Posts Tagged 'iPhone'

When Pigs Fly! (Day 110 – The Completion)

So, this is really a catch-up/close-out article to my When Pigs Fly! series covering my experience with switching to the iPhone.  You can check out the previous articles here: Day 44, Day 7, Day 3, and Day 1.

Just a random picture that I think is awesome

Why “close-out”, you ask?  Well, after 110 days with the iPhone, I finally sold it off via Craigslist.  To the credit of Apple (and the iPhone), it was very easy to sell, and I was able to get top dollar for it – around $300.  That money was then used to purchase a T-Mobile Vibrant (Samsung Galaxy S), but that’s for another post at a later date.

A natural question to ask, then, is “why”.  Why did I sell off the iPhone?  What, if anything, was wrong with it?  Truth be told, I’m not sure that I can fault the iPhone for a whole lot.  The 3GS was a nicely-built handset – probably the best I’d ever had – while also being very stable, generally speedy, and accomplishing most everything I’d asked of it. 

It wasn’t perfect, however.  I had a few crashes and/or times when the phone *seemed* to lock up for a few moments (they call that being “unresponsive”), although eventually it would return to normal.  Occasionally the device would lag – especially in the animations involved in returning to the home screen (which you do ALL THE TIME), but it mostly kept at a nice clip.

My biggest complaints, however, are perhaps (for many users) among the top reasons for wanting an iPhone in the first place: the Apple ecosystem, and the “yet-another-iPhone” factor.

Let’s discuss.

THE ECOSYSTEM
Basically, there is no escaping the Apple ecosystem when you begin using the iPhone.  Part of the phone activation has historically involved the iTunes software, getting apps onto your phone involves an iTunes account (the constant request for credentials when installing new apps is ridiculous), backing up your phone contents online involves the MobileMe service (from Apple, naturally), the default email signature says “sent from my iPhone” – and all of this while you’re using a phone with a bright n’ shiny silver apple on the back of it!  If you love Apple and all they stand for, then you’re probably fine with this.  If you loathe Apple (and all they stand for), then this is tantamount to unrelenting torture.  If you’re somewhere in-between, well, then you’re probably somewhere in-between.  Technological purgatory, I believe.

This isn’t just an Apple issue, though, as all of the major smartphone OSes have similar requirements.  An Android phone really isn’t being used properly if you’re not signed up with Gmail, Google Calendar, and other Google-centered services.  The Windows Phone is likewise centered around a Windows Live account.  It’s the way things are done these days, but I’m not a huge fan of it.  I use what I want to use, and I don’t appreciate being man-handled toward iTunes, Gmail, Hotmail, or what have you.  Thanks, but no thanks.

All in all, I probably suffered at my own hands in this regard.  Although I was willing to switch to using an iPhone – at least for a time – I wasn’t really willing to commit whole hog to their ecosystem, and, quite honestly, I shouldn’t have to. 

My $.02 on that matter.

YET ANOTHER IPHONE
I was at a birthday party a few weeks ago, and I noticed something sickening startling about halfway thru: at least half of everyone there was sporting an iPhone.  It may have been a higher percentage, to be honest. 

Now, imagine if every other person there had driven up in a dark blue Volkswagen Jetta (maybe a beige Toyota Camry is a more fitting choice).  What would the general reaction be?  Personally, I’d feel pretty lame for driving the same car that everyone else has. I suppose that generally sums up my feelings on the iPhone world.

This may also be best handled in its own blog post, but I’m one of these people that has grown up wanting to look different, listen to different music, act differently, and (generally) go outside the “norm”.  You’d think that Apple’s long-running  “Think Different” campaign would strike a chord with me, but I actually find it rather humorous how non-different the Apple world is.  Their phones, tablets, laptops, and accessories essentially look identical.  There’s nothing “different” about them, when you get right down to it, despite their marketing campaign to the contrary.  In fact, when I began using computers – back in the day – Microsoft Windows was “thinking different”!  Funny 🙂

Let’s get back to the point, though.

The mere fact that I was using yet another iPhone finally became very much of a sticking point for me.  Everywhere was iPhone, iPhone, iPhone, and it got tiresome.  Is that petty thinking?  Perhaps, but it’s honest.  What would I do, then, if “my favorite phone” suddenly became the overwhelming favorite amongst most people?  I probably wouldn’t care a whole lot, to be truthful, but it’s also worth mentioning that the other major platforms (Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, etc.) actually give you choice in what type of phone you’re buying.  They can look different, feel different, and often suit your personal preferences.  Call me crazy, but I like having some choice. 

