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iPhone? June 29, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in computers, life.

This is a rant. But probably there is some real insight into my personality. You shouldn’t read this. 🙂

Those of you who know me know I carry around a Windows laptop. Indeed, all my machines are currently windows. I use Linux a lot, but I Real VNC into those or run them as a virtual machine on top of windows. My wife has a Mac, and I used to do a lot of work with Macs as a hobby (even helped to run a large Mac ftp site when I was a graduate student). But I just can’t get things done on them any longer. Perhaps at 40 I’ve ossified into the Windows way — it works too well for me. That isn’t to say that I don’t have complaints about Windows!

For my media player I’m also frozen out of the Apple world: I refuse to purchase music by-the-track. The subscription model is cheap and it lets me try all sorts of new music on a whim. I can’t get enough of it. I use Yahoo’s service and that is just fantastic for me. I’m actually a bit nervous about this idea of non-DRM music: a subscription service can’t really live with non-DRM music… Perhaps a monthly subscription gets you a certain number of songs like eMusic?

But on cell phones the jury is still out for me. Initially I went for small good looking phones (like the M600 from Moto – so old now I can’t find a picture of it). Those were good and worked like a charm. Never a hiccup. But then I tried a small smart phone, the Cingular 2125. This was a revelation for me. A small compact phone that automatically synced with my contacts and my email and calendar. The pleasure of being able to change a phone number on my main computer and about 10 minutes later having it automatically synced up with my phone… well, nothing quite so sweet. Then the baby arrived. My time has been split into even smaller parts. I decided to get a large smart phone with a keyboard. I can now really answer email when I’m sitting for 10 minutes someplace. Mostly perform triage, etc. Sadly it is large enough it leaves a lump in my pants pocket.

You’ll note that both these phones have their OS made by Microsoft. It is functional and sometimes it just hits the sweet spot. Both phones, however, have a list of bugs that sometimes make me want to throw them at the wall. I don’t know if they are Microsoft bugs or the hardware manufacture’s bugs — whatever, they can be painful. A good friend of mine swears by some of the Nokia smart phones. I need to spend some quality time with one of those the next time I see him at CERN.

And now comes the iPhone. First of all, it is too much for me, so I won’t be buying it just now. But, after reading the various web sites (keep in mind almost no one has officially used an iPhone yet):

  • Battery Life: this is the biggest problem with large smartphone’s these days. 8-12 hours is just not very good. I’ve not seen a smart phone that solves this. Mine certainly doesn’t.
  • wifi integration. Most modern phones do this now (the iPhone included). When 3G isn’t available or too expensive (for me in Europe), it would be great. Wifi, however, is flaky. My current phone, when it looses the wifi connection, likes to turn on the 3G connection. This will kill my cell phone bill in Europe. I hope iPhone gets this switch over better.
  • Speed. All these phones have relatively snappy processors. The reviews of the iPhone, however, all comment on how fast it is. The comments sound like it is better than the sluggish (but functional) performance I see on my current phone. That would be great!
  • Development. This matters for almost no one on the broad cell phone market. But, I like being able to develop for my cell phone. The fact that I can write C# for my phone means that one day over Christmas I was able to develop a small app that downloaded and cached and then slide-showed an arbitrary set of pictures from flickr. This is great in a bar, and the fact that the cell phone network is flaky doesn’t affect it’s performance. One of the big problems I see with just about every cell phone app out there is they don’t assume a flaky network. Or maybe it is just me on Cingular. 🙂
  • 3G. If you are going to depend on data coming into your phone, you need something high speed like wifi or 3G. 3G is much more reliable than wifi for my usage patterns, as I’m often in places that have no free wifi – and there for only 10 minutes: not worth it to pay. Apple will fix the lack of 3G quickly, I’m sure. But I also appreciated how Pouge’s review seemed to initially blame Cingular for the fact that it was the slower EDGE network that the phone used. Don’t worry — 3G will suck up more battery life too. 🙂 Hmmm, it would seem the slow network has become something of a “thing” — there is an article on the NYTimes website devoted solely to that! Hmmm, they seem to claim that wifi will make up for the lack of 3G. They are wrong. wifi is a local thing – a cell phone moves all over the place.
  • User Interface. I really like the idea that the iPhone is all screen. The bigger the screen the better (but keep the overall phone small!). When people say “you just have to trust the phone to accept your finger presses” I think they are right: my phone has a small # of buttons (larger than 1) and the rest is done by touch when it is closed. If I trust the phone and just push hard, it works just fine. The multi-touch sounds pretty cool.
  • Cost. About $400 is the most I’ll spend for one of these devices with their current set of capabilities: (phone, email, contacts, internet syncing, small music player).
  • Size. Make it small, but keep the screen large. Make it thin! It sounds like the iPhone does this better than my current phone. Fantastic.
  • Bugs. Kill them early. I hope Apple’s quality control is better than whomever is responsible for the bugs I see (HTC or Microsoft).

