Tuesday, July 17, 2007

iPhone, the good the bad and no ugly bits

I got my iPhone in the mail after 10 days, beating the 2-4 weeks delivery estimate. I've used it for a week and have some opinions I'd like to share.

The biggest suprise is just how good video looks. Everyone I show it to goes "wow". This is something you have to see in person. The video quality for "video iPod" mode and for "WiFi YouTube" mode is basically perfect. When running on EDGE, YouTube downloads a lower quality version of the video that has visible artifacts, and looks more like typical video on a PC quality (e.g. similar to my Slingbox). In any case this is a seriously good video player, and I happily watched several complete TV shows on it.

The built-in speaker is also surprisingly good, considering the limitations of a mobile device. I left the iPhone lying on the table and used it as background music.

The user interface is easy, no-one has any problem using it immediately, and typing on the keyboard is much easier and more accurate than I expected.

My main disappointment is with Email. It works, but I've got used to the Gmail client application on the Treo and Blackberry. The generic pop client just doesn't work well enough since it doesn't understand archiving and threading, and the safari browser version is inconvenient and slow when using EDGE. I really hope that the Gmail application is in the works for a future update, it seems likely, given the relationship between Google and Apple, and the Google Maps application that is already included.

For use at work, it can't yet replace my Blackberry. The iPhone VPN doesn't work with the VPN where I work. The LEAP security mode we use for wireless is also unsupported, although it works fine on my MacOS laptop. Using a simpler guest wireless setup I did see over 3Mbits/s in a speed test which is very impressive for a mobile device.

I can use Safari to get at Outlook Web Access, and http redirect based secure access to internal web pages worked fine. I have had no crashes or problems with Safari, trying it out on several sites.

For Netflix, heavy use of "mouse-over" in the user interface design is an issue since the touch screen doesn't generate mouse-over events. Although Safari on iPhone supports JavaScript, some work is needed to figure out how to use JavaScript effectively given the different input behaviors. In the meantime, the basic operations of browsing for movies and adding to the queue work fine, but rating a movie doesn't work since the star-setting method uses mouse-over.

For detailed insight into the iPhone, go read RoughlyDrafted, its by far the most thoughtful and interesting blog on the subject.


  1. Oh wow--there's something I would have never thought of with the iPhone--mouse-over events. That's really interesting. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    As a video blogger, I'm holding out on the iPhone, since it doesn't take video... yet. Also, I'm not a huge fan of AT&T. I'd also like to see a Gmail app on there, just as you mentioned.

    A question I asked on Twitter a while back (and if I got an answer, I missed it)... does the iPhone have gps, or when you use google maps do you have to manually surf your way around the map? Is this a dumb question? :)

  2. Hi Kitykity, there is no GPS, but there is a nice version of Google Maps so you do have to have some idea where you are.

    The camera was not even part of the demo in January. The current camera seems like it needs work, it takes good quality pictures, but if you move it when in viewfinder mode there is some clear update-lag. I think they currently have some work to do to optimize the video input mechanism, so I would expect better camera features and video input in one of the software updates. The hardware should be very capable, its just a matter of time to develop and tune the software.

  3. Excellent... thanks for the update.

  4. I'm not sure why everyone seems to be waiting for a gmail application. Am I missing something?! Why don't you just use Safari to go to http://www.gmail.com?

  5. If you have used the Gmail application on a Treo or Blackberry then you find that its far easier to use than the web browser or iPhone mail app version. It understands archiving threading and searching (unlike mail app) and its much less dependent on the network, and has a better GUI for small screens than the web browser version.

    I'm also finding that Safari is crashing a lot recently, I suspect its due to the iPhone specific facebook page that I tend to keep open, but I'm not sure. I expect they will make it more stable in the next release...


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