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The Smartphone Round Robin: Final iPhone Thoughts

Fri Nov 2, 2007 - 3:02 PM EDT - By Jennifer Chappell

Overview

Well, I've been away from my Treo 680 for a week now. It's been sitting nearby but I've obeyed the Round Robin rules and haven't played with it. I made sure to take the battery out on day 1 so that I wouldn't even be tempted.

I've thought about my fellow editors this week and have enjoyed keeping up with their thoughts on the devices that they've been using. Did the AT&T device tilt Kevin's world? Did Dieter enjoy going back to old school for a week, and did Mike hit a curve with the BlackBerry device? I look forward to reading their final thoughts today!

Thanks to everyone on the forums for the great questions!

For me, the week has been eye opening ("i" as in iPhone). I've had this wonderful device here at home since ordering it on the day that it became available to the public. But I hardly used it for anything other than YouTube and taking pics and surfing the Internet. As I said in my first Round Robin article this week, I'm just used to picking up my Treo to use for what I need. I've used a Treo more than any other cell phone. I started out with one of those Motorola StarTAC 130s, then got a Siemens A55, and then a LG L1400. I had Palm handhelds and would use them for playing games and reading ebooks and organization, while I used my cell phone for making phone calls. Then I discovered the Palm Treo, and saw how nice it could be to combine my Palm handheld and phone. I got a Treo 650 and loved it, and have used Treos since.

So I started really using the iPhone this week as my main phone and device. The iPhone is very simple to use just as the Treo is and I really appreciate that. The UI is superb. You have the one button on the front of the device which is "Home" and it's simple to just press that button to always take you back there. The big screen is just gorgeous and a masterpiece. The colorful icons appear 3D and just seem to float on the black background. As it is now, with no 3rd party apps, the home screen only has 13 icons. I assume that after February when the the SDK is released and all the 3rd party apps start appearing, we'll have to start scrolling to get to all the apps on the Home screen. Of course many of those who have done the jailbreak on their iPhones probably already have several more apps on their homescreens and are already having to scroll. Speaking of scrolling, it's really fun to scroll on the iPhone because of the way you simply run your finger down or up the screen. The Multi-touch screen is about the coolest thing I've seen on a device so far. People are always in awe when I show them the iPhone and they always seen to get such a kick out the album cover flow. ;-)


Size

I like the size of the iPhone. People have asked me on the Round Robin forum what I thought about the size compared to the Treo 680.

Forum member pdxtreo asked:

How about size? Thickness is ok, but the footprint seems big compared to the Treo. When I checked it out in an apple store I had a flashback to my old Visor-Treo Phone combo.

To me, there isn't that much of a difference in size. The iPhone is a smidge taller and is thinner. Thin is nice but I don't mind the Treo being thicker. It's actually easier to pick the Treo up from a flat surface since it's thicker.

When holding both phones up to my ear to talk, I'd have to say that they're both comfortable, although the Treo feels better due to its thickness and it has more gripability (is that even a word?).

For those interested in the exact dimensions of both phones for size comparison, here ya go:

Treo 680:

  • Dimensions: 4.4 x 2.3 x 0.8 inches (113 x 59 x 21mm)
  • Weight: 5.5 ounces (157 grams)

iPhone:

  • Dimensions: 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches (115 x 61 x 11.6mm)
  • Weight: 4.8 ounces (135 grams)

As for screen size, the iPhone definitely wins. That large screen is so nice! I love watching tv shows that I downloaded off iTunes. It's like watching a mini tv. I remember buying small tv's that you can hold in your hand and I never had any luck with getting a decent picture on any of them. And with those tv's, you could only get a few channels anyway. Of course the iPhone isn't a tv but it's sure amazing to be able to watch just about any tv show that I want on it. And the picture is always crystal clear! The first show I watched on the iPhone was NCIS and it was a heck of an enjoyable experience. Man I love that show! Now you can watch many shows online but I've found that the picture isn't so great at times, plus I get sooooooo annoyed whenever the video lags and at times completely locks up. Grrrrr! With a video from iTunes, you never have that problem. Many times I'd rather pay for the show than try and watch it free online because of the hassle and annoyance.

I know I've already mentioned the screen and how great it looks. The iPhone and the Treo's screen look great outdoors. I had no problem viewing the screen in the bright sunlight. I was sitting outside this morning in the bright sunlight and the iPhone screen looked pretty good. This is my favorite time of year. I love the cool, brisk air and I love to watch the leaves slowly twirling down from the tree branches. It was nice to be able sit outdoors on a beautiful Fall day and surf the web on the iPhone. Our leaves on our sugar maples are just starting to turn a bright yellow. I snapped a couple of pics with the iPhone. I'll be sure to take some more pics when those leaves have all turned.


