posted by David Adams on Wed 1st Aug 2007 06:25 UTC
IconI was there, the first day, buying the iPhone, after months of reading all the speculation and argument about it. I was actually on the fence on it. When I walked into the Apple store on June 29th, I wasn't even certain that I'd be buying the iPhone. I had some serious concerns. But I made the plunge. I bought it, and I've been using it heavily ever since. With one month clocked with the iPhone, here's my road test report.

So I wasn't sold on the iPhone when I walked into the Apple store. There was the laundry list of deficiencies that had been circulated pre-release: slow network, no third party apps, no expandable memory, no replaceable battery, no GPS, and no real keyboard. The keyboard was actually my greatest concern, because I figured that some of the items on the laundry list could be addressed with software and/or policy updates from Apple, some could be addressed with hacks, others might turn out to be not that big of a deal. But that keyboard was there to stay.

After enjoying the initial euphoria of the iPhone interface and included apps, I settled down to the keyboard. I really liked it. Though my fingers often hit the wrong keys, the iPhone's magic compensated for my errors, and gave me rather fast, relatively error free typing. I'm a decent touch typist on a full keyboard, maybe 80wpm. I have never used a Blackberry or Treo for an extended period, so I didn't have any muscle memory for a small thumb keyboard to overcome. On the handheld side, I've been a long-time proponent of handwriting recognition. Back in the day I was a devoted fan of my Newton MP2100. And once I mourned its demise for several years, I became quite the graffiti artist on a succession of Palm devices.

To be perfectly honest, any handheld input method is going to fall short of a full-size keyboard, so we're dealing with degrees of suckiness here. But the iPod's on-screen adaptive keyboard is good enough as to be almost not sucky. I sometime mangle words, and they're not fixed, and I have to backspace and peck it out slowly. Overall, though, a good experience. The keyboard is pretty good. And I had that figured out within fifteen minutes, so I got out the credit card and I bought the iPhone.

On a side note, here's a handy tip: I find it annoying to have to shift to another screen to use a period, comma, or apostrophe. But I discovered a cool feature that's not immediately obvious. When using the punctuation keyboard overlay, you can hold your finger down after hitting the ".?123" button, slide your finger over to the punctuation mark you want, then let go, and the keyboard springs back to the default letter overlay. Still not as fast as using a more complete keyboard layout, but I love both proper punctuation and small gadgets, and this will have to do. So score one for the iPhone.

One of the biggest problems some people have had with the iPhone has been Apple's deal with AT&T, but that one was a no-brainer for me. I'm actually getting ready to move into a new house, and the only carrier with decent service at that location is AT&T, so I had already decided to make the switch, and was just waiting for my Sprint contract to expire. So I know AT&T is evil and has sold out its customers to the NSA, and opposes net neutrality. But all the carriers suck, and this carrier lets me take phone calls at my house. Also, as for their "fewer dropped calls" claim, I have found that it stands up, at least compared to my experience with Sprint.

What do I love about the iPhone? It's just the right size, allowing for a big bright screen but small enough so I don't feel like I'm Maxwell Smart talking into a shoe phone. The screen is awesome. It has wi-fi. The iPod software is very well-designed. It's great for watching videos. Visual voicemail is the best thing to happen to voicemail since you stopped needing a cassette tape in the machine. I tend to hoard messages, and I hated having to listen to a bunch of saved messages to get to the one I wanted. The widgets like Weather, Google Maps, Calendar, etc, are cool. The email app is very usable, as is the web browser. And pretty much everything about how the iPhone works as a phone, from the address book, to the on/off switch for the ringer, to the virtual keypad is refined and user-friendly and place it at the pinnacle of mobile phone design.

But I'm a gadget freak, long-time mobile computing junkie, and a professional software guy and user interface designer. There have got to be some things about the iPhone that really could be better, right? Oh yes.

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