My iPhone Road Trip Field Test

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.

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5 responses

  1. Great post Carlo! Very informative. Here’s my 2 cents on the items you mentioned…

    #1 – Yeah the GPS is awesome and also helpful to those of us who are not, ahem, map savvy. :-) Rumor is the next big software upgrade will open the door to voice turn-by-turn GPS, very helpful while driving! :-)

    #2 – I have rarely had my iPhone unplugged, at home or in the car. when I briefly do (like using it as an iPod while biking), I am STUNNED by how fast it sucks battery power. I had been warned about that though, so I have chargers always in car and with laptop.

    #3 – I guess Sprint (or perhaps more accurately(?) the antenna on my Treo 650) was soooo sucky that my iPhone seems much better. I still don’t get a GREAT signal in my house, but at least now I GET a signal, and the iphone’s wireless goes a long way to bridging that gap in a lot of places for me. I agree it’s not great. It’s just better than what I had. And hopefully it will improve.

    #4 – I have not had to reboot my iPhone but maybe twice since I got it. I am thinking for you it’s maybe an app issue?

    #5 – I like the alarm clock too, but have not really put it through it’s paces. I am mad for aSleep, which I play every night now to fall asleep. I also have a free speakable phrase book in Italian which should come in hand on our Europe trip!

    #6 – I was stunned when you said those awesome pics were from you iPhone. I have actually felt the quality of the camera is not as good as my old Treo’s. Maybe I need to look at the settings or something!

    I totally agree with your initial point that we are seeing the beginning of the paradigm shift in personal computers. Another option instead of blue tooth keyboards etc. will be the projected kind, have you heard about those? Someday you’ll be able to set your iPhone on a surface, push a button, and it will project a full keyboard in front of it, You type, and it knows what keys you hit. Pretty cool where it’s all going I think. I do see some cons to the iPhone, but man, I am still, mad, mad in love with it! :-)

  2. Carlo Scannella | Reply

    Thanks, K.

    I haven’t downloaded an Italian app yet — which one did you get?

    I haven’t heard about the projected keyboards — have a link? I have seen the roll-up ones, which are pretty neat.

    The spell check/auto-correct on the iPhone is a savior…I wouldn’t be able to use that keyboard touch screen without it.

  3. Here’s a link to a blog that talks about them…
    http://www.alpern.org/weblog/stories/2003/01/09/projectionKeyboards.html

    The Italian App is a free one, check in travel, it’s by lastminute.com, they have all kinds of them. Not really teaching Italian, just a phrase book, but it’ll speak the words out loud! I am rockin’ the Rosetta Stone too though, you’d be proud! :-D

    With ya on the spellchecker, although sometimes I get weird ones, like in the Unger Report! LOL!

  4. Cool…thank you!

  5. Oh, and good to know the Italian app is free. I’ll download it right now! :-)

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