iPhone, 3 Weeks and 5 Points Later | iLounge Backstage

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iPhone, 3 Weeks and 5 Points Later

As you might already know, the last three weeks have been a whirlwind for me—the iPhone was released a week before my wedding and subsequent honeymoon, so I didn’t have anywhere near as much time as I wanted to share my personal thoughts about the launch, the phone itself, the software and accessories development that we’re currently following, and the big iPhone picture. Having caught up on most of my e-mail and the backlog of products that demanded my attention upon my return from Mexico, now’s a good time to put some of those thoughts in writing for those who might be interested.

(1) The Launch: I’m inclined to call Apple’s handling of the iPhone launch “masterful” in almost all regards: beyond the marketing campaign, it managed to manufacture enough iPhones to just about meet day one demand, then replenished stocks over the next couple of weeks in just enough quantities to maintain the perceptions that the device was popular and a bit of a challenge to find. By July 4th and 5th, we struggled only a little to find two extra units to purchase as surprise “thanks for your help with our wedding!” gifts to our families, but an online order placed for a third unit still isn’t scheduled to be fulfilled until more than three weeks after it was purchased. Anecdotal evidence suggests that early estimates, floated by AT&T, of a million or more first-weekend iPhone activations were very substantially overstated, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear that nearly or exactly a million had been sold by now. That’s great considering that it’s taken Sony eight months to sell a million PlayStation 3s in its home country of Japan at similar price points.

Apple’s only errors with the launch were probably intentional. The company starved and pissed off a lot of developers and journalists who wanted advance access to the iPhone for legitimate reasons, and we heard lots of stories about people who really shouldn’t have been standing in lines having to stand in lines. Additionally, we saw and heard evidence that people were getting paid to wait for other peoples’ iPhones; Dennis spotted a group of migrant workers getting paid off at one Apple Store on launch day, and as much as it’s tempting to say, “great, that’s capitalism!” the whole “let’s form lines” thing just doesn’t feel right on some level. My sincere hope is that Apple can pat itself on the back for having accomplished its aims on this one, and with requisite self-satisfaction in the knowledge that it could repeat itself if it wanted to do so, refrain from trying to turn future product launches into similar circuses. Hype gets old. This time, it got old before it was even over. Next time, people mightn’t be as inclined to go along for the ride.

(2) The iPhone Itself: In total, I’ve had seven iPhones in my personal possession on either a temporary or permanent basis since launch, which when added to the rest of iLounge’s staff brings our cumulative total up to 12, with number 13 currently on its way to Jesse. I’ve also been following external comments from readers regarding their hardware and software experiences, and, of course, doing probably a bit too much testing and note-taking given that I was on my honeymoon. Take these thoughts for whatever you think they’re worth, but realize that they’re grounded in more than a fair bit of actual testing and experience at this stage.

iLounge has prided itself on fairness in our reviews, and having written most of them myself, I can say that even with over a thousand reviews personally under my belt, I think virtually everything’s been given a fair pros-and-cons treatment over the years—there isn’t a review I’d take back and say was hugely wrong. Despite the time pressures involved in the iPhone review’s assembly, and the necessarily swift treatment of many of its features, I still feel comfortable with the opinions and the ultimate B+ rating rendered a few weeks ago. There are some things about iPhone that I’m absolutely loving: the 3.5” video screen, the excellent iPod audio interface, the great-sounding phone calls, and the generally strong web browsing, even over EDGE. If it wasn’t for the device’s storage capacity and battery limitations, I’d replace my iPod with it in a heartbeat.

But those are still very legitimate issues. Between the video, music, and photo content I have here, iPhone just doesn’t have enough space for the stuff I want to carry around. Perhaps because I use it more actively than the typical person, or perhaps because the battery life’s just not enough for my needs, I’m finding that I’m sometimes not making it through a full day without using the charger. As bad as certain old iPod batteries were, that was never an issue for me in the past—unless you’re traveling, it’s hard to play that much music or that much video content in a day. Additionally, as a former SideKick user, I’m still not loving iPhone e-mail as much as I should, I still hate the monthly cap on SMS messages, and the absence of true iChat messaging is really awful. I’ve been trying to get used to Jivetalk, the competent web-based iChat wannabe for iPhone, but Apple really needs to step in and do iPhone messaging right—without the web interface.

