A lot of you have been wondering how my iPhone 3G S trial has been going. If you’ve been following me on Twitter or on Facebook, then you’ve likely seen some of the many photos, videos, and messages I’ve been posting from the phone while out and about. But I haven’t posted much on my specific thoughts on the iPhone itself now that I’ve been using it daily for two weeks.
Like last time, I’ll try to summarize each of my thoughts into a couple of brief sentences. Here we go…
Phone capabilities - I originally set out to get a new phone after mine was eaten by a roller coaster. So it was important to me that the iPhone performed well as a phone. Overall, I give it a B-. Talking on the phone is not comfortable. It simply does not feel right against my head. I find myself constantly shifting it around trying to place my ear in the right spot so I can actually hear the person talking on the other end.
Speakerphone – The good news is that the speakerphone is fantastic. The speaker is loud and the microphone picks me up very well, even while riding in the car. I feel much more comfortable talking into the end of the phone, as if I’m dictating notes into a recorder. Unfortunately, using the speakerphone isn’t always appropriate.
Noise – Unfortunately, the iPhone makes a heck of a lot of GSM noise come out of any nearby stereo system. GSM noise is that little beepabeepabeepbeepbeep sound that you hear through speakers when a phone is trying to grab up a signal. Well, I hear it a lot with the iPhone. If I’m in the car and I move from an area with 3G to an area with Edge (or vice-versa), my car stereo starts sounding like it’s giving me a Morse code message. If I’m at home sitting at my computer listening to music, classic rock suddenly turns into electronica as the blips take over for guitars. Is it possible to stop all this noise?
Dialing - I was concerned that dialing without physical buttons was going to be a problem, especially while driving. I have somewhat gotten used to it but can definitely not dial without looking at the phone. I’m still puzzled every time I hit the phone button and I have to poke around to figure out whether I want Favorites, Recents, Contacts, or Keypad. Fortunately, the voice commands for dialing work very well and I am able to pull the phone out of my pocket, hold down the home button, say “call home,” and it acknowledges out loud that it is calling home. That helps a bit, but dialing on the iPhone still takes me 10 times longer than dialing on a cell phone with physical buttons.
AT&T phone service – Good riddance T-Mobile. AT&T has been wonderful for phone service. I’ve only had one dropped call and it was a mystery. Now I have 3-5 bars of service almost everywhere I go. It seems like AT&T recently activated a new tower near my house as well as I have 4-5 bars of service here, whereas I only had 1-2 bars when I first got the iPhone two weeks ago.
AT&T 3G service – Unfortunately, 3G coverage is quite spotty and unreliable. One minute I’ll have 3G and my internet connection is fast, then I’ll walk 20 feet in one direction and the phone will switch to Edge, which is completely worthless. I also regularly experience a problem where 3G coverage is great and suddenly it switches to Edge without me even moving. If I flip the phone into Airplane mode and back, it reconnects to 3G for a few minutes, works great, and then dumps back into Edge again. Very confusing.
Phone usage – In the two weeks I’ve had the iPhone, I’ve used 74 of 450 anytime minutes, 38 of 5000 night/weekend minutes, and 13 mobile-to-mobile minutes. That’s an average of almost 9 minutes of talking per day. At this rate, I’ll wish AT&T had a cheaper 250 minute plan, as my rollover minutes will surely accumulate into the thousands very quickly.
Vibrate – As expected, I have missed almost all of my phone calls. If I’m driving, I can faintly feel the vibration of the phone when a call comes in. However, if I’m walking around, I never feel it. This is a huge downside as I like to always leave my phone on silent/vibrate.
Slide to unlock – I really wish there was a way to completely disable this. It seems pointless. I don’t see how the home button could accidentally be pressed while in my pocket. I’m tired of swiping my finger across the screen every time I go to make a phone call.
Keyboard – Everyone who said I would get better at using the iPhone’s virtual keyboard over time was right… sort of. I’m definitely faster at typing on it, as I’ve learned to trust the phone to correct my mistakes. Unfortunately, I still make a ton of typos and it doesn’t correct all of them. Since I type over 140 wpm on a standard computer keyboard, it’s very frustrating for me to be reduced to typing 20-30 wpm while using the phone. But it is a heck of a lot faster than using a number pad.
Physical buttons – I’m not happy with any of the physical buttons on the iPhone. Dust and pocket lint get trapped within the circle around the home button, leaving a rough feeling. The volume buttons on the side are almost impossible to accurately find and press while on a call. I have to look down to find them. And what the heck is the sleep button doing at the top? Why not put it on the right side, opposite the volume buttons, so I can easily press it from a natural position when I’m done using the phone? I also still wish the phone would slide open to reveal a physical number pad.
Camera – I’m quite impressed by the iPhone 3G S’s 3-megapixel camera. I’m not saying it’s a great camera. It doesn’t even replace my point-and-shoot. But it is great for taking and sending quick pictures like the one shown here I took last Friday. I was rather impressed with the image quality of that shot. I haven’t used the video camera function enough to decide if it’s any good. It seems good enough. You can see more of my iPhone photos here.
