An overview of the use and operation of the 2G iPhone.
Since much of this material is subjective, I will put my email address here as the author. If you have questions, comments or want to discuss an issue via email please write me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Overview and purpose of this page
- Phone - Contacts
- Voice mail
- Internet Browsing
- Internet Connectivity
- Text Messaging
- Stock Ticker App
- Blue Tooth
- Power Issues
- Performance Optimizations
Overview and purpose of this page
This document summarizes the experience of purchasing, using and learning about an iPhone from a previous WinCE mobile phone user. Looking at the iPhone as a MID gives an interesting perspective on possible directions this market segment might take as the usages evolve.
The iPhone is purchased directly from an AT&T store (or an Apple Company Store). You don't set it up at the store. When you buy the phone you walk out of the store with it in a box and have to do all the setup on your own at home. Once the box is opened there is a 10% restocking fee if you decide to take it back. You also have 14 days instead of the usual 30 days to return the phone if you chose to do so.
The data plan for the iPhone is $15 dollars a month less expensive than the regular PDA plans (in the USA). The difference is that you MUST have a data plan with an iPhone. On a PDA phone you can decide to not use any data and just use it as a phone, which is not possible with the iPhone contract.
As an Intel employee, one additional negative of the iPhone was that they do NOT honor any discount plans. Intel has negotiated a discount when using AT&T, if you add an iPhone to your plan, on any line, that discount is dropped. Thus adding an iPhone to my plan caused my entire discount to drop.
When you get home and plug your iPhone into your PC, if you have USB2.0 it auto launches iTunes, and brings up the screens to activate your phone. All activation is done online through iTunes. On an older system you have to know to launch iTunes. Of course you must install iTunes prior to activating your iPhone.
All Syncing is done via iTunes, including your contact and calendar info. If you have USB 2.0 and above iTunes is auto launched, on an older system (like my IT build T41) you have to launch iTunes yourself. (This is a documented "feature.")
In my case, I wanted to put music from my personal desktop on the iPhone, then sync with my work calendar and contact info via my IT laptop since I like to have the reminders and contact data on the phone. This is possible via iTunes as you can select which info to sync when you connect to a system. You do need to be careful as it's possible to sync with one system and it will completely erase the data that was downloaded from another system. Thus if you stick your phone into a friends computer, it's possible you can accidentally erase all your data.
Negatives: On some older USB 1.1 systems iTunes does not auto-launch.
Phone - Contacts
Before you can really use the phone, you need contact info. Since all of my data is in Outlook and the iPhone supports Outlook I didn't think it would be a problem. It turned out to be a little more complicated because the sync software has you either select all contact lists or specific folders you may have defined, but you can't select just the default folder. Since all my useful contacts were in the default "My Contacts" folder (named "Contacts") and I didn't want the other groups on my phone, this caused me to have to create a new folder of contacts and edit my entire list to get the right ones on the phone. (This took some time with over 500 contacts.)
Negatives: There is no voice dial, you have to use your hands and select from the contact list, or a favorites list. I'm used to voice dialing with my BT headset while driving so this might take some adjusting.
The voicemail system is a "visual" system where you can see your messages listed as you then decide which to listen to and which to skip. This avoids the cumbersome process of listening to and stepping through them one at a time. This has been really useful for keeping around an older message you want to deal with later.
There is a voicemail password but it turns out that it is only used when you want to change your mailbox in some way. I've had to enter it when upgrading to a new OS version but that has been about it.
So far I have not been able to get the calendar info to sync from my IT build to the iPhone. I have done some searching online and there appears to be some bugs Apple is working on due to how certain applets modify appointment types. When I figure this out I'll update.
Update: I have tried several times with no success.
Update: This was fixed with the 2.0.1 update do the system software. The phone now syncs with Microsoft Calendar nicely with appointmens and meetings showing up as scheduled, including the pre meeting notices.
Negatives: Can't get the Calendar to sync with version 1.4 and prior
This is one of the really bright spots on the iPhone. The browser, how it adapts, works and is transparent is very nice. There's a pop-up keyboard that takes some adjusting to get used to. I thought a soft tipped touch display pen would work but that turned out to not be the case, using your finger is actually better especially since plastic tipped items don't even register on the screen.
