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Apple iPhone - 3 months later

Living with the iPhone

by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

Well, I've lived with my iPhone for over three months now. How do I feel now? Do I still think it changed the world as I so boldly stated when I first got mine? Yes, I do.

I get a lot of gadgets and gizmos. Some fascinate me and I use them for a while. Most sort of fade away and get replaced with new ones that come into my office. Every once in a while, one becomes part of my life. The iPhone has. That may have something to do with the fact that getting an iPhone means signing up for two years' worth of phone bill payments to AT&T. Can't ignore that. I mean, it's a lot.

But the iPhone has become part of my life. For many reasons. Its sleek, sexy good looks certainly help. It helps that the screen is not only bright and sharp and just plain terrific, but you can actually view it outdoors and in bright light. I hate screens that wash out when I need them most. And it doesn't smudge nearly as much as I had feared.

I asked other members of my editorial contributor team to tell me how they like their iPhones, and here's their feedback:

  • A nice, sleek device
  • Very easy to use
  • Very user friendly
  • Nice size
  • Good sound quality
  • Just the right features
  • Very good camera and camera features
  • Cool ringtones, but would like more options
  • LOVE the weather feature
  • LOVE the new touch interface
  • Excellent battery life
  • A total conversation piece!
  • Phone often had a lot of hiss and white noise in it.
  • Dropped an alarming number of calls (AT&T issue, but bad for Apple)
  • No Flash support in Safari
  • Can't do videos

I mostly agree with their assessment. As a phone, I must admit, the iPhone is not without flaws. I am very sensitive to noise, and there is more scratchy background noise in the iPhone than I like. And the number of dropped calls should be a total embarrassment to AT&T (then again, we're talking about an industry where "fewest dropped calls" is used as an advertising point). But all that really doesn't matter that much as the iPhone is somehow more than just a phone.

I love to be able to take a picture and email it to someone without having to use some phone company's convoluted proprietary service. And the camera is actually good, not like virtually all other cellphone cameras. It's great to be able to do email, IM, and web browsing pretty much anywhere. The iPhone is pretty good at transparently switching back and forth between EDGE and whatever WiFi network is available for use.

What about Safari? What can I say? Apple's Safari implementation on the iPhone is so far ahead of anyone else, it's just plain amazing. How can they get it so consistently right when no one else can? The "pinch" method of zooming in and out by touching the screen with thumb and index finger and then either pinching or moving them apart is just briliant, and it always works. Or double-tapping to make Safari zoom so that the current column fill fits the screen size. I also like being able to quickly switch between up to eight open Safari sessions (though occasionally I've wanted more). Is it perfect? Not totally. Safari has on occasion simply crashed on me.

What about all the criticism and drawbacks, all the stuff the iPhone haters bring up as reasons why the iPhone is only, oh, perhaps sixth or seventh or 17th on the list of decent smartphones? Yes, there are some areas where the iPhone is lacking (no Flash, no push email, no video, and so on) but that hasn't dininished my enthusiasm. Flash would be nice and I am sure it'll happen. Ditto for video. Push email? Well, if you need it, then the iPhone is indeed not the right choice. But none of this really matters because the iPhone's appeal simply transcends comparison. It's not about checking boxes on a feature list.

For example, above I quoted a contributor saying "Let's do an article about how you used to be a productive guy but now all you do is poke a screen." Far from it. I actually write notes and whole article outlines on the iPhone and then email them to my Mac. Since I can actually use the web on the iPhone, I don't need to wait til I have a desktop PC or notebook available to do work. So productivity hasn't suffered one bit. Au contraire.

Well, I must admit that I also use the iPhone for fun. You may not be able to install programs on it (at least not officially), but all those specially formatted websites are really undistinguishable from local applications. I have spent hours just playing "Bejeweled" on the iPhone. My son plays chess on it. And the numerous iPhone portals that have sprung up are hugely useful. Having a real browser makes all the difference in the world.

What about the $200 price drop so soon after the initial release? That was perhaps one of Steve Jobs' few bad ideas. But at least he did something about it. I have my $100 credit voucher and may just use it to get an iTouch.

So after three months with the iPhone, my bottom line hasn't changed:

"Apple did it again. What can I say? They simply have what no one else seems to have. That's all there is to it."

Until further notice I stick with that.