Hardware reliability issues continue to concern me, too. After the touchscreen died on one of our iPhones (as noted in the review), and having seen a unit with problematic side controls—plus, knowing that other people have had similar issues—I’m really wondering how long my personal iPhone’s going to keep working, and what happens when it stops. If I’m within the warranty period, it looks like I can go to an Apple Store and get a same-day replacement, but if not, am I going to need to give up my phone for 3 days? The one thing you hear about from companies with three-year warranties is that they do that to give customers “peace of mind.” Right now, I really need some peace of mind, Apple, and even if it’s not going to come in the form of a three-year warranty, there has to be a way to make customers feel comfortable for the two mandatory years of our AT&T contracts, no matter what. I can’t wait for this to happen.

(3) Software: Congratulations to all of the developers who have been working on Web 2.0 applications for iPhone: you’re doing a great job, and the collection of programs continues to grow. Admittedly, the only one I’ve personally found a repeated need for is JiveTalk, but the Flickr (iPhlickr) and games apps are promising. I really hope Apple finds a way to further open the iPhone to third-party programs, because they could be a lot cooler and more powerful than they are now. Few developers apparently have the skills to put together software like JiveTalk, and fewer still the diligence to continue updating the software over and over again to improve performance. We’ll be interested to hear what the turnout is like for the upcoming iPhone Tech Talk sessions—will they draw dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people? The future of iPhone software will be a lot clearer when the sessions have ended.

(4) Accessories: The single biggest disappointment with iPhone is how it interacts with many iPod accessories, especially ones that I happen to have more or less permanently installed in my car. Right now, it doesn’t work in any way with my car’s stereo, despite the presence of two separate and totally different Dock Connector-equipped cables running into the A/V system. These types of issues are the strongest reminders that, despite Apple’s claims to the contrary, iPhone really isn’t the company’s best iPod ever. It has the best screen for video, and the best music navigation interface Apple’s ever put into a pocketable device, but it’s not right to call it an iPod when it doesn’t work seamlessly with really anything previously released, save for iTunes.

(5) The Big Picture: One thing that my brain keeps coming back to again and again is this point: remember what people thought iPhone would be like? If not, take a look at these concept galleries: 1, 2, 3, and 4. Apple outdid so many of the visions people had for the device, which is pretty impressive considering the array of concepts that were suggested, and the more minimalist approach the company could have taken with its features. While I can’t go as far as some people have, and say that I think iPhone is actually “the cell phone of the future,” or a replacement for any of my computers, I do think that its underlying technologies (EDGE aside) and features are a hugely impressive start down the road to amazing portable devices. Issues aside, Apple did a really good job overall with iPhone, and given what we’ve seen with iPods over the past few years, it’s only going to get better over time.

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Comments

1

I think some of the iPod-related issues—headphone jack, incompatible accessories, etc. are one of the biggest disappointments of the iPhone. There’s just no excuse for the fact that the line out adapters I use in my car and with my headphone amp at work are non-functional.

That said, with the exception of battery concerns, it’s the best cell phone I’ve ever owned, and makes the rest of them look cheap and lazy.

Posted by mattwardfh in Texas on July 20, 2007 at 5:56 PM (CDT)

2

Congratulations on the wedding!

Having used the iPhone since launch, and having used a lot of cellphones for 10+ years, I can say with all honesty that this is the best cell phone I’ve ever bought. Granted, the concerns you and a lot of people have (even me) with the battery and EDGE, IM integration and my personal pet peeve, no ActiveSyc are completely valid. Having said that, I’ll take this phone at this price point (and maybe even higher) over any phone out there. From the hardware design to the awesome simplicity and ease of use of the UI, it’s just head and shoulders above anything out there and makes my previous phone, a Motorola V3 RAZR look like a Nokia 5150.

