The iPhone Post (Part the Second)

The day iPhone 3GS was announced, I realised that on pure technical stats, it was higher spec than the second computer my family owned, bought in 1999 for a tidy sum – a Pentium III 550MHz with 128MB of RAM and 16GB of disk space. Here Apple was selling a device that could comfortably fit in your hand which rocked a 600MHz CPU, 256MB of RAM and up to 32GB of disk space.

In the space of a decade, a desktop computer housed in a two-foot-tall tower case had shrunk to something which was measured in millimeters for accuracy. Such is the blinding pace of technology.

I wasn’t sure what to put in part 2 that you haven’t read, heard or seen already, until I saw this video which, I think, adequately demonstrates what makes the iPhone the representation of the next generation in computing:

(see the creators’ site for more details)

It’s not so much that the iPhone is unique in having the technology to do it, it’s that it brings it all together in a single functional, beautiful and above all usable device.

For all that netbooks are the rage these days, the form-factor is much the same as larger laptops, and none of the direct competition to the iPhone is quite so singular a package – Windows Mobile is a disjointed market, Symbian’s old-fashioned and years behind in usability, RIM’s Blackberries are distinctly business-focused and while Android has potential, its execution thus far has been underwhelming (and sorely lacking in Australia no less).

And now… the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

  • Go-anywhere internet: almost as fast as my fixed line ADSL2 at home.  Wow, wow wow wow wow.
  • Mobile Safari: it’s a real browser! Sure, any real page will need zooming and panning around a lot, but it’s definitely a step up over my previous mobile “browser” or the PSP’s browser, the keyboard of which we will not discuss here.
  • The apps: you remember how your previous phone did stuff that came with it on Day 1, and chances are it never did anything new for 2 years? Yeah, forget about that. Brilliant mobile platform.
  • Assisted GPS: This thing can get your position to a reasonable bit of accuracy inside a building surrounded by skyscrapers on a cloudy day, within 10 seconds. Try doing that on your $400 Navman.
  • Software Keyboard: very versatile, and surprisingly usable… with the caveat of:
  • Auto-correction: very necessary, but fairly good at correcting.
  • Camera: 3MP is a decent camera, especially after I’ve spent all these years with a 2MP one on the phone.
  • Multimedia… everything: music, videos, photos – all easily accessible on a beauty of a screen.
  • Silent Mode switch: oh my… this is so easy and useful and instant, I wonder now why all phones don’t have it.
  • Storage: I think the only one that competes with the 32GB storage here is the Nokia N97.
  • Oileophobic coating: The 3GS has a special coating that “resists oil” and as such makes it easier to wipe off fingerprints. And damn me, it works – a quick brush against a shirt and it’s pristine.
  • Light: amazingly so.
  • Slim: astonishingly so.
  • Scratch resistance: surprisingly so.

The Bad

  • The battery life: you can watch the battery percentage tick down incrementally just by using it for light to moderate duties, and don’t even think about heavy duties. Admittedly, it does a whole lot more than the previous phone, giving all the more reason to play with it, but even so it’s a disappointment.
  • Go-anywhere internet: amazingly expensive. Like, stupidly so, especially if you happen to roam – and to avoid roaming, you’d have to go on the stupidly-expensive-anyway Telstra.
  • Settings buried down layers: simple things like turning Bluetooth on and off, adjusting brightness, switching Wifi networks – these should be a tap or two away, not at least three or four clicks through to it. If Apple won’t do it, they should open the APIs and let control apps fill the gap.
  • Software Keyboard: needs to be customisable – I use a lot of commas, and that’s a multi-step process to insert one on the iPhone, but not a problem on say my dad’s Sony Ericsson X1 with a real keyboard.
  • Auto-correction: unfortunately seems to only be limited to spelling-correction style fixes, and the occasional long word completion. Something more like T9’s predictions based on your previous typing patterns (“Yo” is not a typo!) would be marvelous. That and Australian English (US English has the $, British English has the £… d’oh.)
  • No character count in SMS: what. the. hell. Apple. Seriously.
  • Camera: would it kill to have a bigger lens, and maybe an LED flash? How about night mode? And zoom? My 5 year old phone had all of these… (ok yes, it was 2MP with a shite lens and digital zoom, but night mode & flash no less!)
  • iPod mode: not necessarily bad, per se, but there’s something about the earlier iPods that was more… useable. The click wheel also provided very easy accessibility without having to pull the thing out and play with it – if something like the remote switch on the headphones could be incorporated into a button on the phone itself (more buttons? sacrilege!), that’d be a boon for those of us that use non-Apple headphones.
  • No USB Mass Storage Device (i.e. Disk) mode: Why can’t I use it as a flash drive, Apple? I could with my previous iPods…
  • Stupid App restrictions: most likely imposed by carriers, such as Skype or Google Voice or Slingbox being hamstrung.

The… Ugly?

Are you frigging kidding? This thing is a beauty.

There’s probably nothing in this post that hasn’t been said a hundred times elsewhere on the net, but discovering it for myself is what makes it special to me; I do not regret not jumping on it earlier, as the shortcomings of earlier models were enough that they didn’t form the total package. The first was beautiful, but only functional in ways that Apple defined; the unleashing of apps and the first 3G model made it a competitive platform; and now the third iteration has unlocked its potential. Yes, you pay a premium, but it’s worth (nearly) every cent.

(Anyone up for Part the Third, where I geek out with App Store links?)

9 responses to “The iPhone Post (Part the Second)”

  1. You make a convincing argument… maybe i’ll get one in HK when I next hit there (I need one that can read Chinese websites)

  2. The software’s the same all over the world, so it won’t make a difference whether you get it from HK or not. Biggest difference would be price.

  3. Absolutely – the Chinese keyboard is built right in to mine, for instance, and I’ve played around with the Japanese keyboard too.

  4. Yeah I can concur with Karan, all the international keyboards are there and can be activated in tandem with the English one.

    The only thing I can think of that bugs me about it is that the Voice Commands software is quite inaccurate and takes long enough to work that I could have done it manually. I also wish there was an option to turn off Shake to Shuffle…

  5. Z: … seriously? Settings > iPod > Shake to Shuffle: flick to Off. I love shake to shuffle! though yes, I’m less than enamoured of Voice Dial… It trips over just “Call mum” =S

  6. Heh…obviously I didn’t explore the settings too well! I’ll turn it off now. Apart from that little quibble with Voice Commands It works brilliantly. Oh and the Compass is kind of wacky.

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