Last Thursday, thanks to some tips from friends, I stood in line at the University Village Apple Store and came away with iPhones. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have waited in line for something like this, but I was tired of going to conferences with my 5 year old Nokia 6600. Conferences are about the connecting and talking and so forth, so improving my communications capability means improving my effectiveness while I’m at a conference. In any case, I spent a remarkably short two hours in line, bonding with my fellow crazies, and came away favorably impressed with the shopping experience.
I don’t go to the Apple Store that often, because it’s just too inconvenient, but the service from the folks at the University Village store has been so good, that they’ve pretty much assured themselves of being my first stop. Over the course of several transactions, they’ve given me customer service which way above any other merchant that I’ve dealt with (yeah, I don’t buy much stuff from Zappos). Like many Apple stores, employees handed out water, umbrellas (to keep the sun off), and repeatedly walked the line to make sure that people had as much straightened out as they could before they got inside the store. In my case, at least, all that pre-work paid off. I think I spent maybe 15 minutes with a human being in order to look at colors, purchase and activate the phones, port phone numbers, and look at cases (which I ended up not buying). By the time I walked out the front door of the store, I was using my phone with my ported phone number. I know it should just work like that, but cellphones have been so much trouble that I actually am impressed anytime something actually works the way it was supposed to. Yes, my expectations of the cellular industry are that low.
As for the phone itself, I couldn’t be happier. Well, if the thing tethered and had a 16 hour internet battery life, I would be happier. I really like the large display. The onscreen keyboard is workable, and I don’t think I’ve given it enough time. I hope that it will be more aggressive about suggesting completions, and that I will get the hang of it more. It still beats typing on a regular phone keypad though. I don’t know how Apple could get a real keyboard onto the device without reducing the screen size or increasing the form factor, neither of which I want. I don’t expect to be writing a lot of e-mail on this thing, although it will be nice to actually respond to message at all, something which was impractical on the Nokia.
The biggest issue for me is the battery life on wireless data. I am going to be pounding this thing on that front over the next week, and I am definitely worried about running out of juice halfway through the day. According to reviews, the iPhone is near the head of the class in this dimension, so it’s not like another choice would produce a better result. It seems like a long way from 3-4 hours to 16, that’s for sure.
Safari is getting new lease on life on my desktop machine, as I’ve been grabbing sites from my Firefox bookmarks and making Safari bookmarks that can then be synced to the iPhone. Takes some of the typing sting out. It also makes me glad for 1Passwd, and I think that it will be a good thing when the iPhone version of this app finally gets approved on the AppStore
I’ve installed some applications, and am reasonably happy with them, although I have had a few application induced phone restarts. I really want a good, easy way to read PDF’s on the phone, although I do think that the screen is too small for the kind of reading that I want to do. Another application that has gotten a new lease on life is Evernote. I’ve had a copy of this since the early beta, but never really used it much. I can see that this is going to change, especially since the iPhone’s Notes app doesn’t sync to anything on my desktop machine. I just discovered that you can’t edit Evernote notes on the iPhone. This seems like a glaring omission, and I hope that it is just a matter of time before this is corrected.
Now that I am traveling more, I am expecting to get a lot help from this phone. I already have TripIt on my home screen, along with the Yelp and Where apps. If people have more travel related suggestions, leave a comment. One thing that’s been kind of disappointing is the GPS. It eats batteries, so you have to be pretty careful if you are really pushing the phone hard. Also, in my home area in Kitsap county, we are predominantly an EDGE kind of place. It seems like the GPS is much less effective when you are on EDGE vs 3G – I’ll test that assumption a bit more this week in Portland.
I’m sure that I’ll have a lot more to say about this after a week of using the iPhone at OSCON.