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Living with iPhone

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So, I’ve been a bit negative in general about the iPhone. I’ve been steadfast with respect to my opinion that the product merges two products that just should not be composed, when one is an essential communications device. Last week I had an e-mail from some cousins in Australia (big hello to Beth and the gang) talking about the iPhone and wondering if I had any opinions on it; I decided that it was time that I tried it out rather than just ranting on about it. So I borrowed an iPhone that was badly hacked by some unknown person, re-installed the original 1.1.4 firmware and listened to what the good people at ziphone.org had to say. 😉 I told myself that through thick and thin I would stick with the device for 1 week, with an open mind, and see how things went as a user of the device. Here is my diary, Shane & Paul await with bated breath :):

Day 1: Paper clips, straightened out are a great way of installing your sim card if you don’t know where the special poker for releasing the sim tray went to. I charged up the phone from flat, takes ages by the way, and began my iPhone existence, fully charged at 1830h. First impressions, hmm, of course I love the interface, that’s why I have an iPod Touch, it’s spectacular. However, upon standing up to leave my computer and transfer my phone to my pocket as normal, stop! This sucker ain’t going to sit well in my jeans front pocket unlike my beloved Nokia 6233! I’m not wearing combats today either so, it’s the back pocket of my jeans if I don’t want to carry it and I better remember to remove it before I sit down, less I break the device. Already the iPhone is changing my life! Got my first text message too, ah ain’t that cute, it displays it like a chat conversation and tracks linked replies so you can trace back through what was said. I like that, perhaps there’s hope for this device to win me after all.

Day 2: On my way to Cork for the weekend and a friend’s birthday. Is it wrong that I didn’t want to be seen with an iPhone and tried to hide it for most of the time I was there? I felt like the emperor’s tailor had been around and the iPhone was analogous to something that shouldn’t be on display. Anyway, the iPhone works in Cork so I can confirm that it does indeed roam in other republics. 😉 At the party, where I was dressed as a Jamaican, the iPhone’s camera was pretty impressive. Nice big screen, the narrow aperture surprisingly left in plenty of light and the quality of the pictures wasn’t at all bad. Nice one! However, the good was quickly countered with the bad. Showing the phone to an interested party, the web browser was accidentally launched by a careless thumb twitch and off it went to connect to my GPRS provider without confirmation prompt. Anyone using a prepay sim in Ireland without some odd data agreement will understand when I say OUCH!! Anyway live and learn. My battery is now half dead having taken about 12 photos and accepted very few calls or SMS messages. Also Shane called me to ask for somebody’s number and when forwarding it on to him I noted that there was no send business card option or use number detail in text message option and I had to remember the number to retype it in a new SMS – that’s not exactly making my life easier. I’m a techie and a gizmo nerd, I can’t be expected to remember multiple digits for short spaces of time – I have a device to do that for me?

Day 3: Having enjoyed 48 hours of trying to remember people’s phone numbers to call them since the iPhone won’t read my sim contacts I decided it was time to do something about that problem. You’d think it would be easy and that Apple would have shipped some plugin for Address Book that helped you to sync via Bluetooth or otherwise but no, nadda. So, I went searching, and kudos to the good people at MacMedia and their product Phone Director which is actually responsible for my sanity still being intact. Phone Director allowed me to export my 6233 contacts via Bluetooth and into vcard format so that I could import into my Mac Address Book. That was the easy part, the 3 hours I spent thereafter removing the duplicates from my Address Book and merging contact details, etc that were stored on the phone and from my e-mail life was not so enjoyable. However, I guess it makes life more tidy, as long as I continue to use the iPhone of course, otherwise all that data will be lost on another phone format. Setting my alarm tonight for work tomorrow (I always use my phone as my alarm clock): why oh why can I not just set the alarm? Why do I have to create an alarm, set options and then finally set the time in order to wake myself up? By the time I’ve configured the alarm it’s time for the dawn chorus! 

