A First Class Gadget, but it Still Lacks the Crack!
[ This is an official Smartphone Round Robin post! Every day you reply to an official Round Robin blog post or forum thread on CrackBerry.com, you automatically gain an entry ballot for a chance to win a BlackBerry Bold, Spare Bold Battery, and Case Mate Second Skin! If you somehow still don't know what this is all about, visit SmartphoneRoundRobin.com!! ]
My apologies Apple fans, but I just had to give this article that name. I had some fun with my Round Robin iPhone 3G Initial Impressions video, and it got a lot of passionate comments in response. The majority of them were positive and in agreement with what I said (makes sense seeing as CrackBerry.com is a BlackBerry enthusiast site) and I just couldn't help but laugh at the slightly negative ones that called the review biased. Hello? Of course it's biased. That IS the whole point of the Smartphone Robin... to use and abuse and review the competition from the perspective of the reviewer's preferred platform, in this case the iPhone 3G from the perspective of a BlackBerry addict. If every review was conducted without any preconceived favoritism, you'd be reading the same review over and over again from each editor, and where would the fun and learning be in that?! Apparently not all iPhone owners possess the good sense of humor that the iPhoneBlog.com's editor Rene Ritchie has. Ahh well, it's all good! Rene has my BlackBerry Bold this week so I'm sure he'll get his sweet revenge on me then on behalf of iPhone fans. I'm looking forward to it!
As for my take on the iPhone 3G? Between last year's Smartphone Round Robin where I reviewed the original iPhone, our CrackBerry.com Podcasts and site editorials, most of my thoughts and opinions on the iPhone 3G are already well-known and out there for all to hear, see and read. While I do like the iPhone 3G (it is my favorite frenemy) and in fact there are things I even love about it, after having been a subscriber to the BlackBerry philosophy for so long it's simply not a device I'd ever feel fully comfortable with using as my primary means of communication. Despite the hardware improvements to the iPhone 3G from the original iPhone and the addition of the App Store and version 2 software this past year, it simply still lacks the crack that got me hooked on BlackBerry to begin with. Could Apple ever build an iPhone that could win me over that would be more to my liking? Maybe, but I don't think it's in El Jobso's plans. Read on for my Apple iPhone 3G Final Impressions >>
But First... A Science Experiment and Yet More Smartphone Philosophy!
What would a CrackBerry Round Robin Review be without some preamble ramble?! Warning - it's long, so feel free to skip ahead to the iPhone 3G Overview if you want to skip the lecture.
My first experience with the iPhone came last year in our first ever Smartphone Round Robin. If you have never read them before, you can take a browse through my iPhone Initial Impressions and iPhone Final Impressions reviews. While you're at it, and that is if you haven't already, you may also want to check out our Top 10 Reasons Why the Iphone is NO BlackBerry and Top 10 Reasons Why the iPhone is STILL No BlackBerry articles. The first two articles will give you a good idea of where I'm coming from and the latter articles address some of the more obvious points in the ongoing iPhone 3G vs. BlackBerry comparison/battle. I don't want to spend too much time in this review harping on the argument points us BlackBerry Addicts are already familiar with in regards to the iPhone 3G - like it's lack of cut and paste (though it does appear a bit of a work-around for that has emerged) or non-easily replaceable battery, so if you read this full review and think I missed something the odds are you can click into the links above and find it already addressed there.
As for whose iPhone 3G I'm using in this article, it's actually mine! The last thing I'd want someone to think is that I'm a completely uneducated BlackBerry fanboy, so the day the iPhone 3G was released I bought one. Well, I didn't actually plan on buying one when I left the house that morning. I went to see just how big the lineups would be, and when I found myself fourth in line upon arriving the gadget nut in me got caught up in the excitement and I waited it out. What a debacle that day turned out to be! Rogers' systems were completely FUBAR. I arrived at the store 6:45am. Though we had our slips to claim our phones by 9am and the store opened at 10am, the first person in line didn't leave until after 2:30pm with an iPhone 3G in hand. I didn't get out of there until almost 5pm. It was a pretty stupid day. Thanks to the BlackBerry Curve I had with me I never actually missed out on my CrackBerry.com duties, though I think some of the others waiting in line were quite disturbed at just how much I was on my CrackBerry all day (seriously, I just laid down on the mall floor on my back with BlackBerry in the air and thumbs blazing for literally hours - pretty sure to this day my back hasn't been the same). I did make a few new friends while waiting in line, which in retrospect does put a rosy glow on an otherwise utterly negative purchase experience. For way more details on this day, you can listen to Podcast Episode 018.
