Mon. Sep 01, 2008
My 50th Anniversary iPhone
I know you’re thinking, “how can a phone that is barely a year old have a 50th anniversary edition?” Please re-read the title closely. It is my 50th anniversary on this planet (or, it will be in a few weeks), so I bought myself an iPhone. I think I was about the 6 millionth person to buy an iPhone 3G, so it’s not exactly like I have “breaking news” for you. But I thought I’d offer up my impressions just the same, pro and con, as well as the applications I’m using so far.
- The biggest negative has to be battery life, or rather, the lack thereof. It’s partially the nature of the device; 3G itself is a battery sucker, and the device is also filled with apps allowing you to  access the Internet (our common addiction),  be productive (calendar, notes, calculator, etc.), and/or  play cowbell. Yes, by the third replay of “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” you think, “dang, this thing’s running out of juice!”
- Flakey software that causes non-Apple apps to crash, unless you know the super-sekrit downgrade (“More on iPhone app-crashing, how to downgrade iTunes”)
- Takes longer to backup than a blind man parking an 18 wheeler, and the process inspires an equal amount of confidence.
- The camera has more lag time than FEMA, lacks a flash or a compensating high ISO capability, and is not video capable. These seem to be pretty basic features that are missing. However, given that my last phone had no camera at all (and that I’m usually carrying around a Canon 5D), it’s hard for me to complain too much, though.
- Apple’s default “one size fits all” earbuds … do not fit my ears well at all. They stay in place about ten seconds, but with the first shift of my head, one or the other comes loose. And though their sound is better than I anticipated, I’ve been a complete snob about headphones for three decades, and therefore they had to be replaced. So I got the Sennheiser MM50 iP in-ear headphones, which sound great, stay in my ears, and have that funky iPhone switch to take calls when listening to music.
- In my home, the iPhone and my router do not play well together. Oh, the iPhone connects to the router just fine over wifi. But after it does, the other three computers on the network slowly but surely lose their ability to get/renew an IP number via DHCP. It’s an old router (Linksys BEFW11S4) with old firmware, and since I will soon be switching providers (and therefore switching routers), I’m dealing with it by turning off wifi on the iPhone when I’m at home.
- Quality Sound. For me at least, the sound quality of the phone itself is a vast improvement over what I had (a 3 year old cheap Samsung). Not to mention visual voice mail. After all, first and foremost, it’s supposed to be a phone.
- Connectivity. I’m not a doctor, or a tech support engineer, or the type who has an explicit need to be reachable at any time. But that little tone that goes off in my pocket when I have a new email is reassuring. I can quickly check and see  if it’s a client email and  if it’s a “time critical” request. I can respond to their email, or if they’ve sent me an image, a PDF, a Word document, or a web link, I can view it. I can do pretty much anything, except edit their web site using that tiny hunt-and-peck keyboard (though there is an FTP app that would allow you to do that, if you were inclined).
- Location, Location, Location! The GPS tracking on Google Maps is a marvel in itself. But you also can find nearly anything you need/want, based on where you are. Exposure, an app for displaying photos from flickr, will even show you photos that were taken (and geotagged) close to your location.
- Extensibility. The things you can do with this phone using cheap or free third party apps is quite amazing. See list off apps below.
- MyWeather — ($14.99) The most expensive app I’ve bought, but worth it if only for the live looping radar view. The day after I bought it, it came in handy at an outdoor wedding where rain was a possibility.
- Texas Hold ‘Em — ($4.99) An Apple-made app, and a damn fine one. Smooth enjoyable game play.
- WiFinder — ($2.99) Checks for open wireless networks, and then checks to see if they will actually load a page (not a redirect to a pay page).
- Flickup — ($1.99) A simple app for a seemingly simple task: upload full size geotagged photos taken with your iPhone to your flickr account. Seems like this is something flickr would have offered themselves, but since they haven’t, this little paid app does the trick.
- Yellow Pages — ($0.99) When opened, it uses the GPS to figure out your location. Then when you search for what you need (e.g., “drug store”), it will offer up the closest options, with a phone number to click and dial, or a map to click for directions. Now if they would just stop killing trees to deliver me an eight pound block of printed matter that contains what I now carry in a few ounces in my pocket.
- Google Apps — Not exactly an “application,” it’s a Safari shortcut to Google’s mobile version of their applications (email, calendar, documents, etc.)