The browser works quickly and is intuitive. The nicest aspect is the scaling. You use multi-touch gestures to scale the fonts up or down. A two-fingered opening motion scales up, closing scales down. To move you just drag a finger in the direction you want to go. To click you press on the screen very lightly.
The browser (along with a few other apps) responds to orientation and will rotate the screen to your current orientation of the iPhone.
Negative: There is no Flash support. When you hit any flash object you get the "flash not loaded" messages directing you to install a flash player. The problem is there isn't a flash player for the iPhone. This is something Apple and Adobe are negotiating.
I have a wireless AP in my home and once you add the username and password, the connection is seamless and transparent. The phone completely automates the connection process to a known AP. It also switches to a GPRS Edge connection if there is no WiFi connection available.
There is an optional setting that allows the phone to prompt you when it finds a WiFi access point and you have no other WiFi connection.
Due to the automatic connection process I have found a problem. Intel uses a WiFi network named "Guest." I have added this network as an auto-connect option. The other day when shopping I was in a store and my phone wouldn't connect to the internet. I couldn't check prices or show an image to a friend. I inspected the phone to determine why this was happening and it turned out that the store had a network with the AP named "Guest" but a different password. The phone was stuck since it couldn't gain access to what it thought was a known AP. The work around was to turn off Wifi.
Wifi systems such as Intel's Guest setup which require a click to access are also a problem. If you go to check your email the iPhone senses the known WiFi connection but can't get it to work properly as the system is waiting for authorization of a browser based page. To get around this you must bring up a browser when using the iPhone within Intel as your first connection method so you can authenticate. If you don't do this the iPhone gets in a "Waiting" state as it gets held up waiting for authentication.
- The phone is limited to Edge speeds and is not a 3G phone.
- WiFi networks with matching names can cause problems and lock out your connectivitiy.
- WiFi systems that require authentication can freeze the iPhone as it waits to be authenticated in a screen that doesn't show the user what is happening, such as when reading email.
The email app includes support for all the major online services, Yahoo, Gmail, MAC, AOL, and also POP3, SMTP and IMAP. You can configure multiple email accounts on the phone, with as many active as you would like. I have tested up to 4 at a time.
When testing with Yahoo, online folders were supported and browsable too. When using with a POP3 account, any mailboxes you have defined for your account also show up.
When you read an email, the phone communicates back to the server and marks email as read. Deleting an email from the phone leaves it on the server (optional via email settings). I suspect that after doing this for some time without cleaning out your email you could end up with quite a full inbox if your phone was primary access for a time.
Positive: This works much better than the system used on a WinCE PDA. (The PDA system required an app running on your computer to check for email on the server and then forward it to your phone at defined intervals.) Browsing email is really easy, clicking on a link auto opens the attachments, plays videos and the works. It all is very transparent and very nicely done.
Negative: I would like a little more control over certain mailbox features. The features seem to be built into the phone but they only appear as options "if" you have used them. In the settings pages, what you see changes based on your current context.
The text messaging app is styled after email on the front page. It has a very easy to read browsing system. Text messages are threaded by sender, so clicking on one message brings up the chain of conversation with that person. The messages are displayed in a pseudo IM/Chat style with one person left justified and the other right justified on the display and each in their own color and balloon icon.
This method of reading and using text messages is very intuitive and makes it really friendly to use text messages to carry on a conversation.
Sending to a group creates a new thread. When sending a text to my family, their replies each went into their individual threads. Perhaps if they had an iPhone and did a reply to "all" it would have remained in the original thread.
Positive: Intuitive and very easy to use.
Stock Ticker App
The built in stock ticker applet is very nice. You can add symbols you wish to know about and anytime you click on the applet, it brings up Yahoo ticker data that shows you not only the current price info but a chart of the stock. You can select the timeframe of the chart and it updates on the fly. The service seems pretty robust as I tried it with ADR's and they worked too (American Depository Receipts, are foreign stocks that can be bought and sold via US markets). You can also click on the Yahoo link and be taken to the browser for additional info on any symbol if you are interested in news and other data for that stock.
