15 August 2008

iPhone 3G: It's the little things...

In my last post about my new shiny gadget, I pretty much pointed out reasons why you wouldn’t want to buy an iPhone 3G. I’ve now had it for just over a month and I’m still loving it. But why?

It’s so easy to take the iPhone for granted. Tasks like browsing the web, sending and receiving emails, writing text messages, taking photos and (this next one is shocking, I know) actually making phone calls are all relatively painless and can be done without having to trawl through various menu options on a tiny keypad or remember shortcut keys. But here are a few small features which have made me realise how much I appreciate all the little things the iPhone does. (Disclaimer: These features may also be available in other handsets but my old Nokia N73 didn’t have them.)

Corrective predictive text

Predictive text on most phones is pretty good. But if you accidentally press the wrong key, your phone is never going to be able to spell that word properly. Thankfully, the iPhone also guesses what you were trying to spell. This is especially useful given that there’s no tactile feedback when pressing the keys, so it’s quite easy to hit the wrong one by mistake.

I can’t spell anything

It’s not perfect by any means but it definitely saves me time when sending text messages.

One number, many contacts, no problem

Back in the old days when mobile phone address books just stored a single phone number against contacts, I used to have separate entries for e.g. ‘Jack’ (mobile), ‘Jill’ (mobile) and then ‘Jack and Jill’ (home). Then when mobiles started to allow multiple details to be stored against each person, I split them out so that Jack and Jill’s home number would be stored against each of their individual entries, meaning I had ‘Jack’ (mobile), ‘Jack’ (home), ‘Jill’ (mobile) and ‘Jill’ (home).

Of course, if someone called me from Jack and Jill’s home number, the phone wouldn’t know which contact it was so it would simply display the number which is completely unhelpful. What does the iPhone do in this situation? It tells me that Jack Spratt or Jill Hill is calling!

Jack Spratt or Jill Hill

Furthermore, if they have the same surname, it just tells me Jack or Jill Hill is calling:

Jack or Jill Hill

It starts to cheat a bit after that though:

Tony Ruscoe or 2 others

This is such a simple enhancement but it impressed me when I first saw it.

Integration with my Garmin nüvi 610T sat-nav

My Garmin has built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling. With my N73 hooked up, I had to manually dial the numbers I wanted to call from the sat-nav. Hardly hands-free calling. But with my iPhone, the Garmin can access my entire address book and recently dialled numbers, making it much easier to make calls.

Headphone-related niceties

Using the supplied headphones, you can pause and skip tracks. So if you want to listen to the real world around you or skip an awful album track, you don’t need to dig your iPhone out of your pocket.

If you’ve got music playing and you remove the headphones from the iPhone, your music is automatically paused. This is good because it means you don’t have to wake your iPod and stop it manually, and you don’t risk annoying others around you like you would if your music continued to play through the speakers. On a related note, if you do choose to play the music through the speakers, you’ll see that the iPhone has different volume levels for headphones and speakers. This is such an obvious feature but not all devices do this.

I’m sure there are lots more features I’ve forgotten about too. Whenever I come across one in future, I’ll try to remember to make a note (on my iPhone, natch).

If you’ve got an iPhone, which thoughtful features do you think makes it stand out from other handsets? Or are there any features that are annoying the hell out of you?

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But can you get 3G access in the Forest of Dean?

Maybe... if I had any battery left.

I've never had any complaints with the phone, battery life has always been fine, and I love the "corrective" texting too. But the most useful thing I've found is how simple to use and how quick the GPS is. Recently (as in a day ago...) we got a little lost in Pisa, popped the old phone out, and it knew pretty much instantly where we were and showed a lovely map of where to go to get back to civilisation. I appreciate most phones with GPS will do this, but the iphone just does it quicker and better, though I'm not looking forward to the data bill...

So you thought about/plan on doing any development for this iPhone?

I've been messing about with the SDK, Obj-C is a bit tricky to pick up with all their [square brackets] when compared to good old Java.

I thought about it, downloaded the SDK and then realised that you need a Mac. Most of the applications I've thought of have already been done anyway and there's no point littering the App Store with more duplicate apps!

im not liking mine,i've just posted it on do you remove the predictive/corrective text on the iphone though? is there a way?thanks.

I love my i-phone. However I find the abc buttons on the text querty keyboard a bit small and therefore often hit the wrong one. and I only have small hands!!! I have amac and you should all get one - they're brilliant - much much much better than windows !!!

I love my i-phone. However I find the abc buttons on the text querty keyboard a bit small and therefore often hit the wrong one. and I only have small hands!!! I have amac and you should all get one - they're brilliant - much much much better than windows !!!

@adc - I don't think I'd ever want to turn it off completely but have got a bit frustrated that I can't use txt slang like "ur" (corrects to if) and have to keep hitting the word to stop it doing it.

My P990i had a pretty good predictive text and a tactile qwerty keyboard. I kind of miss it but I do like the fact you can shift over one key to the right and it still picks up the correct word. It'd be useful for Windows to incorporate the same design!

I also made the mistake of downloading the SDK forgetting I don't actually own a Mac. Am in mid-negotiation of borrowing my mates whilst he is in Rio developing for a Mac company to try it out, who knows, the experience may switch me from *Doze to Apple!

As for the great features, the browser is definitely the most useful thing on there after the email and text/phone capabilities.

The GPS is only good in the right hands, as a driver it's pretty useless when you are lost asking you idiot brother to find your position when you've got no signal and the GPS isn't behaving (N.Yorkshire moors!)

I am finding more and more that most of the app store apps are rubbish duplicates of most of the core functionality with only the fact that they back up better than iTunes does being the only reason to use them (see EverNote + Mobile Fotos / AirMe for prime examples of this)

I would really love to see iTunes done away with as the main method to sync the iphone and have a proper iphone centric app instead.

After jailbreaking at 1.0.2 I had some great custom apps like "Categories" which lets me condense my 8 pages of apps down to 5 types of folders (tools, travel, social networking, games and location based) and having Mario and Sonic noises instead of the default ones is a real bonus. Still waiting to get hold of the 2.1 windows version (another reason to be a mac owner!) I had just got it customized how I wanted when 2.1 came out and in upgrading I lost everything on my phone and the backup made wouldn't restore without dropping back to 2.0.1 which I didn't want to do and lose the batt life...

My current issue is backing up my iphone contacts to my outlook without losing my iphone contacts (which is what led me to this blog) I've yet to find a one-way sync off the iphone that guarantees my data isn't going to get wiped.

Any ideas? (sorry for the essay!)

Issue solved with contacts, choose to backup to Outlook on my PC (was empty, all contacts are on my work laptop) and just choose Merge instead of Replace when iTunes prompted it. Seems I have a working backup.

Also winPwn 2.1 has just been released so I now have that to play with to restore my customizations. Happy days!