iPhone 3GS: Fantastic but flawed

The iPhone 3GS shows how great mobile devices can be, but battery life and carrier woes make the experience suboptimal.

Dave Rosenberg Co-founder, MuleSource
Dave Rosenberg has more than 15 years of technology and marketing experience that spans from Bell Labs to startup IPOs to open-source and cloud software companies. He is CEO and founder of Nodeable, co-founder of MuleSoft, and managing director for Hardy Way. He is an adviser to DataStax, IT Database, and Puppet Labs.
Dave Rosenberg
3 min read

iPhone 3GS
iPhone 3GS Apple
I switched to the iPhone 3GS the day it came out and I'm still waffling on how I feel about it. So far, the positives still outweigh the negatives, but my work style has changed and I am able to deal with a lot more mobile device flakiness than I was able to a few months or a year ago. If I was still traveling and running around all the time, the iPhone would be a total disaster.

From a software and cloud perspective, the iPhone represents an ideal world of development functionality mixed with an ability to use mobile services. However, the App Store approval process and AT&T's wonky network will still prevent us from reaching nirvana.

I tried to chronicle the issues I've had, but the truth is, the service (and therefore the device itself) ranges from excellent to sporadic to unusable, so I'll just list out the broad issues for those considering a move to the 3GS.

Battery life--the battery life is abysmal. I've gone on every forum, tweaked every setting, and done several tests to see what works best. The hacks that people suggest (turn off push, 3G, and Bluetooth) defeat the purpose of the device. Users shouldn't have to handicap themselves because of a lack of attention from the manufacturer.

If Apple really wants enterprise and business users, this is the most important issue that must be resolved.

Phone --I haven't been a fan of AT&T mobile service in the past (Verizon Wireless is my carrier of choice) and it continues to range from terrible to mediocre for me. Bizarrely, the worst call quality occurs when talking to another AT&T user. I did a conference call the other day with two other iPhone users and none of use could decipher the others' words.

I gave up on the 3G network both for the battery drain and the calls that dropped after 10 minutes (I took notes for 2 days) and every call dropped. A recent survey says that 34 percent of those polled won't buy the iPhone because of AT&T's network.

E-mail--I'm fine with the e-mail setup and interface except for the fact that the iPhone is somehow missing a unified in-box. I was convinced I had set everything up incorrectly until several people confirmed it to be true. After the battery issue, this must be resolved for Apple to make headway with users who have more than one account. There is no logical reason why the software can't do this. Apple does it on the desktop and RIM has done it forever.

Calendar--I use Google Apps and except for an initial user error, the integration has been seamless. I am sure there are other issues, but I haven't heard too much about Exchange or Zimbra users with problems. iCal on the Mac has some annoyances, but generally I think it's fine.

Web browsing--Web browsing is where the iPhone really distances itself from every other mobile device. The screen is great and the interaction is great, but I've been forced to turn off 3G in order to get the battery to last. Obviously that dulls the experience.

Multiple apps at one time--Having more than one application running at the same time is the way everyone works these days. The fact that an application quits when you switch to another is just ridiculous in this day and age. Apple apparently has some reasons why they do this (security), but it's just annoying.

The iPhone is a fantastic mini-computer, but the flaws of AT&T's network and the battery life are not issues that can be glossed over. Apple can fix both over time, but users need more true information from both vendors.

Here's my rating for each aspect mentioned above on a scale of 1-5:

  • Battery: 1
  • Phone: 3
  • E-mail: 3
  • Calendar: 5
  • Web: 5
  • Multi-tasking: 2
  • Game play: 5
  • TOTAL: 24/35 (roughly 68 out of 100)

All that said, I'm going to stick with it for now. The interface, utility, and functional possibilities are just that good. Having a converged device with music, phone, and Web changed a lot of my habits and really can make you more effective--provided that the device can do what it's supposed to do.

Follow me on Twitter @daveofdoom.