one.

Last night, I decided to sift through the available third-party apps, and I finally understand their addictive qualities. There are so many of them! I saw everything from $1.99 fun games to $139.99 full-fledged health program applications. I downloaded a few free apps including Facebook access, weather reports, and a Magic 8 ball: ask a question, press the button, shake the phone (OK, so you don't really have to shake the phone), and your answer will mystically appear. My favourite app is called More Cowbell, which includes an audio clips of Christopher's Walken's catch-phrase from the popular Saturday Night Live comedy sketch, along with a huge image of a cowbell that appears on the screen. Touch your finger on the image, and you'll hear an authentic cowbell sound. Sure, there really is no functional purpose for this app, but it did make me laugh!

While the iPhone won't be for everyone, it's clear that a bit of play time with one can really convince naysayers that it is, in many ways, a very intuitive and functional device. And the limited time, $30/mo. add-on plan for 6 GB of data isn't too shabby. In one week of constant e-mail access and web browsing, I used up only about 100 MB of data. Times four, and add more time on the weekends, and I'm still not likely to use more than 1 or 2 GB at most.

If you're holding out for an unlimited plan, you can pretty much forget about it. Liz Hamilton, Director of Corporate Communications for Rogers Wireless confirmed with me that Rogers "does not believe in unlimited data plans," calling the term itself an "urban myth". And that's that.

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1 comment:

Henry said...

You're among many many other users who find battery life an issue, me included. Apple suggested to turn off push email, wi-fi, and location services, and turn them on only when you need to use those features, in order to get longer battery life. Oh well, life is good; but it is not perfect.