E-mail – As expected, I don’t really use the e-mail functions of the iPhone much. When I get out of the house, I don’t particularly want to have e-mail with me. When I have checked it on the phone, it was nothing more than a quick browsing through what has come in. I will likely never respond to e-mails on the iPhone as it will take me 5-10 times longer to write a message on the phone than it would on a computer. It’s just a waste of time. The lack of a junk mail filter is also incredibly annoying.
Web browsing – In the two weeks I’ve had the iPhone, I’ve found myself in very few situations where being able to browse the Web was useful. I tried to access Chase.com to move some credit card reward points onto my rewards card, but it kept forcing me to use the “mobile” version of their site instead of the standard browser version. Of course, their mobile version doesn’t have any rewards options so I ended up calling them instead. I also unsuccessfully looked for a particular magazine cover while I was in a store and unsuccessfully looked for a friend’s email address when wanting to send her a photo. I suppose having Safari in my pocket will come in handy some day. It just hasn’t happened yet.
Useful Apps – Since I haven’t decide if I’m keeping the iPhone, I am only using free apps for now. Even so, I don’t anticipate myself purchasing many apps since the free ones seem to do the trick. The apps I’ve found most useful so far are:
- TwitterFon – The best free Twitter app so far. Simple interface without too much flair. I also recently grabbed iTwitter, which supports landscape mode and has a “Nearby Tweets” option to see what people are saying around you.
- Facebook – I initially tried accessing Facebook via Safari. Bad move. It’s slow and hard to navigate. The app fixes all that and makes posting messages and photos to anyone’s page extremely easy.
- Maps – I’ve only had an opportunity to use this built-in app once but it was quite handy. I was trying out a new route between my house and the Magic Kingdom, only to find myself at a dead end. I fired up Maps, it immediately located my position, and I discovered that Google’s map was out of date and showed a continuing road where there wasn’t one. So I used it to find my way back to a main road with ease.
- The Weather Channel – Zoom-able weather radar maps make this the best weather app out there. Now I don’t have to wonder if I’m going to be stuck in the rain while making a quick trip to the theme parks.
- Take Me To My Car – This app helped me find my car when leaving Disney’s Hollywood Studios last week. It didn’t lead me directly to my car, but the position it directed me to was within eyesight.
- Remote – This is Apple’s official remote control for iTunes, AirTunes, and AppleTV and it’s easily my favorite app. Even if I don’t keep the iPhone, I’ll be extremely tempted to purchase an iPod Touch just to keep this around. Having instant access throughout my house to my entire music library and being able to remotely control whether it plays in my office, audio zone 1 (living room, dining room, patio), or zone 2 (master bedroom & bathroom) is fantastic. I’ve been using my old XBox running XBMC for this purpose prior to getting the iPhone and this makes it so much easier. I thoroughly enjoy being able to sit outside on my patio and visually select which music I want to listen to with complete control over the volume.
- Showtimes – When I saw Transformers 2, this app helped me confirm the movie time. Simple as that. I only wish it had told me not to see Transformers 2.
- PandoraBox – I’ve found that this is the best app for finding new apps. Like the official App Store app, it separates all apps into free and paid. But it also shows which apps were once paid and are now free, which is a great feature.
- Slacker Radio – I downloaded a bunch of “radio” apps and this is the only one I’ve tried yet. It worked great for finding an endless loop of Michael Jackson songs. The quality of the stream was great too.
Not-so-useful Apps – I downloaded over 150 free apps and kept around 100 of them. Out of that 100, I’ve only really used a handful, but the rest are there waiting for me to use them when I need them. The 50 that I deleted, however, were completely useless and not even worth mentioning here. I suppose keeping two apps for every one I delete isn’t a bad ratio. I just wish I could filter anything rated 2 stars or less out of the App Store.
Time-wasting Apps – There are certainly plenty of apps designed to completely waste time. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I don’t have a lot of time to waste, so I even though I downloaded plenty of fun apps, I haven’t really used them much. However, I am completely addicted to PhotoSwap. The simple concept of taking a photo and anonymously receiving a random one back never gets old. While many of the photos sent back are of people’s legs or televisions, there are quite a few gems to be found as well. Maybe I’ll start saving them to post some of the most unique ones. Beyond that, I have around 20 games that I have played once and never bothered to play again. They’re not bad, but I just haven’t found an urge to play games on the iPhone. Arcade Hoops Basketball Lite and Arcade Bowling Lite (poor name – it’s actually skeeball) are the only two games I’ve played more than once. Backgrounds is great for finding new iPhone wallpaper.