Day 4: Battery needs recharging; it’s not flat but it’s in that worrying zone of little charge left. Stats on usage since last full charge are 4 hours 20 minutes of usage, 2 days 12 hours of standby and very little of that involved anything other than a few calls, SMS messages and a few photos. Since my iPhone had been broken out of jail, I was able to visit the independent application providers and see what was available (via WiFi of course). Downloaded some freebies, Towers of Hanoi game, and More Cowbell which is reason enough to buy an iPhone. Towers of Hanoi is a classic that goes up as far as 8/9 rings (can’t remember but cleared them all anyway) and More Cowbell is a picture of a cowbell that when the screen is tapped makes a noise like a cowbell. Rock on! Listening to some current chart song on the radio in the car and said to Siân, “this sounds like an old 80’s song, I’m sure of it”, she wasn’t convinced, “no, I know it, I think it was Bronski Beat or something”. Got back home, connect to WiFi, launch YouTube app, search Bronski Beat, found it – it was Smalltown Boy. I really like that the iPhone has a built in speaker (kind of essential I guess for a phone) but there are times when I wish my iPod Touch had such a facility. However, I am a little concerned that I’m remembering Jimmy Sommerville tracks from my subconscious. Amazingly enough I still haven’t used the iPhone as a media player, is that because I was off for the weekend and didn’t want to drain my battery because the iPhone doesn’t come with a mains charger? Subconsciously, the answer is probably yes. However, after charging it today I put some music and videos on the device so I could experience it as a media device too.

Day 5: Damn this phone really sucks in terms of picking up a signal! There’s enough metal on the back to act like an aerial bigger than 10 standard Nokia’s but for some reason I have almost zero signal in parts of the house that I have almost full signal on my Nokia. Went to Dublin today for a meeting and had to drive up in the car. Great, an opportunity to test out how the iPhone works with my Bluetooth car kit (made by Nokia). So I activate Bluetooth on the phone and pair with the car kit – great, that was easy, away we go. At the meeting had to turn the phone into silent mode and for the first time ever on a phone I was impressed by a mechanical switch that performs a digital action of silencing the device, with a comforting visual display and short vibration to let you know it is in silent mode. Now that’s good design, rather than searching through menus or even the quickest of shortcuts to the profile menu on your Nokia. One switch – off! Driving home that evening, I thought it was weird that I hadn’t gotten any calls at all in the car; I pulled into my driveway and checked the phone – 2 missed calls! Seemingly, even though I had paired the device with my car kit, it hadn’t actually connected to it that coupled with the noise of the radio meant that I had missed the phone ringing while driving home. More money spent calling back those numbers, oh well!

Day 6: Sitting in work today, the iPhone on my desk and a moment of drifting thought about something I was working on, I notice how I am drawn to the polished beauty of the iPhone. That silver, bevelled edge, that dark, black front giving the impression of almost infinite depth within the device – one could find oneself lost in the captivating design of this slab of electronics. A text message popped in: it was only then when I heard the loud chime from the phone did I realise that I could not set different volume levels for each tone on the phone like I have been doing for years with my various Nokia phones. Simple little things but they all add up in terms of getting along with a device and having it become unobtrusive in my life. Had to charge my battery again today, didn’t use the media player very much during the week as for some reason I only listened to music when I was working on my laptop this week and the context didn’t present itself. So, in short another charge for just basic phone usage.

Day 7: Lasting impression? Yes, it has left a lasting impression on me. Notably a financial one too from accidental GPRS connections on a prepaid sim and missed calls by failure to connect properly with my car kit (it does connect properly now though but unlike my Nokia I have to manually force it to pair each time I get into the car). I miss the simple expected things like different volume levels for ring tone and message tone. I love the SMS application but it really bugs me that it doesn’t show when I’ve gone over 160 characters or how many messages I’m actually sending in a multi-part SMS. I really don’t like the way that when you end a received call, the device goes back to standby and doesn’t give you a chance to close the phone app. I love the interface, it’s truly a work of art. I like that it forced me to organise my contacts properly, even though it was painful to do. However, there are so many things about the phone that just don’t do what I have come to expect a mobile to do in recent years and the form factor is just a little too big. Granted it’s a wonderful device to use for e-mail and the web but when playtime is over and it has to go back into your pocket, there’s the problem, people don’t spend all day using the device. That has always been one of my biggest gripes with mobile technology: the mobile phone needs to be small for convenience but small means unusable for anything other than being a phone/text device, anything bigger is an inconvenience. Dilema! So, while I won’t be rushing out to buy an iPhone just yet I find myself in the unusual position of not yet wanting to remove my sim from it. Oh dear! Have I been so captivated by some aspects of the device, subliminally brainwashed by its classic good looks? Am I an iPhone user?

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