Tag Archives: Apple

iPhone Update

Well, I’ve had my iPhone 3G a little over 2 weeks now, so I figured it was time for an update. There’s a few specific areas I’ll talk about, and finish with my fairly-short list of gripes.

Battery Life I’m going to go with the fact that my old devices were getting so bad, both in battery life and functionally, that a lot of the criticisms that people have about battery performance is not impacting me a whole lot. Yes, I have to plug it in daily, but one, I was already doing that for both my Blackberry and Palm, and two, I have power in my car, and I usually have it plugged into my laptop at my desk during the day, so that’s not usually an issue.

3G In addition to being in a pretty well-blanketed 3G area between New York and Philadelphia, my experience is that 95% of the time, I’m near a friendly access point, so the phone usually spends it’s time on 802.11g, rather than 3G. I’ve used EDGE only to test, and that was today (yup, I used EDGE for the first time today). The small amount of time I *have* been on 3G, the performance was adequate that I didn’t really notice a problem.

Typing I’ve already talked about this one in my last post, but I will say that I’m getting better, and it’s mostly alright.

Ok, I have to say (again) I’m really happy with this device, and am using it a lot. But nothing’s perfect, and here are a few of my major gripes. Cut-and-Paste is still the top of my list: I have needed this more often than I thought (but you usually notice absent things more, right?), and this really, really needs to be in the next update. Please? I’ve seen some great concepts for this.

I’m really not a fan of the newly-upgraded apps “forgetting” where the icon was, and putting it in the first available slot once the install finishes. Upgrading several apps at a time means spending the next little bit re-arranging everything again. Oh, and yes I know there are work-arounds, but there has to be a more efficient way to perform the backup when your syncing, right? I think my phone takes about 1/2 an hour to perform the backup.

For location-aware apps that provide a handy button to locate you on the map, why is there no hook in the Maps App to be told by what app is was called, and provide a “return to calling-app” button? Or if there is a hook, can that be documented so developers can start using it? I have several apps that suffer from this, and it’s kind of annoying.

One small thing, which kind of surprises me that either Apple or someone else hasn’t written: why is there no app that displays a summary: date/time, next appointment (or all remaining for the day), unread email/SMS message count, weather, etc? Even better would be to make it options for the lock screen. I’d love to see something like that.

This is a minor thing, but when you need it, and it fails, it fails badly: there are several instances where an app will display a list of stuff with a little round, blue icon with a white right-arrow in it. Two notable examples of this: the phone’s call list, and YouTube’s search results. The gripe is this: the target area for that button is *so* small, you’re almost always going to trigger the main function which, for the above two examples are “call the number”, and “play” respectively. Not great if you’re say, creating a new contact from your call list at 7am, or looking to simply bookmark a video slitting in a quiet auditorium (see my major rant about sound next). This target area really needs to be enlarged: I mean, how bad can it be to do so? The *entire rest of the line* is the trigger for the call/play function…

And now for my biggest gripe: sound. My Palm Pilot had different sound categories an app could be in, and when you pressed the speaker icon, you got a mixer that would allow you to individually control the volumes of each category, including a mute button for each one, and a master mute. As I’ve experienced, there does seem to be different categories for things that make sounds: the ringer/alerts (including SMS and mail), games/3rd party apps, YouTube, and the iPod. So why is it that when I switch the “ring/silent” switch (yes, I do realize it’s the “ringer” switch) to “silent”, it doesn’t mute everything? Expecting that, I was annoyed to hear a YouTube video make sound when I didn’t expect it to. Oh, and both the iPod and YouTube don’t even seem to remember the previously running volume state, resetting to 95% of full. I wonder if it would be possible for a developer to write a mixer app that covers the various sound-making apps.

The last thing I’ll mention has nothing to do with the hardware, but rather providers. Volumes have already been written on this subject, including the guy who got hit with a multi-thousand dollar data roaming bill, but why is roaming (and in this case, I’m limiting myself to traveling from the US to Canada, where I’m going next week) so expensive? I did a small test, whereby I put the phone on the EDGE network only, reset the usage counter, and for 10 minutes, used it “normally”: a couple of emails came in, I answered a couple, I used the Facebook app to update my status (which downloads my friends’ statuses as well), I used the Maps with GPS for a bit (including looking at some satellite imagery), I took a picture and uploaded it to my Flickr account, and there was probably some web access in there too. At the end of that, I checked the usage counter, and calculated, based on the “preferential” rate for roaming in Canada at $0.015/Kb, that that would have cost me $45. Excuse me? That basically makes the thing useless on my trip, and the “Enable 3G” and “Data Roaming” sliders will be firmly remaining in the “Off” position. Nice device, too bad I can’t use a lot of it traveling…

So that’s it: 2 weeks in, and I’m hooked: I’ve been playing with some quality free apps, the overall performance of the device is good, and even the most major of my gripes can be fixed in software, and not even necessarily from Apple. Oh, and not having to carry four devices is *wonderful*.

One final, amusing note: I tried to call AT&T today to inquire about international roaming. I tried several numbers (two 800 numbers and 611 from my phone). Each time, I navigated to a different part of their menu tree, and every time I got to an option to speak to a human, there would be a pause, some clicking, following by the “number not in service” tri-tone. I could not find a way to actually speak to a human there, and it would seem that the telco couldn’t configure their phone systems properly. Ah, who am I kidding – it was probably deliberate.

