iPhone Review: Really Magnificent

The iPhone is a mistake.

Before you hang me, let me clarify. The name iPhone is a mistake. It should have been called the “iComm” for the “i-Communicator” or the “i-Computer”. Because that is what it is. It is a full fledged computer running Mac OS X in the palm of your hand. You can’t get better than this. (Well until iPhone 2.0 :-).

So here is the skinny.

I got my iPhone (I immediately christened it iFonix) at 6.20 pm on Jun 29, 2007. Yes. I was in line at the Pasadena Apple Store to snag one on the day it came out.

Well to cut a long story short, I got my iPhone – the 8 GB one. Might as well get the top of the line while I wait for v2.0, right ?

The Apple Store employees cheered all the early iPhone shoppers and the Channel 4 News team was all over the place. It was the media event it was hyped up to be.

While standing in line at the store I made some good friends of the folks ahead and behind me and we had a great time talking Mac stuff, watching the beautiful downtown Pasadena crowd walking past.

We were well served by the Apple Store employees who handed out cool water every two hours and then a few local eateries got into the act handing out energy drinks, coffee, ice tea and smoothies. It was a great summer day!

Now on to the important part.

I got home and sat down to activate my iPhone. The iPhone box is as usual a gem in terms of design. Opening the box makes you feel that you are opening the Ark of The Covenant ! The iPhone box contains the following:

  1. iPhone
  2. Mini-brick usb power adapter
  3. Stereo headphones with built-in mic
  4. USB docking cable
  5. Black suede polishing cloth
  6. ‘Finger Tips’ manual (as if it needs one 🙂
  7. Apple stickers (mandatory in every Apple product)
  8. Apple Warranty Information (warrant valid for 1 year)

To get started the manual advised to install iTunes 7.3 and connect your iPhone through the dock that is provided. So simple. I plugged in the iPhone to the dock and iTunes prompted me to start the activation process. I already had a .Mac account so the process was easier. After confirming my address and entering my SSN I was then prompted to choose a plan. I chose the $59.99 plan and clicked on submit. I was asked to wait while iTunes / Apple was contacting AT&T servers for activation. I had to wait for almost 3-4 minutes before I got a message that said the activation process was going to take a little longer and I would be notified through email. How disappointing !

After all this I still did not have a activated iPhone ? But within 2 minutes I got the activation email to and a mobile number in my area code !! Voila ! My iPhone was active… That was relatively painless… almost..

I then had to choose all the data that I wanted to sync to my iPhone: AddressBook Contacts, Calendars, Email Accounts, Music, Videos and Podcasts. Customizing these I then performed the first sync that took a while since I was syncing over 5 GB of data.

Once the sync was done iTunes said I could disconnect the iPhone which I promptly did. Now for the first real touch-n-feel experience !

I slid my finger across the unlock button and the iPhone sprang to life .. it displayed the following icons:

On the bottom row are the main functions of the iPhone:

  1. Phone
  2. Email
  3. Safari Browser
  4. iPod

Above these are 12 icons in a 4 x 3 matrix that are for:

  1. SMS
  2. Calendar
  3. Photos
  4. Camera
  5. YouTube
  6. Stock Tracker
  7. Google Maps
  8. Weather
  9. Clock
  10. Calculator
  11. Note pad
  12. Settings

I will take you through this 4 + 12 applications in detail. Get a cup of coffee or a bag of chips. This could take a while 🙂

Finger experience:

First, how is the touch screen interface ? In one word: FreakinAwesome (that qualifies as 1 word :-0 ). Whatever mojo Apple put into the touchscreen works like magic. You simply glide your finger confidently across the screen and things happen ! The key here is ‘confidently’ or ‘firmly’. Don’t touch it ‘gingerly’ because it will not respond. You need to ‘firmly’ slide or tap your finger on the glass surface.

Response:

The response for any finger tap/glide is instantaneous. It’s as if you are touching a living breathing display that is somehow organic. The animation supplements this surreal tactile experience and you feel as if the display is made of stretchable rubber. The millions of words that are already written and will be written about this responsiveness can only be understood once you handle it yourself. Then the ‘bulb’ will go off in your brain and give you an ‘a-ha’ moment.

Heft:

The phone is heavy and solid. It’s got a nice heft and you can feel the ‘seriousness’ of the device. It’s also quite tall and extremely graspable. Holding it in either hand feels good satisfying.

External Buttons & Markings:

The top glass surface has only one button. A muted circular depression at the bottom of the screen with a small white rounded rectangle icon in the middle of the button. You press this button to go to the home screen of the phone that displays the available apps and functions. The button is not a touch screen button but it needs to be physically pushed down with force to get a tactile click. This feels quite weird once you are used to the finger tap/glide motion. Almost feels as if the button needs to be lightly tapped. But no. You have to push it down until it clicks.

The left side has two buttons: one composite button for Volume control and a small switch that puts the phone in silent mode. These are black buttons contrasting the brushed silver back cover.

On the top there is one single button for putting the iPhone to sleep or waking it up. The top also has a recessed headphone jack and a thin slim slot covered by a matching brushed aluminum door for the SIM card. There is a small hole in this door presumably to open it using a paperclip or a pushpin so you can remove and insert a SIM card. I have not tried this myself. But will do so soon.

The right side has no buttons whatsoever since when you hold the iPhone in your left hand (as a right handed person would do) your left hand fingers curl around the right side of the iPhone.

The bottom has the dock connector port and to it’s left is a microphone grille and to the right is a speaker grille.

The back has the 2 megapixel camera on the top left and an Apple logo in the middle completes the iPhone.

Power-On:

Pressing slightly on the top button brings the phone alive displaying the wallpaper and a onscreen virtual button with a right pointing arrow and animated strip that invites you “slide to unlock”. You then slide your finger across this strip and the slide the button left to right. It moves with a satisfying smooth motion and the home screen springs to life.

Main Features:

1. Phone: (MacMessiah Rating: 4 Halos)

No doubt this is the easiest and best looking phone. Clicking on the green Phone icon brings up different screens depending on how the phone has been synced.

  1. If you have not synced your contacts then it brings up a phone Keypad.
  2. If you have even a single contact then it brings up the alphabetical listing of contacts.

You can start dialing a number from the keypad and once the call connects the phone displays six icon options:

Mute – Keypad – Speaker

Add call – Hold – Contacts
These are all self explanatory and very powerful options. You can click on “Keypad” to dial further numbers once you get connected. This is useful for navigating a phone tree or IVR system. You know ‘Press 1 for Mumbai Call Center..’ etc.

Selecting ‘Add Call’ is exactly that. You can dial a second phone number or select from a contact and bridge the first call and this call together for a conference call. You can bridge upto 6 calls which is quite impressive.

Clicking on ‘Contacts’ allows you to navigate your Addressbook and search/edit contacts while on a call.

Mute, Speaker and Hold are exactly what they say. They work great. The speaker phone is quite loud and clear even in a noisy environment.

The AT&T reception in my house was not all that great. It showed only 2-3 bars but the call quality was quite good.

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