TheFeed’s 1st 48(ish) hours with the iPhone


Posted July 1, 2007 - By badexec

Having spent most of our weekend with our iPhones, we’ve compiled a list of what we love and hate about the new wonder-phone from Apple. We promise it’s not all drool and fanboy-ery.  It truly is a remarkable device with a staggering list of pros and cons in tow.  Never have we been so giddy to get our hands on a gadget but does it live up to the hype?

  • First and foremost…there is a WOW factor involved in using the iPhone that is hard to describe. Using it is fun.  It makes us giggle a little.  Universally it’s been hard to get it back from anyone we’ve handed it to.   Even we find ourselves completely sucked into it at times with no connection to the world off of it’s screen.
  • However, you may not get that experience right out of the box.  Activation was / is kind of nightmarish, at least for some of us.  TheFeed waited in line for our first iPhone on Friday at an AT&T store, and bribed our way to #2 so we could be one of the first.  There was a 30 minute wait as the AT&T systems were hammered with the 6pm rush but once we were home, activation through iTunes was relatively painless.  Other members of TheFeed were far smarter and strolled into an Apple Store on Saturday to pick theirs up without waiting in lines.  At least one of our Saturday iPhones is now being referred to as the iBrick…22 hours and still waiting on the device to be activated.  We’re not the only ones having these problems apparently.

