Before You Buy the iPhone…

by Aaron Wright Jun 29, 2007

...You might want to consider a few things. Now, just because my English-residence currently prevents me from getting my greasy mitts on the iPhone, doesn’t mean I don’t envy my chums across the pond, but as with any device that has received such overwhelming publicity over the past 6 months, thanks mostly to iPhone Matters I’d say, there are some negatives.

Steve Jobs got one thing right when announcing the iPhone, and he said something along the lines of “everyone hates something about their current cell-phone,” and I bet everyone who’s had their current phone long enough to know the features inside out would agree on this.

Unfortunately for Jobs, every piece of technology we are likely to own is always going to have something about it that we hate; that’s not to say we hate that particular piece of technology, just some of the features it holds and the iPhone is by no means an exception.

Walt Mossberg recently got the chance to play about with the iPhone for a two week period, and while he had plenty of good things to say about the iPhone, most of which Steve Jobs has truthfully told on a number of occasions, he has also picked up on a few annoying features which many potential iPhone buyers should probably think about before opening up their wallets.

EDGE Slower Than Slow

Apple didn’t want anything unnecessary to suck the power out of the iPhone, and unfortunately what they deemed unnecessary was the need of fast data speeds, which is why they opted for AT&T’s EDGE network. Mossberg wasn’t particularly happy with the speeds but it did do the job—the only saving grace here is the built in Wi-Fi that automatically takes over when you’re in a Wi-Fi enabled area.

No Computer? No Talking

It’s very rare for someone to not have a computer nowadays, and even rarer for someone to own a SmartPhone and no computer, so perhaps this is a non-issue, but if you don’t own a Windows or Mac system, you won’t be able to active your iPhone. Usually, your phone would be activated in store for use immediately, but in an “unusual twist,” you’ll need to take your iPhone home and connect it to iTunes to activate, and I don’t recall Ubuntu users being able to install iTunes.

Writing E-Mail and want that song turned off?

Unlike most Smart Phones/Cell Phones, the iPhone has only one hardware button on [the face of] it, the “Home” button. Because of this, if you’re listening to music while doing something else on the phone, such as browsing the web, and you then decide to turn off the music, you’ll need to quit Safari, open up the iPod software, stop the music, and then switch all the way back to Safari again, rather than flicking one hardware button (or even software, why didn’t they include that?) to shut the music off without leaving the application you’re currently in. Apple fan boys will claim I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here, but this would seriously bug the hell out of me so I hope Apple addresses it before selling the iPhone to European customers.

Slow navigation

Okay, maybe not the slowest around but according to Mossy, there isn’t any way of switching from top to bottom of lists (such as a contact list), except from in Safari, with the flick of a button. Instead, users will either need to scroll right down to the bottom manually (okay if you have a couple of contacts), or use the alphabet scale available on the right of the screen in tiny type to go to the name of the contact or e-mail you’re after. Also, thinking about copying and pasting text? Think again.

Keyboard ain’t no BlackBerry

Mossberg stated that in the first three days of using the touch-screen keyboard, he couldn’t get to grips with it and found it an annoyance, yet a further two days later he found it to be better than his current Palm Treo. What worries me here is that perhaps not everyone is as patient as Mossberg. Apparently when typing it’s sometimes a little too easy to hit other keys, but the error-correction system does a pretty good job of second guessing what you really meant to type—which is what Mossberg says saves the keyboard; unfortunately though, this error-correction system isn’t as good as the one found on most Blackberrys.

Second, I know many users out there are used to “txt lngage” and so punctuation probably isn’t on top of their priority list, but for many of us normal folks, punctuation is the only way to compose a text message or e-mail, which is why the keyboard is all the more annoying. In order to whip out a comma, full stop, or semi-colon, you’ll need to switch to a second keyboard, select the symbol you’re after, and then switch back to alphabet mode—don’t tell me this won’t get annoying, because it will.

No Excel, Word, or PDF creation

Unfortunately Apple decided not to call on the services of Microsoft for its software on the iPhone, which given the unreliability of Microsoft’s software, I dare say this was probably a smart move on Apple’s part. Because of this, you won’t be able to edit Word or Excel documents on the iPhone, but you will be able to store and read them, which I suppose is better than nothing.

