Initial iPhone Impression

I’ve now had the iPhone for a couple of weeks and it is about time that I share some of my thoughts on the little magical device. I’m not going to try to write some in-depth review. If you want that, Ars Technica and Engadget both did very thorough reviews covering everything you could possibly imagine. Read those for the nitty gritty. I’ll just hit on the things that I particularly dig, or don’t dig.

Let me first start with the question everyone asks me, is this a BlackBerry killer? The simple answer is, right now, not at all. I’ve been a “CrackBerry” addict for a long time now, currently sporting the BlackBerry 8800. The iPhone outshines the BlackBerry in almost every area, but the maturity of the BlackBerry environment and shortcuts really slams the iPhones v. 1 shortcomings. I’ll be keeping both my iPhone and the BlackBerry 8800. For power email users the iPhone currently doesn’t even come close to the BlackBerry. Now, let’s move onto the iPhone.

The Device

The physical form factor of the iPhone is stunning. It’s a great size and fits perfectly in my hand. It feels very rugged. I would love it to be a bit lighter, but it’s okay. The glass screen is a nice change from other handheld devices and gives you a crystal clear view at the stunning display. The display is amazing and even readable in full-daylight.

On the negative side it does get hot after prolonged use (say 30 minutes of web browsing). It doesn’t get super hot. It’s no AppleTV (which I swear could bake a cake!), but it is warm to the hand and ear. This generally doesn’t bother me, but I’m growing more annoyed by all my devices creating so much heat. The other device issues have been written about thoroughly – EDGE-limited and no 802.11n. Insert that for the record.

I think Apple hit it out of the park on the physical form-factor. My overall take is that this is by far the best ultra-mobile little computer ever made. And really, that is what the iPhone is, a very tiny little computer.

The Software

This is where things get ugly. Let me start with the positives. Many of the included applications are pretty cool. The Google Maps application is an absolute joy, and highlights how great things can be. Other applications like Stocks and Weather are functional, but are severely limited in functionality. The iPod “application” is great, and another home run.

Safari on the iPhone is the best web browser on a mobile device ever, even if it is buggy and crashes fairly regularly on me.

But then there is Mail. Mail, and this is sad, really is horrible on the iPhone. If you have a public IMAP server, or use Yahoo mail you may find it okay. If you use GMail you are in for pain and suffering as you have to resort to POP. Really, who should be forced to use POP in 2007? I find it stunning that there is no way on the iPhone to select 10 email messages and delete them at once. This is an instant non-starter for power email users. Very, very sad.

The software keyboard is not worth worrying as much as most have. I’ve found it quiet capable, and after 3 days I fealt very proficient with it. However, it falls short in two areas that BlackBerry has shown the light for. The iPhone badly needs AutoText. I want to type “sked” and have “schedule” appear, or “msp” and get “Minneapolis”. The iPhone also needs the nice touches like a double space producing a period and a space.

I’m not overly bitter about this because, well, it is software. I expect this will be fixed and improved dramatically. The true power of the iPhone goes back to it just being a little computer and a new software update could dramatically make the whole thing much better.

We Need Software

This highlights the biggest problem in the iPhone, the lack of a software development kit. This simply has to be solved, and hopefully will be soon. The bone that Apple threw, building applications in Safari, is a joke. Get real guys. I want native GMail, Google Calendar and many others on my iPhone. I want them on the main screen. And I don’t want Safari in the middle!

If Apple doesn’t get on the ball here, I will be the proud owner of a cool phone that doesn’t do as much as it should. A mere shadow of what it could be. I’m confident that this will get resolved, until then I love my iPhone with a number of notable footnotes.

Jamie Thingelstad @jthingelstad

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