Weird, I know.

LESSONS LEARNED
All in all, I’m rather thankful for my time with the iPhone.  I went through with the experiment, I did my time, and I got to see how the other half lives.  Quite frankly, though, I’m surprised at a couple of conclusions that I’ve come to. 

#1 — The iPhone handsets are far nicer devices – both in build and quality – than most of the phones out there.  Sure, they’ve had their issues, but they’ve also raised the bar for what consumers expect in a phone.  I’m amazed at how major manufacturers (I’m looking at you, Samsung!) continue to produce phones that feel like toys, creak in your hand, and cannot even seem to get basically functionality dialed-in.  At least Apple appears to really pour over their designs before releasing a new (or updated) device.  I like that.

#2 – Apple doesn’t really have it all nailed when it comes to UI design. 
My understanding (and what I believed *everyone else* believed) was that no one could hold a candle to Apple when it came down to user interface design.  After my time with the iPhone, however, I really (truly, honestly) don’t buy that at all.  They get a LOT right with the iPhone, for instance, and then throw in some very random interface decisions from time to time.  It’s not that you can’t eventually figure things out – you usually can – but it surprised me how often they would make interface decisions that appeared to follow no standards whatsoever – even their own.  Need to change some settings in the Maps app?  Just click the corner page curl, even though no other program has anything like that.  Need to delete a contact from your Favorites page?  Easy, just click on the “Edit” button, then the newly-revealed red circle (which now turns sideways), and then click the Delete button.  So random.

That said, if the iPhone UI is occasionally random, then the Android interface is extraordinarily random – much of it due to 3rd parties adding their own touches, nuances, and applications.  The most consistent UI that I’ve seen thus far (you can argue “best” or not, if you like) is actually found on the Windows Phone.  It is surprisingly simple, consistent, (at times) stark, and yet feels very current.  I’ll give a full Windows Phone write-up at a later date.

SO, WHERE TO FROM HERE?
It’s already been mentioned, but I finally switched from the iPhone 3GS to the T-Mobile Vibrant.

Yes, back to Android, and I wish I never had.  More on that later.

Between selling the Vibrant and purchasing my current phone, however, I borrowed an iPhone 3G (non-S) from my good friend who was gracious enough to loan it to me.  I can say this, though: it’s a good thing that I didn’t start off with a 3G, because that phone had some performance & stability issues.  Perhaps it was just that particular device, but  my understanding is that iOS 3.13 on the 3G handsets is generally known to be underwhelming.  I would call that “confirmed”.  The 3GS (and iPhone 4, I assume) is a much better experience.

Otherwise, that’s about all I have to say on this matter.  I would like to thank my wonderful wife for putting up with my technological fickleness, as well as my friend, Andrew, for the conversation/banter over the years.  Good times!

Thanks for reading.

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When Pigs Fly! (Day 44)

jobs-unicorn[1] It’s been awhile since I posted on my “switch to iPhone” journey.  In fact, it’s been roughly 37 days since my last entry.  I’m still alive, my iPhone is still kickin’, and I haven’t been mocked into hiding…yet.

Actually, it’s pretty funny because an event that occurred earlier week was *exactly* what I had been expecting, and yet has happened quite infrequently thus far.  Basically, a co-worker was in my cubicle, my phone rang (and I had to grab this call), and while I’m answering my iPhone, his eyes get wide.  He mouths the words, “YOU…got an iphone?”.  I nod “yes” while continuing my conversation.  The mocking was implied and brief, but ended there.  He’ll probably end up with an iPhone too someday soon.

So, the ridicule has been relatively light, which is somewhat unexpected.  What has gone as planned is that my “utter Apple hatred” has diminished quite a bit, and I find myself feeling much less aggravated at Apple-based coverage, seeing people carrying iPhones, and all that jazz.  It’s a good thing, actually, and part of what I was shooting for – to be less emotional about technology.  No one needs to care that much.

