iPhone First Impressions

So I bought an iPhone. I plan to use it as an iPod (music and video), camera and as a development testing machine. Not as a phone. I’m hoping I can get this to function as a wifi-only device.

I don’t want the AT&T Wireless service – or more accurately, I don’t want the monthly fee of the service. I know I can cancel the service within 30 days without paying the $175 early termination fee, but I don’t know if they will demand their iPhone back or not. Of course the bigger question I haven’t found answered yet – will the iPhone work in wifi mode, etc. once it has been activated but no longer has an active plan.

From their TOS:

You may terminate this Agreement within thirty (30) days after activating service without paying an Early Termination Fee. You will pay for service fees and charges incurred through the termination date, but AT&T will refund your activation fee, if any, if you terminate within three (3) days of activating the service. Also, you may have to return any handsets and accessories purchased with this Agreement.

Really it would be smart for them to let me keep it – if I decide I love the iPhone and want to use it as a phone I’m this close to being their customer. If they won’t, I’ll have to return the iPhone and perhaps pay a $50 re-stocking fee. Not a huge risk.

My first impressions:

  • The Apple Store employees are glowing they are so happy to be selling these.
  • They recognized my credit card number and emailed my receipt to me from the Apple Store. I had it on my BlackBerry before I left the store. Slick.
  • It’s a little heavier than I expected, especially compared to the Nokia N95.
  • The screen is gorgeous.
  • It picks up smudges and fingerprints like mad.
  • The keyboard is actually worse than I feared. I’d let myself believe they might have actually pulled it off and made it usable.
  • There is no way this can replace my BlackBerry, at least not yet.
  • I use copy-paste on my mobile device pretty often.
  • It’s a pretty great iPod.
  • I like being able to play music and video through the speakers.
  • The camera predictably sucks in low light.
  • There doesn’t seem to be a way to turn off the phone/cell connection and keep wifi on.
  • Activation was completely painless and took less than 1 minute.
  • More companies should have online activation like this – of course, I bet many of them would screw it up.
  • “iTunes” is becoming more inaccurately named every year.
  • The scrolling and pinch are indeed pretty cool.
  • I can’t believe they thought crunching all of the iCalendars into a single calendar on the iPhone was a good idea. It’s on a small screen like the iPhone where I really want to be able to turn on/off calendars.
  • I don’t see why some of these apps don’t have screens that rotate.
  • The YouTube widget is pretty well done.
  • Tabbed browsing in mobile Safari is excellent.
  • I wish I could copy/paste the user agent from the web page content in Safari, but it’s good to know that sniffing on “iPhone” will do the trick.
  • It was really smart to keep the dock connector port the same. I simply replaced my old iPod dock with the iPhone dock (plugging it into the same USB cable).
  • I have to think about which of my playlists to load on the iPhone.
  • The iPhone really makes me appreciate the keyboard on my BlackBerry.
  • I hope I can load a “wallpaper” onto this via iPhoto. That has to work. Yep, it does.
  • The UI for the timer app is genius.
  • I’m already annoyed at the limited configurability1 of it.
  • Where is my “auto-upload to Flickr” feature like all the Nokias have? I guess I can send them via e-mail.
  • Some of the interface niceties in here are really impressive.
  • After a little experimentation, I’m upgrading my rating of the keyboard from “horrible” to just “bad”.
  • Seriously, is there no way to set a Signature or remove the “sent from iPhone” on e-mails? Ah there it is. The lack of scroll bar removes a valuable interface hint – I didn’t realize there were more options on the Mail screen. There needs to be some sort of indicator that there is more stuff below the current screen.

Overall, I’m a little underwhelmed. So many of my friends were raving about the iPhone that I expected the experience to exceed what I’d been shown in the videos. It did not. It was nearly exactly what I expected from seeing the videos. Pretty much everything I thought would be great was, and everything I thought would suck did. Actually, perhaps the screen and video quality exceeded my expectations a little.

To be honest, I don’t think I’m the target iPhone user. If you’re a heavy BlackBerry user, you probably aren’t either. RIM can rest easy (for now), this initial iPhone is in no way a BlackBerry competitor. A hardware keyboard and copy/paste in a future version might change this in a hurry, but I’d even be unwilling to send text messages or post to Twitter from iPhone with any regularity. The actual phone upgrade I want is the BlackBerry 8300/Curve, but it seems like that won’t be hitting Sprint for a while.

So I’m glad for all of you who find the iPhone is the perfect phone for you, I think it will be a very nice iPod for me. I guess I’ll find out in the next couple of days if I can cancel the AT&T service and keep the iPod iPhone and if it will continue to work without a service plan.

  1. Firefox doesn’t think that’s a word. If it’s not, it should be. [back]