Rules We Had to Follow

All the editors participating in the Round Robin had to follow the same rules and had to attempt 10 different things with the smartphone in use during the week. I'll cover these below:

  1. Editors must use their assigned smartphone as their "main brain" and may not use any other smartphone OR music device (such as an iPod) for one full week: I did this and only picked up my Treo 680 to take pics of it next to the iPhone.
  2. Editors must attempt to sync their phone to their computer, syncing all PIM data: I did attempt this. The iPhone doesn't sync Notes or Tasks, but is supposed to be able to sync Contacts and Calendar. I successfully synced Contacts with Outlook but had no luck in syncing my Calendar. Under the iTunes Info tab beneath where my Contact sync info was, there was a message that said, "No supported calendar application can be found". I updated my Office XP service pack but that didn't help.
  3. Editors must attempt to set up their email on the smartphone: I set up my Gmail account on the iPhone with POP and I'm successfully getting my emails on the iPhone now. I was going to try to use the IMAP that is now available for Gmail but for some reason my Gmail settings didn't include the option for IMAP. But now it is showing up after I've already set up the account for POP. Oh well....
  4. Editors must attempt to use their smartphone to get directions at least once: The iPhone conveniently has Google Maps right on the Home screen. I used Google Maps and got directions to the Walmart in a nearby city. I had no trouble at all and the maps looked great. I love the satellite images and zooming in on stuff.
  5. Editors must attempt to use their smartphone with a bluetooth headset: I'd never used a Bluetooth headset with my iPhone before. I had recently gotten a BlueAnt Z9 headset and had used it with my Treo 680. I was happy to try it with the iPhone. This was the first time that I'd even used the Bluetooth on the iPhone. I had to go to Settings and then General and then tap on Bluetooth. Pairing up the two devices was very simple and I had no problems at all. The iPhone recognized the Z9 pretty quickly. I made some phone calls and the Z9 worked quite well with the iPhone. I could leave my iPhone on my desk in my office and walk down the hall to the kitchen, which is on the opposite end of the house, and the reception was great. I could hear the person on the other end very well and vice versa. Once I stepped down into the den, the reception got crackly though. I'm glad I tried the Z9. I'll be using it with my iPhone a lot now. It's one sweet headset!
  6. Editors must attempt to install at least 2 3rd-party apps (if possible) on their smartphone: Okay, I DID attempt this, really I did. I finally got up the nerve and did the latest jailbreak on my iPhone. I kept thinking, "I just know that Apple is gonna release a new version as soon as I do this". But that didn't happen. I'm such a scaredy cat. Anyway, it was very easy to jailbreak the iPhone over the air by going to the link specified. I read the information and clicked on Install and my iPhone rebooted and the Installer App was on my Home screen. I clicked on it and saw the 3rd party apps that could be installed. I chose iPong, which is a game, and Sketch, which is a cute drawing app. Both apps were installed and showed up on my Home screen. However, whenever I tapped on them, they both opened up for like a second and then I was taken right back to the Home screen. I never was able to use either app unfortunately. Maybe I did something wrong but I can't imagine what since the apps did install and showed up. I was able to go online though and play Bejeweled on my iPhone and that was fun.
  7. Editors must attempt to play a game: As mentioned above, I attempted to play iPong but had no luck. And as I mentioned, I did get to play Bejeweled.
  8. Editors must attempt to browse the internet: I sure did browse the internet! Safari is wonderful! It's really nice to be able to view web pages and see everything the way it should be. I could zoom in on the text and the pics which was way cool.
  9. Editors must attempt to add music to their smartphone and use it as their music device: This was no problem as it's the same way that I had been adding music to my iPod with video for months. Listening to music via the iPhone is really nice! Everything sounds so clear and the volume is easy to control by using either the side button or the onscreen control.
  10. Editors must attempt to watch a video on their device: I watched many videos and had lots of fun doing so. As mentioned earlier, I watched some tv shows. I also watched videos on YouTube. YouTube is also conveniently located on the Home screen. You don't have to get online and then look up YouTube; you get on YouTube instantly by pressing the YouTube icon. Sweet!

Phone Quality

I think I mentioned this in one of the Round Robin threads, but it's worth repeating. I was quite surprised at the phone quality in the iPhone. I have to admit that the reception was better than I've experienced on my Treo. Many times when talking to people on my Treo, there is crackling and their voice breaks up. I never experienced that once with the iPhone. Everyone I've talked to on the iPhone sounded crystal clear. They said that my voice was loud and clear also. An example that I mentioned in the threads is that my husband calls me on my Treo everyday when he gets to work so I'll know that he arrived safely. Each time he calls, his voice breaks up and I have to ask him to repeat himself over and over. It gets pretty annoying. When he's called me on this week and I've used the iPhone, I could hear him so much better. It was like night and day.