HAS IT ALL BEEN FLOWERS AND BUTTERFLIES?

butterfly and flower_248_tcm4-20860 How can I best sum up my iPhone experience thus far?  In a word: uneventful.  I mean that in a good way.  Whereas my Android experience was wrought with aggravation and times of “oh, I guess I can’t do that”, the iPhone is stable, clever and easy-to-use.  In fact, my biggest emotion in all of this hasn’t been frustration at what Apple has been able to achieve, but rather baffling disappointment at what other phone OSes (and vendors) have NOT been able to achieve.  Honestly, it’s sad.  For all of the success that the Android platform has managed, that whole world is a mess, in my opinion, and is only getting worse with each new Android phone, modified branches of their OS, and sub-standard performance.  It’s ugly.  These phone vendors have had years to get their act together, but don’t seem to be able to.  Personally, my hope is in the next version of Windows Mobile – Windows Phone 7 – which I’m very excited about.  A nice phone + my beloved Zune Pass = one happy camper!

But you probably don’t care about that stuff.

One of the most important things to remember about testing a phone (or any platform, for that matter) is “time”.  Spending 1-week with a device really doesn’t give you an accurate representation.  I would run into this time and time again as members of the XDA forums would tout how a new ROM for their Android phone was “rock solid and fast as heck” – and this after using it for 30 minutes!  Heck, even my posting on my iPhone experiences after 7 days of usage wasn’t entirely accurate.  At this point, though, having used the iPhone for a month and a half, I feel like I know this phone fairly well.

Let’s talk about that.

GIVE US THE STRAIGHT SCOOP

I can sincerely say that the iPhone is a very stable phone, and I’m thankful for that because I’m still using a method of “unlocking” that requires me to connect to a computer when I reboot the phone.  Ugh.  Thankfully that hasn’t been an issue.  Best that I can remember, I haven’t restarted my phone in the past 4 weeks, which is great.

iphone_sadNote: just as I was typing this blog entry, my phone kinda…freaked out.  Pressing the phone button (to call voicemail) gave me a blank screen, and then I received a “sad iPhone” graphic which was followed by a “safe mode message”.  I was able to recover without restarting the phone, but the timing was absolutely classic!

Other sticklers for me are “performance” and “performance-over-time”.  Thankfully, the iPhone performs quite well in general, though that is to be expected since the processor is one of the fastest currently used in mobile phones.  Still, the OS must be taken into consideration as it has to load/unload memory on a regular basis, and in that regard the iPhone OS is surprisingly capable.  Now, I have found that the phone is “chugging” more than it used to – and I see it most often in the screen animations, which can chop from time to time.  Certainly a phone restart would resolve this and make it feel “fresh” again, but that wasn’t really my point, was it?

Of course, stability and performance don’t really account for much of anything if the phone itself isn’t very usable.  The iPhone is, of course, the “king of usability”, or so you could argue.  Spend a few minutes with the phone, and you’re ready to use it in most any fashion.  Still, it’s not perfect.  One of the biggest grips I have is with the Mail application that, for whatever reason, thinks you need to see your folder view before your Inbox.  Switching between my Yahoo! Mail and my Exchange mail, for instance, is a series of many clicks.  If I’m in my work Inbox, as an example, I have to click back to the folder view, back again to my accounts, click on my Yahoo! account, and then once more to get to my Inbox.  That’s fine and dandy, I suppose, except that most of us spend 98% of our time in our Inbox.  It ought to be the default location when I click on an account within Mail.  Hopefully the 4.0 iPhone OS will fix this, but we’ll see.  For most things, though, the current iPhone is far more useable than most devices on the market.  Kudos to Apple for that.

iphone_notification There are some obnoxious things, too.  The iPhone likes to “push” information to you – new email notifications, Facebook updates, text messages, and so on.  Personally, I like to have *some* information pushed, and the rest I’ll check when I get around to it.  In this case, I have my email checking automatically on an hourly basis, with no notifications aside from the homescreen badge stating “9” unread messages, or something like that.  Unfortunately, the Push Notifications live up to their pushy name with screens like the one to the left.  I see that screen almost every time I launch the Words With Friends app.  I’ve connected with iTunes, of course, but it didn’t help.  I could turn off the Push settings as well, but I don’t really want to.  How about a “don’t show me this message ever again” option?  Nope.  For that matter, I really wish that the iPhone would never, ever mention iTunes unless I was in the Music app (which I don’t use).  The tether that this phone has to iTunes is ridiculous, if you ask me.  That said,  you’ll never, ever get Apple to change that.   Such is the nature of the beast.

THAT’S ALL FOR NOW

So… just a passing update on my iPhone use.  All is pretty well, though I do have my eye on those soon-to-be-released Windows Phone 7 devices.  Not until they’re out on T-Mobile, though, so I’m in iPhone-land for a bit longer 🙂

Thanks for reading.

