Round Robin: Fond Farewell to the iPhone

If you've been following the Smartphone Round Robin closely, you've probably noticed that we've fallen off our “one week per device” posting schedule a bit. Just a single week with a device is tough - we're still doing it, but getting the phones to each other every week has introduced some inevitable delays (sorry Kevin!). Fret not, we press on nonetheless - the Latest Updates page has even been cleaned up a bit so you can get a “bird's eye view” (insert “robin” pun here) of what's new.

So today's submission from the Windows Mobile side is our last look at the iPhone. We are even following iPhone Mike's gracious lead and bidding the iPhone a fond farewell: because it deserves it.

Read on for my final thoughts on the iPhone!

When in Rome...

A curious thought occurred to me mid-TreoCast this week: I don't want to customize the iPhone anymore. Windows Mobile invites customization and tweaking - sometimes by necessity - the iPhone does not. Initially, I found this aggravating, but as time went on I found the urge to “fix” the iPhone waning. Granted, a significant portion of that shift is due to the standard “getting to know” experience of a new phone. Not all of it, though: the iPhone seems to manage (a nasty person might say “lower”) your expectations of what a smartphone does in subtle ways.

It's probably related to the “singular-ness” of the iPhone I mentioned in my previous article, but somehow when you're presented with a device that just just 16 things (plus settings) and nothing more, you eventually stop asking it to do thing 18, 19, and so on. You stop trying to get a decent ToDo solution or a decent password management solution simply because there aren't any decent ToDo or password managements solutions to be had. There's only kludgy workarounds that are often clunky (though pretty) web apps.

Seriously, folks, did Apple ever really believe that web apps would be enough?

What I'm saying is the iPhone will be a lot more compelling to a tweaker like me when there are 3rd party apps available for it, but it's surprisingly not the exercise in frustration I expected it to be. To be sure - I was less connected to my data with the iPhone than I usually am. I found email to be a pretty big chore that would often wait until I got to my desktop. I stopped visiting certain websites because I couldn't remember the password. I got lost driving in my (still new to me) county.

Basically, my week with the iPhone was like a week at a posh resort - I wasn't as connected as I usually am, I didn't get very much done, but damn if I didn't enjoy the view.

Which leads us to our list of...

The Must-Dos

  1. Editors must use their assigned smartphone as their “main brain” and may not use any other smartphone OR music device (such as an iPod) for one full week.
    Done and done. Although I will say that I did have to supplement the iPhone with another piece of technology: a pad of paper to keep track of my ToDo list. Yes, I tried the 3rd party todo app from unas and it is a worth effort even this early in Beta.
  2. Editors must attempt to sync their phone to their computer, syncing all PIM data.
    I use a Mac. This was dead-simple - with the obvious and grating exceptions of ToDo and Notes.
  3. Editors must attempt to set up their email on the smartphone
    Again - this was also easy, since we're a gmail shop. I did find myself missing push email, I'll admit, but not enough to start forwarding stuff over to a Yahoo account. I will demure from complaining about the iPhone's email client anymore, that horse is dead and beaten.
  4. Editors must attempt to use their smartphone to get directions at least once.
    Google Maps is awesome on the iPhone, easily the best “just map” program I've used on a mobile device. I still prefer Windows Live Search, though, because of its extra features. Also, I am pretty much addicted to having GPS readily available and find myself at a loss without it.
  5. Editors must attempt to use their smartphone with a bluetooth headset.
    Easy peasy. Odd that Apple hasn't made it compatible with Stereo Bluetooth headsets, though.
  6. Editors must attempt to install at least 2 3rd-party apps (if possible) on their smartphone.
    I've already mentioned that the jailbreakme method was simple and easy (though jailbreaking your iPhone is now difficult again as Apple updated their firmware - Mike seems confident it will be easy again very soon).
  7. Editors must attempt to play a game
    Lights out, baby. Still stuck on level 8.
  8. Editors must attempt to browse the internet
    Browsing the internet is basically how I spend most of my time with the iPhone. It is a joy.
  9. Editors must attempt to add music to their smartphone and use it as their music device.
    Again - easy.
  10. Editors must attempt to watch a video on their device.
    Wow, a lot of these requirements seem pretty geared to the iPhone, eh? I'll mention again here that the iPhone has won a coveted spot in my gear bag primarily because it's stupendously good at displaying video.


On the iPhone, there's (by and large) one way to do whatever it is you want. This is a usability advantage for most people, I suspect. One way means less confusion and less fumbling (see Kevin's thoughts on the Tilt for a good explanation of how multiple ways can stink). You can have any interface you want, as long as it's multitouch, right?

Anyhow, to my fingers the iPhone's interface is too slow. I'm not saying the iPhone is slow - I never really experienced any significant lockups or slowdowns (except when I tried to make Safari do a little too much). With the iPhone, you have to hit the home button, tap, tap, to get to where you want. This is actually not a horrible, painful experience - the transitions are relatively snappy and the graphical flourishes are neat.

No, what I'm saying is that the iPhone is slow to my fingers. I want to hit a button and bang! I'm in email; or bang! I'm entering a new ToDo. I don't mind learning multiple shortcuts (or even tweaking them into the device myself) to get that speed. I don't need a device bristling with buttons, widgets, and gee-gaws to satiate that desire, either, the HTC Touch manages it pretty well. With the iPhone I found myself blunting rather than feeding my appetite for finding was to get things done more quickly.

Wrapping up

So the long and the short of it is that the iPhone isn't nearly good enough on the productivity side to be my main brain. It also occasionally stymies my desire to adapt the device to my needs rather than adapting myself to the device's limitations. Luckily, the iPhone's limitations are offset by a good UI and, just in case you missed the memo, a freaking sweet web browser.

I'd say more (and will in the forums if y'all have questions), but the Blackberry 8310 is sitting on my desk. The BlackBerry is the first time in this Round Robin that I'll be genuinely coming to a device with next to no experience whatsoever -- should be interesting.

WC Staff