Organizing the apps – When it comes to computers, I’m a neat freak. I like everything to be organized into folders. The fact that the iPhone’s apps are just listed in grids of 16 kind of drives me nuts. I spent at least an hour painstakingly rearranging the 100+ apps I have installed so that each screen has a theme. If I could name each screen, they would be Useful, Information/Shopping, Music, Utilities, Games, Fun, and Misc. The problem is that if I install any new apps, I have to rearrange things to fit with my organization scheme. This really should be easier to do.
Battery – The iPhone battery is impressive. It has yet to drop below 50% in a day’s usage, even on days where I’m at a theme park sending a lot of photos and videos. Battery charge does seem to disappear quickly when I’m using PhotoSwap for some reason.
Accessories – The USB cable that came with the iPhone definitely needs to be plugged into a USB 2.0 port for any data transfer to happen quickly. This means I need to purchase a new USB 2.0 hub in order to keep all of my devices plugged in to my computer. I’ll hold off on that until I decide if I’m keeping the phone. I did however purchase an iPhone car charger for less than $3. I was already ordering some other cables from the same site and figured I might as well add this in. If I end up not keeping the phone, I’ll just give the cable to someone who can use it. I have found that I will likely buy a tight-fitting case/skin for the iPhone if I keep it. I’m tired of wiping finger smudges off the screen (particularly on the “slide to unlock” area) and plenty of dust is getting trapped around the home button and along the edges where the metal meets the glass.
iPod functions – I have yet to use the iPhone as an iPod. In fact, I have yet to even load any music on it. I’m still using my old black-and-white iPod in the car and likely wouldn’t use my iPhone there as I’d need to unplug it from my car connector every time a call would come in. The only other time I use an iPod is when I travel and I have no travel plans for the remainder of my trial. But I’m sure it works great as an iPod.
Obviously I haven’t decided if I’m going to keep the iPhone yet. Some days I feel like I should whereas other days I feel like I should save the $30/month (a total $720 over the next two years) and just buy an iPod Touch instead. I’m leaning toward keeping it, as I have enjoyed using it, but will definitely need another 7-10 days to decide for sure.
I’ll post some more thoughts again a day or two before I make my decision and then a wrap-up afterward.
If you have any recommendations on what else I should try to do with the phone over the next 7-10 days, let me know in the comments!Tweet
For those of you still thinking about Michael Jackson, here’s a great way to enjoy some of his music along with a fun old movie. I recently discovered that a couple of months ago, a YouTube user posted fairly a high quality copy of the classic Epcot 3-D film Captain EO, starring Michael Jackson and Angelica Houston.
While there are many copies of this now-extinct show circulating the Internet, this one was uploaded to YouTube in HD. While the movie isn’t exactly high-definition, it still looks pretty good. But the best part is that this particular copy uses red/cyan 3-D to try to duplicate the original experience of seeing it in Epcot. The copy is a little dark and one of the colors seems to lag slightly behind the other, but it’s still worth watching on a big screen at home.
I’ve embedded both parts of the movie below with links to watch them on YouTube in HD:
But the best way to watch it is to download both parts from YouTube and play them on your TV or home projector. Generally, when it comes to 3-D imagery, the bigger you make it, the better the effect becomes. Here’s an easy way to download HD video from YouTube.
I’d love to see Disney swap out Honey, I Shrunk the Audience for Captain EO, even if only for a day, as a tribute to Michael Jackson’s legacy. But since that is not likely to happen, this is the best way I’ve found to enjoy this show in 3-D.Tweet
The news of Michael Jackson’s untimely death has certainly been the hot topic for the last few days. Most music video television channels (MTV, VH1, etc) have devoted their entire airtime to looping Jackson’s many classic videos. But if you simply can’t get enough of “Thriller” and want to enjoy the full 10-minute version at your leisure, Microsoft has a great solution for you.
Right now, you can download the entire “Thriller” music video via XBox Live onto your XBox 360 console for free. You’ll find it in the XBox Live Marketplace or on the console or you can just queue it up here.
Just hurry, because the free download is available today (Sunday, June 28) only.Tweet
Facebook is launching a new “Live Stream Box” feature which allows for Facebook Pages to offer their own live video and chat area. And Ustream will be the first to take advantage of it with Ustream on Facebook, a new service to provide live video support to select Facebook users.
Apparently, how this will work is that on Facebook Pages there will now be a way to add a “Live” tab, which will house things such as the Ustream on Facebook feature. Previously, beyond the Jonas Brothers, Facebook has tested this with CNN and the NBA All-Star game. Here’s what Facebook has to say:
Today, Facebook is launching the Facebook Live Stream Box as a feature that any website owner or developer can use to enable Facebook users to connect, share, and post updates in real-time as they witness an event online. Websites can run the Live Stream Box next to live streaming videos of concerts, speeches, sporting events, webcasts, TV shows, presentations, or webinars. Sites can also run the Live Stream Box in multi-player games, or with any other experience where many people are visiting a website at the same time.
Now we just need an Apple-approved iPhone app that allows broadcasting via Ustream and Facebook will be overrun with live streaming video.Tweet