(Note for full-disclosure:  I began writing this post on April 30th, but finished it and posted in on May 3rd – in case you’re wondering why the day count/post-date doesn’t quite add up.)

When Pigs Fly! (Day 7)

SteveJobs_KoolAid My view of Apple has long been one of the “Kool-Aid Factor”, with Steve Jobs selling you something that you neither needed nor necessarily wanted.  I’m convinced that Mr. Jobs would gladly saw off your leg and sell it back to you – at a profit to himself, naturally.  Some of that stems from my long-held anti-Apple bias, but also from what I’ve seen from him over the years – namely, not a whole lot other than a slave-driver mentality and a “be the best no matter what the cost” work ethic.  Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs is probably both neurotic and slightly genius, though he’s done wonders for Apple Computers.  No doubt about it.

Anyhow, enough of that.

So, it was just over a week ago that, after much sweat + toil + tears, I switched to an iPhone and blogged about the experience.  After a few more days, I blogged again.  It’s blog-a-mania!  Part of me wishes that I would’ve had nothing but hassles and problems with the iPhone.  (That’s the anti-Apple part of me, if you hadn’t figured it out.)  The other part of me just wanted to have a phone that I could be happy with, and the iPhone seems to have satisfied that, for the most part.  Honestly.  I don’t have a lot to complain about, and the complaints that I do have are pretty nitpicky.

IT’S ALL RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS

unicorn-rainbowThat heading is a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course, but my experience with the iPhone over this past week as been overwhelmingly positive.  It turns on when I want it to, checks my email, browses the web, takes pictures, connects to wifi, makes calls, ends calls, uses my Bluetooth headset (without hassle), and so forth. 

As well as those other things, it turns out that I’m “messing with my phone” less than I used to, and I mean that in a good way.  With my Android phone(s), for instance, I felt like I was constantly fiddling with things – settings, volume, killing apps, freeing memory, and so on.  I felt like I was doing more work than the phone was doing, which gets old quickly.  With the iPhone, though, I’ve really been more focused on what I *do* with the phone, rather than the phone itself.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE DETRACTORS

Well, I guess I was one of the detractors, wasn’t I?  Truth be told, I rarely had anything bad to say about the iPhone itself.  My beef was (and has long been) with Apple as a company, and thus my unwillingness to use their products. 

Yeah, I heard that <snort> in the background.  The irony is thick.

There are a few things that folks have knocked the iPhone for over the years:  lack of  multi-tasking, closed ecosystem, no physical keyboard, uncustomizable, lack of “copy & paste”, dropped calls, battery life, no removable battery, lack of Flash support, and others.  Let’s hit on some of these issues.

  • Multi-Tasking:  So, the iPhone does NOT have true multi-tasking as we understand it.  If I’m watching a YouTube video, click the Home button, make a call, and then go back to the YouTube app, I’ll find that I’ve been bumped out of the video back to the select screen again.  The real question is this:  is that a problem?  Both Android and Windows Mobile (6.5 and earlier) have real multi-tasking, which is often touted as a “feature”.  In my experience with both platforms, though, it really ended up meaning that the user needed to work at keeping the apps killed or under control.  In fact, one oftaskiller[1] the first apps I would install on Android is “Taskiller”, with it set to ‘kill background apps’ – and this was just to keep the phone running reasonably snappy.  Sound familiar?  I’m basically trying to emulate what the iPhone does by default.

    When it really comes down to it, multi-tasking should be used in scenarios where it makes sense.  How many things can I really do at one time on my phone?  If I can do more than one thing, is it sensible to prefer that over snappy system response?  Personally, I don’t think so.  I’m also hearing that the upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series will “multi-task” similar to the iPhone.  They’re being pretty much worked over for making that choice too, but I think it’s the right one – at least for now.