Nitpicks

Well, naturally my main complaint with the iPhone is the lack of 3rd party apps. I know, I know, they're coming in February. ;-) But for now, it's a big minus for me. It looks like there could have at least been a few games on the iPhone. The iPod has some available now so I don't understand why those same games couldn't have been made available for the iPhone. I didn't like having to jailbreak my iPhone just to try to get 3rd party apps on it. As soon as I saw that the apps I installed weren't going to work, I immediately restored my iPhone to factory settings and then breathed a sigh of relief. I figured that if anything could go wrong, I'd be the one to screw up and somehow brick my iPhone. I don't know much at all about hacking so I don't know if that is even possible with jailbreak. But I can't afford to brick a $400 device.

Although I think the iPhone's keyboard is very nice and works well, I much prefer my Treo's keyboard. There's a lot to say for tactile feedback on a keyboard. I did miss that when typing on the iPhone. Typing on a flat surface that you have to actually press your fingertips precisely on each letter doesn't amount to very fast typing for me. I did get faster with practice though. The raised buttons on the Treo's keyboard are just so much easier to type on. Each key is a seperate object that you can actually feel your finger touching, whereas on the iPhone, you're touching a flat surface where everything feels exactly the same. It was sort of hit and miss for me. I would think that I was touching the correct letter only to see that another letter would pop up. I did appreciate the magnified letter that would pop up each time you pressed a letter, showing exactly which letter you'd pressed. That was a big help in typing.

Forum members pdxtreo and jaharr both asked me about my thoughts on the iPhone keyboard. I told them about the same thing that I said above. I had been typing with my index finger. When I'd try to type using both thumbs, it was slow going because my thumbnails were a bit long, causing my thumbs to not make the correct contact with the flat keyboard surface. I had better success typing on the iPhone's keyboard after cutting my thumbnails though. I'm sure that with a lot of practice, I could get much faster on the iPhone's keyboard. With the Treo though, the keyboard is just easy to begin with and there's no need to really have to practice in order to hit the correct letters and numbers each time.

I'm not too crazy about the non user-replaceable battery in the iPhone. I really don't get that. I don't like the idea of having to send my iPhone off to have the battery replaced. And I sure wouldn't want to attempt to take the iPhone apart and try and replace it myself. Now that would be a disaster because I know I'd somehow mangle the poor device. I really wish that the battery was user-replaceable like the Treo's battery. Of course it wasn't a deal breaker for me since I did buy the iPhone, but I still don't like it at all.

I've got to give kudos to the iPhone for having built-in WiFi. As said many times in the past, I don't see why the Treo can't (or should I say doesn't) have WiFi. The WiFi on the iPhone is great. When surfing the web and watching YouTube videos, it makes all the difference. If I'm out of WiFi range, which I am each time I leave my home, the web surfing and YouTube experience slows down to a crawl. Edge is so slow. It seems like I'm sitting there staring at that "loading" icon, circle thingy swirling around in circles forever when trying to watch a YouTube video. It takes so long to load the YouTube site and then even longer to get a video loaded and started. For instance just this morning, my husband and I went to the grocery store. Barry drove and on the way home, and while still in the parking lot, I got my iPhone and went to YouTube and looked up "Umbrella" by Rihanna. After two stoplights, the video finally loaded and began to play. As soon as we pulled into our driveway, my iPhone detected my LinkSys WiFi access point and connected to it. I usually use my iPhone at home anyway and I Really appreciate the WiFi!


Moving Forward

Well, I am overall very happy with the iPhone and am so glad that I bought it months ago. Moving forward, I plan to use it much more. As mentioned above, I've found the phone reception to be better in the iPhone. I'm so glad that I don't have to choose between the iPhone and the Treo. I love them both and plan to use them equally from now on. I'll probably use the iPhone more as a phone and of course use my Treo as my organizer. It rules regarding PIMs. The iPhone will be my main music and video device and my Treo will be my gaming device. And of course I'll rely on my Treo to create documents since I prefer the Treo's keyboard and also the Treo's ability to copy and paste. I prefer the iPhone's camera though. Each device has fine qualities, great features, super UI's and are a joy to use.


I received the BlackBerry Curve this morning from Mike so look for my initial thoughts on the Curve next week. I think I'm going to leave the battery out of my Treo and go ahead and plunge right into the Curve. I have hardly any experience with a BlackBerry so this will be a challenge for me most likely. I do look forward to it though! ;-)

Discuss this article in the "Treo Gal's Final Thoughts on the iPhone" official contest thread in the Round Robin forums.





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