Now an iPhone 3G and BlackBerry Curve owner who was eagerly awaiting the release of the BlackBerry Bold, over the next few weeks I conducted a bit of an experiment, carrying both my Curve 8320 and iPhone 3G with me at all times. I had my email, contacts and calendar along with some relatively equivalent third party apps hooked up to each device, meaning either device was capable of accomplishing the tasks I typically use my smartphone for. I wanted to see on a day to day basis which device I would reach for instinctively at any given time. I'm guessing the results won't be all that surprising to read, but going through the process did make for an interesting experience. Though it's called the iPhone, I quickly grew to detest using the iPhone for anything communications related. Even though I gave the iPhone a more than fair chance, it was just painful for me to use the device for placing phone calls or ploughing through email as I could get it done so much more quickly on my Curve. Think back to my on the go smartphone vs. stop and use smartphone rant in my Treo Pro Review and this largely explains it. For communication-related tasks it's hard not to prefer a device that's quick to use, especially while on the go. But when it came to media and killing time, tasks where it doesn't actually hurt to slow down and put your full attention on what you're doing, I found myself reaching for the iPhone 3G quite often. The iPhone's Safari web browser was light years ahead of the 8320's browser (or Opera Mini for that matter) and when it came to falling asleep while laying in bed at night, once I got through my email and messages on the Curve it would be while playing a game on the iPhone that I finally hit the hay (I got addicted to Bejewelled 2 for a few weeks there). Side Rant - speaking of lying in bed while playing with a touchscreen smartphone, it drives me nuts that accelerometers don't seem to work worth crap once you're flying down flat on your back and using your phone in your outreached arms. There needs to be some sort of upright/lying flat setting (or I guess internal gyroscopes are going to be the wave of the future) to compensate for this.
Carrying around two devices might seem a little like overkill, but for the smartphone user looking for the no-compromise solution at that time I felt the BlackBerry Curve 8320 / iPhone 3G combo was pretty stellar. The Curve 8320 was my 9am to 5am get things done fast communication tool, while the iPhone 3G was my 5pm to 9am media/gaming device. Of course there was some overlap in there - web browsing on the iPhone 3G during the day, BlackBerry Messenger and other IM apps on the BlackBerry at night - but for the most part the strengths of each device played well to the other's weaknesses.
As I continued on with my carrying both a BlackBerry and iPhone test, with the launch of the Bold I found myself reaching for the iPhone less and less. The BlackBerry Bold definitely extended beyond the hours of 9am to 5pm for me, and began to steal away much of the use my iPhone was previously getting. Where I would have normally reached for my iPhone, I was now reaching for the Bold. The Bold comparatively wasn't quite as good at handling some of the tasks where the iPhone 3G excelled (web browsing), but it was close and the fact that I could carry out these tasks easily in the one-handed on the go manner I put the Bold over the edge. When I was carrying the Curve 8320 the iPhone 3G had a lot of appeal and I reached for it often, but once the Bold came into the picture that appeal diminished, to the point where I no longer felt compelled to carry both a BlackBerry and iPhone with me at all times. There are most definitely certain tasks I prefer to carry out on the iPhone 3G over the Bold, especially ones where the big display and touchscreen controls are of benefit (i.e. Google maps), but in these cases the incremental benefit of the iPhone 3G "experience" is not greater to me than the BlackBerry way of getting things done.
Some RIM / Apple Smartphone Philosophy
My on the go vs. stop and use theory was largely derived from observing my own behaviors in using both of these devices, but that doesn't mean they necessarily apply to everyone. For example, over at the iPhoneBlog member Bad Ash would argue till the cows come home that he's just as capable at using his iPhone 3G on the go and one handed as he is with his BlackBerry Bold (yes he owns both, though he's been an iPhone 3G user longer). And I'm sure he's not the only iPhone user who would argue this. Despite these types of arguments, it's pretty clear that RIM and Apple have different approaches and philosophies to the way they build their smartphones.