  • Closed Ecosystem:  Yeah, the iPhone ecosystem is shut tighter than the Bill Gates’ estate.  Apple has always maintained strict control of their devices, and the iPhone is no different.  I wouldn’t expect this to change until Apple sees it really hurting their bottom line.  Until then, they get to call the shots on what people see, what people use, and (for the most part) how well it works.  I don’t agree with this standpoint, but I don’t disagree with it either.  It is what it is.
  • No Physical Keyboard:  Apple certainly chose this for aesthetic reasons, but the truth is that their virtual keyboard works great.  In fact, I can probably type faster on the iPhone keyboard than I could on my old T-Mobile Dash.  I’m annoyed when trying to access ‘symbols’ to type, but even that works out over time.
  • iPhoneSnoreUncustomizable:  Truth is, *every single iPhone* looks the same.  Sure,  it might have a funky case on the outside, or a wacky wallpaper on the unlock screen, but past that they are identical: a wall of colorful icons.  You can move the icons around, as I have, and even choose to have none on  your homescreen, but hardly anyone does that.  An iPhone looks like iPhone.  Is this an advantage?  Sure.  Apple knows what every iPhone user is going to have in front of them, so supporting it – both for the end-user *and* developer – is much easier.  The down side?  Well, it’s a bit boring.  In the Apple world, we would all have walls of icons, brushed metal status bars, and screens that suck into the trash can like a Ghostbusters gun.  I’d like to see Apple take their mastery of the UI world, and put it toward giving the end-user some real, creative control.  Now *that* would be amazing.
  • Cut & Paste:  This functionality was added with the release of iPhone OS 3.0.  It’s handy and all that, but (honestly) I rarely have a real need for it.  Glad to have it, but the world wouldn’t end if it wasn’t there.
  • Dropped Calls:  Mud has been slinging since day one on the issue of the iPhone dropping calls regularly.  Since my buddy Andy has seen about an 80% decrease in this behavior since jailbreaking and moving (back) to T-Mobile, I’m going to pin this issue primarily on AT&T and their bloated network.  That said, I *have* noticed that my iPhone drops signal more quickly than my previous phones, so there is something there that Apple should own as well.
  • Battery Life:  I’m calling this a relative non-issue.  With most options turned on by default – push email, wifi, Bluetooth – every phone I’ve used has had pretty poor battery life.  The iPhone has faired as well as, if not better, than the MyTouch3G.  Figure out what you *need* to have on, and then turn off the rest.  Dialing back the “push email” to check every hour or so will definitely help with battery life.  Do you really need to have email *instantly* sucked down to your phone when you’re working at your desk – in front of your primary email client — for 8 hours per day?  Yeah.  I thought not.
  • Lack of Removable Battery:  I hear that the next iPhone *might* have a user replaceable battery, but I’ll believe it when I see it.  In the meantime, the geniuses at Apple have to replace the battery for you – and at a significant cost.  That sucks.  Thankfully, the iPhone batteries appear to hold up pretty well, and most people I know go through phones so quickly it probably doesn’t even matter.
  • iphonewithflash[1] Lack of Abobe Flash Support
    Steve Jobs claims that adding Adobe Flash support would absolutely ruin the blemish-free iPhone experience – both in performance, and in battery life.  I call “lame”.  Let users choose to run Flash if they want.  Personally, I don’t really care.  I find *most* Flash-enabled websites to be obnoxious, but “choice” is nice.  You know, choice?

THAT’S ENOUGH FOR TODAY

Alright.  Let’s stop beating this worn-out piñata and call it a day, shall we? 

All in all, my iPhone experience has been very good so far.  Not perfect, mind you, but very good.  I’ll rant about some of those things in a few days.

Thanks for reading.

When Pigs Fly! (Day 3)

poison_apple[1] Having switched over to an iPhone a few days ago, I thought it best to keep a running blog of how things are going: my likes, dislikes, surprises, frustrations, and so forth.  After all, this is a pretty big change for a guy like me 🙂

The reaction to my switchover has been, more or less, as I expected.  A few “traitor” remarks here and there, some “finally”-type sentiments, and the usual “I think you’ll enjoy it” comments that generally don’t seem to have any strings attached.  The biggest surprise (as far as comments are concerned) are those folks who haven’t said anything at all.  It makes me nervous.

For the most part, the experience so far has lacked much fanfare – and I mean that in a good way.  I had to jailbreak my phone (for use on T-Mobile), and that process was a bit more problematic than I’d expected, but that shouldn’t even factor into my thoughts on the iPhone platform.  I’m trying to keep those types of experiences entirely separate from the rest.

