So yes, I have an iPhone that I can’t use as a phone (yet)…in Canada at least.
I’ll be using it fully as intended when I visit a friend in California next week but once I return, the phone function will cease to work unless an unlock solution is discovered….and I’m fine with that. The rest of the device’s features really are that good. I have faith that the hacker community will find a way to unlock the phone so it can be used in Canada and even if they can’t, it’s still easily the best iPod ever made plus the smallest Apple laptop-ish/tablet/internet device available. My first iPod (2nd gen, 10gb model) cost the same as this a few years ago as did my unlocked Treo650.
My standard ‘pitch’ these past few days to people asking about the phone is that it really does live up to the hype and the commercials pretty much capture the way the device functions. It just seems like a device from the future compared to any other ‘phone’ on the market. I’m specifically referring to the user interface and how you use the phone. Many of the things the iPhone does can be done on other phones….some even better. But none of them are as much fun to use, as beautiful to look at or in a few cases, as powerful.
I did want to do the usual unboxing pr0n shots of the iPhone but since I missed launch day by a bit, those shots have already been taken hundreds of times….although this is definitely a device that fits in the ‘sexy technology’ category worthy of pr0n shots in the first place.
In case you were wondering how I activated the iPhone, TUAW.com has the scoop on the method I used. As of this blog post, it’s unclear if this method still works so YMMV. As Yoda would say, there is another…(way)…actually probably a few others. As always, google is your friend as these things change rapidly.
Suffice to say, I’m not in a contract and have a working iPhone.
Today I had my first chance to really see all the features of the iPhone in action. Up until now, I’d only be able to use the wifi features but as I happen to be in the states again today (don’t ask), I was able to see AT&T’s Edge network in full effect. People have been complaining that it’s slow and unreliable. Maybe….but considering I was in Bellingham and not some major metropolis, I thought it performed admirably.
Unlimited data service on a device like the iPhone is great compared to the deal us poor schlubs get with Roger’s in Canada (I’m on the $5 for 5mb plan…which is much better than the previous $5 for 250kb I had before). I used 10.1mb during the 5 hours I was down south today…which would have blown my monthly plan and incurred 5.1mb in excess data (@ $0.03/kb if I remember correctly). I’d be living in a cardboard box pretty quickly if I was using my Roger’s data plan with the iPhone.
Anyways, enough bitching about the price of data….here’s hoping when/if Roger’s gets their act together, the data plans don’t make the iPhone unusable in this market. Back to the iPhone…
The first thing that happened once I was in AT&T service-land was a popup on the iPhone that said the iPhone was now activated on the AT&T network. I then got my first SMS on the device telling me to ‘enjoy your new phone’. I presume it was from AT&T as it was from some generic non-telephone looking number.
I then was able to see the visual voicemail screen for the first time and got a message about my voicemail not being setup. It gave me the option of choosing the default message or use a custom message. I opted for the custom message although I’m curious what the default it….I’d guess the usual ‘the cellular customer is away from their phone…please leave a message after the beep’. The custom message option then revealed a record button on the screen and I recorded a boring outgoing message and pressed the stop button. The stop button changed to a play button and I was able to play it back. There is also a speaker button on the screen so you can route the playback to the onboard speaker which is a nice touch. There is also a scrub area that allows you to ‘scroll or scrub’ through the recording with your finger. Very nice (Borat voice).
I had prearranged a buddy to call me and I’d not answer so that I could try out the voicemail feature. When he called, what struck me immediately was how loud the ringer was and how strong the vibrate function felt. Compared to my Treo650, the iPhone was much better. I usually carry my phone in my pocket and miss a lot of calls because the Treo is too quiet (at the loudest setting) and can’t feel the vibrate mode when walking. The iPhone was only at half volume and I heard it clearly in my pocket and felt it vibrate no problem while I was walking. Sure my Treo is 2 years old but even when it’s battery was new, it wasn’t this strong. I can’t believe some people have been returning their phones over the volume….maybe they just got bad units. I also realized that it would be louder if I placed it in my pocket upside down so that the speakers which are at the bottom faced up. Made sense to me.