  • The unit is very solid and feels good in your hand.  The screen feels strong and sturdy under your fingers.  It doesn’t flex like a regular touch screen.  The hardware buttons all feel solid and there is a tactile click when using them.  The hardware doesn’t feel like a 1st gen product.  It feels like one that has been refined over a few years.
  • EDGE data seems usable but is certainly not fast by any stretch of the word.  WiFi is very fast in comparison and seems to connect to every free access point we could find.  It was able to join our WPA protected hot spot at home and at work.  We found WiFi worked really well around town as well. 
  • It’s hard not to want every phone to look and work like this one.  The interface is beautiful, snappier than we expected and (mostly) works as advertised.  The candy-coated, web 2.0, widget sheen to the whole thing makes it hard to look at and use other phones.  Having used every flavor of Palm OS, Windows Mobile and Blackberry we want them all to work like the iPhone.  You can flick through list of contacts, emails, pictures, etc.  You can delete things with a swipe and a tap.  You can drag items around.
  • True to Steve Job’s claims, the iPhone is a good phone.  The Phone app is quick and just seems to work.  Dialing from contacts is super easy.  Dialing a number on the keypad is also really easy.  Sound quality seems to be really good just holding it to your ear.  Pull it away from your face and it knows to bring the call options up.  Speakerphone works well.
  • Visual Voice Mail (not to be confused with Video Viewer Mail) is amazing.  Waiting to skip through voice mail the old way instantly seems arcane and ridiculous.  TheFeed may actually start to return some of those missed calls now.
  • SMS works just like iChat which is good, but really makes the sting of no IM on the phone even worse.  SMS message threads look like iChat threads, they even sound like them…but no support for .Mac, AIM, Jabber is a huge miss on the iPhone.  Also, we cant seem to figure out how to send an SMS message to more than one person at a time.  How is TheFeed supposed to drunk text multiple recipients at once looking for one night stands?
  • There is no MMS on the iPhone.  You can email a picture but it’s not the same.  Cute girls can no longer send TheFeed MMS pictures of themselves and that makes us sad.
  • The keyboard works better the less you think about it.  Basically, it’s harder to type than on solid keys but the predictive text on the device is stellar and seems to make up for it.  We find that in general if you pay attention it takes far longer to do anything in life.  Using the iPhone keyboard definitely takes some getting used to.  We like it, we just aren’t speed texting anyone yet.
  • The built in stereo speakers are surprisingly decent.  Certainly good enough for using the iPhone to watch movies or listen to music.  Not needing headphones is liberating.  The included headphones sound decent as well, no better than standard iPod ear buds.  The microphone built into the headset is tiny but it works really well.
  • We can’t use a custom ringtone!?!?!?!  Blargh and Meh are not harsh enough here.  There are no “Feed” friendly words we can use here.  That just plain sucks.
  • The camera is decent, but woefully devoid of any useful features.  You can’t zoom or change the lighting conditions.  In fact, there are no camera settings at all.  Picture quality is decent when you have the perfect light and distance to subject, but with no way to adjust or tweak the image it’s really hit or miss if your picture will come out at all.
  • Speaking of settings, all of the settings for most of the native apps are found in a settings app and not within the apps themselves.  This was a bother when trying to change email settings.  For example, you have to leave the mail app and then go to the Settings app and then to mail to change account information.  Playing around in the Settings app, it’s clear that there aren’t many of them you can change.  The iPhone is pretty locked down and it’s a shame.  Ease of use could have been maintained by hiding features and settings behind “advanced” buttons like Mac OS X does.  “Idiot proof” doesn’t need to mean “feature anemic” but it does on the iPhone.   We mentioned ring tones above, but almost all other sounds are not changeable at all (alarms are for some reason, SMS is not).
  • Photos themselves look great on the device.  We love the zoom in and out functionality. Again, interacting with the data on the device is second to none.  Pictures load quickly and “flick” by like you are turning a page.
  • iPod functionality is completely new and works better in our opinion that the standard iPod interface we are all used to.  Cover flow seems to work well and is more responsive than we expected.  We like being able to flick through a list of albums or songs quickly.  The iPod seems to work well when doing other things on the phone.  We did see a small hiccup when we got a phone call but as advertised the song paused and we were able to answer a call.  Once the call was done we went right back to our place in the song.  At only 8GB (max) it doesn’t hold anywhere near enough music for TheFeed’s incredibly fickle music tastes.  The 4GB model would be practically useless to us.  iTunes videos look amazingly good and playback without artifacts.  The iPod integration is really good.  We weren’t huge fans of the original iPod OS interface.  The iPhone may have the best iPod interface yet.
  • Google maps works really well, and edge data seems to be fast enough to load the maps with too much of a delay.  Every once in a while it would stall but it was still usable.  Turn by turn directions with traffic works very well.  If this thing only knew where it was it would replace GPS devices everywhere.
  • YouTube videos look better on the iPhone in H.264 then they do on YouTube.com in flash.  All of YouTube should be H.264 in our opinion.  Search Results in the YouTube iPhone app are limited, as are most viewed and featured videos.  We want all of YouTube, this seems more like a taste of YouTube.  It’s still pretty damn neat to have any YouTube at all.
  • Mail works just like Mail.app on the Mac.  Integration with GMail is identical to using GMail with Mail.app as well.  Images show up inline in messages, which is nice.  If you use multiple accounts the iPhone separates them into individual inboxes.  That’s kind of a pain for checking multiple accounts at once. 
  • Safari is really awesome compared to surfing the web on any other smart phone.  On Wi-Fi it’s really fast.  On EDGE it’s not too bad either.  Pinch and stretch zooming is awesome but sometimes you can accidentally hit a link when touching parts of web pages.  We love having multiple pages open at once, it’s almost like tab-based browsing.  Flash is noticeably missing but everything else looks great.  Even TheFeed looks great in all of it’s full color glory.  RSS feeds seem to run through Apple’s reader.mac.com proxy which looks identical to Safari’s RSS feed reader and works similarly as well.

In all, we still get a kick out of using the iPhone.  It’s not a suitable business device, so our bosses won’t be ditching their Blackberrys anytime soon but for the less enterprise oriented geeks out there, it’s a pretty damn good smart phone.  It’s certainly more fun to use than any other smart phone we have played with.  Despite all of it’s missing features we still have a hard time putting it down.  There is a lot there and a lot missing.   It goes without saying but we like it enough to hang on to it and start hoping for a fast flurry of hacks like we saw with the Apple TV.  If we were X-Play, we would give it a 3 out of 5.  The interface and hardware deserve a 5 out of 5 without question but the lack of features, settings and 3rd party apps leave us wanting just a little bit more.

TheFeed’s 1st 48(ish) hours with the iPhone


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