Who wants another iPhone review?

Don't answer "no", because I'm going to write one anyway.

By way of introduction, I'm Harry Teasley, and I most typically write on sister-blog The Sandbox when I'm not developing games. Though a relative luddite for my first couple of decades, professional software development turned me into a technophile gadget freak for my latter two decades. Thus, June 29th (my birthday) found me standing in line outside an AT&T store in Tampa, FL, waiting to pay a lot of money for a small black box of The Future.

We are one week into said Future. Let's see how things are going.

In a word, we are content. The iPhone was surprisingly unsurprising: everything works exactly as you've been shown. I suppose the most unexpected thing is that the features that seemed most dubious prior to launch work, on the whole, much better than I had anticipated. This, however, wasn't a huge shock, as Jobs' Apple is well-known for delivering a polished user experience, and very explicitly not delivering something half-baked.

The user interface ("UI") is wonderfully polished, and incredibly responsive: I discovered I am deeply habituated to computer interfaces that don't instantly respond to my input. The iPhone pointed this out immediately. I am used to applications not surrendering focus until they stop thinking hard, or Application #2 being sluggish because Application #1 is busy in the background eating up CPU cycles like chocolate-covered cherries. I am so used to these little delays in all my computer devices that I didn't even realize they were happening.

But the iPhone does away with that. Downloading a webpage, and want to get to the home screen? Blink, you're there. Safari is still busy, still thinking very hard, but I'm off checking appointments in iCal, with Mail gently beeping to alert me that new messages have arrived. A check on Safari shows me that the EDGE network is still taxed with downloading all of the Seattle Mariners homepage. There is zero evidence that the iPhone is multitasking at all. It's a subtle, yet wondrous, experience that had me instantly smitten.

The virtual keyboard, a concern of many, is much better than you would suppose. I chalk this up to the wonderful touchscreen, a far superior descendent of the more common plastic touchscreens of other, less divinely favored, devices. While plastic screen devices require much more force to register a click, the iPhone's screen registers it effortlessly. Clicking a key is very easy, feedback on the click is more pleasing than I had feared, and, with a week of practice, I've gotten pretty good at typing. The main downside to the keyboard is that the email keyboard will not orient any way except vertical, which makes things tight for thumb typing, and the period and comma require mode-switching to the number & punctuation keyboard (or, as I discovered, tapping and dragging off the mode-switch key to the punctuation mark you want: this will type the mark, and bring you back to the main keyboard). The mode switching isn't as bothersome as I had assumed it would be; on reflection, I realize that I've been beaten into acceptance of the idea by my old Treo 650, which requires the same, only worse.

It is UI polish that makes the iPhone a dream to use. I hated the idea of web browsing on the Treo: I love it on the iPhone. I hated checking my mail on the Treo: it is second-nature on the iPhone. The iPod interface is different but still elegant. This actually brings up what I see as the only problem moving forward: I'm using the phone so much, that battery drain is an issue. Even though the battery performance is better than most comparable phones, I'm draining it much faster because I'm using it a lot more. I'm listening to music, and doing screen-brightening things like the web and email, while with the Treo, I seldom did more than brief checks of the calendar, and talk on the phone. So my standby time for my phone is paradoxically a lot shorter than with my old phone.

Because I'm a fairly grumpy person, I have to get my gripes in before closing:

1. There's no copy/cut/paste in email, and there's no whole-line deleting. It makes replying to emails a pain. I like to edit quoted emails down to what is relevant, and that is exceedingly annoying to do.

2. The iPod functionality has a bug that shows the wrong album cover art frequently in the vertical view. I was wondering why The Postal Service sounded an awful lot like Tom Waits earlier today, until turning the phone sideways showed me the correct Nighthawks at the Diner cover, instead of the We Will Become Silhouettes image that the vertical view shows. Bugs bother me, and obvious ones like this make me cringe.

3. I purchased a Jawbone bluetooth headset to go with the phone, and it works beautifully, but it is bothersome if I don't want to use it. The phone tries to transfer calls to the headset three times during a call, even when I explicitly tell it to use the phone instead of the headset. This forces me to turn bluetooth on and off on the phone a few times a day, and that is a nested option that I have to navigate to. That's a little tiresome.

It also doesn't adequately indicate when the headset is actively connected, so I often have to test the phone on a number to determine whether or not it is going to offer me the choices of "Jawbone, iPhone, Speaker" or if it will just start the call using the default typical phone configuration.

These are fairly minor gripes: I'm surprised I have so few, and that they're as mild as they are. What gives me hope is these can be easily addressed in future OS updates. The virtual keyboard can be updated to include the period and comma on the main keyboard, the email client can be updated to work in sideways mode, the bluetooth status indicator can be enhanced.

The people who love Apple do so because Apple actually delivers what it says it will deliver. The iPhone is actually as good as Apple told you it was going to be, and the future for it looks very bright.


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