RIM - At the BlackBerry Developer Conference held earlier this year, Research in Motion's founder and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis told the audience (we live blogged it) the secret to the success of BlackBerry has come about from their philosophy of balancing customer needs with the laws of physics. In regards to smartphones, the laws of physics affect bandwidth, capacity, performance and battery life, with each of these pillars typically adversely affecting the other (example - if you increase performance you sacrifice battery life). RIM has always strived to create devices that hit the sweet spot of these four factors given the best technology and technological know-how available at the time.
While you can't argue with RIM's founder that this guiding premise underlies how they built out the BlackBerry platform and design their devices, I'd argue the real reason RIM has been so successful is the Crack! There's a reason BlackBerry users get addicted to their devices and why observers of the phenomena came up with the CrackBerry term. In the book I recently co-authored, CRACKBERRY: True Tales of BlackBerry Use and Abuse, we dedicate a few pages to the aspects of the BlackBerry that set it apart from the competition that cause it to bring about this somewhat surprising psychological dependency.
What causes the CrackBerry Addiction? I want you to buy the book, but here's the Cole's Notes version... it's RIM's combination of one handed-ease of use, Always On, Always Connected nature, push email and that big ‘ole flashing red LED light that create a smartphone user experience that's addicting as hell and tough to give up. Though the term CrackBerry has only attained mainstream recognition in the in the past couple of years since RIM began targeting the consumer market, its first cited reference goes all the way back to 2000. What hooked me on BlackBerry? My first BlackBerry was Big Blue - the 7290. Compared to the Bold or Curve 8900, no offense, but the 7290 is CRAP. Yet that device is what I got addicted to and it was/is every bit as addicting as my latest generation Bold or Curve 8900. It's not 3G or awesome displays or fast processors or awesome apps or in the case of the BlackBerry Storm a touchscreen that causes the addiction, rather these basic BlackBerry attributes. Call me crazy or cracked out, but I'm pretty sure if I was forced to have only one smartphone and my only options were to choose between a BlackBerry 7290 or an iPhone and I couldn't have any other smartphone, I think my addiction is so strong that I would still pick Big Blue. I need that feeling of connectedness and speed of communication that the BlackBerry experience provides. I think a big part of RIM's success comes from building their devices according to this ‘CrackBerry philosophy'.
Even with the BlackBerry Storm RIM tried to keep as much of the ‘CrackBerry philosophy' in the device as possible, which is a tough thing to do when going to a touchscreen for input. While trackwheel/trackball BlackBerry smartphones are extremely easy to use one handed - you only use them one-handed unless you're actually typing out a message (in which case you go into the two thumbs, head down CrackBerry prayer position) - having big a ole piece of glass immediately sacrifices on the one handedness of the device as you'll often find yourself holding the phone in one hand and tapping and swiping with the other as you navigate your way around the phone and applications. Despite this, RIM still put a lot of thought into keeping the Storm as one-handed as possible (typing out messages in SureType, up/down arrows for scrolling instead of having to swipe, etc.).
Also coming from the BlackBerry Developer Conference this year, RIM's CTO of Software, David Yach, shed further insight on the BlackBerry philosophy. He said that the BlackBerry philosophy is to add an hour to each day of your life by taking all of those currently wasted one or two minute chunks of time - at a red light, waiting in line at the water cooler, bathroom time, etc. etc. - and turning them into productive time. You don't want your smartphone to become your life, rather you want to use it to improve it. Another way to sum this is up is to say... the BEST smartphone is the one that spends the LEAST amount of time in your hands while getting the most stuff done. That is the BlackBerry way. The BlackBerry experience is optimized for the person who reaches for their phone one hundred times a day (literally) and gets something done and puts it away. Obviously this isn't the only way to use a BlackBerry as activities like playing games or watching movies are very much stop and use by nature, but at the core of BlackBerry experience is still this get things done quick philosophy. Conclusion: RIM starts with a philosophy, and builds their devices and operating system around this philosophy.
