21 July 2008

iPhone 3G: One Week Later

When the iPhone 3G was announced on 9th June, I was immediately convinced that I was going to get one. Then I realised it still had a crap camera, no MMS and would probably cost me an arm and a leg. And then I changed my mind again just last week and ended up queuing outside an O2 store in Sheffield on Friday, eagerly awaiting their 08:02 opening and the launch of the iPhone 3G in the UK. (Queuing was actually pointless as the store quickly ran out of its stock of just ten iPhones, but I was luckily given a tip-off at lunch time and managed to get one from another store.)

iPhone 3GAnyway, I’ve now been using the phone for just over a week, so I thought I’d post some of my early and honest observations. I’m likely to go on a bit, so don’t read this on your iPhone because your battery will be dead by the time you’ve finished... ;-)

First impressions

It’s slick, easy to use, has a really smooth user interface, has some great features and, perhaps most importantly, it’s shiny! However, it does lack some features that many other phones have. And I’m not talking about a one billion megapixel camera (because the camera produces really good, sharp pictures), voice calling (who uses that?) or MMS (because I can live with using email instead); I’m talking about different profiles (e.g. silent, sleeping, work, meeting), the ability to delete individual text messages, display how many characters are remaining when sending an SMS to someone and other little things like that – but the innovative features definitely outweigh all these minor annoyances and these are all things that may still (hopefully) be added in future software upgrades.

App problems after first sync

Putting aside all the initial problems of getting my phone line activated with O2 and then activating the handset through iTunes, I was pretty happy with my new phone’s capabilities after playing with the App Store and downloading a few free applications. (If you’re interested: iPint, Alarm Free, Banner Free, BubbleWrap, TapTap Revenge, Facebook, Shazam and Midomi.) The problems came when I synced my iPhone with iTunes for the first time.

I don’t know whether the problem occurred because I had originally activated my iPhone on a different computer, but after syncing with my main desktop PC none of the apps I’d downloaded to my iPhone would work. Each time I clicked one of the icons, it opened the app for a second or two and then immediately closed it down again. After removing them from the iPhone and re-syncing, everything worked fine though.

Contact syncing issues

Given that my old Nokia N73 made a complete mess of my Outlook contacts when I tried to synchroise them, I decided to enter all my contacts into my iPhone manually with the intention of syncing them with either Outlook or my Google Contacts later. Last night, I decided to sync them back to a folder in Outlook (since my Google Contacts are a real mess due to all the times Gmail added people to my contacts just because I’d emailed them a couple of times). Oddly, not all of my contacts were transferred to Outlook. They were literally nowhere to be seen. I deselected the folder in iTunes, removed all my contacts and tried again. This time, iTunes managed to copy all my original contacts from Outlook to my iPhone – despite still not being able to see them all in Outlook!

After much confusion and experimentation with various configurations, I somehow managed to wipe all my contacts from my iPhone apart from the few that I could see in Outlook. So I then tried to sync with Google Contacts just to see what that would do. This was a complete waste of time because it synced all my Google Contacts, including the new “Suggested Contacts” groups which seems to include everyone I’ve ever emailed!

In the end, I decided to export a spreadsheet from Outlook based on my old N73 contacts, clean them up a bit and import them back into Outlook before syncing again. So far, everything looks good but this should have been so much easier! Things weren’t helped by the fact that iTunes has no contacts manager of its own which allows me to select which contacts to import (like it does for tunes and podcasts).

Something else I’ve noticed is that my contacts list can be pretty slow loading at times, although it does seem quicker when accessed through the Phone icon rather than the Contacts icon.

Visual Voicemail setup problems

Since I was porting my old mobile number across to O2, I waited until this had been done before I tried to setup my visual voicemail. After following the on-screen instructions, entering my chosen password and failing to save my greeting several times (the last step in the process would just keep reloading the page) I decided to phone O2 Customer Services. They suggested dialing 1750 to switch on Visual Voicemail (which I’d already done), switching it off and on again by dialing 1760 and then 1750 (which I’d already done) and even suggested a full software restore (which I had done before trying to setup it up for the first time). After being passed through two iPhone specialists, they decided I had a faulty handset and would need to return it. However, before I managed to hang up they suggested that I could dial 901 just to prove to myself that my voicemail was up and running. And guess what. Dialing 901 asked me to choose a password and record a greeting, after which my Visual Voicemail worked fine!

Actually, one further problem was that when I accessed my voicemail and selected a message, my screen was going black. After a few quick tests, it seemed this was due to my screen protector interfering with the proximity sensor. As a quick solution, I got my hole-punch and made three holes in the protector to line up with the light and proximity sensors which means everything now works fine! (And it doesn’t look as bad as it sounds either because you can’t see the holes for the case.)

3G and battery life

When the original iPhone was announced, many UK and European users were puzzled why the handset didn’t have 3G. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last year, Steve Jobs basically said that they didn’t include 3G because the chipsets were too big and would drain the iPhone’s battery too quickly. I seem to remember people all over the world complaining about this, demanding that Apple should let its users make that decision for themselves. This time around, Apple added 3G and many users are choosing to switch it off to gain more battery life.

