My iPhone experience

Thu, Oct 23, 2008 8-minute read

As a fully-fledged Apple fanboi (as the idiots would call me), I was waiting with great anticipation for the iPhone to arrive in my area. In mainland UK, the iPhone is locked to o2, but here in Guernsey, we have three mobile carriers (none of which are o2) so there was a long, long wait for them to arrive here. And when they did, they were by no means official - that is, the two carriers offering them are importing them certain European countries for sale unlocked, and I’m reasonably sure Apple has little to no idea about it. As I was on the waiting list, I was one of the first to get my hands on one.

I’d needed a new phone for ages, as the ghetto orange Sony Ericsson I had been using was both a) a girl’s phone and b) a lesbian one at that. Not to mention totally beaten to hell and displaying typical “old phone” behaviour in randomly turning off when it ballywell felt like it. Not a good look. When the iPhone arrived here, it was a no-brainer to get one. And, as it turns out, I really had disengaged my brain in getting one.

Aesthetically, you can’t fault it. It’s a stunning phone with an amazing screen. And whilst it is slim and light, it is still big, however, far bigger than any other phone I’ve had, which can make for some bizarre and uncomfortable jean pocket issues. Amazingly though, daily use of it (admittedly with quasi-kid gloves attached), the exterior stayed in good nick - no damage to the screen and only minor scratching to the black plastic. Impressive.

It took me a while to figure out how to get the sim card in (I’m a bloke, I don’t read instruction manuals), and was wondering if I had to find a paper clip to get the holder out. Of course not! Apple give you a trendy little tool to do it.

Turn the phone on and the much-hyped interface greets you. And it’s a joy. The touchscreen is amazing, with all the slidey-scrolley-two fingered fun you could ever want. So to speak. I won’t harp on about all the things that make this phone amazing because ultimately… I don’t own it anymore. Yep - I had it for a fortnight, and in that time got so pissed off with it, that I had to return it to the shop.

OK, so here are the things that got on my tits about the iPhone and made me return it to the shop. These are listed in no particular order, but I’ll indicate with a * the ones that really annoyed me.

  • Battery life - at best a day and that’s not even using the iPod player. I had to charge it at least once a day, whereas my battered old SE would go for three days easily. It’s made me realise that music players and phones don’t mix. *
  • In addition - there was exactly zero indication if or when applications are running. For example, if you’re using TrailFinder (a very nifty GPS oriented tracker thingy) and then click the home button to exit it, is it still running? I seem to remember reading somewhere that, yes, it was - which might explain the poor battery life. Sure, you can force quit applications, but you shouldn’t have to. The iPhone does a good job of remembering the last state it, or an application, was in - so if you lock your phone, then let someone see it, but you just happen to have been writing a slightly dodgy text message, then they’ll see it!
  • SMS issues 1 - you can’t cancel a new text message!
  • SMS issues 2 - unless you enable to pin-protected autolock, then when a new message turns up, it displays in full view on the screen who it’s from. Maybe not a big deal, but a privacy issue in my book.
  • On screen keyboard - there are no buttons on this phone (apart from the home key) - everything is touch screen. If you’re a prolific texter, who is used to the standard 1-9 three letter per key keypad style of texting, switching to a hyper-sensitive on-screen qwerty keyboard is a big change. I could type messages at a fraction of the speed of my old phone, and there was no way I could do a “no-look” message. In its defense, the predictive text on the iPhone is excellent - but you need it because you make frequent mistaked with the tiny little on-screen keys. (Sure, with practice, you’d get better, but it was a massive frustration nonetheless)
  • Visual voicemail didn’t work - not the iPhone’s fault, that was the carrier’s fault and not a major issue per se, but still, it was one of its “flagship” functionalities and it was a bummer to not have it
  • iPhone Notes don’t sync with OSx Notes - I use notes in Mail on OSx Leopard to write, erm, well notes. I wager that it’s the exact same application on the iPhone. But for some completely unknown reason, you can’t sync between the two - so notes created on my Macbook Pro do not appear on the iPhone and vice versa. Was gobsmacked when I found this, it seems like such a trivial thing to include. *
  • Syncing through iTunes - I don’t know, I like iTunes well enough - it’s got my 40-odd gig music library in it, but that’s about it. I don’t use the iTunes store, I don’t listen to podcasts, iTunes doesn’t control my video library and I don’t use iPhoto to manage my photos. Call me weird, but I’m happy using iSync and drag-drop to update stuff.
  • iPhone music playlist - the phone had 8gb of storage for music but you could only sync playlists. I don’t really use playlists in iTunes, instead I have “My Top Rated” for my favourite stuff and then the Party Shuffle for everything else. So when you try and sync your collection with the iPhone, it rightly complains that the iPhone doesn’t have enough capacity, and it then offers to create a playlist for you. Brilliant. Except, if you then want to sync your Top Rated playlist, iTunes doesn’t think to resize your iPhone playlist and it all goes to shit. *
  • Ringtones - we all know about iTunes and ringtones and so on, but I’m still amazed that you can’t simply say - use that track as your ringtone. It’s my damn phone for fuck’s sake! So your options are to either a) jailbreak the phone or b) do a rather convoluted route with your track through Garageband and exporting and blah. Old phone I could find track, bluetooth to phone, set as ringtone. Done. *
  • Message alert tone - this is big enough to warrant its own point. I’m an immature idiot and like being able to set stupid sounds as the SMS message alert sound. You can do it on Sony Ericsson phones, and Nokia phones, but not Samsung and certainly not on the iPhone. And on the iPhone you have a piss-poor selection of 6 alerts to choose from. *
  • Bulk deleting email - small point, but if you pick up your email on the iPhone, there’s no way to do a bulk delete. So if you get bombarded with an outrageous volume of spam (as happened to me on Tuesday), the only way to delete them is to laboriously select them one by one and delete. Not good. *
  • It didn’t feel like a phone! Hard to quantify - but it simply didn’t feel like a phone. It was a beautiful thing, for sure, but it was one of the few times that I agree with the “form over functionality” criticism that is often aimed at Apple products. It did some really fancy things, like the accelerometer and the GPS etc., but in my book you should get the absolute core phone functions right first, before adding the bells and whistles.

There were actually quite a few other irritations that I had with the phone, but those are the ones that spring to mind now. One or two quirks you can accept and just put up with, but cumulatively they started to get very annoying. I honestly felt a little scared holding the thing - it seemed like a very expensive, very delicate piece of technology that I was scared shitless I was going to destroy. And bearing in mind that a mobile phone is very likely to take a great deal of abuse, it simply wasn’t good value for money - it moreorless became a £500 Facebook checker (the Facebook for iPhone is a great app!).

It’s a massive, massive disappointment as I waited and waited before changing to it. I’ll be interested to see what later incarnations come up with, but for now I’m happy to go back to a normal phone, that, erm, makes phone calls.