Battery life

I’m kidding, what was once an issue is now no longer—the battery life tested well according to Mossberg, with Apple over-exaggerating by mere minutes, rather than hours. Next!

Phone Calls

If I’m reading reviews correctly, there is no current way of simply dialling a number directly from the main “Home” screen on the iPhone. Instead, you must navigate your way to the contacts page (which is simply one extra click) and then take it from there.

Voice call quality seems a little iffy at this moment, although I’m not sure if reviewers are saying it’s because of AT&T or Apple at this stage. In certain areas the call quality becomes “muffled” or “garbling,” but most calls carried perfect voice quality.

As far as Contacts are concerned, you can put a number of contacts into certain groups, which presumably works well for distributing one text message to a number of friends, but for some reason those groups cannot be e-mailed, which seems a bit odd of Apple to miss out. The only thing I can think of here is that the data plans from AT&T hadn’t been finalised until after the iPhone had been finally developed and Apple wanted to minimise possible bandwidth hogging by sending out one e-mail to a number of folks, or even reduce the possibility of congestion on the network.

Third-Party Software

As we all now know, Apple is allowing “add-on” software for the iPhone, but these are Web 2.0 applications accessed only through the web browser. While this isn’t a real issue, apparently the quality of programs available is—hopefully developers can deliver some decent applications sometime soon.

And the rest of your questions answered

There’s a 2 megapixel camera, what can I do with it? Take photos is all, I’m afraid, as Apple hasn’t included video recording, which seems a bit strange considering there’s built-in iPod video software.

I can send text messages, what about media messages and instant messaging? I don’t know how media messaging works over in the mighty U.S.A, but over in England, if you haven’t got 3G technology then you haven’t got the speed or capability to send media messages. Perhaps I’m not completely up to scratch on EDGE technology though. Unfortunately, no instant messaging is allowed.

Safari doesn’t support Flash, will this be a problem? It seems it will. According to Mossberg, Safari has trouble fully utilizing some websites and as such may hamper your browsing experience, but with a bit of luck Apple will do something about that soon.

Can I set my own ringtones from my iPod music library? Ahh, we were all hoping you could, weren’t we? Unfortunately though it seems as though you won’t be able to set any music you store on your phone as a ringtone on the iPhone. How incredibly lame is that?

Summary

The summary is, the above features are a few minor annoyances which you’d rather know about now than in two weeks’ time after you’ve used your iPhone to the point of failure (I can’t see any iPhone user putting it down to be honest). I’m not trying to create a negative vibe on the phone, but to hopefully make your experience that little bit more positive by shedding some light now before you find out for yourself later. The lack of video recording, personal ringtones from your music library, and unsupported Flash software are a few things which the younger generation might pick up on quicker than others, but Apple has hinted at plans to sort a few of these holes out at a later date via free updates.

With a bit of luck though, the mass amount of positive and cool features that are available, and there are a whole lot more of those than there are negative features, will surely make this device one of the most popular phones in the world, if it isn’t already.

If you get back later this evening with your iPhone, please feel free to leave a comment below on your first thoughts, and then check back in a week’s time letting us know if your opinion has changed in any way.

Enjoy, you lucky Apple Matters readers!

Comments

  • Living in Australia, I also hope the iPhone incorporates 3G before it makes its way over here. However, I think your article fails to temper your other concerns with one of the main benefits of the iPhone — that it’s software-based.

    So, while iPhone 1.0.0 has some kinks to iron out (and may be missing the odd video feature), I think we’ll find that Apple will listen to its customers and address these concerns in 1.0.1 and later revisions (eg. same handset - but, updated interface/applications).

    I do feel for the Ubuntu crowd, though ... hopefully there’s an in-store solution (or other) available to them.

    Adam Schilling had this to say on Jun 29, 2007 Posts: 4
  • Oops — re-read and found you did! grin

    My bad. Hehe!

    Adam Schilling had this to say on Jun 29, 2007 Posts: 4
  • Hehehe… time for all the little quirks & bugs to squish is the tiny little bit of compensation the rest of the world gets for having to wait for the device wink

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Jun 29, 2007 Posts: 371
  • I think Adam said right and it’s something EVERYONE IN THE WORLD is missing. The entire device is SOFTWARE BASED. So if there’s an issue or customers feel things need to change, IT CAN BE DONE and you don’t need to buy a new phone. Why are they missing this? Because the iPhone is the first EVER IN THE WORLD to do this and it’s going to revolutionize the way the phone market is.

