The iPhone – My Review

A few days ago, I got an iPhone from work. I have played with it a bit, and have to say that I’m impressed for the most part. However, there are still quite a few issues that I would love to see solved. Following is a list of the pros and cons of this gadget, as I see it.

Pros

The Browser

The version of Safari used on the iPhone is pretty spectacular. It displays Web sites almost the same way they’re displayed on my computer. If this is the direction mobile browsers are moving, we may not need to continue developing separate sites for mobile users. The browser is very intuitive, allowing users to select items from dropdown menus (HTML select elements), click on links, zoom in and out, scroll, etc. very easily. Javascript is almost fully implemented within this version of Safari. A simply double-tap on any item on the page will zoom to fit that item in the window. Turn the iPhone sideways, and the browser reorients itself (to switch from portrait to landscape or vice-versa).

E-mail Compatibility

The iPhone works almost flawlessly with Microsoft Exchange server (in fact, it works better than the old Samsung smart phone running Windows Mobile that I had at my previous job). It syncs in real time with your Exchange server. It also allows you to easily sync with Gmail, Yahoo! mail, mobileMe, AOL and more. You can set up multiple e-mail accounts with ease. There is no need for a separate go-between account as there is (or at least, was in the past) on a Blackberry.

I currently only have the iPhone set up to sync with my Exchange account, but I have tested it with my Yahoo! mail account, as well. It does a great job of syncing your calendar items, e-mail messages (received, sent, drafts and more), contacts, etc. from the mail server.

Touch Screen

The touch screen is actually really nice on the iPhone. With my fat, stubby, clumsy fingers, I expected to have all sorts of issues with the screen. Happily, I very rarely have any problems typing or touching what I want on the phone. The only time I really experience any major issues is when I’m holding the phone at an odd angle. The touch screen keyboard is really nice when you’re using an app that allows you to rotate it to landscape.

Apps

The iPhone App Store is fantastic. There are so many useful apps available for the iPhone that it’s almost overwhelming. A great number of them are free, which makes it even better. So far, I’ve only added free apps to my iPhone, so I can only comment on them. However, with the apps I have installed, I can easily update and track my WordPress blogs, my Twitter account, my Facebook account, my Yahoo account and more. I can use the Google app to search the Web either by typing or speaking a search term/phrase. I can listen to Pandora radio, various college radio stations, NPR, iHeart radio and more. I can view and download e-books using Stanza or Kindle; I can watch free clips using Babelgum or YouTube; I can check the weather using WeatherBug or the out-of-the-box weather app that comes with the iPhone. I can identify a lot of songs I hear on the radio or TV using Shazam, search for nearby restaurants, hotels, etc. with Where or iWant, identify nearby WiFi hotspots with Free WiFi Locator. I can keep up with my favorite sports using Fox Sports or CBS Sports. I can even figure out which direction I’m going with Compass Free, make sure my desk is sitting on a level surface with Free Level, figure out where I parked my car with Take Me To My Car and more. I can even search TV listings and set  my DVR using the DirecTV app.

All of that doesn’t even begin to take into account the various games I installed on my iPhone for free. These apps are fantastic! If that’s not enough, I can even visit the App Store and grab new apps without even getting near a computer; as all of that can be done directly through the phone.

Cons

E-mail Signatures

Unfortunately, you can only set one e-mail signature that gets used for all of your e-mail accounts (which is why I currently have my Yahoo! mail account disabled on the phone). Once you set an e-mail signature, it automatically gets appended to every e-mail you send, no matter which account you use.

I located an app today that apparently lets you set up to four different e-mail signatures, and assign them with various accounts. I will probably download it and try it out later.

Copy and Paste

This is currently one of the two biggest drawbacks of the iPhone for me. There is no way to copy and paste text on the iPhone (or even highlight text for that matter). Since I will potentially be using the iPhone to update our Web site when I’m not near a computer, this is a major issue. Imagine that someone requests I add a new paragraph to the site. Am I really expected to re-key that entire paragraph using the iPhone’s keyboard, when I could simply copy and paste it on any other platform?

Editing Documents

While the iPhone does a nice job of displaying e-mail attachments in Word, Excel, PDF formats and more, there is no way to edit those documents. It would be nice if I could download these documents to my iPhone, open them in an external app, edit them and then do something else (like upload them through a Web interface or attach them to another e-mail message). There are apps available to create new documents and even to edit various documents (though none of them appear to support the standard MS Office formats – most likely due to Microsoft’s unwillingness to play nicely with others), and none of them seem to support actually saving e-mail attachments and editing them.

TinyMCE

Although Javascript is almost fully implemented in the iPhone’s browser, TinyMCE is completely useless. Any Web interface that uses TinyMCE is crippled on the iPhone, as the iPhone doesn’t even recognize the TinyMCE interface as an editable area of the page. I’m sure that the TinyMCE team could probably come up with a way to make it work on the iPhone, or at least make it degrade gracefully, but I don’t think that should be their problem. Apple should work on this to get it (and, I’m assuming, similar WYSIWYG applications) working properly.

No Flash

While it must be supported in some way, as YouTube works just fine on the iPhone, Flash is missing from the browser. That means no Hulu, among other things. Apparently, Hulu is working on an app (most likely similar to the YouTube app that works on the iPhone). That, however, doesn’t help us when trying to load other Flash-based items on the Web. Because Javascript is supported by the iPhone browser, I’m guessing (though I haven’t investigated too much) that that means a lot of people’s Web sites are simply broken on the iPhone; assuming that they relied entirely on javascript to determine whether or not they could load Flash content, as many developers seem to do.

iTunes

I won’t spend much time on this, as that will probably be the focus of an entirely separate blog post, but the fact that the iPhone is dependent on the iTunes software (which, by the way, is not available on Linux) really stinks.

Conclusion

All-in-all, I’m really happy with the iPhone, and very impressed with the way it’s been designed. However, it still has a long way to go before it will be the be-all end-all of mobile communication.

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One Response

  • Good to know about the pros and cons of the iphone you came across in detail

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