Getting My New PDA … In a Month

Well, the WWDC keynote is over, and the only announcement made was the new 3G iPhone (although that included the SDK and other news for developers, the App Store, the new firmware, and the rebranded .mac (which looks to be fairly tightly-coupled with the iPhone)).  Most of the obvious rumours were true, which made the overall announcement somewhat underwhelming.

The two major positives were the battery life and the new low price ($199 for the 8G, $299 for the 16G).  The fact that it’s thinner and has GPS was a nice addition.  Proving again that I am not the typical user, there’s no 32G version, presumably to keep the price down, although would it have killed them to offer a 32G version of $399 or even $499 (I was prepared to pay that anyway)?

So now I have some decisions to make.  Oh, I’m over 95% positive I’m getting one, but it’s not going to be replacing my iPod any time soon, and it would appear that the specs on the camera didn’t change at all (the Apple Store’s iPhone 3G page lists the camera’s sensor at 2MP), so I’m definitely not giving up the camera.

The one positive in this is that they trotted some developers on stage to talk about their apps.  Most of these demoed apps that will be around the $10 mark, but a number of really good, clever and useful apps were also shown that are going to be free.  That gives me hope that using this as a PDA is going to be a no-brainer.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that because of the reach this new device is going to have, I see an extension of the so-called “Web 2.0” business model to release, for free, a companion app for the iPhone.  And given that I can do most of what I want in a PDA on a collection of Web 2.0 sites these days, I’d say my problem will quickly be solved.  What will be nice about that is you won’t need to worry about installing yet another sync conduit – your data will just be there whether you access it from your iPhone or any other web browser.

The biggest disappointment in all of this of course, is that the new iPhone won’t be available until July 11th (I betcha those over-enthusiastic people who started lining up in front of Apple stores a couple of weeks ago are feeling a little foolish right now!).  An interesting move on the part of a company that wants to move millions of these things this year, especially considering the previous-generation iPhone has been out of stock for over a week.  Oh, well, I’ve waited a year, I can wait another month.  More time to get more detail on this device, it’s new OS, and what kind of software will be available.  If I get buyer’s remorse on this one, it’ll be my own fault.

Waiting for iPhone v2

It’s the morning before the big Steve Jobs keynote at WWDC, and I’m looking forward to it. Oh, not really in the Apple fan-boy kind of way (ok, maybe a little), but after paying close attention to the rumour mill for the last few weeks, I’m looking forward to seeing the feature list of the new iPhone. Because I’m going to buy one. And yes, you could point out that being an “early adopter” doesn’t pay, but here’s the thing: I look at it as those in the last year who bought the first version of the iPhone were the early adopters. And don’t get me wrong: I would have loved to have been one of them, but the first version of the iPhone wouldn’t have suited me. And now, a year later, if half of the rumours that are currently frenetically whipping around the ‘net are true, then this version will.

I carry on me every day 4 devices: my aging, and almost dead, Blackberry (cell phone, email and rudimentary internet access), my aging Palm (a Sony Clie clamshell, my PDA), my aging 60G iPod (which carries my entire music and audio collection), and my getting-older-but still-ok Canon digital camera. Of these, I need a replacement for the following functions: web access (I’ve always needed this – GPRS just doesn’t cut it for data, and the Blackberry’s web browser is barely worthy of the classification), and PDA functions including calendar, ebook reader, note-taking, and various odds-and-ends utilities. The phone works ok for me, thanks to bluetooth, where I usually don’t have to touch the actual phone, and while my iPod could go at any time, it does exactly what I need it to do.

However, the rumours of the new iPhone suggests that I might be able to replace 2, if not all 4 of these devices. Not to say I believe the rumours – I have a dedicated shaker set aside just for these things (and I do love to use it)! The more credible of these (coupled with stuff Apple has said officially) suggests that as a mobile computing platform (which is what my requirements basically boil down to), this is going to fit the bill nicely: the phone is a given – the first iPhone did this well enough for me already, as it did for email. The new firmware and the announcement of the App Store means that it looks like it will suit for those odds-and-ends utilities (without, hopefully, the need to jailbreak it. BTW, one of the apps I’m most interested in is the Palm emulator – there are a few apps on the Palm I don’t see replacements for yet.). The almost-certain 3G capability, coupled with WiFi, will provide the network access I require. As for music and audio, even if the rumoured increase in storage capacity to 32G is true, it’s still going to be half of what I need (and I’d need that just for music – forget about adding apps!), so I’m either going to still have to carry around the old iPod, or change my expectations. I’m guessing that I’ll figure out a happy medium, carrying around what I need (a rotating selection of favorites and podcasts), and the rest of the storage will be file space for other things. Finally the camera: I don’t see my giving up all of the functionality of a real camera for a cell-phone camera, no matter how much they’ve souped it up, but even so, that makes only two devices to carry (and the camera is one of the smaller ones that was available when I bought it), and that will be nice. Still, the prospect of having an adequate (some rumours say the chip used is capable of up to 5MP) sensor, with (rumoured) automatic, GPS-based geolocation tagging, and (almost obvious) automatic uploading to services like Flickr nudges it toward useful.

There was a certain amount of disdain for the “fan-boys” who stood in line for days to be among the first to own an iPhone. I won’t be standing in any lines, but I will order one this week if they are made available. The difference is, as far as I’m concerned, that I’ve already been waiting a year. Now I just have to wait a few hours more.