My last phone had 3G, and moving from a 3G device to a non-3G device would obviously be a step backwards for me, so I had no intention of buying the original iPhone whatsoever. Of course, the irony is that now I’ve got an iPhone 3G, I’m using it with 3G switched off most of the time in order to save battery life! Generally speaking, I don’t even notice the speed difference though. The websites I use a lot while I’m on the move – like Google Reader, Facebook and FF To Go – have all been optimized to make them fast to download on mobile devices (including the many first generation iPhones without 3G).

The main problem with the iPhone is that it’s such a great mobile device that you want to play with it all the time, and that obviously means the battery isn’t going to last very long!

If I discover anything else about the iPhone which I fancy sharing, I’ll be sure to make a short post about it straight away, instead of making one massive post like this each month, which is what I seem to have been doing recently...

[Image courtesy of Apple.]

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Plenty of reasons not to buy an iPhone there. So what exactly makes it so great (other than the shiny)?

How bad is the battery life? I have a 3g phone and I can use it all day and still have 30% left on the battery.

It's a bit bad if you can't use 3G!

I am less jealous after reading that. Thank you. I played with one in the shop the other day and was impressed by the interface but I think if you take that out of the equation (How good is the keyboard by the way?) then it becomes apparent that this is possibly a low end mobile device with poor battery life.

All hail the Jesus phone. The greatest marketing success of the decade. what other manufacturer could get away with selling a "high end" phone with no mms, no proper camera, no proper bluetooth, no battery life etc and have people queuing in the rain like lunatics to buy one.

Face it Ruscoe. You are just a gadget whore. Come Christmas you will be selling it and looking for the next shiny box.
by Anonymous Anonymous  

By the way I also now know that I am down with the kids on this one.

A yoof saw my shiny the other day and asked what it was as he was looking for a new phone. I told him that a Blackberry probably wasn't what he wanted and suggested a Nokia N96 or an iPhone. He looked at me like I was an idiot and mumbled something like "...shit phone, no video, crap camera, no bluetooth".He gave the Nokia some thought though.

So there.
by Anonymous Anonymous  

Having used a Nokia for great part of my natural life, I have become acustomed to

a. not having to charge my phone everyday

b. if i do need to charge it - there is always a Nokia charge within 10m - even at a friends house.

Has this caused problems as yet - ie have you had the iphone die on you before you can get to a charger?

@Chris: I think I'll try to do a post about why you should buy an iPhone.

@Christian: The battery isn't that bad really. It's psychologically bad because it turns red when you've got 20% left which makes you feel like it's practically dead when really you have a good few hours left. I think I need to make some notes about usage and maybe do another post. (The iPhone tells you how long it's been on standby and how long it's been used after each full charge.)

@S Crayon: It's primarily a portable web browser for me and in that respect it's much more advanced than most other handsets out there. Of course the kids don't like the iPhone; you can't video your latest happy slapping episode and upload it straight to YouTube!

@Jon: Same here. Although with my N73 I was left without any battery and no charger on several occasions because Nokia decided to change the charger to a smaller socket on that phone, so old Nokia chargers didn't work with it. I used to use that for browsing the web loads via 3G and that really drained my battery. I'm sure the iPhone is no worse than my N73 in that respect.

The iPhone would be better if it used mini-USB in the phone so that you wouldn't have to carry your dock connector to USB cable around with you just in case the battery dies. So far, I'm yet to completely drain my battery. I think the closest I've been is around 10% left - and that was after the cricket last Friday where I was up at 07:00 AM, switching between 3G and Wi-Fi, taking photos and sending emails for quite a lot of the day and didn't get in until gone midnight. I reckon an overnight charge is required to keep it topped up for most users. And if you're going away for the weekend, either take your charger or switch off your 3G and don't fiddle with it unless you really have to!

I think the true battery test will come this weekend. I'm going camping from Friday until Monday and I don't have a car charger for it... yet!

Surely it's primarily a phone?

You spend eight hours a day in front of an even better web browser at work, eight hours asleep, a couple in front of your home PC. When exactly do you have a pressing urge to browse the web that could not a) wait or b) be done with a slightly inferior browser but better everything else.

As a web browser though it does appear to be pretty good (As long as you avoid those pesky flash sites!).

Happy slapping. That was going to be my next post.(I was very bored this morning.) I was going to enquire how you intend to carry on your favourite secret pastime. It's not quite the same when you have to get your victims to pose for a still.

Face it Ruscoe. You'll have sold it and be on to even shinier shiny by Christmas. Fact.
by Anonymous Anonymous  

You're right. It's actually primarily a mobile phone (and it's a good one at that). Then it's a an excellent portable web device (which also happens to run other applications and stuff). Finally, it's an impressive music player.

However, it's not intended to be a camera replacement or any type of video recording/calling device. So it does everything I need it to do. And it does it well.

So why do I need another web browsing device? Well, since I now have an iPhone, I am able to spend even less time in front of my home PC and more time in front of the TV, which is where you'll always find my better half... :-)

"...more time in front of the TV, which is where you'll always find my better half... :-)"

Why didn't you just say that in the first place? JesusPhone verdict - more time in front of TV with the missus.

Still gone by Christmas though.
by Anonymous Anonymous