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Quick impressions
Authored by: SeanAhern on Jul 03, '07 09:54:52AM

Here's an email I wrote to my brother, detailing my first impressions of an iPhone after playing with one on an airplane (no radios turned on):

I was on an airplane from Dulles to Knoxville yesterday morning, and I got to play with a guy's iPhone at about 9 am. He was sitting next to me, and had barely turned the thing on, having only purchased it yesterday evening (obviously). I actually knew more about it, since I had watched the flash movies and had played with the 20 minute walkthrough that Apple provide a week or two ago.

Some quick impressions: This thing is a cool phone! It definitely has the Apple fingerprints on it, as everything is easy to use and intuitive. The guy asked me how he could email a photograph. I didn't know, but figured it would be easy. It was. I go to Photos, choose the photo, then tap the little icon that looks like a picture with an arrow leading out from it. A dialog appeared which asked me whether I wanted the picture as wallpaper, emailed, or as a contact photo. Everything else on the phone was similar. It just works. It's like the intuitiveness of the normal iPod interface, multiplied by 10 to cover everything that a "smart phone" needs.

I was most concerned about the lack of tactile interfaces, like you and I talked. So I played with the Notes application. It's interesting. Yes, it's a bit difficult to type on. You really do have to pay attention to where your finger is hitting. If you're off, you very easily hit the adjacent key. Now, the key magnifies when you hit it, so you know very quickly what you hit. One really cool feature is an automatic correction dictionary. When you type something incorrectly, just keep going. When you get to the end of the word, the iPhone fills in what you meant. But you can easily teach it new words. Just back up and type the end of the word again. After like two times, the iPhone stops correcting you. But I still found it somewhat difficult my first time. Dunno if I'd really want to type more than an instant message using that interface.

Now, what I really wanted was for the iPhone to allow me to flip to landscape mode while typing. You can do the landscape thing when looking at pictures, watching movies, flipping through albums, viewing web pages, etc. You just turn the phone on its side. But you don't get it with the keyboard in text messaging, notes, or email. And the main problem is that a full QWERTY keyboard has to fit in the width of the interface. It seems a no-brainer to drop into landscape mode. I think a landscape keyboard, when you need it, would dramatically improve the keyboard interface on the thing.

The headphone port really sucks. It's so far embedded in the device that even pretty thin 1/8" stereo headphones won't fit in enough to make contact. Forget any plugs that have a 90 degree turn. I've heard that people are starting to make short adapters for like $40 – the iPhone halo effect has started. But this is something Apple should have gotten right from the get-go. No reason to have it so difficult. Bundle the adapter with the phone, darnit.

Let's see... Multitouch rocks. I can't tell you how intuitive it is to manipulate pictures that way. Browsing through playlists, songs, artists, etc. in the iPod portion was WAY intuitive. If you want to browse a long way, just "throw" the list faster. It flies along, and then slows. Depending on how fast you throw it, you go farther distances. I imagine that phone/email contacts behaves the same way. Possibly Safari as well, though I didn't get a chance to play with that.

We were on an airplane (and I had the iPhone in "airplane mode", a feature I had to show the guy), so I wasn't able to play with YouTube or Google Maps. Well, I played with Google Maps a bit, but it was only with cached data (not much). But the multitouch interface with the maps was really refreshing.

I won't be buying one right now, but maybe when the next version comes out. Some of the things I've mentioned can be fixed with a software update. But some can't. I'm really looking forward to the phone that also has:

* 3G
* Better keyboard (as mentioned above). Heck, full interface rotation in EVERY app would be cool.
* 3rd party support (SDK). And more than AJAX, which is a cop-out.
* Flash in Safari
* SD slot for expansion.

We'll see what happens...

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