Apple - While the RIM philosophy/BlackBerry "Experience" took a lot of explaining, thankfully the Apple one is much shorter. This could be that I don't know much about Apple and have it all wrong, but hopefully that's not the case ;-)
To me, Apple didn't start with the end user philosophy as RIM did, rather, they started with the device design and out of that grew the iPhone experience. I honestly don't know the history or the story or any of that, but I'm pretty sure Apple basically said we're going to build a device where the screen is the phone...we'll just give it one button that brings you back home. And it's from that basic design decision of how the device would look that the Apple team went to work on figuring out how the user would interact with the phone and get things done. The proof of this concept can be seen in the changes from the iPhone 2G to 3G - visually, the design concept is unchanged. It's a stark contrast to RIM, who is constantly changing up the form factor yet delivers substantially the same experience regardless. There's no arguing the talent of the team of people Apple put to work on the iPhone - both the original iPhone and iPhone 3G deliver an initial "wow" factor and out of the box intuitiveness that I have yet to see be equaled on any smartphone or any other piece of technology gadgetry for that matter. I've even handed both my 6 year old niece and 65 year old dad my iPhone 3G and with only a 30 second explanation on how to use it they were both up and running in no time. In fact, my niece wants me to buy her one for Christmas (she loves the games). This says a lot.
While the iPhone experience brings with it the benefits of intuitiveness and an easy learning curve, to a smartphone user like me this simplicity is perhaps my biggest knock against the experience as you become more familiar with it. I'll get into that later...
All said and done, which smartphone philosophy is better? I think the track record and market share numbers do the talking here. RIM's philosophy proved key to capturing the enterprise world and from there transitioned over to the consumer market relatively smoothly where it has helped RIM continue to grow quarter after quarter. With the iPhone, and especially the broader worldwide launch of the iPhone 3G, Apple has shown that its smartphone design philosophy and means of distributing mobile content (iTunes, App Store) is of tremendous appeal as they gain market share at a rapid rate. Clearly both platforms have their strengths and are both in demand.
Time to get nitpicky with the iPhone 3G!
The New and Improved iPhone 3G
If you're reading this, you're likely not in need of an overview of the iPhone 3G. If by chance you are, then check out TheiPhoneBlog's iPhone 3G hardware and software reviews.
Comparing the iPhone 3G to the original iPhone I reviewed in last year's Round Robin, it's sort of startling to see both how little AND how much has changed. The iPhone 3G of course gained 3G and is fast, but other than that the hardware is virtually the same. The casing got reworked, losing its metal back in favor of a plastic once. In other words, little changed.
The big changes came not to what you physically hold in your hand, but what you see on the screen. Last year's iPhone was arguably (and Dieter argued this point a lot) a feature phone rather than a smartphone (albeit a very nice feature phone). With a shortage of apps and no development APIs yet released, the iPhone experience was very much limited to the device you purchased. This is very much a reality of feature phones. However, with the coming of the iPhone 3G Apple released its version 2 software and launched the iTunes App Store. Since that launch, the OS software has already seen some further revisions/improvements and the App Store has grown to over 10,000 apps. The OS improvements have brought more speed and stability to the iPhone as well as features for enterprise and the app store makes it incredibly easy to browse and install third party applications. This year's iPhone is most definitely a smartphone.
Hardware and Virtual Hardware - Likes & Gripes!
Ahhh... the iPhone 3G. There's a lot I like about it and at the same time there are a ton of little things that irk me about it. In case you missed my initial impressions video, be sure to watch it below (you'll get a visual sense for what I love and hate).
Here's a quick overview the iPhone 3G's key specs:
- Display: 3.5 inch, 480 by 320 pixels, 163ppi, capactive touchscreen
- Processor: 620MHz ARM
- GPS: Assisted GPS
- WiFi: 802.11b/g
- Camera: 2 megapixels (no flash, no zoom, no video recording)
- Audio: 3.5mm headset jack
- Bluetooth: 2.0, no A2DP stereo streaming support
With 3G, WiFi, and GPS it's what I call an all-in-one smartphone which is expected of today's top of the line devices. It's too bad that Apple didn't up the camera on the iPhone 3G to 3.2 mexapixels (or more) and that the device is still unusable with my stereo bluetooth headsets. I guess they're saving something for the iPhone 4G (or will it be iPhone HD?!).
