The much-anticipated, full and unadulterated review of the iPhone 3g – three months in

It’s been nearly three months since I began my second iPhone journey and if it’s any indidcation, the gist of this post has changed several times before I’ve managed to write it.  The iPhone is a device that commands both loved and hated sentiments (but rarely anything in between), as Om blogged about last week.  The first month of my second iPhone journey was pure bliss, and I’ll elaborate more on what made it so enjoyable. The more recent two months have been a mix of love, hate, disgust, frustration, joy, serenity and finally, disbelief during the many instances where the battery has died, rendering the device useless.

Starting on the upside (since I’m a positive person), there is a lot to love about the iPhone when it’s working:

  1. Having one device that houses your phone, pda, music, videos is phenomenal.
  2. Easy integration with iTunes makes for seamless podcast downloads and updates – I’m loving my NPR podcast subscriptions.
  3. The way the music fades in and out when calls are received/placed is elegant and never ceases to feel good.
  4. While not exclusive to the iPhone, a good stereo headset (mine is Shure) changes the phone experience and makes good audio possible.
  5. The GUI of the device, Apple’s trademark, is as polished and refined as I can imagine.  Simply opening/closing apps is fun every time…though considerably more fun when it happens quickly without delay.
  6. What perhaps separates the iPhone most from other PDAs is the browsing experience, which is truly a pioneering achievement.  The way web pages open, are stored and saved (up to 6 at a time simultaneously) is so cool.  The way hyperlinks are executed and logins are magnified is extremely well designed.
  7. Visual Voicemail – why didn’t anyone else think of that?
  8. Building the iPhone as a platform, and opening it up to app developers, was pure genius and makes the power of the device nearly infinite, but how many of these apps do I use regularly?
    1. The answer is not that many.  My most used/favorite apps, aside from those native to the device, are: Facebook, KickMap (Interactive NYC Subway Map), Flixster, Yelp,
    2. My second tier apps that I occasionally use are: StreetEasy (NYC Real Estate), Mint, iEasy Camera, Flex PhotoLab, Shazam and Airport Status.
    3. Apps that I hardly ever use, but are cool: Paper Football, Labyrinth, PacMan, Urban Spoon, French.
    4. The summary here is that apps are fun and cool, but not all that important or essential to my life.
  9. Finally, the camera on the iPhone is strong.  Photos are crisper than they were with my Blackberry Curve, and doing things with the photos I take (emailing, twitpic-ing, not MMSing), couldn’t be easier.
At this point in my iPhone journey (let’s call it January 15, 2009), I felt compelled to issue a public apology to Tony Conrad for my incessant provoking and making fun of his iPhone hardships.  It seems that every time we’ve been together for the past two years, he’s needed to charge his ailing iPhone, whether we’re in a meeting, in Austin for SXSW or at a bar having a few beers.  Proudly carrying my Blackberry, which lasted days on end without a charge, I found it fair to poke fun, unable to understand how the benefits could possibly outweigh the hassle.  After some time using the device though, I better understand Tony’s decision.  Truth be told, the benefits listed above are fantastic and for a while, clearly outweighed the hassle of the short battery life, so here it is.  Tony, I apologize.

Now for the fun part.  The first time I owned an iPhone, I lasted two weeks before growing frustrated with the touchscreen keyboard.  With V1.0, there were no apps and the UI was less mature, so it didn’t take me long to call it quits.  I sold it on eBay to someone in Sweden for 20% over what I paid. This time around, I’ve lasted a lot longer and continue to use the device, though recently more and more begrudgingly.

So what’s wrong with it?  Where to begin….:

  1. While Apple claims to have push email, it’s not really true.  The iPhone shows if you have new messages, but requires a sync to pull them down from the server.  When sending, it usually happens relatively quickly, but nothing compared to the blackberry, where messages are gone practically before clicking send.  This delay introduces more opportunity for hiccups, as was the case today, when I had to get a quick email out to someone I was meeting for lunch.  The message got stuck on my device.  Luckily, I found my lunch companion.
  2. Some of the shortcomings of the iPhone are just silly.  For instance, searching for a contact takes approximately three times as long as on a blackberry.  After you open your contacts, you need to scroll to the very top to access the search box, at which point you can start typing the name.  This is always frustrating and takes too long.  For reference, on a blackberry, you start typing a name the minute your contacts open.
  3. No copy and paste?  Are you serious Apple?  I suppose this is a short-coming of a touch-screen display…no, I take that back because the Storm managed to do it.  This is a huge and frustrating short-coming of the device.  I look for copy and paste 3-4 times every week.
  4. No MMS? Again, are you serious Apple?  For a device billed as the ultimate multimedia pda experience, leaving out MMS capability seems odd, particuarly when blackberry has been MMS-compatible for years.  Granted, the messaging format hasn’t exactly caught fire, but I’d like to read the messages that my two friends who have adopted the medium send me.
  5. The battery life is dreadful.  I touched on this earlier, but it’s probably the single biggest flaw of this device.  Every committed iPhone user must invest in multiple chargers and use them frequently.  My phone routinely dies on me (it’s on 20% right now and it’s only 6:20pm) and this is unacceptable.  My Blackberry Curve rarely died on me.
  6. The touchscreen keyboard is so-so, but significantly less efficient than Blackberry’s full qwerty keyboard.  I think it takes roughly 50-100% longer to type than on the Blackberry.
  7. The iPhone seems to have an issue with dropped calls.  Talking to my dad last night, I was disconnected three times.  Om referenced the same frustrations in his post last week.  Not sure whether it’s AT&T’s network or the phone itself, but I suspect it’s the phone based on the behavior – the triple-beep and “lost call” messages I get.
  8. The iPhone requires two hands to operate, which compared to a Blackberry, is a significant shortcoming.
  9. The iPhone is fragile, somewhat moreso than other phones, leading Apple/AT&T to only warranty the device for 30 days (the same length of time that returns are accepted….hmm).
So that’s my take.  As an entertainment device, the iPhone is fun, cool and well, entertaining.  As a business device though, it comes up short of the Blackberry, adding time as well as frustration to one’s life.  Is it worth the extra trouble?  The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no.  Though after a hard days work, rocking out to my tunes on the subway before using the Yelp app to find an appropriate dinner spot can be rewarding.  As for the public apology, I considered retracting it as my iPhone experience has evolved, but since Tony is my boss, I’ll leave it out there…at least until I retire the device.