As when I recorded the custom greeting message, playback of the voicemail he left worked the same way with play and stop buttons, a scrub line (I’m sure there is a better way to describe this) and the speaker option. It worked as advertised. The cool thing is that your voicemails are downloaded to the phone so upon my return to Canada tonight, I still had the message on there and could play it back without network access. There is actually a message at the top of the page that says that Visual Voicemail is not available and a ‘Call Voicemail’ button to go the old fashioned route of dialing into the network to retrieve your message. I’d guess this is what we’ll see when we have the unlocked iPhone on a different network.
The next app I got to play with a little more is the SMS app which for all intents, comes across looking like an iChat client. This is not unlike the SMS app on my Treo with a threaded discussion, it just looks prettier on the iPhone. Unfortunately, there isn’t much more to say about it other than it just works but you can’t even change the chat balloon colors at this point. I don’t really care about MMS (or the lack of it on the iPhone) as I’ve never really used it. Apple seems to want you to use email for most things anyways…at least on the 1.0 release of the iPhone’s software.
Things got really interesting when I started playing with the Google Maps app while in a different city. The main reason why my wife and I go to Bellingham so often is that due to her chemical sensitivity, she uses as many natural products as possible and there are a couple of great places for these products down there. We’ve been going to a Food Co-Op down there for a couple of years now because they tend to carry a wider range of the products and are a lot cheaper than in Canada (hmm…sounds familiar). While I was waiting in the car for her while at the Co-Op, I decided to play with Google Maps and simply put in ‘food coop, bellingham, wa’ and it instantly came back with a zoomed map of Bellingham and three pins ‘fell from the sky’ and landed on the center of Bellingham, the Food Co-Op whose parking lot I was parked in and another store about 2 blocks away that I had never heard of. So when my wife came back, we decided to check it out. It turned out to be a small discount food place that only carried natural foods and products. Score one for Google Maps. We’d been coming here for years and never stumbled upon this other place that had some great deals until today.
Again, to be fair, I’ve had the Google Maps app on my Treo for ages but never really used it because of the data charges. I wouldn’t expect this to change much with a Roger’s iPhone either though since I was still in another country and the data-roaming would have scared me off. But in a pinch, I might if I was really curious to find something. The other cool part about the app is that you can tap on the pin (just like in the commercial) and get the phone number and full address of the business. There was even a link to their website included in the Google result.
The last thing I’m going to talk about in this post is Facebook (well and Safari too I guess)…while waiting in the Co-Op’s parking lot, I thought I’d check my Facebook page to see what had been going on. This is where the Edge network started to show it’s true speed a little.
Once I logged in, it took a fair bit of time (1-2 minutes) to render my status page completely….but it did have a lot of photos on it…it can take awhile to render on my laptop as well so I’ll cut it some slack here. When Stacie came back to the car and found out I had been to Facebook, she had to check her page out as well. She thought it was cool to be able to do so from the car so effortlessly. The only problem was that she couldn’t update her status. Of all the websites I’ve tried on the iPhone, this was the first time that I wasn’t able to do something. It seemed to work at first – popping open the edit status window/dropdown but then it closed again. Here you go….and no you can’t. Not sure where the issue is but it’s a minor one to me that could probably be fixed quite easily. Besides, you could still do a mobile update if you really wanted to.
I also experienced my first Safari crash while browsing Facebook and Flickr (in separate tabs/windows). You’re scrolling around and then poof, you get dropped back to the ‘home’ screen of the iPhone as if you pressed the home button. You can click on Safari again and your tabs and pages are still there which is nice though.
So there you have a not-so-brief look at some of my first experiences with the iPhone….this only scratches the surface of the features of the phone so I expect to make more posts about this device as I get more familiar with it and software updates are released for it.
I’ll try not to say ‘iPhone’ a million times in future posts too.