Without further ado, here is a quick run-down of my likes, dislikes, etc:

LIKES

  • Stability has been great.  No crashed apps (not that I’ve used tons) and no real issues to speak of.
  • Performance is snappy and consistent.  One of my grips with my Android phone(s) was the sluggishness that I would come across on a regular basis – whether swiping screens side-to-side, opening the browser, or using the maps app.  For that matter, everything could slow down from time to time, and it was aggravating.  Although I’ve seen a few screens on the iPhone chug for a brief moment, they are few and far between.  Even better, the built-in apps (phone, mail, browser, photos, etc.) typically open up immediately.  That’s nice to see.
  • Fairly intuitive.  This is an interesting line item, because Apple (and theIMG_0286 iPhone, specifically) is touted as being the creme de la creme of user interfaces.  While the interface has by and large been easy to navigate, there are a number of things that I wouldn’t call “intuitive”.  Once you know it, of course, it’s easy to use and remember, but they weren’t exactly easy to find.  Case in point: if in the email list view you swipe the right-hand side of an email message, you are prompted with a “delete” button.  Nice!  But I would’ve had NO idea that was there if I hadn’t seen someone else do it.  Also, that particular behavior works on other parts of the UI, but not everywhere.
  • Battery life is quite decent.  I had been on numerous occasions that the battery life was going to be a real sore spot with me, so I was expecting the worst.  I’ve learned to be pretty frugal with my mobile devices, so I did the same here.  3G is “off” (since I’m on T-Mobile), wifi is “off” by default (‘cause I rarely use it), and push email is “off” (I sync every hour).  I do leave bluetooth turned “on”, but I might change that if I find a decent homescreen toggle for that.  All in all, I usually have well over 50% battery by the end of the day, which is about what my Android phone gave me.
  • Fast camera!  The camera on the iPhone 3GS is pretty darned quick – especially compared to the dog-slow camera on the MyTouch 3G.  Fewer “blurry” shots and missed photos is a good thing.
  • Great virtual keyboard.  The iPhone virtual keyboard isn’t great, but it’sIMG_0287 better than just about every other one I’ve used.  On the Android devices, for instance, the stock virtual keyboard was nice looking and fairly responsive.  The HTC version of the virtual keyboard was a step up in many ways, but at the expense of occasional sluggishness.  The ability to hold down a letter and get an ALT character was really nice, though, and I miss that when I’m typing other characters – question marks, commas, etc..  Certainly room for improvement here, but the iPhone keyboard certainly gets the job done.
  • Stock apps are good.  Apple just had to nail this one, and I think they did.  The basic stuff — phone, mail, messaging, browser, etc. – is very well done.  Never particularly exciting, mind you, but it works and works well.
  • Take a screenshot.  With the iPhone, you can quickly hit the Power button and Home button at the same time to snap a photo of the current screen.  Very cool.
  • Double-tap Home for your ‘favorites’.  I don’t know if this is a stock setting or not, but the ability to double-tap the Home button to access my dialer ‘favorites’ is a super-nice touch.  More or less a speed dialer, which I absolutely have to have.  Nice work, Apple!
  • Proximity sensor.  My iPhone buddy, Andy, doesn’t even really think about this one anymore, because he’s been using an iPhone for so long.  Coming from Android, though, it is the bee’s knees!  Basically, the phone goes dark when I’m on a phone call and my face is against the phone.  Pull it away from my face and it lights up again.  Yes!  Not only is it majorly convenient, but it saves battery life and unnecessary phone press mishaps.  Every touchscreen phone should do this, but I have feeling that Apple owns the patent.

