iPhone: One Month Later

iphonecalendar.jpgOne month ago today, I waited on a 3-hour line in Edison, NJ to buy my first iPhone. Shortly thereafter, I posted an entry about switching from the BlackBerry that proved to be quite popular.

Thomas Hawk is regretting his iPhone purchase. Do I feel the same way?


Sure, I have my issues with the phone. But it’s still the most fun I’ve ever had with a cell phone, and I’ve been productive using it.

Audio Quality

This has been a nice surprise. I knew that listening to music would be great on an iPhone. It’s an iPod, after all. I didn’t realize how good phone calls would sound on an iPhone, particularly through the ear buds.

earbudclip.jpgI could never get my Bluetooth headset working well and consistently with the iPhone. Too many screens to navigate to get it turned on/off. On the BlackBerry, it took 2 mindless clicks to activate/deactivate Bluetooth. On the iPhone, it’s at least 4 (Settings -> General – Bluetooth -> on/off) and that gets old fast. So I keep the earbuds plugged in at all times, managing the cord tangles with a Belkin earbud clip. If I want to take a call in the car (bad, I know), I just keep the right earbud in place, as New Jersey law doesn’t require hands-free conversations to be wireless.


I’m getting a lot of dropped calls. But I can’t say for certain whether it’s more or less than I was experiencing on my BlackBerry. It think it’s just AT&T. I currently live halfway between Philadelphia and New York City, so I rarely have an issue with 3G signal, although the strength varies wildly, often moment-to-moment.

Ease of Use

I’m getting better at two-thumbed typing. Still not nearly as fast as I was on the BlackBerry, but it gets the job done.

I understand that the iPhone’s simplicity is part of the design appeal. It makes a clean, beautiful demo. However, there are some things that could make the device much easier to actually use. I wish I could bookmark settings screens so I don’t have to keep digging for them. I wish there was a way of sorting icons alphabetically, or by most recent use. I currently have 3 full screens of apps and bookmarks, and try as I do to keep them organized by category, that doesn’t always stick. I’m spending too much time scrolling back and forth between screens trying to remember where a certain app icon is.

I wish there were more shortcuts. Double pressing the home button launches iPod controls if the iPod is running, the Favorites screen if it’s not. How about letting us define for ourselves what happens on double press? How about letting us program a favorite app to launch on 3 presses? How about speed dialing? Too many taps to find a contact and call them.

App Store

It takes a great deal of discipline to budget app purchases. Way too easy to click the “buy” button, and those purchases add up quickly.

Some of my favorites that I’m regularly using:

  • I’m reading a lot thanks to eReader. Light fiction is the way to go if I’m reading a few pages at a time while on boring lines. I’m currently enjoying Stephen King’s Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series.
  • twittelator.jpgMy favorite productivity app is Appigo’s To Do (a bit steep at $9.99) because it syncs beautifully to Remember the Milk. While RTM has a great iPhone interface, with To Do I can add tasks without relying on a connection to the Internet.
  • I’m not a big fan of useless apps, so no bubble wrap or light sabers for me. But I do enjoy some solitaire (Platinum Solitaire for $3.99 is my favorite) when I have some time to kill.
  • Pandora. With only 16GB of space for everything, I don’t bother syncing music from my desktop. Pandora plays just what I like and want to hear, even if I don’t realize I want to hear it until it starts playing.
  • Twittelator. (shown) I’ve tried all the Twitter apps currently available, including Om’s favorite, Twinkle. While I don’t love Twittelator’s tendancy to crash, I prefer its interface (except for the tiny fonts on long tweets) and features to the others.
  • GoContact. Another way to get around the iPhone’s lack of copy/paste. Send contact data to others via SMS or email.
  • Evernote. I wasn’t entirely thrilled with either the desktop or web versions of the clipper/notebook app, but with the iPhone version I can now have information readily accessible no matter where I am. Truly a case of the sum being more than its parts.
  • 1Password. Easy and secure access to all my desktop passwords.

Some disappointments:

  • Salesforce. Currently the app is read-only, which is fine for looking up information but I also need to add records to our Salesforce database. This is not the app to do it. Yet.
  • WordPress. I was hoping to do more with my blogs from the iPhone than post. It’s a good start, just not very useful for me right now. I use Safari for blog management, but it’s awkward.
  • GrandCentral visual voicemail. There is no way to play archived GrandCentral messages on the iPhone.
  • Poor overall shopping experience. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, the app store great. But it’s terrible for browsing. I can listen to a 30 second sample of a song and have all the information I need to make a purchase. I need more when I’m shopping for software. I hope Apple takes all the feedback they’re getting and puts it to good use to improve the experience for both developers and end users.


I feared this would be a issue, and it was. I have data fetching set to hourly, brightness dialed down, and wifi on request only, yet the best I can get is around 4-6 hours of active use. This includes the time using the phone as an iPod, which is where I often run into problems.

A few weeks ago I was on a business trip to South San Francisco. I unplugged the fully charged phone from my MacBook Pro at around 2 pm and headed to the city to walk around and meet friends for dinner. While on the BART, I read a few chapters in a novel, played some solitaire and checked my email. I listened to podcasts and music while walking around the city and used GPS now and then to make sure I walking in the right direction. I should have paid more attention to the battery than I did. I knew I had to make a phone call from the station to get a ride back to the hotel at the end of the evening, and by 6 pm I was seeing the red low battery indicator. Thankfully, my dinner companion had his MacBook and an iPod sync cable with him, so while we ate, my iPhone was getting precious juice from his computer under the table.


For a phone that you use only to make phone calls and send text messages, 4 hours of active usage in between charges is plenty. For a device that is used as often and in as many ways as an iPhone is, the battery charge is never enough.

Nowadays, I charge my phone whenever I’m in my car, that helps. I also carry the Kensington Mini Battery Pack with me in my purse. Fully charged, it gives back about 70% of the iPhone’s battery life. I picked this one over other options such as the Richard Solo device because of its small size. I haven’t had a concern with the battery since that trip to San Francisco.


I bought the iPhone for many reasons, the most significant being the browser. I am not disappointed. Most websites just work with the iPhone, even if navigation can be awkward at times.

As Apple works out some of the software kinks, the experience will only get better.

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