Ok. I’m adding to the iPhone hype. Sorry. My Dad claims he will get one, so I’m looking forward to trying it out when I am home for Christmas. Right now, back to packing!



1. paullev - June 29, 2007

Good analysis. The iPhone’s been a long time in coming … iPhone predicted in 1979

2. gordonwatts - June 30, 2007

Wow. I had no idea!!

3. Karma « Life as a Physicist - June 30, 2007

[…] June 30, 2007 Posted by gordonwatts in computers. trackback Yes. Jobs got me. I wrote that iPhone blog posting the day before yesterday and yesterday. Early yesterday my main Windows computer’s hard disk […]

4. Ashley - July 2, 2007

I cannot wait for this Product to come to the UK, I have 2 phones both with varying PDA functions wished they were both merged into one, life will be a lot easier and because I travel on the the train a lot I do have my music on the go (Ipod). I have often wondered what life would be like if carried just one device that allowed me to make calls, organise my schedules and documents and surf the web. I just hope the Battery Life is better than what we got on the Ipods and comes without the £50.00 bbattery replacement charge they currently ask for.
I wonder how long we will have to wait for and no doubt we will be paying double the price……our friends across the pond are so lucky.

5. gordonwatts - July 3, 2007

Ashley — good news and bad news. First, I’ve heard that the thing does a very good job as a iPod replacement (it has 8 gig of memory, so as long as that is what you need, you should be ok).

Bad news: the battery replacement charge is still there and, I think, just as bad.

I’ve heard that it will sync up with most mail servers. I don’t know if it will also sync up with an address list — they is obviously key here.

I’m using a phone that does all of the above, but it doesn’t do it well (bugs, crashes, soemtimes hangs). Battery life sucks. But, I have to say, I agree with you: for a train ride in Europe it definately is very nice to have all those features. I suspect that Apple will have fixed the bugs and the crashes.

6. redbeanjon - July 9, 2007

there have been comments on third party testers on http://www.engadget.com who have tested their iPhone for a continuous battery life of 28 hours while playing music, unscratchable screen and so on and so forth =) there’s no 3G on the iPhone, only wifi, which has been quite stable from what i hear and the last i know, Apple products have hardly any bugs at all, thanks to Linux these days =) Btw, talktime battery life is 8 hours, standby about 4 times as much =)

see http://www.engadget.com/2007/07/03/iphone-review/ for more details!

7. Gordon Watts - July 9, 2007

Great! Thanks — I’ll check out that review.

WiFi on my phone is quite stable too. But only when I stay in one place. And I usually like to browse the web, whatever, mostly while sitting in an airport or a coffee shop. Few of those have free wifi hotspots, unfortunately. And it doesn’t seem worth it to pay 10 bucks for 30 minutes of idle entertainment. EDGE makes it possible to browse, but it is painful and so is below threshold for me (I travel to lots of cities that have that problem).

The talk time is impressive. My phone gets about 6 hours. The big problem my phone has is that when it is behaving like a blackberry – and getting email as it arrives — then standby + talk time + normal usage (for me, of course), means i need to recharge it every day. And, for example, after my just 33 hour travel from Tucson to Glasgow the battery barely has anything left, despite being turned off during flights. If I turn off the email feature then my phone will last two days easily: at least, that is how it works in Europe. In the US, with the data feature turned on, it barely makes it a day.

8. Gordon Watts - July 9, 2007

That review is excellent. I definately suggest people read that. They really dig into it.

The battery life is impressive. Better, it sounds like, than other phones. I should do a video test on my phone to see how long it will last to see how much more advanced the iPhone’s power mangaement/battery size is.

But the email, network issues, and large # of bugs, etc., sound pretty bad. At least Apple convinced Cingular that they could update the iPhone software at will. That is revolutionary as far as I know, in the cell phone industry. I hope they spreads to other providers.

9. Gordon Watts - July 12, 2007

BTW, redbeanjon, what does Linux have to do with Apple? As far as I know, no mac products use Linux at their core — I thought they were based on BSD, which is a totally different source base.

10. The iPhone « Life as a Physicist - July 13, 2007

[…] endgadget review, pointed out in a comment to my previous iPhone post by redbeanjon, is a great read and seems to hit its ups and downs is about […]

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