iPhone thoughts after the first week

I’ve had the iPhone 3G for a week now, and despite a rocky start, I’m fallen in love with the device. First the bad parts…

iTunes sucks, really. Getting it to install on Windows XP x64 requires jumping through several hoops. Apple makes this even harder by trying to be too smart on the download page and only allowing you to download the version they autodetect – so you can’t even download the x64 version if they don’t automatically detect that you’re using an x64 OS.

Once iTunes is installed (on x64), there’s an annoying dialog box which pops up every time you launch the application, complaining about a problem with the CD ripping functionality, though this can be fixed by copying some drivers to a different location on the hard drive.

The first thing I did after hooking up the phone was attempt to update the firmware to 2.0.2 (the phone came with 2.0.1). After installing the update, the phone reboots and Windows was unable to recognize it. Attempting to manually set the driver resulted in no progress, and the phone was stuck displaying an image of a USB cable and iTunes on the screen.

Eventually, I had to resort to installing iTunes on a Vista x32 machine. Plugging in the iPhone and loading up iTunes allowed the firmware update to complete and get the phone back to a working state.

If you’re using XP x64, be careful. Without an x32 machine to hand to sort out the firmware update, I’d probably be in trouble and have a useless phone.  In a virtual machine, windows wouldn’t even recognize the iPhone being plugged in, so that may not be an option either to get things working.

I’m generally not an iTunes fan, and haven’t used it in years, instead opting to use MediaMonkey to manage my iPod. Unfortunately, it’s not compatible with the iPhone (yet).

There’s also various other companies out there offering software to copy content to/from apple devices.  Both Imtoo and Xilisoft offer such software, though these are not yet compatible with the iPhone 3G and will corrupt the device.  Unfortunately, this information isn’t on their website and I ended up bricking my iPhone requiring a full reset.  They are working on an update, so hopefully we’ll see something from them soon.

The battery life is also a little on the weak side, though I’ve found it’s greatly increased once push email and 3G are turned off.  I’ve been using EDGE for the past few days and it’s perfectly usable for most tasks. Turning on 3G and WiFi is relatively easy and can be done when carrying out more data-intensive tasks like downloading apps, surfing the web for prolonged periods of time, etc.

Apple have also crippled some of the features. Unlike other phones, the iPhone doesn’t allow mp3’s to be used as ringtones, and there are some more hoops to jump through to get these working.  Typically, this involves importing the audio into iTunes, limiting to 30 seconds, converting to AAC, browsing to the file in Windows Explorer, changing the file extension, and importing the new file into iTunes as a ringtone. Hopefully we’ll see some third-party software to streamline this process a little more and reduce the number of steps required to do this.

The Bluetooth functionality is also screwed up, with the only profile supported being the one for headset use. This means you can’t send contacts, pictures, audio, etc from your old phone or any other phone to your iPhone. If you’re not using any kind of PC synchronization and have a lot of contacts, you’ll need to do this if you want to avoid wasting a lot of time re-entering all of your contacts manually.

(There’s a free app and service called Funambol which allows you to sync your contacts over the air, if you don’t want to sync using iTunes).

Hopefully Apple will fix this in a future update, as it’s a software restriction rather than a hardware one, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Apple are notorious for locking down their devices, and this seems like a brute-force method to force people to use iTunes for everything.

I’m against Apple’s methods to force users into the iTunes ecosystem, and look forward to Google Android.  As Fred Wilson says:

Android powered phones, like T-Mobile’s Dream, are really mind boggling to me. When you can put any software on them you want, when you can hack the phone, when you can connect it to any carrier, when you can connect to any other device, the potential for the mobile phone/computer is limitless. I think the iPhone pales in comparison to the disruptive potential of Android powered phones.

But back to the iPhone… despite all of these negatives, it’s still a fantastic device and a pleasure to use. It’s probably the most advanced mobile phone (if you can even call it that) I’ve ever used and sets a new standard.

The variety of third-party applications available is also fantastic, and adds tons of features to the phone that would otherwise be unavailable. I’m personally using 30+ apps and am very impressed with the quality.

The interface and on-screen keyboard takes some getting used to, but gets easier after a few days. I’m still not as fast on the iPhone keyboard as I was using that of the T-Mobile Dash, but given time, I’m sure I’ll get close.

I’ve also got the Invisible Shield from Zagg. This is a bit more awkward to install than the videos would indicate, but it’s definitely worth getting the screen coverage as a minimum.  I’ve got the full body kit, and there’s still a few air bubbles on the back, but it’s better than getting scratches on the device. I’m still waiting for my CapsuleRebel case to be delivered, which should offer complete full body protection on conjuction with the Invisible Shield.


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