Yesterday, my friends Max and Zach and I were like the Three Amigos, but instead of sombreros we were armed with our iPhones. And instead of adventures with El Guapo, we were doing battle with AT&T's El EDGE network, the network the iPhone defaults to when it can't connect to an active Wi-Fi connection.
Our brave amigo adventure began when we decided to celebrate the Fourth by heading north of San Francisco to hang out at Stinson Beach. We got our fill of sun, surf and sand. During hours in the sun we got out our iPhones to goof around in a sandy environment. The screens were hot to the touch and managed to take sunscreen-soaked fingers pretty well, and there was no effect on performance from what we could tell. The sand didn't scratch up the screen, nor did any get into the ports or small crevasses on the iPhone's body.
So Max and I took pictures of each other and wanted to e-mail them to our mothers and friends. Because you cannot send mass SMS text messages or send a picture embedded in a text message, the only viable option is to send an actual, swear-to-God e-mail. (Many of my friends, recipients of mass SMS text messages, cheered at that limitation. Apple, will you please issue an update to allow me to send mass text messages again?)
Sending e-mails from the beach ultimately tested AT&T's EDGE network. It's at the continent's edge, quite literally. There is no Wi-Fi network for our iPhones to tap. Each of us have synced our contacts to include e-mail addresses, and each of us uses Gmail and our e-mails are sent through Gmail.
So our experience? The sun was pretty intense, so the shadows and the contrast levels really tested the camera's limitations. The pictures turned out fine, but were a bit shadow-heavy (we look "swarthy," according to some). But the EDGE network proved to be hot and cold. One message flew away and the EDGE network proved to be surprisingly fast. But at another point, we got the message "unable to send, cannot connect" and a copy of the e-mail was placed in an outbox queue. (On a separate bike ride it took three hours for my e-mail message to go through, and that only happened after the iPhone found my native W-iFi network!)
Ultimately, it's pretty cool that the phone could take a pretty good picture and e-mail it to loved ones, especially from the beach. The EDGE network is spotty. But if you live somewhere like San Francisco where Google plans to blanket free Wi-Fi to the whole city, or where the iPhone will find every Wi-Fi network around it, and where unsecured Wi-Fi networks are pretty common, then the EDGE issues should be neutralized.