A while ago, I bought an iPhone 4.
For some reason, I immediately feel compelled to justify and excuse my decision to purchase it, which may say a thing or two about the cultural connotations of the device. Suffice to say it seems like the best phone on the market, and the weight of Apple’s enormous bulging app store is sufficient to balance out the phone’s ludicrously inflated price (yes it’s a great phone, but is it twice as good as an Android phone half as expensive? I doubt it).
Lawrence requested that I post a review, but I’m not structured enough on this blog for proper reviews, so this is what I always post when I’ve tried something I feel like blogging about: assorted thoughts and opinions.
I haven’t experienced any connectivity problems with it yet. I gather you have to put significant effort into holding it the wrong way to make it drop calls, and none of my natural ways of holding it have managed to break it. In performance terms, it also runs its operating system impeccably – an operating system with an interface that I can’t say enough good things about. I’ve even gotten used to the on-screen keyboard, which I feared might never happen – in fact my typing speed on the iPhone very quickly became much faster than on my old T9-phone.
One of my few problems with the interface is that it does seem to have a lot of hidden functionality that you can’t intuitively infer. I believe this is a consequence of Apple retrofitting functions that by all rights need to be on a device like this onto a phone with only two buttons. This means you get interactions like double-clicking the home button to call up a list of open apps or holding the home button and then pressing the sleep button to save a screenshot. These functions generally make sense, but I can’t see how you’re supposed to know about them without consulting the manual. In Apple’s defence, they do a good job of introducing you to many of these functions in a Getting Started booklet supplied with the phone and by sending you an email with tips when you register the device.
Another interface gripe which is none-the-less becoming increasingly annoying is that I find it difficult to move my cursor into the middle of a word. I could just be missing some sort of function (in which case please do let me know about it in the comments), but if I make an error in the beginning of a word, I don’t know how to place the cursor at the error to fix it without deleting the rest of the word – for example, were I to write extrtapolate, I’d like to be able to just put my cursor behind the offending t and push backspace to delete it instead of having to delete the entire -tapolate part. In fact controlling your cursor with any kind of precision often seems pretty awkward.
UPDATE: @supergarv was kind enough to inform me via Twitter that you just hold your finger on the word and the looking glass appears for exact control. I was certain I’d tried that, but I guess I was doing it wrong because I just checked and it totally worked. Basically, consider the previous paragraph an extra example of the problem described in the paragraph above it.
A smaller criticism is that the built-in email client isn’t quite as good as I’d like. It does do pretty much everything I need it to, but it doesn’t make it easy to keep my inbox organised, and it often fails to delete my emails from one of the two accounts I’ve set it up with. I’ve even experienced an annoying glitch where under circumstances I haven’t quite narrowed down yet, if I delete an email on my PC that I’ve already downloaded onto the phone, the iPhone’s mail client will get confused and delete the subject and the contents of the mail, but the mail itself will sort of linger in my inbox – undeletable, unopenable – until I turn off the phone and start it up again. Not catastrophic, but a bit of a nuisance.
But those are the bad things, and the good things are not only more numerous, they’re more important too. As I’ve mentioned, the app store is the iPhone’s main edge over its competitors for now, but having upgraded directly from an old 2G cell phone, the things that please me most are not really unique to the iPhone. The device’s calendar saves me having to carry my old Filofax planner with me everywhere, for example, and the built-in Google Maps app means I will never get lost again – as long as I have 3G coverage, at least.
The iPod functionality does everything I need from a music player, meaning I no longer have to bring both my old iPod and my phone with me, and even the iPhone’s camera is surprisingly decent for a built-in phone camera – thankfully it doesn’t compare to my Nikon D50, because that would be kind of sad, but I love the fact that I now have a fairly good camera on me at all times, in case of spontaneous alien abduction or similar.
I thought I might mention some of the third-party apps I’ve been using so far. Facebook and LinkedIn both have really good iPhone apps, in fact I think they both present their respective networks better than their actual websites. Tweetdeck works brilliantly on the iPhone, and I have a feeling I’m finally using the service the way it was intended to be used. I found a slightly crude but completely free app called BB Time Table that helps me remember my classes this semester. Endomondo is a great way to keep track of my route, distance, and average speed when I go out on my bicycle. I find that web comics tend to be viewed better in dedicated apps than through the iPhone version of Safari – Schlock Mercenary even has an official app.
In terms of games, Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor is a must-buy for displaying so far the best use of the iPhone as an input device that I’ve found. Bejewelled 2 is a legendary time-waster which happens to be perfectly suited for mobile play, and the same goes for Flight Control, which further has a type of gameplay that it’d be hard to imagine working well with any other input method. Jet Ball is a modern version of Breakout which probably disqualifies it for any innovation awards, but nevertheless makes it a highly entertaining game. And finally, Wolfenstein RPG and Doom 2 RPG are both very enjoyable first-person turn-based RPGs the way they used to make them back in the day.
If you’re thinking of getting an iPhone, get it for the huge app store and its super friendly interface design. If you’re after good value for your money, or if you’re really passionate about freedom of information, you should probably get an Android instead – hopefully the Android app store will soon be populated as well as Apple’s is. Either way, don’t worry about that antenna thing, that was blown way out of proportion.
Personally I’m just pleased to finally have portable access to Google Maps.