early thoughts on iPhone

[i’m going to categorize this with “mozilla” category as i think it’ll be of general interest & so should get syndicated on planet.mozilla.org, but for my future iPhone-related posts, won’t do that unless folks really want me to. otherwise they’ll be on my full feed or under the “nerdTech” and “OSX” categories.]

time to chime in with some early thoughts on my iPhone — got activated a few hours ago, after a 2nd set of calls to AT&T. not really sure what the trouble was, and i’ve got at least another call back to adjust a few other settings on my account. (#1 next question is whether or not my $69.99 blackberry world traveler data plan will work or not — it’s important, as it gives me unlimited international roaming.)

anyway, first thoughts, in no particular order:

the screen is terrific. everyone’s reporting this, and everyone’s right. great brightness, great resolution. movies look great, streaming videos look great. helvetica at this dot pitch looks remarkable. nice font choice.

email is very very good. it’s not perfect — but i can read more e-mail, more quickly, than on any device that i’ve had.  one weird side effect of having something that shares a lineage with mail.app is that when i get some HTML mails, and they’re wide web pages, the mail reader on the iphone uses webkit and renders wide, mostly unreadable pages. which is related to the next point.

when you open web pages, they’re nearly always unreadable at first. it’s because they’re showing you the full width of the page so you can figure out what to zoom in on. that was a hard choice to make, i think, as often you want to scan around the page to see what you want, but it makes the simple case of reading the main content not-so-simple. what would be ideal is if they implement per-site preferences for this, and i’ll check that out.

there are lists everywhere. in the phone, in mail, in videos. the list is pretty much the main organizational element. and like most everything, they’re flingable. just fling your finger, and the lists to to what you want.

visual voice mail rocks. i’m not very good about dealing with my voice mail generally. i let it pile up. i don’t like cleaning it out. i think it’s because it’s generally linear and i can’t see it. visual voice mail on the iphone completely fixes that problem, and i think is transformative for me.

there’s a lot to fix with shortcuts & such. this doesn’t feel like a brand new product offering to me at all,  but there are some things that are tricky to get to. for example, i’m what i call a “twitchy” e-mail reader — OCD with e-mail, i’ll light up my blackberry pretty frequently just to see if anything new’s come in. but with the iphone, i’ve got to press the on (or home) button, which brings me to the locked screen, the slide the slider to get to see whether i’ve got actual stuff waiting. i think/hope they’ll put a mail indicator on the front locked screen (and add an actual LED to future hardware revs).

settings are slightly wacky, inconsistent & unpredictable. in lots of screens, you want to do something like change the way a list is displayed, add an account, change a font, etc — and there’s often just no way to do it. or you have to do it through the overall settings screen. it’s not a huge problem, but something that’ll likely need to get addressed as the capabilities grow.

jury is still out on safari. as the saying goes, this feels like the first mobile browser that’s good enough to criticize. but i’m going to wait on that. let’s just say it’s a breakthrough, but still not what you want. that is not a criticism — i’ve said many times at Mozilla that i think we’re a the very beginning of interacting with the real web from smallish mobile devices and it’s going to take a lot of time to really figure out. (this applies even for Japan, China, Korea & Europe, where they’re considerably more advanced than we are here on mobile.) they’ve done great work on this version of Safari and have made some fearless decisions which i want to explore a little while longer before opining on.

but the custom web widgets are pretty great. and fun, too. weather & stocks, both small apps, work pretty much exactly like their OSX dashboard counterparts (modulo flinging the data around). google maps is, of course, wonderful. it makes me feel even more strongly that these types of widgetized, per application interfaces to Web data are going to be quite prevalent in mobile — much more useful than on the desktop.

needs a purpose-built feedreader. rss reading in safari isn’t what you want. it’s not great.

seems really, really stable. not crashy at all — google maps has crashed once on me, but in a very fast, not at all frustrating way. nothing else shows any hint of instability.

so i haven’t really talked much about safari, any of the ipod stuff, calendar, or a host of other pieces, but think this is enough for now. i’ll leave you with 2 thoughts:

1) there’s a ton of headroom here. even with first generation hardware, there are a million things that apple can do to make this more and more useful. i guess we’re not sure yet how frequently we’ll see software updates, but i’m optimistic. there’s just a ton. in an “imagine how great the future is” way, not a “to hell with this thing” way.