- Remember The Milk — Again, not technically an “application,” it’s a web shortcut to Remember The Milk’s iPhone interface. And it’s technically not free, you have to have a “Pro” account at Remember The Milk (a mere $25 a year), though you can try it for 15 days for free. RTM is where I settled after trying numerous other “Task List” applications, and since it integrates with both Gmail and now my iPhone, it’s everywhere I need it to be.
- Evernote — Speaking of “everywhere I need it to be,” that pretty well defines the function of Evernote. I’ve been using the application on both my desktop PC and my MacBook for a few months. I can save the content of a web page, a code snippet, a photo, drag in a document or spreadsheet … pretty much anything you can get into a digital form … and if I add it on the PC, it syncs and shows up on the MacBook (or vice-versa). The iPhone adds even more to the equation, and the Evernote iPhone app allows you to also record audio or take a photo and have it archived and synced, as well as access or edit all of your previously stored and synched information. It’s like the ultimate portable file cabinet for storing bits of info.
- Exposure — “Two billion photos in your pocket.” In addition to allowing access to all my flickr photos, it allows me access to all flickr photos. Particularly cool is the “Near Me” button. Click it, and it will get your position via GPS, and then show you the geotagged photos on flickr that were taken closest to where you are at that moment.
- MiGhtyDocs — Allows you to view (and then cache) your Google Docs for viewing “offline” (apparently access to the real Google Docs is a bit kludgy). You can’t edit or upload, but if you have a document you require access to, it’s a free solution.
- WeDict — A free multi-lingual dictionary-in-your-pocket
- SimpleRSS — A basic one-feed reader. Good for setting to your favorite news-related feed for headlines.
- Bank of America — A minimal and somewhat disappointing app that allows you to log-in to your online banking account, and check the overall balance on your various accounts … but that’s about it.
- Flashlight — One of a half-dozen different apps that provide some form of a white screen to use as a light in the dark. I would note that if the Safari browser loads the Google home page, it’s almost all white, too.
- Wikipanion — Like having an encyclopedia in your pocket
- Delicious Bookmarks — I’ve been keeping all my bookmarks at Delicious for years, and they are all accessible with a click or two.
- Dual Level — A simple cool tool that allows you to calibrate “level” and then use the familiar two axis bubbles to find “level” in other places.
- Ruler — A simple ruler for easily measuring small objects.
- Speedtest — Checks the speed of your current iPhone connection.
- Speedbox — Uses the GPS to show you your speed in MPH. Occasionally accurate, but mostly a toy.
- eReader — For reading eBooks on the iPhone.
- Twitterific — Allows you to read those you follow on twitter, as well as post there.
- JustUpdate — Very nice simple app that does one thing well … provide a simple interface for posting on twitter.
- CannonGame — A game for blowin’ up stuff.
- More Cowbell — There are times I simply must have more cowbell, and now I can.
- Audi A4 — A driving game I have so far found very non-intuitive.
- Newton’s Cradle — Like the old desktop executive toy, but uses the iPhones motion sensors to affect the gravity of the swinging balls.
- Rain Stick — I like it, but so far those I’ve shown it to find it less than thrilling.
- Earth 3D — One trick pony, but a pretty one. Shows you the Earth and Moon in rotation.
- TapTheBeat — Easily the ugliest iPhone app out there. But it works. Tap along to the song and it will tell you what the beat-per-minute rate is. This comes in handy when using Garageband.
- US Constitution — In honor of Sen. Sam Ervin, who pulled out a pocket version of the US Constitution during the Watergate hearings, I now carry my own “pocket” version.
- Lockbox — Set your passcode, and store whatever sensitive information you want.
Despite the sizable list of “cons” above, I am visibly thrilled by this new device and what it can do. And despite that thrill, I only got the low end 8GB model, because I figure this is a two year phone for me.
As many have said, the iPhone isn’t just a new cell phone, in many ways it’s a new platform. There’s now about 12 million of them out there, and Apple has plans to sell 40 million more worldwide in the next year.
And I guarantee you that in two years when my newly signed contract expires, there will be a newer flashier more powerful model of the iPhone ready for me to snap up. This is a platform that will grow significantly over time. And I figured this nearly 50 year old man might need to hoist himself up on the bandwagon.
The view is great up here. You should join me. Just don’t forget to bring your battery charger.