Form Factor -
The Apple iPhone Look has Become Iconic
While I enjoy the iconic and ‘singular' (as Dieter puts it) look of the iPhone, I have never found it to be a particularly comfortable device to hold in my hand. I do prefer the feel of the iPhone 3G over its predecessor though. The original iPhone sort of cut into my hands, especially when using it as a phone, but the plastic back of the 3G is sculpted more gently. It is a bit of a slippery bugger though. When I first got it I was afraid I was going to drop it all the time, so I skinned it. This helped, but I have to say that a skinned iPhone 3G definitely loses something in the gadget sexy department (all you see is a smudgy piece of glass) so it wasn't long before I lost the skin and decided to risk it.
Display / Touchscreen - The iPhone's display is bright, and both apps and media look great on it. What's really surprising here though is just how good the displays on RIM's latest generation of smartphones are. The iPhone 3G and Bold both have 480 by 320 resolution, but the Bold packs that resolution into a smaller physical area, providing greater pixel density that really impresses.
While this gets a bit into the software side of the equation, it seems a fitting time to talk about the iPhone's touchscreen. When it comes to touchscreen smartphones, I think the day of the resistive touchscreen is done... or at least it should be done. After having used the T-Mobile G1, BlackBerry Storm and iPhone 3G, all of which take the capactive approach and provide a friendly user experience, it makes resistive touchscreen devices (like the Treo Pro I reviewed or HTC Fuze I'm reviewing next) seem awfully dated.
And out of the G1, Storm and iPhone 3G, I do need to be honest here and say at this point I think the iPhone 3G offers the best touchscreen user experience of the bunch. I have found all three of these devices extremely easy to pick up and learn to use quickly and effectively, but do think Apple's implementation of "touch" seems the most intuitive and natural. It's the little things, like the bounce / stretch / rebound / elasticity effects and the way it takes into account the speed of your swipe for scrolling (if you swipe quick it continues to scroll once you have lifted your finger) that do make for both a rewarding and fun experience.
Buttons - Compared to your typically BlackBerry, which has a ton of buttons, the iPhone 3G has only a few. The main button on the bottom front of the device brings you home. At the top is power button and long the side is the volume up/down buttons and volume on/off switch. I made mention of this in my initial impressions video, and it is worth repeating here... I hate the volume on/off button. I have now lost count of the number of times I have accidentally switched the device from sound on to sound off in my pocket and as a result have missed calls and emails.
Syncing / Charging - For syncing and charging, the iPhone 3G uses the Apple dock connector thingy. I really wish they would use MicroUSB. For one, I could use all my other MicroUSB cables with it and secondly, it's smaller and would "ugly" the phone up less. When you look at the bottom of the iPhone, the curren port takes up a lot of real estate, which could be used for other things, such as more speakers!
Speakers - For being such a media-centric and entertainment-centric smartphone, Apple has left a lot to be desired in the sound department. The iPhone 3G features one sound port, located on the bottom right side of the phone, which throws decent sound but in pratice is extremely easy to cover up. It makes playing otherwise fun games like Cro-Mag Racing and Crash Bandicoot NitroKart completely frustrating. These games make you hold the iPhone like a steering wheel, and in doing so your finger covers up the sound. Annoying!!!
Though it's a software thing, as mentioned above, the lack of A2DP support still boggles my mind.
It's like comparing Apples and Berries
Camera - Considering it has no flash, the iPhone 3G's camera takes pretty decent photos, even in low lighting situations. This is one area where the device could still use a lot of improvement though. You can't zoom, there's no video recording and there are no real options (ie. choose between color, black & white, sepia, etc) to choose from. Sometimes less is more, but not in this case.
Battery - My gripe here isn't with battery life being bad, but with the fact there's no easy way to change the battery or replace it. With normal communication-focused (dare I say BlackBerry-like) usage the device goes a day and a bit, but if you really start to put the iPhone 3G to use in terms of its entertainment capabilities, the battery can be drained pretty quick (as my niece demonstrated to me just yesterday in fact). This is yet another reason why I could never ever rely on the iPhone as my primary/sole device. A smartphone is nothing more than a paper weight unless it has life to it.
