I've had my iPhone for a week now and am amazed by how much it has changed the way I use a mobile device. My Blackberry was all work: I used it for email and to read stories on Arsenal. (Yes, that counts as work these days.) The iPhone is much different. There is so much to do with it. I find that I use it far more, but for less drudgery and more fun.
A bit like how I use my Mac.
I thought I'd compile a list of the five best things about the iPhone, and the five worst. It's not a perfect device by any means. It's interesting to see that some of the iPhone's greatest strengths pave the way for its greatest weaknesses.
But first, the good:
- The typing on the iPhone is lightning fast. I never would have guessed this, but it's true. I was pretty fast on my Blackberry 8700 and then 8800, but I'm at least 25 percent faster on the iPhone. I worried about the lack of tactile feedback, but the iPhone gives visual feedback (the key you're about to hit enlarges to meet your finger) which is arguably superior. In addition, it's very, very smart about correcting misspellings. Often I'll keep typing, even when I know I made a mistake, because I know the iPhone's software will correct my mistake for me. It usually does.
- The (almost) full web experience. While the iPhone won't work well with Flash-heavy or other websites that rely on Microsoft technology, it sings on just about everything else. I was getting used to the crimped web experience on my Blackberry, but the iPhone is teaching me that I need not compromise.
By the way, I also find that Apple's choice to have third-party applications run off its Safari browser works...pretty well. I've "downloaded" (i.e., bookmarked a web page) several applications - from games to Skype - and everything works pretty cleanly.
- Audio. There is a site that I regularly visit that offers the ability to listen to the website read to me. This comes in handy when I'm on the road, rushing to get ready for my meetings, and don't have time to read. Before I would bring my laptop into the bathroom with me to listen while I shaved, brushed my teeth, etc. Now I just bring my iPhone and listen through the built-in speakers. Perfect.
Additionally, I never would have guessed how much I'd like having my music accompany my "productive" applications like calendar, email, etc. But I do. It's fantastic to have the two sides of me served by the same device. Last night I was getting ready for bed, listening to Radiohead's "Bodysnatchers" while typing text messages to friends. This sort of thing simply wouldn't be possible on my old Blackberry.
- Google's applications are integrated seamlessly, beautifully. The integration of things like Google Reader, Google Docs, and Google Maps is so seamless that it almost feels like Google and Apple have merged into one company. I had decent access to Google's applications on my old Blackberry, but nothing like this. On the iPhone Google feels like a first-class citizen. On the Blackberry it felt like a bolt-on.
- The iPhone user interface is mind-blowingly cool. It's amazing at how quickly you get used to flicking pictures, resizing web pages, etc. with the touchscreen. My Blackberry held little appeal for my kids; the iPhone keeps them occupied for long car drives, church meetings, and long lines at Disneyland while waiting to meet "the Princesses." Apple has changed the user experience for mobile devices forever. It really is that cool.
So, what's not to like? Despite all that it does well, there are some serious shortcomings to the iPhone.
- The (almost) full web experience Specifically, Flash is missing and it's maddening. I visit Google Analytics several times each day and would love to be able to do so from my iPhone. No dice. Not yet.
- It's clumsy to navigate between applications. When I'm in the iPhone's browser, I'm 100 percent in there. The only way out is by pushing the home button, and then on the icon of the next application that I'd like to use. On the Blackberry, I have shortcut buttons that whisk me away to a new application. I like the elegance of the iPhone, but another button or two wouldn't hurt anyone.
- No web browsing in the background. Especially on slow networks (like AT&T's), it's useful to start one thing (e.g., a web page loading) while navigating to another application (e.g., email) to work while you wait. On the iPhone, you can't do this, as the web page goes into a holding pattern when you leave it until you return. When you're on a web page, you have to be 100 percent there. Frustrating.
- The network is pokey and the iPhone doesn't provide a convenient way to get around this. I wasn't going to call out this point because it's somewhat immaterial: Most devices are still relegated to a dial-up speeds. But the iPhone is worse than my Blackberry in this regard because on my Blackberry I could turn off images and what-not to speed up the web experience. Yes, it was a crippled web experience but at least it was relatively speedy because of the workarounds Research in Motion built into its browser.
- Single-account email view. I like my email to go into a common pool, especially on my handheld device. On my Blackberry I had five email accounts all piling into the same inbox. On the iPhone I have to check each account separately, which seems like an inane thing to foist on users, especially since Apple's Mail client for the desktop allows me to "pool" my accounts into one common inbox.
I expect my list will change over time, but hopefully Apple will remove the negatives and continue to accentuate the positives. This is a very cool device. It can only get better.