This weekend, I had the chance to take my new iPhone out for a field test, on a trip down to Washington, DC. The bottom line? Like my overall impression of the iPhone, this field trip turned up a mixed bag. While I think it points to the future of computing (my theory is a device like the iPhone, with a few more CPU cycles to it, is going to collapse current notions of “desktop” and “laptop” and “mobile” — it’s going to just be our “computer,” and we’ll plug in a monitor at home, bluetooth with the keyboard and mouse, and unplug it to-go when we leave, all with our files in the cloud), it’s still immature enough that I have to reboot it at least once a day…
Anyway, in no particular order, here’s what I found:
– GPS Is Actually Pretty Cool. This is coming from an old school, paper map kind of guy. I’ve strongly resisted the GPS craze, and think there’s nothing better than using a map to get the lay of the land around you. Using a map, you learn to “think in grids,” and by staying cognizant of your surroundings (like keeping track of the sun), navigating a new place becomes pretty straightforward. But what I found this weekend is — when you don’t have a map on you, GPS built into the phone can actually be a pretty handy thing! I really liked using the directions page to get a quick take on where I needed to go, and driving into DC from 495 was made much easier using the maps.
– Car Charger: Don’t Leave Home Without It. Of course, GPS is much more useful when you actually have battery power. My iPhone ran out of power pretty quickly using the GPS — it’s a real energy-suck. I stupidly forgot the charger, and, attracted by my bright shiny new object, stared at the GPS tracking my location during the drive down the NJ Turnpike (straight road — no GPS needed…). When we got to DC, and needed the location tracking, it obviously failed. Now I know.
– AT&T’s Network: Not That Great. Both in NYC and now in DC, I’ve found AT&T’s network to be worse than Verizon’s. Hopefully it’s something they improve. At the wedding I attended, I had hopes of sending some commentary on the proceedings over Twitter, but I had pretty much no connectivity where I was.
– Reboot! As I mentioned, I think the iPhone, as cool as it is, is still pretty buggy. There was a time I was rebooting my computer once a day — when I used Windows. It’s completely unacceptable to reboot a computer once or twice a day because of hangs, but for the iPhone, I guess it’s overlooked. Mostly from the apps; I can only assume it’s because of the NDA, and developers aren’t building up iPhone coding best practices. Hopefully, this will improve over time.
– iPhone’s Killer App? Alarm Clock! It sounds crazy, but the alarm clock is one of my favorite things on the phone! I have different settings for different days, and when traveling, I didn’t bother with the room’s clock radio, or even calling for a wake up. But why can’t I use my iPod’s playlists???
– The Best Camera Is The One That’s In Your Hand. I love taking pictures. Usually don’t like lugging around my D70. Having a camera in your phone is great, and the iPhone’s camera is actually pretty good, very clear photos. I actually like not having a zoom — it forces you to move around, and find interesting ways to shoot. (Here are some of the photos I took.)
Overall, a mixed bag, but hopefully both Apple and AT&T will continue to improve the iPhone over time. Can’t wait to take it on the next trip…this time with the car charger.