Network / Signal - One thing I have noticed is that my BlackBerry smartphones always get better signal in low coverage areas than the iPhone 3G. My Bold often retains 3G coverage in areas where the iPhone drops it, and in areas where there's next to no signal available (think basement of a hall) I can still place calls on my BlackBerry while the iPhone tells me No Signal is available. From my experiences, RIM definitely wins the battle in terms of staying connected.
Keyboard - As a touchscreen phone, the iPhone 3G relies on a software keyboard to get the typing done. For many potential iPhone 3G users, this is the big sticking point that prevents them from jumping on the bandwagon. I definitely have mixed feelings on it and do see both some pros and cons in its design.
The big con is typing accuracy. If your fingers are agile and your attention is focused, you can actually bang out messages relatively quick on the iPhone. So long as you focus on the keys, the auto correction will do a pretty decent job of keeping your fingers on track. At the same time, if your focus is anything less than 100%, if you're in a bumpy environment, or your fingers don't quite have the dexterity they used to, it's easy to run amuck on the device. What you touch is what you get, and on the iPhone it's easy to mis-tap and bring about the "Ahh Frak" I so often hear when observing iPhone users (and judging from the comments to my last Round Robin post I'm not the only one who hears iPhone users spouting that on a regular basis).
The iPhone 3G's Software Keyboard
RIM obviously saw this as a big con as well as with the BlackBerry Storm they put a new twist on the software keyboard in an attempt to alleviate this problem with their clickable SurePress design that helps to separate navigation from confirmation.
Did they succeed? I'd say it's a 50/50. A lot of Storm users have grown accustom to the SurePress and are loving it. For others it's slowing them down just a bit too much (when in full qwerty) compared to their traditional BlackBerry that has a physical keyboard. I will say that one of the benefits of the iPhone's software keyboard is that it provides effortless typing vs. the Storm where clicking out long messages can be become a bit tiresome.
For myself personally, my preference is still with the traditional physical keyboard (I absolutely LOVE the Curve 8900's keyboard). It simply feels right.
Overall, the iPhone 3G is pretty rock solid as far as build quality and hardware go.
Operating System and Native Software - Likes & Gripes!
In terms of the iPhone 3G's operating system, not much has changed from last year in terms of the basic concept. I've always considered it to be a mind boggling OS in both directions. There are things about it that are mind boggling brilliant while at the same time there are things about it that are so mind boggling frustrating that I want to toss it out the window.
Basic Navigation - In the brilliant department, I enjoy the fact the OS was designed for touchscreen implementation from the get go as it makes the iPhone extremely easy to use. Every option you have is viewable on screen at any given time and there's no confusion in terms of navigation as you really have only one way of "doing" things. This makes the device easy to use for even the least technically competent people. I sometimes think of the iPhone as a "dumbphone" rather than "smartphone" for the simple fact that even err... "dumb people" can get up to speed with it quickly.
But while the iPhone's ease of use is award winning, I find the speed of use to be incredibly frustrating. I find myself constantly waiting for the iPhone. Once you get familiar with where you need to tap to get things done, you find you're constantly looking at zoom in / zoom out or slide in / slide out screen transitions as you wait to make your next tap. I used to think these were all for show and making the experience pretty, but I'm now pretty certain that this is just a cover-up while the iPhone works to get things loaded. If not, then I would love to be able to turn these off. Coming from a device like the BlackBerry Bold, which offers a SNAPPY SPEEDY FAST OS experience, I find I have lost a bit of patience for the iPhone in this department. I know we all complained about the Storm's lag when it first came out (and rightfully so), but it surprises me I don't hear more about the time consuming nature of the iPhone OS. Seriously, if RIM's philosophy is to add an hour to your day, I think Apple's is to take up 30 minutes of the day looking at things opening and closing.
