iPhone ownership is like school dinner custard

…there are runny bits, and there are lumpy bits.

The runny bits:

* The iPhone in general. It’s a superb wi-fi web tablet, a great iPod, ideal for boring people senseless with baby photos and it makes the odd phone call too.

* Integration between iPhone apps. It – ahem – just works.

* The keyboard. Once you realise you can generally trust the autocorrect, it’s very, very fast.

* Syncing with iCal and iTunes. Doddle.

* Visual voicemail.

* Free Wi-Fi (provided of course you’re near hotspots).

* Ownership joy. Every single person who’s seen it loves it.

* Standard dock connector – which means it works with my existing chargers and my in-car stuff. Hurrah.

The lumpy bits:

* EDGE. Coverage round here is non-existent. If you know Glasgow, EDGE coverage seems to disappear once you get to Anniesland, let alone further north, which isn’t very impressive. Not sure what it’s like outside the city but I don’t imagine it’s great. Or there at all.

* EDGE. Even when you can get it, it’s shit. Downloading emails via an EDGE connection reminds me of the bad old days with a Psion Series 3 and an infra-red mobile phone connection.

* The headphones. They’re not bad, but they’re not great either. So you have a choice: get an ugly adapter for your existing phones and forget about hands-free; get an expensive adapter for your existing phones so you can still get hands-free; or get an expensive set of phones with hands-free built in.

* Various minor irritants. Mail needs filters; the horrible typeface in the Notes application; detection scripts that give you a mobile version of websites instead of the full-fat ones (fine when you’re on evil EDGE, but annoying on Wi-Fi);  the lack of copy and paste; it’s very easy to dial the wrong contact; the lack of ability to use your own tunes as ringtones without hitting the hacking sites.

* Mugger fear. I’ve never had mugger fear with a normal iPod, but then a normal iPod doesn’t have a big “look at me! Look at me! I am very bad at fighting!” screen that’s visible from space. A proper remote on the headphones wouldn’t be a bad idea.

* Contract costs. It’s cheaper than a Blackberry (on O2 at least) but £35/month is still a lot of money for a mobile. Unless you’re a real power user, the combination of your existing mobile and an iPod Touch would give you pretty much the same amount of fun. And mugger fear. I’d definitely recommend a protective case and phone insurance (O2’s own handset insurance isn’t too pricey).

And that’s pretty much it.

31 replies on “iPhone ownership is like school dinner custard”

As far as I know, O2 doesn’t publish edge coverage maps – but if there is one, I’d love to see it.

you mentioned the mugger fear twice

I know! Double the comedy!

OK, I popped into an O2 shop and fiddled with one of these things. I thought it was a lovely bit of kit with some nice ideas, but it made me think that I had been right when I said that one should beware of buying the first attempt at making a phone by a company who’ve never tried it before. I reckon Apple will make a superb phone in a couple of years, but the current iPhone ain’t it.

I use my phone for texting and emailing rather a lot. On the iPhone, you have to switch to a separate keyboard for punctuation? Jesus wept. That alone makes the thing unbuyable, in my opinion. It’s just one little thing, but it’s fundamental to usability and speed. And I’m sure Apple will realise that and fix it, but, until they do, it’s one little way in which their phone is laughable compared to the latest Nokias.

It occurs to me that texting isn’t anything remotely like as big in the US as in Europe, and so the texting interface may be less of a priority to an American company than a Scandinavian one. But still.

On the iPhone, you have to switch to a separate keyboard for punctuation? Jesus wept.

Autocorrect usually fixes it. So you’d type “thats” and hit space, and it’ll change it to “that’s”. Works pretty well.

Oh. Well, fair enough, but the fact that I didn’t figure that out kind of makes my point about how incredibly intuitive the interface isn’t? I saw that user test where someone gave various smartphones to people who’d never used them and timed them figuring out how to do things, and concluded that the iPhone was easier to figure out than the others. Hmm.

How about “it’s”? Does it scan your sentence for context? And can the autocorrect figure out full stops and commas and question marks, which don’t have spelling clues?

I’m disgusted with myself, but after spending an hour or two with Gary’s, I’ve gone and got one. :-(

OK, I’ve now been using this for a day and it is much better than I thought. this is being typed on the iphone and it is far faster than I can type on any other device without a conventional keyboard. I am also online using edge which is comparable to my k810i on 3g (which is non-hspda) I still think the n95 is better value, but I don’t think that I would be as impressed.

the fact that I didn’t figure that out kind of makes my point about how incredibly intuitive the interface isn’t?

Dunno. I suspect it’s the age old mac thing where if you come to it with expectations of How Things Should Be Done, it doesn’t work the way you might expect – whereas if you just start doing something, it gets on with it. I found typing very slow until I decided to trust the autocorrect, and while it’s not as fast as a normal keyboard it’s ten times faster than the QWERTY Blackberry. So for me at least, it’s an improvement rather than a step backwards.

