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.