    Imagine you got a Moto Sliver L2. well the L6 has iTunes and you want that. Current way: Buy the new Phone. New Way: Update the software on the phone.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Jun 29, 2007 Posts: 172
  • Not to disagree with you, xwiredtva, but the Prada came out before the iPhone, just to correct a point you made.

    Aaron Wright had this to say on Jun 29, 2007 Posts: 104
  • The only issue I have is not understanding what happens if I sign up for a contract with ATT and let it end or get a new phone. Does my phone become inoperable?

    What if I want to continue to use the old iPhone’s other features?

    GaryM had this to say on Jun 29, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Jobs said yesterday that there were two reasons he held off on 3G.  First was that he didn’t feel the chip set was mature enough and that it consumed too much power for their specs, and secondly that the current chip set was too large, again to meet their design specs.  He then stated that he considered the trade-off of power usage versus network speed, and felt with the automatic WiFi/EDGE switching capability that it was the best practical solution for this first generation iPhone.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118306134626851922.html?mod=technology_main_whats_news

    Dave Marsh had this to say on Jun 29, 2007 Posts: 44
  • If I need to use a computer when I’m out and about, I lug my MacBook Pro with me. Sure, it’s a little heavy, but I need the exercise. I also have a garden-variety cellphone. So what do I need this gadget for?

    Jon Johanning had this to say on Jun 29, 2007 Posts: 2
  • Jon…you don’t need it.  The iPhone isn’t for everyone.

    hmurchison had this to say on Jun 29, 2007 Posts: 145
  • I got an iPhone because (1) I need a phone as I lost mine a couple weeks ago (2) I am fortunate to be able to afford one right now.

    I like the idea of having to lug my laptop less and still be connected.

    BTW, this thing is freakin’ beautiful but unfortunately I am still waiting for AT&T to complete the activation process.  Until then the only thing I can do is call 911.

    Ray Fix had this to say on Jun 29, 2007 Posts: 21
  • Living in Australia like Adam Schiling, but at the opposite end of the country, Darwin, I agree with his comments about 3G. In fact I wouldn’t buy one without a 3G chip. At the moment there is no 3G network in Darwin but we do have “Next G”. We do have 3G phones up here but there are some features that will not work.

    Australians will know what I’m talking about so I won’t bore the rest of the world with an explanation about “Next G”.

    I don’t know if I’ll buy an iPhone or not. At the moment I’m not unhappy about having to wait, we will have 18 months or more for the thing to evolve and get whatever bugs there may be ironed out.

    Third party application availability is a concern to me as well, I have seven on my Palm LifeDrive that I use quite a lot.

    Cousin_itt had this to say on Jun 30, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Decided to visit your site today and had this errie bad feeling that there would be a column on “Apple Matters” telling me how the iPhone has all these flaws.  And true enough, it has some, but darn it if I can remember the last time I’ve visited Apple Matters and seen much for positive stories about Apple. 

    Whats up with all this?

    BigW had this to say on Jul 01, 2007 Posts: 10
  • I don’t think the majority of stories on Apple Matters are negative toward Apple, but if they are, then they are for a reason.

    This article isn’t intended to be negative, I think the iPhone is great and I can’t wait for it and because of this I thought it would be a good idea to give it a little defence before people start criticising it, forgetting it is a first generation product that is bound to have a few flaws.

    Aaron Wright had this to say on Jul 02, 2007 Posts: 104
  • xwiredata, not everything can be upgraded by software. Like, the hardware will always limit it, such as being only EDGE. The guys who dismantled it confirmed this.

    I’m reallylooking fwd to when the first person gets Linux running on it. smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jul 02, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • I find it funny that you have to have a computer to get the iPhone ready to run. It’s like having all the restaurant supplies and still having to plant the vegetables yourself. I don’t have an iPhone, because I like my old phone, I am one of those people who need it to call and receive calls.

    Cheyanne had this to say on Aug 31, 2011 Posts: 2
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