There is no built-in support for IM or Chat on the iPhone. I looked around and there are some chat applets coming online but they are not connected to the major services. While this is a weakness, there are ways around it.
The iPhone does nicely support Browser based chat systems. One example is Yahoo which provides its own URL for use on small phones for mobile chat. The URL is m.yahoo.com and brings up a web based chat system which works very nicely on the iPhone. While it lacks the full functionality of a PC based chat system (sending files, etc) it does work well for seeing who is available, their status and sending messages. This chat interface also threads the messages to keep the context relevant by user.
Text messaging works well as a substitute due to the treading of messages by sender and the ease of use the text messaging app provides. The default plan comes with 200 messages and it cost $10 extra a month to have unlimited. Since my Family plan already has unlimited text for all phones I am covered via that option. You do need to be careful with this though as my kids send/receive on the order of 2500 a month each(!) at 10 cents a message over the limit it could get VERY expensive.
Negative: No direct IM support. The Web based work-a-rounds are pretty good though.
There's a built-in maps app that brings up a Google Maps view of the US. You use the same multi-touch motions to zoom in and out of the map application as you do for all other apps. It's very transparent and easy to use. The app supports maps, sat and hybrid views. You can also mark locations, search and get directions.
One really nice feature of the Maps is that it supports traffic alerts. During the day I brought up a section of the LA freeways and it highlights in color the problem areas. This can be very useful when travelling.
COOL: I am unsure how it's doing it, but when you ask it to show me where I am, it brought up my exact location.
There's a growing list of web apps you can install on your iPhone (right now there are over 600). Using the browser I was able to take the link to an app and then add it to my homepage, which is an option right along with bookmarking. This provides easy one click access to a URL. You can add one click access to any web page using this same method.
Apple supports a developer community and has a development and submittal process. This link takes you to the development center.
Turning on BT in the settings screen takes you to the pairing menu. You make the iPhone discoverable, and then do the same for your device. In my case the headset showed up, asked me for the passcode (0000) and once entered the pairing was complete. It was simple. The hardest part was remembering how to turn on the headset to pair up, and what the pass code was.
Negative: Apparently since the iPhone does not support voice dial, the call out button on the headset does nothing. It does answer the phone but cannot be used to initiate a call.
The screen is very sharp and clear. It's readable outdoors in full sunlight. It has a built in auto-brightness feature which will increase or lower the brightness to compensate for the current conditions using an internal sensor.
The screen goes dim after a few seconds (configurable) and then locks after a longer period (also configurable). There's a screen where you can see how many minutes you have used the phone since the last charge, both talk and standby times are listed.
Once battery power reaches a certain threshold, it appears about 50%, the screen will no longer go to full brightness. This can be annoying but appears to be an attempt to keep the main power drain from hurting lifespan. [I need to double check this(!) it might have been one of my kids who messed with the brightness settings(!)
Overall when using the iPhone the feeling is that it's very responsive. There are times and places where you have to pause for a moment to give the phone time to react. Once you adapt to those it feels responsive. An example is clicking on the Settings icon, the screen paints quickly but the text is not filled in for a few moments. Another example is that the browser won't allow you to resize text and move in a document while it's still downloading the main body of the text.
Optimizations that I have noticed include the following: Screens such as the Settings screen adapt to your current status. For example settings that do not apply do not show up. This can be useful but when I know an option is available and want to control it, it can be frustrating to determine just what I need to do to enable me to see the option again. This was something I noticed when playing with email settings, various options would show up and go away as I edited the accounts and would change once errors happened etc.
When syncing with iTunes, MP3 and image files are optimized for play and display on the iPhone. An example is that I take several 5Meg image files, put then in the iPhone folder to sync and instead of uploading them, it scales them for display and then uploads much smaller versions. The result is that the overhead in scaling and uploading improves the user experience when browsing images and songs on the iPhone. This results in a dual savings, as it keeps the valuable system memory free for other images, songs, movies, podcasts etc.
The work iTunes does of compressing the files leaves files in sub-folders of the sync directory on my PC. I tried to see what size and info they contained and none of the software I have installed on my system recognizes these files.
[Is there a way to get more details on the compressions used for images, MP3 etc?]