And most of all, and please nobody flame me this is just IMHO, but I think iPhone users are holding history in their hands. 10 years from now, when everything is touch-screen based, we’ll look back and say this is the year that touch-screen was brought to mainstream consciousness. I believe this when two of my favorite gadgets right now, the Magellan 4040 and the iPhone have 5 mechanical buttons total between them.

From reading numerous blogs about the iPhone pre-launch, it seemed like a lot people weren’t ready to let go of buttons. Count me as one of the minority that can’t wait to get rid of them.

Posted by morpheus.com on July 20, 2007 at 8:04 PM (CDT)

3

Jeremy, good article.

I think your protection concerns have already been answered with the Apple announcement of AppleCare availability.  From what I read, the battery issue was over-criticized and should be a non-issue.  Non-Apple users are going to be pleasantly surprised at Apples policy of prompt and steady upgrades.  Work has begun frantically on adding ActiveX, and even Java and Flash plug-ins for the browser.  Best wishes with your iPhone.

Posted by hardmanb on July 20, 2007 at 10:05 PM (CDT)

4

I personally think that your concern about hardware reliability issues may be misplaced. If this were any other company, I may agree. But from my experience Apple stands by it’s products.

Earlier this year, I had an iPod with a broken click wheel replaced, 3 months after the warranty expired, without any hassle.

My iPhone screen also started to malfunction this week. I went to the Apple store, a genius swapped my sim into a new phone and I was out the door in 10 minutes. I didn’t even have to sign anything! What other company can you say that about?

There are many other examples over the years.

I’m sure there are horror stories as well, but from what I see, Apple stands ahead of the rest in this area.

Also, I can’t imagine life without my iPhone. It has changed the way I work and made me much more productive.

Posted by Steven on July 21, 2007 at 12:30 AM (CDT)

5

Work has begun frantically on adding ActiveX, and even Java and Flash plug-ins for the browser.—hardmanb

ActiveX is a Microsoft technology. It doesn’t exist for Safari on Mac OS X and should not be allowed on iPhone. ActiveX is not part of web browser and is a reason why IE (and therefore, Windows by extension) has security problems. And IMHO, only foolish webmasters design their web sites using ActiveX.

Posted by svenzhenbord on July 21, 2007 at 2:29 AM (CDT)

6

^^^^^
I meant “ActiveX is not part of *standard* web browser”.

Posted by svenzhenbord on July 21, 2007 at 2:52 AM (CDT)

7

I just received an email today from AOL about AIM Mobile - looking at the service (which is only available in the US) it appears that the iPhone is listed as being suitable for downloading the AIM Mobile client to?

http://mobile1.aol.com/mobileaim/find?ncid=AOLMBD00230000000003

Not sure if this will improve your chat experience?

Posted by Bob Levens in UK on July 21, 2007 at 7:48 AM (CDT)

8

For the reader - Apple has said that the headphone is recessed because people might yank it in and out all day unlike an ipod and they wanted it stronger - no idea if it’s true or not - just the reason Apple gves for recessing the jack.

Second, while the SMS is capped at 200 with the “base” price - the thread feature is great and more than makes up for it - with a lot of phones, you also hope when you says YES, you are guessing at what he question was ... plus with access to FlickIM or others, you can chat all you want on Edge.

It’s easy to pick at it but basically if you make a list of it’s 50 best features, at best the competing might top the iphone in one category and if email is not that big of a deal to you - then the iphone is clearly the best cell phone ever.

Posted by jbelkin on July 21, 2007 at 3:45 PM (CDT)

9

To use your Belkin Auto adapter, select the iPod button on your phone first, then plug in the dock connector. Music will play thru your car stereo just fine after that. Calls will not play thru the speakers though, so have your bluetooth headset on hand!

Posted by cydeweyz on July 22, 2007 at 3:05 AM (CDT)

10

Am I the only one who really wants cell phones to be simpler, not more complicated? For those who want the iPhone, more power to you. I’d prefer that my non-Apple cell phone drop instant messaging, text messaging, built in cameras, and other odd features that I never use. Phone engineers should work more on things that matter, like increasing signal coverage areas.

Posted by FloydC on August 6, 2007 at 11:53 PM (CDT)

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