Hands on the 'Jesus' phone..

My mate David Clark got himself an apple iPhone on Friday. Not, as I first thought of, by queueing at the Applestore in Glasgow, but by heading to the carphone warehouse within Halfords in Dundee. There the queue consisted of him and one other chap. Clearly, the media hype hadn't penetrated Dundee.

He of course headed round to show me it.. Oh. My. God. What a beautifully designed piece of kit. Even SWMBO -usually a card-carrying Luddite - was tempted (we're in the middle of sorting out her BlackBerry from another Carphone Warehouse cock-up, and so we ere between carriers..).

Okay. So what did we see:

  • Its smaller than I anticipated - about a centimetre longer than a curve, the same width, and HALF of the depth

  • The screen is amazing. I had high expectations, being a regular iPod video user - but this just blew me away.

  • Its very easy to use. Radio 4 had stated that if you needed to actually read the manual - well - just return the phone. Nothing I saw on it contradicted his.

  • We mated it to the wireless network in Casa Buchan - browsing speeds were quite good. Okay, its not a dual core Xenon, but its zippy enough. And the browser is Safari. So no cut down mobile web browsing here. The two finger gesture for 'zoom' works really well in this context.

  • I wonder if there are plans to support UMA on his - so that you can log into a wifi zone, and the mobile phone connection is surfaced via Wifi..

  • Note that here in the UK, the networks ('not-works') have NOT rolled out 'edge' - the higher speed GPRS connection. So we're stuck at 9.6kb, and since its a direct internet connection, I suspect there's no caching/compression going on. So if you want to browse a *lot*, hit a wifi-zone.

  • On saying that, the browser history actually rendered a whole page, and allowed you to 'flip' through using a pageflow style rendering. Lovely.

  • It has an internal motion sensor, so it knows when its being held in portrait or landscape, and the screen flips accordingly. You can turn the phone through 360 degrees, and it still works..

  • We thought - 'does it have bluetooth'? Yes. It took seconds to mate it to a Jawbone. No fuss. This means that you could theoretically use a bluetooth based GPS device and get mapping (it comes with Google maps).

  • However, the lack of voice dialling is a serious omission. No keyboard, no voice dialling - how do you use it in a car kit? I suspect there'll be a huge aftermarket in bluetooth keyboards (full sized travel ones for typing as well as keypad phone style ones) for this device.

  • iPod functionality worked as expected. That is, wonderfully. Using the 'cover flow' by flipping along with gestures on the touchscreen is so natural. I want a touch screen for my Macbook now.. And when you had a call, the iPod faded out, paused, etc.

  • So. Wow. Would I trade in my curve for it? Mmmmm.

    • The engineering on the iPhone is fantastic. It just works.

    • The sturdiness of the device worries me. Carrying around a phone-shaped screen scares me.

    • Incorporating an iPod, Camera, web browser, eMail sync, calendar sync into the phone brings us to the Iain M Banks 'Culture' (series of books) idea that we live in a communications bubble, and always have our 'virtual terminal', connecting us to the rest of humanity. Powerful stuff indeed. And this is first such device that SWMBO (a normal end-user with a loathing of horrible user interfaces) would consider. (Let us not waste time on the windows mobile platform here).

    • The lack of keyboard is a biggie. The touch-screen iPhone keyboard is fantastic for the odd text message, but not for an eMail junkie road warrior. Its easy to get around, however.

    • Security worries me (though I'm sure it'll be addressed). I'd like to see it passworded and see how easy/hard it is to break into. All of us put more and more personal information onto these devices...

    • Geek wise, I'd like to see what happens when third-party applications hit this thing. I'd like to see how hard it is to put applications on here, and to have those applications easily synchronise from my data sources.

    • I can see the need for a virtual blackberry on this device so that you can have a personal iPhone with *your* stuff, but still be able to have a business centrally-controlled environment on there also. Similar to the windows mobile virtual blackberry clients that are coming soon.
      I guess I'm cheating here because the iPhone - albeit expensive - is aimed at the consumer market. (Odd, isn't it, that the iPhone easily overtakes feature-rich 'business phones' that we've paid large amounts of money for in the past).

    • Price wise, we're being ripped off. Its $400 in the US, and at the current rate of exchange - $2.09 - it should be £191. Its £247 - or $516 - a surcharge of $116. Given the US dollar is set to plummet even further (according to my morning commute-friend, Radio 4), surely this has to be fixed?

    • At £35/mo, ($70), its towards the high-end of carrier charges. And the 'fair use' restriction of 50mb might be hit really quickly.. Roaming would scare me to (especially at between £3 and £7/mb)...

    • Network wise, I'm ambivalent. I've realised that all phone carriers are basically greedy, clueless muppets who deserve nothing more than a beating. O2 was terrible for customer service, but I'm sure Apple have protected their brand by insisting on iPhone support teams with brains. I'd hope.

    So would I swap my Curve for an iPhone ? Oh. Its *close*, believe me, but now that the initial hype has blown over, I suspect the Curve wins in terms of what I need it to do for the moment.

    No doubt the iPhone will drive customer expectations forward, and perhaps force the sleeping incumbents in this market that they need to start innovating again.. And since the iPhone has been out for a while now, I'd be interested to see what version 2 of this device becomes..