DISLIKES

  • I’m embarrassed.  You’d probably expect this from a long-time Apple hater, but I’m quite frankly embarrassed to have an iPhone.  I find myself trying to hide it when I can, or just leave it in my pocket.  It’s kinda like I just “came out of the closet”, except  that I didn’t.  The embarrassment factor will likely change over time.
  • Animations up the wazoo!  I like a nice visual cue in the form of anIMG_0284 animation as much as the next guy, but the iPhone is totally over the top, in my opinion.  Screens spring open, rotate, roll back, flip around, whizz, bang, and whatever else.  It’s a bit corny, if you ask me, especially the “trash” animations when you delete a photo.  Geeeeeeez.  Also, if you press and hold a home screen icon, you can move them around (fine), but why do they have to shake the whole time?  Crazy… and ugly.
  • Slippery sucker.  I won’t beat this one any longer, but the stock casing is just plain ol’ slippery – almost requiring a case of some sort, which I don’t like.  Apple should get over themselves and fix this.  It’s dangerous.
  • Not always consistent.  Again, from a company that is viewed as “writing the book” on great interfaces, I find some strange disconnects when using the iPhone.  For instance, the Maps app has a little folding corner in the lower-right.  What’s up with that?  Sure it’s neat, but there’s nothing else like it that I can find.  Why does the top bar (battery, time, etc.) have to look different depending upon where I’m at?
  • Some ugly default icons.  This is a personal preference item, of course,IMG_0285 but some of the stock homescreen icons are flat-out ugly.  In particular, the Photo app (sunflower) icon annoys me, as does the App Store icon.  Also, the Weather app icon really ought to show me the current temperature, rather than showing 73 degrees all of the time.
  • Screen is strange when turned off.  Let me explain, if I can.  I’ve never seen this on another mobile device, but the iPhone screen is almost naked when turned off.  It has a very gray/brown color, and I can clearly see the edges, which are a tad smaller than the screen frame.
  • Just another connector for the collection.  I would like to see some standardization with mobile devices and connectors.  Previous to the iPhone, nearly all of my personal mobile devices used a mini-USB connector.  My phone, our camera, bluetooth headset, and so on.  Now I’ve got yet another connector cluttering up my desk, and I find it unnecessary.  To be fair, the Zune has a proprietary connector too.  Why can’t they just standardize on one and stick with it?  Oh, well.
  • Buttons that are difficult to use.  I’ve used a number of mobile devices over the years, and the iPhone’s physical buttons/switches are among my least favorite – save for the “joggr bar” on the T-Mobile Dash (oh… my… word!).  The iPhone volume buttons are hard for me to find while I’m on a call, the “silent” switch is awkward (in my opinion), and the top ON/OFF switch is difficult to reach one-handed.  I’ve seen better implementations of all three.
  • Needs better volume/silent management.  To be fair, Android wasn’tIMG_0283 any better at this, but the iPhone has no way to automatically switch you in and out of “silent” mode.  Windows Mobile has had an “automatic” profile for years that would put your phone in silent mode whenever you were in a meeting (based upon your calendar events) and return to the normal ring mode when done.  I found a pay app called “Auto Silent” that can do this on the iPhone, but it should be built in.  The “Locale” app for Android takes it even further, but for $10 I’m guessing that a lot of folks will go without.  These types of features oughta be stock, if you ask me.
  • Tethered Jailbreak*.  This is specific to my firmware and hardware type, but it really sucks.  Basically, every time I reboot my phone, I have to connect it to my computer and run “blackra1n”.  Really lame, and slightly unnerving.

There you have it!  More to come in the days ahead…

When Pigs Fly! (The iPhone Experience: Day 1)

Don't do it... it's poisoned! JUST TELL US HOW YOU FEEL
Before we get going here, let me make something very clear:  I hate Apple.  I’ve hated them for years.  I hate seeing those cheap white ear buds in people’s ears.  I hate seeing that glowing piece of fruit on laptop lids.  I hate seeing people standing on the street corner petting their iPhone as if it brought some sort of pleasure (and maybe it does).  I hate iTunes.  I hate hearing the words “MacBook Pro”, “iPod” or “iMac”.  In fact, I’m beginning to hate any reference to a lowercase letter “i”.  I hate it when Apple is successful.  I hate seeing their billboards or tv commercials.  I hate seeing that purple, “spacey” default background in OSX.  I strongly dislike Steve Jobs (I try not to *hate* people) and generally think he’s a pompous egomaniac.  In fact, I generally view Apple Computers as a marketing powerhouse that bends nearly every word they say, and with little-to-no recourse.  Sometimes I wish the company would just go away, like they nearly did over a decade ago.

That’s how I feel.  Deal with it.

SOME HISTORY
Before you write me off as a complete freak of nature, though, let me explain some of my background with technology and computer companies.  You see, when I was still in grade school, my parents owned a small computer store in Anchorage, Alaska.  They sold IBM PCs, PC JRs, Vic 20s, and Commodore 64s.  Those were real computers.  I grew up using tape drives, dot matrix printers, BASIC, and DOS.  It was gritty, exclusive, and geeky.  I loved it.  Still, back in those days Apple Computer had a very strong foothold in the home and business markets.  Like most every other kid, I used them in school for programming, reports, playing Oregon Trail, and whatever else.  Apple and IBM lived in a 50/50 type of market, depending upon which year you were looking at.

Ahh, Windows 3.1 In the late 80s and early 90s, however, a little product called Microsoft Windows started to make some serious headway.  Neither technically superior nor particularly impressive, Windows began replacing DOS on PCs as the interface of choice.  Sure it wasn’t gritty and grubby like the command line stuff, but it was “PC”.  It seemed like the right thing to do, and so I stuck with it.