2) the UE team absolutely deserves a medal on this. other teams do, too, including QA, packaging, etc, but UE is my own personal background, and it’s such a hard thing to invent a user experience out of whole cloth that makes sense. they’ve done that, with some rough edges, to be sure, but done it remarkably well. it’s a solid & usable UI, and it’s really fun to use. the physics of the UI are really whimsical and useful and it’s one of the best implementations i’ve seen in a long time.

lots, lots more to talk about over the next few days & weeks, but wanted to get my first thoughts down now.

10 Replies to “early thoughts on iPhone”

  1. >#1 next question is whether or not my $69.99 blackberry world traveler data plan will work or not — it’s important, as it gives me unlimited international roaming.Sorry to say that right now AT&T is jacking biz customers: “NOTE: iPhone is not compatible with any other data plans from AT&T … Customers who activate an iPhone will automatically lose their international roaming capabilities or revert to pay-per-use rates for international roaming.”from <a href=”http://www.wireless.att.com/businesssupport/knowledgeBase.do?content=KB80815.html” rel=”nofollow”>this painful article…

  2. hey gentry — that answers it, i suppose. that pretty much sucks. gotta figure out what to do about that. int’l data roaming on my blackberry was one of the best things about it, because it made traveling pretty painless. wi-fi alone isn’t really gonna cut it, i don’t think

  3. >#1 next question is whether or not my $69.99 blackberry world traveler data plan will work or not — it’s important, as it gives me unlimited international roaming.

    Sorry to say that right now AT&T is jacking biz customers: “NOTE: iPhone is not compatible with any other data plans from AT&T … Customers who activate an iPhone will automatically lose their international roaming capabilities or revert to pay-per-use rates for international roaming.”

    from this painful article…

  4. hey gentry — that answers it, i suppose. that pretty much sucks. gotta figure out what to do about that. int’l data roaming on my blackberry was one of the best things about it, because it made traveling pretty painless. wi-fi alone isn’t really gonna cut it, i don’t think

  5. I can’t believe you got an iPhone so quickly! I think I underestimated your appetite for risk with your most important device (cell phone). :)I think I’m going to wait a bit for iPhone 1.1 or 1.2. I was late to the Blackberry Pearl, but very happy with it now.Can you read email purely in the widescreen mode to solve the display issue? Would love to see a demo :)Adam

  6. I can’t believe you got an iPhone so quickly! I think I underestimated your appetite for risk with your most important device (cell phone). 🙂

    I think I’m going to wait a bit for iPhone 1.1 or 1.2. I was late to the Blackberry Pearl, but very happy with it now.

    Can you read email purely in the widescreen mode to solve the display issue? Would love to see a demo 🙂

    Adam

  7. hey adam –i like my pearl, too, but it doesn’t change the way i think about devices as much as the iphone does. one interesting thing is that i don’t think my cell phone is my most important device anymore — i live more and more of my life through the internet, which i think is changing the way i think about what i carry around.and no, you can’t read e-mail in widescreen mode, but i don’t think there’s a display issue with e-mail in vertical mode. the screen resolution means i can see more of my e-mail than on any other device so far, and it makes a big difference.

  8. hey adam —

    i like my pearl, too, but it doesn’t change the way i think about devices as much as the iphone does. one interesting thing is that i don’t think my cell phone is my most important device anymore — i live more and more of my life through the internet, which i think is changing the way i think about what i carry around.

    and no, you can’t read e-mail in widescreen mode, but i don’t think there’s a display issue with e-mail in vertical mode. the screen resolution means i can see more of my e-mail than on any other device so far, and it makes a big difference.

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