NOTE: I'm cross-posting this on Electronics, but I thought it would be a good read for us Foosters.
SUMMARY: If you're considering making the switch, do it at least to try it. It may or may not be for you right now, but it's an amazing device that can only get much better.
This phone is almost the best device that I've ever used. Almost. It has a LOT of forthcomings, some of which are revolutionary in their own right (and have been exploited by everyone trying to catch up) while some of the shortcomings are major flaws that can be deal-breakers for many people dying to get one.
In my mind, the biggest (and most obvious) positive about the iPhone is its wonderful and extremely thoughtful design. When Apple introduced the iPod in 2001, it made huge tidal waves in (and eventually revolutionized) the music industry, and its design had a lot to do with lighting that fire. It was small, super easy to use and the sex compared to everything else on the market. Even its fifth generation, only to be superseded by the iPod Touch and Classic, arguably carries a design that trumps everything else in its class in simplicity, beauty and usability.
It's not hard to see that the iPhone will do exactly the same thing with the smartphone industry (as it's already doing), and I realized that again when I played around with my father's iPhone (which I got for him as a Christmas gift; he wanted something similar to it). It's the sex. Glass top surface with an anodized aluminum back is hard to beat (though the Blackberry 8800 and Storm come close), and is a welcome change in an environment where the best devices normally sacrifice aesthetics significantly. I always resist Apple products at first, but this is one thing that usually wins me over.
The other thing is their intelligence in UI design, and the iPhone is no exception to that. If anything, they outdid themselves this time. I've heard positives and negatives about this, but none of them are worth salt until one actually tries it. It's revolutionary; the quantity of "clones" that have come out recently illustrate that quite well. Multi-touch cannot be fully realized with words alone; half of the experience (yes, using this phone is an experience) is quantified by using Multi-Touch. It makes everything easier to do and easier to use. The virtual keyboard, while revolutionary in its own right, is a muddy point. When it works, it's amazing (and when haptic feedback is installed on the device, it's even better). However, as one might expect, it's really easy to mess up words and typing is much slower than using a keyboard. (Typing speed does improve after getting used to it, but that can take a lot of messaging.)
Nonetheless, the slightly decreased speed of messaging on an iPhone is completely worth it when considering that its design cannot be possible with a physical keyboard. In fact, after watching Steve Job's keynote on the iPhone, it made me realize that having a physical keyboard on a device has indeed been a hindrance rather than a benefit. (There are sliding keyboard designs, but most of them are bulky and, if anything, is another point of mechanical failure.)
If there is any testament to the genius of this design, the sheer fact that I gave this phone to my father and within minutes he understood how to operate it shows that it is by far the easiest experience out there. He's used Blackberrys and other esoteric phones, and all of them gave him trouble except for this. He loves it.
Oh, and it's damn nice to have OS X on your phone. Best SSH experience I've had so far (though I'm sure other platforms have programs just as good).
I haven't fully played around with the iPod part of it, mostly because I'm waiting for my adapter to come. However, from using the interface, it's seems incredibly well-designed and obviously the best music player on any mobile phone to date. (So it can't be synced with anything other than iTunes, but almost every other player that I've tried either has a crappy UI, slow throughput between the computer and the device, crappy DSP, or some combination thereof.) Navigation is as simple as the rest of the phone, and is really thoughtfully integrated with the phone portion of the device. The speaker is not that good, so I recommend getting the headphones.
I'm just hoping that the DSP on this phone sounds every bit as good as my iPod 5G.
Mobile Safari puts a stop to that nonsense. It delivers. I've browsed many, many websites on the device, and it displays all of them EXACTLY like I would see them on a standard computer. I can view and read most text without having to zoom in, and zooming in is elegant and made even better using Multi-Touch (unlike Opera, where everything except images was unreadable until you zoomed in, and then you could only focus on that area of the website). I can seriously say that for internet browsing, it rivals netbooks. Speeds over wireless (WiFi) are about as fast as on a regular browser (which I hear is a sticking point for many devices), and T-Mobile EDGE is still pretty good so speeds are acceptable there as well.
It's the best mobile browsing experience in the history of ever.
Can't say much about the phone. It's pretty good, and audible enough. The speaker on the iPhone 2G is too low for my taste, but I hear that this has been improved in the 3G. Unlocking the phone to accept any GSM carrier is easy for the original iPhones out there, but was JUST solved for the 3G a few days ago, so I can't comment on that.
I do appreciate that if a number is shared between contacts, the phone will display all contacts that share the number. Other phones will only display whichever contact comes first. Nice touch.
As I said in the introduction, there are some shortcomings that cripple this phone enough to drive some very enthusiastic people away from it for now. One of them is its Mail application and enterprise support. It downright sucks. This is the reason why Blackberry devices are still relevant. While it does not use a middleman proxy ala RIM, there are many features that are lacking.
- SSL over IMAP/POP3 is spotty, at best. Pain in the butt to set up at first, though it does work after enough convincing.
- Push e-mail is only supported on Yahoo! servers because of the way that e-mail push is implemented on the device. (For the technically minded, it doesn't work with IMAP IDLE because it does not interact with the server in the same way as a client that supported IDLE would. On standby, the polling method is done over Wifi instead of EDGE, which would be a huge battery sucker since it would essentially squat on that server waiting for acknowledgement of new mail. It doesn't even use the same polling method.)
- Can't delete messages in bulk. Yes, that's one at a time. The easiest way to get around this is by going on another computer, deleting the messages on the server (pray that you have webmail), and then syncing the phone.
- No separate notifications for subfolders.
- No landscape mode. This is in the browser, and it helps a lot. Why is it missing for email when typing horizontally is natural?
- No search. The phone is extremely capable for that.
And then there are the qualms with Exchange support, which is fairly new, but missing a few things, like subfolder synching (non-existent), flagging and spotty calendar invite support.
I believe that if Good Technology (owned by Motorola) can get an iPhone version out there with a clean, Apple-like UI for their mail client, they will make HUGE inroads into the mobile enterprise market. They have been losing ground here for a while because of RIM, but I think that this is their golden opportunity to turn that around. It was actually pretty good on the Treo and Windows Mobile, though it crashed often enough on the Treo (then again, what didn't?).
Text messaging works well, but there's no landscape mode or bulk delete (like e-mail). I really fail to understand why Apple did not include a landscape mode for either application when others have thought of that already (like iRealSMS and MySMS)...
NO COPY AND PASTE. What the hell is the hold up on this almost UNIVERSAL feature? (Everyone and their mother has been complaining about this, though I'm surprised that the SDK supports it...)
On the whole, this device is still in its infancy. I (and many others) are hoping that Apple resolves the few shortcomings that this device has so far, and when they do, I think it will be the beginning of the end for many smartphone manufacturers in the market. It's literally the smartphone that "grandma" can use and the benchmarks that every phone after it will follow (or at least until something as ground-breaking as the iPhone surfaces again, though the iPod has yet to be replaced as being "the" music player).