Shortly before I was married, the next big iteration of Windows – Windows 95 – sprung onto the scene.  More important than any technological advances was the market saturation.  Microsoft, not the PC market as a whole, had shifted the tide from a strong Apple influence to the Windows world.  In the years that would follow, Microsoft Windows would find itself with over 90% market share.  At that same time, I was getting into building, fixing, and selling computers for a living.  Shortly thereafter, I began work as a “systems administrator” and have been working in this same field ever since.  What types of computers have I been working on for most of these years?  Why Windows systems, of course – servers, desktops, laptops, phones, and so forth.  Microsoft has, in a matter of speaking, kept me employed for many years.

WHY, MAN?  WHYYYY?
I say all of this to somehow explain how and why I could’ve come to having such a hatred of Apple Computers and their products.  They have been a threat to my very livelihood, or at least that has been my perception.  As they’ve become more and more successful over this past decade, I’ve seen my relevance waning somewhat.  As with most threatening situations, the “fight or flight” response kicks in, and neither choice is especially pretty.  It certainly hasn’t been with me.

Not really how I feel... I guess I should’ve seen the signs several years ago.  My good friend and long-time PC buddy, Andy, decided to get a MacBook.  No warning, no discussion – he just bought it.  I actually found out from a mutual friend who told me, “Andy said not to tell Scott”.  For some strange reason, it was a blow to me.  I wasn’t angry at my friend, of course, but rather I felt threatened by the tide of users starting to reconsider Apple once again.  Not too long after, a co-worker purchased an iPhone with a similar caveat — “don’t tell Scott”.  This same sentence has been uttered probably half a dozen times.  Evidently, and without my even knowing it, I became the anti-Apple guy.  Rather than shrug it off, however, I dug in, squared my shoulders, and began to fight.  Here’s the deal with starting a fight, though: you gotta know what the victory, if it ever comes, will look like.  Otherwise, you just end up swinging your arms ad infinitem with no end in sight.

I’ve never been much of a fast learner.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END
A few weeks ago, after repeated frustration with my Android phone (MyTouch 3G… more on that in another posting), I decided that something had to give.  I had to get a phone that I could live with.  Unfortunately, my choices were fairly limited, seeing as how I *had to have* full Exchange sync support, ability to use the phone with T-Mobile, and a smattering of other “must have” and “would really like to have” requirements.  Then it dawned on me: perhaps I could start to tame this hatred of Apple by forcing myself to use their product.  Not only that, but the iPhone – aside from being an Apple product – fit nearly every criteria that I had for a workable phone solution.

I swallowed my pride and set out to get my hands on one.

Yesterday, March 15th, 2010, I received an iPhone 3GS (16GB).  Not my first Apple product, mind you, but the first that I’ve purposely intended to use – and to a great extent.  Also, the irony of me (ME… of all people!) using an iPhone has not been lost on my family, many of my friends, and especially my co-workers.  It’s both a complete non-event (cosmically speaking) and a radical quantum shift — all at the same time.

MOVING ON FROM HERE
So, here we are.  I have an iPhone.  I’m using it.  I make phone calls on it, browse the web, take pictures, and so forth.  I still don’t really like Apple, but maybe that’ll change.

That all-to-familiar unlock screenStrangely enough, I’m ok with myself and this decision.  That may seem like a dumb thing to say – it is a computer company, after all, and just some stupid technology – but you don’t know my brain.  It was a difficult decision to make, but I’m alright with it at this point.  Some of my PC/Windows-lovin’ buddies may call me a turncoat, but that’s ok.  I’m really not.  I will gladly toss this iPhone off of a tall bridge when the next Windows Phone Series devices come out – assuming that they’re as good as they look – but that may still be awhile.  I would also rather use Windows 7 than anything else.  I know my roots, and those are hard to dig up without some very considerable effort.  If some of those roots are as “angry” and “hate-filled” as my first paragraph of this post, however, then I’m happy to be rid Yeah...I covered the back with a picture of Ronald Reagan!  So sue me!!!of them.  Life is too short for those kinds of words and emotions.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be blogging about my experience with the iPhone – both the technology at hand (see what I did there?!) and the changes in me.  It’ll either be extremely exciting or excruciatingly boring.

Like you really have anything better to do than read my blog.