I’ve now had my iPhone for a little over a week which makes it a good time to give some first impressions on this much hyped and applauded mobile.
For me it’s marked a wholesale change in my interaction with a mobile device. I’ve previously used a Dell X51v PDA and have just upgraded from the Nokia N95. Nevertheless in the past week the amount and the variety of applications I’ve used have completely blown away that of previous devices. The N95 is a fine phone, however without a data package it’s impractically expensive to use it to connect with an online life. Even the PDA, with a Windows Mobile OS failed to offer an user friendly or efficient solutions to many of the tasks I looked at carrying out and was limited to Wifi connection.
So how does the iPhone fare?
The iPhone itself doesn’t come with a user manual explaining how to use the main functions of the device. Presumably it’s designed to be intuitive enough combined with there being a user guide bookmarked into the iPhone’s Safari web browser. This is largely what I found. Although I didn’t know exactly what each of the homepage of icons did, a bit of poking away quickly reaped results. Although its useful to be familiar with iTunes before you start, it’s not at all difficult to get to grips with it, and it’s the iTunes application on your Mac / PC which will sync with the iPhone.
Some are happy to use their phone as just that; a phone with SMS and one or two other options. However if you’re a gadget-head like myself, you’ll want your mobile device to be an extension of your online life and provide a raft of applications that integrates internet content with day to day tasks.
If you’re in a town and looking for a shop or service, you need no longer roam aimlessly or bother passersby. Tap the name of the shop into Google Maps and it’ll use your position to place pins on the map where the local branches are. It works simply and effectively, and Google maps can then show you the route to the shop and the estimated walking or driving time. If you hear a song you like playing in a shop use Shazam to identify it for free. Finished shopping and want to see a show? The ‘Now Playing’ app shows what’s on at your nearest cinemas or ‘UK Tickets’ for cheap tickets at West End shows.
Now let’s say you’re taking a long train journey. If you’re going to use the Quick Ticket machine to pickup your tickets at the station you’d normally have to scribble down the purchase code somewhere. However now you can transfer the e-mail to your iPhone to view it as a PDF using the ACTPrinter application. Once you’ve left home it used to be difficult to track the running of your train. Now, using MyRail Lite, you can see your train’s progress and estimated arrival time at each station on the route. This is ideal for letting those meeting you know when to expect you, as typically on trains if you’re running a bit late it’s difficult to know just what you will be getting in.
If you have an active online life you can ensure that being away from your home computer doesn’t disconnect you from what’s happening. The Facebook app lets you view and update your Facebook status and photo and even allows you to chat. Fring allows you to to chat on MSN Messenger and a raft of other chat systems, and the Ebay app ensures you need never miss the chance to bid on that item you’ve been eyeing up, even if you’re out and about. Arguing with a friend in a pub over a fact? Use the Wikipanion app to search Wikipedia and put those urban myths to rest.
Each of these offers small benefits, but as a whole it suddenly makes a noticeable change as to how you go about carrying out normal tasks, and a whole level of uncertainty and time wasting is potentially removed. Combine these with non-internet apps, where for instance you can log the Christmas presents you need to buy and set reminders of tasks in the Calendar.
Other favourite apps
Weather: Does what it says on the tin, the current and 5-day weather for your location
Notes: Basic but does the job for jotting down anything you need
News UK Lite: The free version of this app which offers news straight from the leading UK news websites
Vicinity: The perfect add-on to Google Maps; this app lists local cafes, bars, restaurants, places of interest and even photos taken locally.
Birthday: Lists all the birthdays for your contacts.
GPLite: A full selection of GPS features including waypoints, direction, speed and others.
TV Guide: See what’s on the box wherever you are.
TubeStatus: See what’s suspended or delayed and avoid it while you can.
Missile Command: This classic game in original or revamped format for the iPhone from Atari.
BigOven: Thousands of recipes at your fingertips.
Although I’ve not done a great deal of browsing, I have found that websites have generally been rendered as you would expect on your desktop. It’s quite possible to use the eBay website as opposed to the app, although the Safari browser doesn’t properly support Facebook chat as it stands. Using the horizontal “wide” viewing option along with the double-tap which zooms on a particular column on the page works a treat.
Again the phone is but one of many features and works fine, with the option of displaying the caller’s photo good and large. I haven’t yet tried further phone options yet.
I’ve been able to set the iPhone up to view the e-mail from each of my accounts. Some account types have wizards to ease the process, whereas others need to be entered manually. Hotmail has proven an issue for many users, however I have GMX check my Hotmail account and set my iPhone to check GMX. I posted details of this previously in the iPhone section of the site. Although the lack of MMS has been oft mentioned I find the ability to easily e-mail photos a preferable option. If you’re sending a photo the recipient might as well be able to see what it is, after all.
Extremely impressed so far and already making a real day to day change. The real highlight has to be the apps store which offers a huge number of applications for the iPhone. Changes are you’ll find several that will help revolutionise the way you work and play.