Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Why I love my iPhone

My friends seem very divided on whether the iPhone is the coolest thing ever or just excellent marketing that plays to the non-technical yuppies who absolutely must have a combined cell phone and iPod, no matter the cost. I can concede some of their points but the bottom line is the iPhone is the best cell phone I've ever owned, bar none. Why do I love my iPhone? Let me count the ways...

As usual with Apple, the user interface is unbeatable. Why is the iPod the most popular portable music device in history even though there are *many* less expensive MP3 players that can hold just as much music? Because no other MP3 player makes it as easy to get music on your device and play it than the iPod. The same is true of the iPhone. Absolutely everything I want to do takes just a few taps of the finger, and the look-and-feel of the interface is light years beyond Windows Mobile and light centuries beyond Nokia's Symbian.

Wifi access. Yes, there are other phones out there with wifi but they are all more expensive than the iPhone. A reasonable complaint about the iPhone is its lack of support for 3G networking support which provides high-speed internet access even when a wifi network isn't available. But the opposite is also true... if you spend most of your time in an area without access to a 3G cell phone network, you're better off with wifi access which is available almost everywhere. My apartment in Fairfax, VA is at the outer edge of AT&T's Washington, DC 3G coverage. But I can easily connect to my own wifi access point. Similarly, my office at work has very spotty 3G coverage but the office wifi is always available. Yes, I'm looking forward to a 3G iPhone (coming in June), but in the meantime I'd much rather have wifi for high-speed internet access than be limited to spotty 3G cell phone coverage.

Internet access in general is simply amazing. The large screen and ease of access makes the iPhone the first cell phone I've ever used where I actually enjoyed using it for accessing the internet. I'm not a huge fan of Apple's Safari browser on the PC but it's by far the best browser I've used on any cell phone, including the techno-geek favorite, Opera. (I do prefer Opera to Safari on desktop computers, though.) I regularly use the Google map application to help me when I need directions (which is all the time since I can't find my way out of a paper bag without a map); read email using Google's iPhone interface for Gmail; read articles on CNN; and, most importantly, play Freeverse's excellent web-based Sudoku game!

I also want to answer some of the complaints I've heard about the iPhone. First, and most common, is the touch screen keyboard. I guess this is either a love-it-or-hate-it thing. Some people seem to prefer a regular push-button keyboard where you have tactile feedback that you've pressed a key. Personally, I find I type much faster on the iPhone's touch keyboard, which has relatively large buttons, than I do on the tiny buttons found on most cell phones. In particular, Samsung's BlackJack, which I think is very nice in many ways, is virtually impossible for me to type on without constantly using the delete key to correct mistakes caused by the tiny keys. My favorite cell phone keyboard is HTC's Tilt. But the phone itself is larger and heavier than the iPhone, and the screen is smaller. I'll take a *much* nicer display and easier to use interface for a slightly nicer keyboard any day.

Another complaint is the fact that the iPhone doesn't support cut-and-paste. I guess I don't consider a cell phone to be a computer replacement. Yeah, it's nice to be able to read emails and search the web on my phone, but I don't expect to do major document editing. I've *never* used the cut-and-paste feature on any phone I've ever owned, nor do I think I'd ever want to. If I'm editing a document to the point that I need to cut-and-paste stuff, I'll use a PC thank you very much.

Lack of third-party software support. I used to think this was a big deal. I bought my Nokia 6682 because I longed for all of the cool applications that seemed to be available for download, and because I wanted to write my own apps to run on it. Then, when I got it, I realized that 99.9% of all of those applications didn't really do what I wanted and/or were buggy as all get out. And the Symbian development environment didn't exactly make it easy to write my own software for it. To be fair, Windows Mobile phones have much better third party applications than Symbian. And the Windows development environment, based on Microsoft's Visual Studio and .NET framework, makes it *much* easier to write software. That said, I'm extremely happy with the applications already available for the iPhone, which provide almost everything I actually want to do. And the SDK, while not as nice as Windows Mobile in some respects, is a far cry better than Symbian and provides better support for "cool" things, like accessing the camera and getting location data, than Windows. But this is the one area where I do think Apple needs to do more work. While there are many things I like about their SDK API's, for the most part I still find developing software for Windows Mobile phones to be easier. Hopefully that will change once the SDK is out of beta and they've had a chance to improve their documentation and support.

Finally, the last big complaint I've heard is the lack of support for push/Exchange email. It would be nice to have support for Exchange so I could check my email from work. But, frankly, work didn't pay for my iPhone and I can check my personal email on Gmail just fine on my iPhone, thank you very much. Anyway, Exchange support is coming in June so this complaint should go away. But for me, it never factored into my decision to buy my iPhone in the first place.

The bottom line is the iPhone is the first cell phone I've owned that's lived up to its promise to be more than just a cell phone. It is a pleasure to use and has almost everything that I've looked for in a cell phone. No, it won't replace your laptop as a computer for editing documents on the road. But for keeping in touch and making sure you don't miss something on the road, I've never had a more convenient device. And with the upgrades coming out soon, including 3G networking, Exchange email support, and, supposedly, built-in GPS, I can't imagine any reason not to use an iPhone (assuming you want all of those things).


Blogger The Lone Trudger said...

That was very enlightening. I have been thinking of getting an iPhone for some time now. I played with a friends for about 3 hours one day and had a ball. I like your recommendation and will consider getting one in the future.

11:45 AM, May 24, 2008  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home