Also frustrating to me is that takes too many steps to carry out basic smartphone tasks. Dialing a person for example. On my Bold or Curve, I have my key contacts set as shortcuts on my keyboard. Hold down a letter and it automatically dials. For anybody else, I simply dial the first couple of letters of their name and the device pulls it from the address book and I can easily call or SMS them. On the iPhone this becomes a procedure - turn it on, slide to unlock, tap on the phone, tap on contacts, decide whether to scroll up or down or tap to get the contact I'm trying to reach to show up on the display, tap their name, then tap the number I want to call.
iPhone Homescreen and Settings. Note Settings contains both native & 3rd party apps
Settings - One of the gripes a lot of new to BlackBerry users have is in regards to the settings - they're all over the place and some of them are really confusing. Apple's approach to settings is to try and keep them dead simple by keeping them all in one place... Under Settings... go figure.
This philosophy works well for native apps, but it gets really confusing for 3rd party apps. Apple wants developers to place settings for apps and games into the main Settings page as well. I personally think this is REALLY STUPID. When it comes to native apps and standard OS settings, YES, keeping them on one page is simple and effective. But when it comes to third party apps, the only time you ever want to make a change to a setting is when you're actually in that app. But instead, you need to exit the game, go back to the homescreen, open settings, and make the changes there. This isn't intuitive, nor is it is efficient. Plus you often don't even know there are settings options for a new app you just installed until you accidentally discover them when going into Settings to change something else (after downloading a game from the App Store I immediately want to open it and play it - not check first to see if there are any game settings/options I may want to tweak). Plus despite Apple wanting to have all app settings placed here, not all developers are actually doing that. So for some games/apps, I can change settings within the app, and for others I need to dive back to the Settings page.
Email/PIM - This year I was able to get my push email up and running on the iPhone via Mobile Me (I had my gmail forwarding to my @me.com account). I typically use Outlook as my home base for contacts and calendad, and Mobile Me kept these current on my iPhone 3G by syncing to the magical cloud. I also ran my Gmail IMAPED to the iPhone, but keep it set for manual checking - this was a nice set-up as I used MobileMe to stay on top of my current messages as I got them, but could always dive into Gmail to look up old messages or view messages by labels. It definitely irks me though just how much tapping is required to jump between inboxes!
Along with version 2 software came Microsoft Exchange support, which more than the original iPhone makes the iPhone 3G more of an option in business and enterprise.
Notifications / Profiles - I made note of this during the initial impressions video, and it's worth repeating... there simply are not enough options on the phone for customizing how you want to be notified of different events. BlackBerry and iPhone are at different extremes here. On the BlackBerry there are almost too many options as you have several default sound profiles which allow you to customize notifications for just about everything (emails, SMS, calls, BBM, etc.) and you can even create your own custom profiles. On the iPhone you basically have On/Off/Vibrate. The iPhone is desperately in need of user-set notification profiles.
It seems the iPhone doesn't know how to properly prioritize notifications either. To me, when you're on a phone call, that's the priority. Yet if you have the volume set to on and vibrations set to on, the phone will bong and vibrate in your ear while you're talking to someone. This is frak'n stupid! Not being able to turn this is off is both frustrating, dangerous (I won't tell the story here of what almost happened the first time I discovered this the hard way) and it's also rude to the caller on the other end of the line (hard to stay focused on the conversation when you keep getting distracted.
Not having an easy way to clear notifications on the iPhone also drives me bonkers. I get a LOT of emails each day. I don't necessarily have to read all of them when I'm out and about and relying on my phone as my email device. I just need to stay on top of what's new and respond to what's timely. Yet once I go through my inbox, there's no way to simply mark all messages as being read. The same is case for other apps, such as Facebook.
Did I mention the iPhone doesn't have a blinking red light? I really wish Apple would allow for a third party app that offered external notifications. Ya know, just take 10 x 30 pixels at the top right corner of the phone and all the user to make them light up and blink for whatever he/she chooses.
The iPhone 3G is great with Media. Safari is fast and renders pages accurately.
Downloading podcasts is simple.
Web Browser / Media - As mentioned at the top of this article in the preamble section, in this department the iPhone is still the best. This says a lot considering nothing has really changed in this department from last year. Apple got it right the first time. My only real issue here is with the web browser, where I do find despite my best efforts to focus, I often mistap and open an article or zoom up on a picture without wanting to.
