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I Finally Gave In and Bought an iPhone

Yes, I’ve gone over to the dark side and got myself an iPhone from Vodafone. I spent ages agonising over which deal, which network and tried to love any one of the other smart phone offerings, but eventually, the Apple marketing engine caught me hook line and sinker. And the 1GB data limit swayed me to stay with Vodafone.

Of course, it may also have helped that half the people I’m currently working with have one and seem to have joined the local branch of the iPhone appreciation society.  And there was that smart phone review in PC Pro which put the iPhone clearly at the top of the list.

I upgraded from a Nokia 6110 Navigator which was starting to look a bit battered, but still did the job I needed. In fact the only reason I finally switched was to get decent internet connectivity on the move.

I had it delivered to the office for speed (impatience) and when it first arrived it looked ever so nice but I wanted to set it up properly so didn’t switch it on.  When I arrived home, as a treat for my youngest daughter who had just had braces fitted I let her open the box – much to her delight as some of her friends have them.  I didn’t get to touch it for another couple of hours by which time it was fully linked to iTunes on my laptop, synchronised with Outlook and loaded with a range of weird and wonderful (free – I’m not mad!) iPhone Applications (iDragPaper!?! Very popular at parties it turns out).

So it’s not too hard to setup, then.

My first impressions are good; its like something out of a science fiction film – an incredible amount of technology fitted into a small, stylish and sturdy package. It feels good in the hand. (I had the same feeling when my wife got her Canon Ixus 40 digital camera – going digital revolutionised our photography. And as for the new iPod Nano I got her for Christmas… Wow!).

Many years ago when I was a kid (yes that many years ago) I “designed” a wonderful futuristic calculator like device that had more features and functions (and a lot of buttons) than is sane. The iPhone does more (except the ray gun…) and all with a better user interface.

But It’s Not All Good…

So before you start to think I’ve been brain washed by Apple, I’d better mention the niggles. Nothing terrible, I hasten to add, but niggling never the less.

First, and fairly important, it’s not quite as easy to make and answer phone calls. Sliding my Nokia was quick and easy, but the little slider on the iPhone screen is much more fiddly and means it’s slower to answer the phone.  Also, I’ve added a PIN to the phone, which I never felt the need to do before and that makes it hard to start anything – including starting a call.  I’m getting faster, but it’s still slower than a slider.  It is, however, better at finding contacts and calling those and that makes up for it a bit.

Satellite Navigation

Next is the GPS.  On the Nokia, I got free maps and a pretty good Sat. Nav. application. The maps tended to be a bit older (I wouldn’t buy the updates) but it got me where I needed to go and was quite accurate at positioning me.

Then iPhone comes with a “map” app. It works out where you are but tends to be a few streets off centre in town (using mobile mast positioning) until the GPS gets to work. And it doesn’t do Sat. Nav. without buying an extra application and updates. So I’m going to stick an old SIM in the Nokia and keep using that for driving. 

On the other hand, it has Google Earth.  That’s seriously impressive – as long as you have…

Network Coverage

…decent network coverage.  OK, it’s probably just that I’ve never tried to browse the internet on the train before, but I have noticed quite a few dead spots. But I think some of it is that the iPhone just doesn’t have the same standard of reception as other phones I’ve noticed people using.  Again, if you use the Wi-Fi at home (or anywhere you can get a connection) its significantly better.  Anything where you are accessing the internet is much better – and at no extra cost, either.

I haven’t worked out how you connect to BT Openzone yet, though.

Battery Life

Awful. I charged it one night this week and it went all the way down to 23% the following evening.  Some of that was my daughter playing games on it – but I was at work for most of the day.

Email

Now this is more of a problem.  As I said, my daughter set up the email automatically when it picked up my settings from Outlook. Fine, and it collected my emails OK (till Virgin switched me over to Gmail).  However, I have yet to send an email from it – in spite of trying a range of different settings for Virgin Media and Vodafone, and taking it to the nearest Vodafone and Apple stores for advice.  A further problem is that the iPhone gets the email accounts confused if you have more than one – presumably because they use just the POP3 server to differentiate each one, where I  have 3 accounts sharing the same POP3 (to receive emails) but different SMTP (to send them).

The recent messing about with email that Virgin Media have done doesn’t help, but at least I get all emails on all clients. The setup information for them was a pain to track down as well.

I’ll let you all know if – no when – I get it to work.

iTunes

I can’t stand it.

I have to use it to maintain the software, apps and data on the iPhone but, given the choice, Windows Media Player is a far superior application.  Yes, I can see that it’s a large application with lots of features – but it falls down in so many ways.

iTunes is slow, fails to find details of albums that WMP has no problem with, lacks the search, grouping and categorisation features of WMP, is not as easy to use for creating and managing play lists. It constantly complains about incompatible content on the iPhone – even though its from the Apple store.

The store itself is also hideously slow and inadequate. Just the ability to search in categories or types of download. It has so many irritating limitations when selecting content to add to the iPhone.  Its actually easier to browse the App Store on the iPhone than in iTunes.

The totally proprietary nature of Apple has been taken too far here – it feels like I’m forced to always shop at a small local shop when everyone else is using the hypermarket.  And it’s not exactly bug free!

On the Nokia, I used my favourite CD track as my ring tone – you can’t do that on the iPhone. TV Programs – they’re free on the internet but you have to pay for those in iTunes.

Luckily, I’ve found that you can get music off Amazon much cheaper than the prices in iTunes and it automatically adds it to the iTunes library. Incidentally, I tried to get an album just before Christmas – it cost me 4.99 for the CD with free delivery from Amazon, twice that for just the download from iTunes and three times that to go and pick it up from HMV.

Developer Environment

The phone costs a fortune, but as a developer I thought I might throw together an “app” or two which might get me bit of a return. No such luck, you have to have a Mac to install the development environment. They cost a fortune – a major rip off compared to PCs.

Still, my Dad’s managed to find a couple of cheap ones on eBay so I’ll see if he can get me one as well. More computers! My wife will be so happy…

Finally

This is my first post since the end of January – not long after making a New Year’s resolution to post at least once a week. I’m going to blame the iPhone for that, because even with all the whinging above, it’s a fantastic piece of kit and there are a huge number of excellent free applications.

You might enjoy this article, forwarded to me by a colleague, which offers a hint about where all the time has gone… http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/the-hierarchy-of-digital-distractions/.

Good night, I’m off to play with my phone.

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