I am also online using edge which is comparable to my k810i on 3g (which is non-hspda)

Really? I’ve only been able to get Edge in Glasgow (Govan) during working hours, and it was bloody slow then. Maybe time/location makes a difference.

it’s ten times faster than the QWERTY Blackberry

Just as a matter of interest, do you type with your thumbs on the BlackBerry? I have the Pearl with the half-Qwerty, and I can type pretty fast with my thumbs, but the keyboard on the iPhone is too small to do that. So do you type on both with one finger?

Both thumbs on both. Main advantage of the iPhone approach is that within reason, you can type any old shite and it’ll autocorrect it if your fingers were vaguely close. It does take a bit of getting used to, though.

>>It does take a bit of getting used to, though.

There is an element of reckless abandon about it. The most inaccuracies I had were when I missed pressing space. Most of the words were OK. You have to avoid the temptation to stop and look at every press.

>>Maybe time/location makes a difference.

Probably. AFAIK edge suffers from latency issues and things that are completely unrelated to pure speed. I was using it here and could get youtube (admittedly not as good quality), google maps and general browsing and it wasn’t noticeably slower than the Sony. If you had an HSDPA phone it would be a hell of a difference but basic 3g (like the K810i) is only 384kbps max. Edge can get close to that in the right conditions.

Yeah, but does it put full stops in automatically somehow? Or does the autocorrect only handle apostrophes and hyphenation?

> while it’s not as fast as a normal keyboard it’s ten times faster than the QWERTY Blackberry.

Oh, God, yeah: little thumb-operated qwerty keyboards are a nightmare. For qwerty to work, you’ve got to be able to use your fingers, even if only two of them. (The one thing about the E90 that isn’t fantastic, by the way: the 9500’s keyboard had a much nicer action; you could type on the thing incredibly fast. The E90’s is good, but not as good.) I’d be interested to see whether the iPhone or Nokia’s latest predictive text is faster.

This got me thiking about interface design, actually. To get a question mark on predictive text is four key-presses. Yet I think I’d still get a question mark more quickly on a Nokia than an iPhone, which, even with its annoying switching-to-a-separate-keyboard thing (as I’m assuming autocorrect can’t figure out when to put question marks in), is still only two key-presses. And I reckon a drawback of a touch-screen might be its impact on the ability to anticipate. Having to hit a key three times is no big deal if you can see the key before you even get to that stage — your thumb’s in position in advance. But pressing a key on a keyboard that you can’t currently see is always going to introduce that small delay after switching to the keyboard as your eyes have to scan the thing. In short, I’m guessing that it’s easier to see the location of a physical button than it is to anticipate the location of a currently invisible mark on a screen.

>>basic 3g (like the K810i) is only 384kbps max

HSDPA is 1.8MBps though. That’s what people think of when they’re talking about 3g speeds, I reckon.

>>And can you turn off wi-fi to force it to go onto Edge?

Yup. From the home screen – Settings, Wi-Fi, On/Off. If EDGE is present, a little capital E will appear next to the O2-UK in the top left.

In short, I’m guessing that it’s easier to see the location of a physical button than it is to anticipate the location of a currently invisible mark on a screen.

Possibly, yeah, but it’s compensated by the way you can type like an arse and still get something coherent at very high speed, so it balances out. What you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts, and all that.

A lot of it depends on the keyboard, too. Both my (now recycled) O2 XDA and Blackberry had keys and QWERTY, but the positioning of punctuation marks was weird and always, always necessitated a pause – so you’d go for a full stop and hit enter or delete, that kind of thing. I don’t think you can scale down QWERTY without compromising somewhere. And the better a typist you are, the more of a pain it is. Even my old Psion was a pain to type on – that was a half-sized QWERTY with decent keys.

I do like the iphone trick of trying to anticipate your typing and making landing zones bigger.

It was interesting to look again at the XDA actually, as it has both touch screen and a slide out thumb board. Neither really did the job.

>>BTW one bit where the iphone gets it wrong is the lack of landscape input in mail.

Apple seem to be committed to keeping the thing updated more regularly than most phones. That could be fixed in a firmware update.

OK, so I went and tried one out again, bearing in mind your advice about typing. I stand by my earlier comment: Apple will make a great phone in a couple of years. The autocorrect is pretty good, but not that good. The two-spaces-for-a-full-stop thing is OK, but commas and hyphens are still a pain in the arse. Trying to send an email from that thing would just drive me mad.

Funnily enough, I played with someone’s iPod yesterday (how many years has it taken me to get around to that?), and didn’t care for its interface either. I’m a committed Mac fan when it comes to their personal computers, but I’m not sure I like their gadgets. Considering they’re designed by the same people under the same philosophy and design ethos, this probably means that I’m odd.

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