Last Friday night I bought an iPhone at the Valley Fair mall in Cupertino, took it back to my hotel room and five minutes later had it cracked using the excellent ZiPhone software. I've been living with it non-stop since, in part because Robert Scoble told us all at VON during a panel that the iPhone was the best phone he had ever had… better than the Nokia N95 that he was using at that point in time to stream that session.
I didn't believe Robert. After living with iPhone for four days, I will state unequivocally today that I disagree with him. The iPhone has the most potential to change the mobile phone industry of any device out there today, but it's not the best phone … yet.
First, the positives.
The user experience. The iPhone user experience is as important to phones as the GUI was to PCs. It's a true game changer — dramatically simplifying access to common features while simultaneously exposing new rich capabilities that other phones don't have.
The PC experience. Compared to the Nokia and RIM devices I've used, the PC software for the iPhone (it's iTunes) is dramatically better. It just works and it works well. Synchronization of music, contacts, calendars, etc is fast — even with the 5500 contacts I synched to it. The PC drivers are found and installed, effortlessly, out of the box. Software updates are found and installed, effortlessly.
The music experience. It's an iPod. Enough said.
The browser. It's a desktop class browser. Websites that don't render correctly on any other mobile device work fine here. As others have noted, this is a revolution for mobile devices.
Stability. My other two favorite phones (BlackBerry 8300 and Nokia N95) crash, probably once a day. The only solution is to perform an emergency battery-dectomy. Remove battery, wait, reboot. In four days of usage I haven't seen iPhone even hiccup. It's probably a good thing too, since the battery is sealed inside the phone.
And then the frustrations.
The camera. Nokia's N95 sports a 5 megapixel camera that can shoot 30 fps video, with autofocus, macro capabilities and more. It mystifies me that Apple chose a crappy 2 megapixel still camera for this device.
The network. Apple built the worlds best mobile browser, and then saddled it with Edge speeds. It's so slow as to be unusable outside WiFi hotspots. In contrast, the N95 can stream full motion video to the internet, live, using it's 3G connection.
The phone. Doh! This is a phone, right? Nokia's music phone, the N82, offers a set of integrated controls in the headset that allow me to skip tracks, pause, rewind and most importantly… answer the phone… from a button conveniently clipped to the collar of my shirt. Apple offers the standard Apple headset with a tiny integrated microphone and nothing else. When iPhone rings, I have to fish it out of my pocket, which is a safety issue. Apple built an iPod and added a phone, but they didn't think enough about how people would use their new device as a phone.
The keyboard. Yes, iPhone does email using a touch screen keyboard that pops up when input is required. Forget about serious email usage with it, however. Compare iPhone's keyboard to BlackBerry's thumb board and you will be disappointed. When Apple builds their corporate iPhone, they should provide a model with a slide out keyboard like the Sony Ericsson Xperia XP1. In the meantime, if your email needs are limited to responding to the odd bit of GMail with a one or two word reply, then iPhone will do. For all else, stick with RIM.
The address book. I have 5500 contacts synched with iPhone, and no way to search them. The only way to find the contact I want is to scroll the entire list. Lame. Lame. Lame.
I could go on. I want to love this phone — it's that good. At best, however, I can say that iPhone is a frustratingly brilliant device with more potential than any mobile handset in the industry today. Is it going to change how I use mobile phones? Sure. Now I'll be carrying my Blackberry plus one of the iPhone or N95, rather than Blackberry plus N95. Will it change how I use mobile phones in the future? Almost certainly. Some day a vendor will deliver a phone with a great user experience, great browser, great camera, 3G or better network speeds and a great email experience.
It just hasn't happened yet.