Phone Conversions

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I’ve become a fanboy.  I keep telling myself no, but slowly I’m coming to terms.  Last week I picked up an iPhone (bought off ebay so I wouldn’t have to extend my ATT contract).  So I’m going to list some thoughts, and I’m going to compare it to my steallar little Nokia E70 that I had before.  This should hopefully be both similar and contrasting to something that a good friend Michael wrote here on his phone changing experiences.

Let’s start with the Pro’s of the iPhone:

  • Beautiful large display screen
  • Novel multitouch navigation
  • Accurate GPS
  • Almost Fully Functioning Web Browser
  • Nice Looking Applications

The Screen

The screen is on par, if not better, than the screen on iPod 5th Gen that I have, and at over double the size it’s amazing.  I’ve been watching Dr. Horrible on it and just amazed at the clarity (this also really gets me interested in buying movies and shows off iTunes, except for their crappy interface for letting me download my content onto multiple computers). Applications look great and you can see details almost on par with my 1920×1200 Mac Book Pro.

The Multitouch

The multitouch is a neat thing to play with for a while.  Similar to DS stylus, this can add a lot of functionality for some stuff and can make for frustrating user experience for other stuff.  Moving around Vay (http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=284940607&mt=8) a remake of a Sega CD RPG is horrible, while moving around Google Maps is great.

GPS Functionality

The GPS functionality almost makes me want to drop the money for an iPhone SDK and learn Objective C, because it’s accurate enough that you could make a lot of neat apps for it (and looking at the app store people are already starting).  This is my first time having built in GPS in my phone (my car has an awesome GPS system in it) and just imagining the possibilities of things you could do with it has me excited to see what other developers can come up with.

Safari in your pocket

This would be the one thing I think that makes it worth while to get an iPhone.  Although the Nokia’s browser is pretty good, some of the stuff it does can really ruin a web experience (not rendering CSS right, sometimes barely rendering anything at all).  As someone who does web development for a living, and whose secondary job is just keeping up with all the new developments and sites coming out on the internet (Lynn keeps me well informed), this is almost a necessity.  I don’t think I could ever go back to an experience less than the standard the iPhone has set, the large screen, speedy connection and near full featured experience has really made me question how I could live with out it.

Look at the pretty little app

The application designs for most things, looks great.  I’ll talk about the cons of the UI a bit later.  The applications with reflective surfaces and easy to understand buttons.  Every app has a very iPhone feel to it, and you are fairly comfortable moving between apps without the bone jarring feel of a completely different layout, and completely different icons.

Now on to the cons:

  • Text entry sucks
  • The UI layout is pretty bad
  • Working with iTunes and multiple computers is impossible
  • Just using touch controls is irritating

Text Entry or how the helk van u tuoe on thus thomg

Coming from the Nokia E70 with it’s flip out real QWERTY keyboard to the iPhone’s virtual keyboard was and still is a real challenge.  Typing on the Nokia had the feel of a real key being depressed and the keys were big enough to type with my thumbs, typing on the iPhone has no tactile feedback and the touch screen makes for some pretty inaccurate key presses when trying to use it to type in the vertical position.  I’ve read enough about it to know to just type the words you’re trying to get and the iPhone will hopefully figure out the word you’re typing and replace it when you hit space.  That works somewhat, however, as someone who prides himself on not using all the acronyms that have sprung up, and who tries to spell everything right, this is annoying when you type in a full word, only to realize that the iPhone has no idea what you’re typing.  Even when everything is working perfectly and it’s correcting my typing mistakes I still type slower than on the real Nokia keyboard.

The UI

The UI on the iPhone really annoys me, menu’s are the worst offender, where you have to hit the upper left corner to go back to the previous level.  The problem with that layout is normally I’m using my right hand to hold and navigate my phone, so I have to move my thumb up to the top of the phone to press the button or I’ll have to bring a second hand into the action, with the phone laying down this isn’t a bad thing, but I hardly ever use the iPhone on a flat surface.  Other things about the UI bother me, how it takes more than one key press to bring up certain things like voice mail.  The whole SMS process, while neat that it displays it in a chat like format, is extremely hard to use and figure out.

iTunes and multiple computers

While I generally like iTunes for managing content on my iPod the iPhone is a different story.  Unbeknownst to me, who figured it would work just like an iPod, I setup my iPhone on my MBP laptop, intending to also set it up on my home desktop since I tend to keep only one copy of my downloads and then just connect the device to the computer that has what I want.  Once I got home with the iPhone and attempted to set it up to my desktop I found out that I couldn’t actually access my items on my desktop without first syncing it to my desktop and losing everything, which would mean that I would no longer be able to sync it to my laptop.  This is annoying because this system has worked for almost a year with my iPod with no problems.  Now I have to make sure that my PC and Mac sync up and share their iTunes libraries so that I can access all my content, not a major problem, but a giant inconvenience.

Only Touching

This is probably a giant limitation to the iPhone.  I understand they were going for the sleek and elegant look and didn’t want a bunch of buttons and knobs and whatnot on their phone, however this limits the iPhone to just the touch based approach, and honestly somethings would be a lot better with a different mode of input.  What I’m imagining is actually similar to the DS, where you would have a little directional pad and maybe a button or two.  This would allow you to navigate certain programs (like the RPG mentioned above) that aren’t conducive to the touch only mentality.

Overall

The iPhone is a neat gadget and some things like the web browser really make an experience for me.  However I think that I might be happier with my Nokia as a phone and an iPod Touch as a web browser (if I could get one that would connect to the internet via my Nokia’s bluetooth connection and use the GPS functionality of the bluetooth GPS receiver).  It’s a nice phone and well designed, but I feel like there are some fundamental flaws in the way it does things and the things that it does really well have nothing to do with actual phone functionality.  I’m going to stick with the phone for a while to see how it fares after more than a week’s use, I’m hoping I’ll grow to understand the reasoning behind some of the things I think of as flaws, and if not, then at least there are some Android phones down the pipeline, not to mention some really cool stuff coming out of Nokia.