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April 13, 2008

A Stranger in a Strange Land: a Windows Mobile guy meets iPhone

My brother, the cinematographer, is a Mac kinda guy. So, naturally he packs an iPhone of which he is very proud. While visiting me last week he was showing off the virtues of his iPhone with a bit of a smug air and a tinge of superiority.

He quickly established that the iPhone makes phone calls, surfs the Web, does email and SMS, takes pictures (but has no flash), and it does it all on a really cool, high-resolution, finger-friendly touch screen.

Perhaps a little reluctantly, he let me try it. The first thing I had to check out was the finger-friendly interface. Sure enough, you just touch any icon on the home screen, and the tapped application appears. I suppose this would seem cool to a cellphone user, but not too impressive to an old Pocket PC packer.

Within the application, you can use your finger to scroll around, but you can't use the keyboard or a joystick 5-way button because they don't exist. You can even zoom in or out on a screen or photo by pinching your fingers together or spreading them apart—very cool.

This is all well and good until you get to a Web page that has many hyperlinks such as the results of a Google search. Try to expand, contract, or scroll the screen, and the slightest touch invokes the hyperlink and drives you nuts.

The iPhone has neither keypad nor keyboard for inputting. Instead, it has a QWERTY popup input panel that requires finger tapping. The keys are far too small for my fingers that are on the gorilla side of the scale; the keyboard is more suited to the fingers of a five-year-old.

It must have taken me five minutes to type my first and last name without any errors. This is not my idea of productivity.

Oh well, the obvious solution was simply to use the stylus from my Windows Mobile device for more accurate inputting. I thought it strange that the iPhone didn’t come with one. I whipped out my stylus, started to tap the iPhone screen with it, and I thought my brother was going to have a heart attack. You'd think I was accosting his screen with a jackhammer. That's when we learned that styli do not work on the iPhone screen, which seems to require heat from your finger. I wondered if you can use iPhones outside in the winter. You can’t use them with gloves either.

We had been talking about a family member whose contact info I didn't have. My brother found it in his iPhone. "Great!" I said as I grabbed my Windows Mobile 6 Professional Phone. "Just beam it to me, bro."

"Huh. What's that?"

We learned that an iPhone cannot beam contacts, photos, files or anything else because it doesn't have an InfraRed port. Hmm... Apparently you cannot beam or synchronize wirelessly either even though the iPhone has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The iPhone comes with Bluetooth 1.2, not 2.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11 b, not b/g. Oh well…

I wanted to show him a bit of the surrounding countryside. I told him I had a universal Window mount that we could put his iPhone in, and he could keep track of our progress with his GPS. I just assumed that his fancy phone would have GPS. Nope.

Well, no problem if he didn't have built-in GPS. I told him I had a GPS program that included maps. All he had to do was plug it into his device, and we'd be in business. I asked him what kind of SD slot he had because I can accommodate standard SD, Mini, and Micro card slots.

What? The iPhone has no expansion slot. He informed me that the iPhone had no expansion slots because it had an 8 GB memory and didn't need any expansion. Of course, my device has infinite memory because it does have expansion slots that can also be used for certain peripherals.

His battery was getting low from all the texting he had been doing. (By the way, he could do SMS, but not MMS, and no IM either.) He couldn’t just slip in a spare battery because the iPhone battery is not removable. His iPhone had no car charger. No problem. I handed him a live mini-USB cable so he could charge up his battery. He had a questioning look on his face. That's when I found out that the iPhone does not use the almost universal USB connector. Bother...

During our excursion, the conversation turned to a topic about which I had written an article. I knew I couldn't beam it to him. So, I said I would just email it to his iPhone as a Word.doc attachment so that he could add his thoughts to it. That's when I learned that iPhones don't do docs--no word processing, no spreadsheets, no databases, no PowerPoints or anything else expected of a normal computer. You can’t even use an iPhone to move documents from one MAC to another. Hmm… You can’t connect peer-to-peer with an iPhone either.

Now I was curious about just what programs you could actually load onto an iPhone to increase its productivity. On the Apple site, I went to the iPhone section where I've heard boasts of over 600 applications available. Of course there are well over 12,000 applications for Pocket PCs, but you have to start somewhere, and iPhone is a new platform. I realize it will take a while for developers to catch up.

I was surprised to discover, no I was shocked to discover that there were few programs that you can actually download and install on an iPhone. Almost all of the applications reside on the Internet; they are called Web Apps. They remind me of Gadgets for Vista. You have to go online to use them. But what if you don't want to incur the expense of getting online or there is no connection available?

Most of the applications seem to be some kind of list tool of one kind or another to keep track of stuff from photos to songs to money to you name it. But, I hasten to point out that these are simple listings, not complex spreadsheet programs or relational databases. There was a fare share of games too--in other words, fun little applications, but no serious productivity tools.

My interest perked up when I saw a section called Productivity. This must be where they keep the cool stuff that let's you do actual computing. Nope. No word processors, no spreadsheets just more list keepers is about as serious as it gets.

Now it was my turn to give him a quick demo of what WM6 Professional phones can do. I started with the dual 3.0 MPX camera that takes pictures front and back and is set up for teleconferencing. Then I showed him how I could not only scroll in a finger-friendly fashion through various applications and on Websites, but also use a stylus and joystick. I showed him my actual QWERTY keyboard and a variety of screen input applications that go way beyond QWERTY. I showed him how I could beam stuff to other devices and printers using wireless technology consisting of IR, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. I showed him SD cards with mini and micro caddies. I demonstrated how I could create, edit, and read Microsoft office documents and send them to other devices. I showed him my built-in FM radio and how I could listen to Sirius and XM satellite radio as well. I let him see how I control my TV and DVR at home from my pocket pal from anywhere in the world and watch live and recorded TV on it. I couldn’t resist showing him the built-in GPS navigation, star gazing, and tracking abilities. I showed him some of my favorite peripherals such as a Bluetooth keyboard, printers, scanners, and video eyewear, none of which is available for iPhones. I showed him how I could access data and control my home office computer from my handheld. Then I hooked up my trusty little Bluetooth mouse and connected my pocket pal to my desktop monitor to demonstrate how it becomes an extension of the big screen and the cursor travels freely between them.

You can’t do any of this stuff with an iPhone. By the way, you are not going to increase your literary IQ on an iPhone either because they don’t do eBooks. How sad.

One of the things I enjoy most is just bossing my little pocket concierge around with voice commands to do my bidding and telling it to run applications, view photos, play music, and make calls. You can’t talk to iPhones; you have to poke them in the tummy with your finger to get them to do anything.

For sure, iPhones are fun, but when you want to do some serious handheld computing, you need a machine that means business and serves for more than poking fun at with your nose picker. I appreciated my tour as a stranger in the strange land of the iPhone, and thanks for the finger frolics, but I’ll stick with my far more powerful Windows Mobile Professional device.

Posted by conradb212 at April 13, 2008 05:35 PM