asides tech

iPhone Photography

Beautifully presented comparison of the photographic capabilities of every iPhone to date

Still love the colours/textures from the 3GS there – was a big step up for phone photography all those years ago.


Heads up: Using phone-based GPS illegal in Australia

Gizmodo reports that, looking at the laws governing use of hand held device in a car, using a phone based GPS system is illegal in Australia:

According to Traffic Services Commander of the NSW Police, Assistant Commissioner John Hartley:

Under Rule 300 of the Australian Road Rules, which prohibits the use of a hand held device while driving, if the unit is a mobile phone then any function connected to the phone would be classified as use and this includes GPS.

Rule 299, of the Australian Road Rules permits a GPS but not one connected to a mobile phone. A smart phone is still a mobile phone regardless of what else it may be capable of.

That means that even if you buy TomTom’s iPhone bracket and stick your iPhone in it to use the device as a satnav, because the iPhone’s still a phone, using it is against the law. The same rule goes for any Nokia device offering turn-by-turn navigation, any Telstra phone with WhereIs. If your satnav has a SIM card or mobile phone capability, then you run the risk of being fined.

[I]n NSW you’re looking at a $253 fine and three demerit points. The penalty in other states might be different, but the law is the same across the country.

Urrk. Watch out for that before you drop a hundie on the TomTom app for the iPhone.


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?)

the daily column

The iPhone Post (Part the First)

This was the fifth day in a row, and it was starting to get ludicrous. iPhone 3GSs were still out of stock at the Apple store, just like they had been for the last week. Across the street, two girls in smart black shirts and beige skirts presided over a forlorn looking Telstra store, empty even at the lunchtime rush. Knowing it was out of stock, I was hanging around to idle away the time, in no rush to return to work earlier than the full allotted hour.

Playing with the display model, I suddenly realised a shortcoming – there was no character count in the SMS composer, an absurd oversight given the number of Twitter apps that did exactly the same thing on the same device for a slightly different purpose. Did Apple think iPhone users didn’t care how many messages they sent? The seamlessness of the conversation layout made it all too easy to ramble on a little. The spell of the perfect phone was broken – how could I ever think to give up the speed that I had with the physical keys and the T9 dictionary on my two-and-a-half year old Sony Ericsson? Perhaps it was time to reconsider, to go for a Nokia N96, with its brilliant camera and physical keys.

That was when I noticed a rush – well, an orderly but high-speed stream – of people downstairs, away from where they’d been similarly playing with iPhones. I glanced at a store employee, who surely knew who I was by now, that same guy who came in on a late lunch every day and asked if there was stock in yet. He grinned, nodded, and said, “Stock just came in – go downstairs to grab it.”

Any lingering doubts were extinguished by the little boy inside screaming for his new toy now now now.

The queue was already across the entry, and snaking around. There were 5 tills ringing up sales of the unlocked phones at the same time, but even that wasn’t enough to get through the people waiting. Two additional tills were made available for those signing up for a plan, but the line for that was only 4 long. The line for people spending nine hundred, a thousand dollars, for a shiny new toy was at least 20 deep already, and we were being told that we could only get two to a customer, to the disappointment of at least one customer. Recession? What recession?

While I told of my story of coming in every day for a week, others told of waiting two weeks, the top of the range having sold out on the day of the launch. As we inched forward in the line, the music played an endless series of cheesy pop, and an security guard taunted by idly playing with his iPhone. A ripple stirred as someone wondered if there would be enough stock for the whole queue, to which we were assured that there was sufficient stock, “at least for today.” The salt in the wound was another employee placing a brand new poster by the entry of the retail availability page, finally deployed to Australia. Some had their old phones out, as though feeling the heft of a device soon to be made redundant. Still we waited.

An hour and a half into my hour long lunch-break, I had a compact little black brick in my hand, small but unbelievably heavy for its size. Alas and alack, I needed to get home to activate it. This would be the longest Friday afternoon ever.