And of course there's still things from last year I'd like to see appear on the iPhone, such as flash support in the web browser, native cut/paste and the ability to multitask with apps (as Dieter points out in his Round Robin iPhone 3G review, the iPhone doesn't do a great job of streaming audio and getting turn by turn directions at the same time).
The App Store
Apps. To me, this is really what owning an iPhone is all about. And if the iPhone fails to meet your needs as your primary smartphone (as it does for me) then this is what owning an iPod Touch (in addition to your BlackBerry) is all about.
With the release of the SDK and App Store, Apple really changed the mobile game. When shopping for a cell phone, the focus is no longer just on the device you're walking out of the store with and what it can do for you, but what else you can download and buy for it to take it to the next level. The App Store makes it easy to browse, purchase and install apps.
The App Store makes browsing, buying and downloading apps easy.
Though when I say apps, for the most part I really mean games. I have 45 third party apps running on my iPhone 3G. Only eight of them are what I would consider real apps (Google, PayPal, Facebook, Bloomberg, Beejive, Apple Remote, vlingo, Joost) while the rest are games and or silly time wasters. You can't really scoff at this though, as honestly, these apps are a big part of what's helping Apple to sell iPhones right now. Just pull out the lighter app or beer app at a party or hand your nieces and nephews Tic Tac Toe to play at a family gathering and you'll see the immediate "I want that device" come into affect.
For the most part, the iPhone 3G does a great job of running apps. iPhone apps always seem to look good - I hope BlackBerry one day soon can offer developers the same type of graphics support. Compare a game like Crash Bandicoot that's available for both the BlackBerry and iPhone and you'll agree with me on this.
An iPhone Version of BrickBreaker. Ocarina blows my mind.
RIM is set to launch their App Store in March, and I hope it wows us with its features and simplicity. Don't get me wrong, I don't like the thought of extra competition coming to our super-popular ShopCrackBerry.com Software Store and CrackBerryAppStore.com mobile app store, but do think for the good of the BlackBerry RIM needs this. Having an app store be easily accessible from every handheld is a big deal. And with the launch of the BlackBerry app store, I also hope we see big attention from BlackBerry developers in turning out awesome BlackBerry apps. At the moment, a lot of mobile developers are directing their attention to developing for the iPhone as it's getting a lot of action. I have no doubt within a year there'll be a new reality tv show focused on the iPhone App developers who made a million dollars selling iPhone apps like Ocarina for 99 cents a pop. But the BlackBerry community is big and vibrant, and upon the launch of the BlackBerry App Store there will be a pent of demand for apps. So let's get developing!!
Some Final Thoughts
If you've read this far (my apologies for being so long - if I ever take a couple months off from CrackBerry.com I'll be sure to attend Concise Writing School) you can probably tell that I really like the iPhone, but at the same time it's just not the device I could use as my primary smartphone. It doesn't work the way I need and want a smartphone to work.
Could Apple ever build a smartphone that was more to my liking? I'd have to say maybe, but a few things would have to happen. Here's my thought for Apple....
You know how Apple makes both a Macbook and a Macbook Pro? I think they should produce an iPhone Pro. I know a big part of the iPhone philosophy is to keep it simple, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to be a little more complicated, and luckily, tagging a product with "Pro" at the end covers the reduced intuitiveness of a professional device. At the bottom of the iPhone is a single home button. How about we toss a little Apple key to the left of it? Maybe when you hit that button you could get a few basic functions to pop up on the display... maybe like copy and paste? While we're at it, let's add a little back button to the right of that home key. The lack of a back key on the iPhone is one of my BIGGEST irks of all - you have to learn within each app the correct way to tap "back" to a previous menu (time waster). The most unified/simplistic means of getting back is via a back button. I know this is something that even iPhone fans (Rene, I'm looking at you) would like to see. Maybe add the ability to edit office docs natively - it's not something one typically does on a smartphone all that often (more likely to view than to edit), but sometimes "Pro" users do have to make changes on the go. And last but not least, give it a flashing red light. In other words, make it more like a BlackBerry! :-)
Sex definitely sells, and the iPhone does a great job in the sex appeal department, but it's the CrackBerry that always keeps me coming back!
Up Next in the Round Robin - The Windows Mobiled powered HTC Fuze! Stay Tuned...