17th July 2009

Village Gamer Gets An iPhone

iphone_3gsSo, on a whim (well, not so much, as I had been eyeing them up since the first generation was released), Tami and I headed into Abbotsford to visit James Kavin at the Rogers store (at Sevenoaks Mall, great service) and see about getting the new iPhone 3Gs.  After much discussion with the service representative about various methods to have the phone added to my account, we figured out a way to make it work well for both myself and Mike (who will soon be inheriting a new-ish HTC Touch Diamond).

Opening the box and turning it on for the first time, I was somewhat surprised by the speed.  Mind you, I have not had an older-gen iPhone to compare it to, but having come from a Motorola RAZR3, then to a Blackberry Pearl 8100, then to an HTC Touch Diamond, the 3GS was (to borrow from Rogers motto) Rocket fast.  Thus far, on initial testing the only problems I have encountered have been (and I will try to go into some detail as to why they are problems to me):

  • Applications do not seem to like running in the background.  What I mean here is, when you have an Instant Messenger program running, and you go back to your home screen… well, it logs you out.  Many of them now support Push, and will send you an SMS when you receive a message while “offline”, but I personally like just being able to cycle between programs without them actually closing.  Background processes in Windows Mobile was one of its obvious selling features for me.  Especially since I tend to log into SSH from my phone to manage our servers, and having it log me back out each time I look at a different screen gets a bit tedious.
  • Only being able to obtain LEGAL apps for the iPhone through the iTunes store.  That’s great, but you know, sometimes I want to help support those “basement coders” just as much as the people who sit in an office developing all day.  You will notice that I highlighted the Legal part there.  Yes I know that there are ways to bypass iTunes when installing Apps… so there is no need for anyone to comment reply this post with a walkthrough on jailbreaking, or on cracked apps… it’s not something we support here, and I am pretty sure if you walk into any Rogers/AT&T store and ask them about jailbreaking your iPhone, you’ll end up getting a 15 minute lecture on why they don’t allow it on their service.  Let’s not even begin to get into the specifics on what sort of risks you face with bricking your phone by going through that route.
  • The inability to “browse” the phone files, like you can with Windows Mobile.  I understand that Apple is protecting their product, and trying to keep the average user from turning their shiny new phone into a Frisbee or a paper weight, but sometimes I like to be able to simply click on a file from an explorer window, and select “delete” without having to go through a resource-heavy program like iTunes.
  • Syncing is a bit of a headache.  If you happen to make an iTunes App purchase from your phone, you will need to first “transfer your purchases” from your phone to your iTunes… even if the purchases where made on the same account.  If you fail to do this, the purchased App won’t be on your phone after you sync with iTunes.  I would think that a better design would have allowed for iTunes to store your App purchase history on their servers so that it just knew what was already purchased from your phone.  Or maybe to have the iTunes only sync newer content in both directions, so that nothing actually vanished from either end.  Wishful thinking I suppose.I am sure there are problems that I can come up with over the phone (I have not yet noticed the often-reported overheating issue yet,  but working in an office with A/C and not putting the GPS to much use thus far is likely one of the main reasons why), but I hear food cooking and all thoughts just sort of go out the window at that point.

Some of the definite selling points for the phone are:

  • The screen is large.  With the screen taking up 90% of the front of the phone, it makes it very easy to both navigate and read sites.  I found on the HTC that, while the screen was a decent size, a lot of sites required several zoom selections and a lot of scrolling in order to read even the most basic of sites.  iPhone is a winner here.
  • The camera takes phenomenal pictures.  With a 3MP builtin camera, the pictures that I’ve taken are right up to par with the standard $100+ digital cameras you would find on the market.  I admit, it’s no SLR camera by any means, but when you need a camera fast, it’s a good way to go.  And now that they have brought about digital video recording as well, any superiority that the HTC had in this area has been lost.  Good move on Apple’s part.
  • The GPS is awesome.  Being a typical male *cough*, asking for directions isn’t exactly my forte… and the HTC tended to take as long as 5 minutes to locate GPS satellites before it could tell me where I was.  Usually by that point, I would have either been mugged, or found a coffee shop to ask how to get back to “the good part of town”.  The GPS on the 3GS, for one reason or another that currently escapes me, takes seconds… the longest I have had to wait so far was just under a minute… and this was while in my office at work (yeah, I get bored in there sometimes and need a reminder that yes, I am still at work).  While it only comes with Google Maps integrated (I would have liked to see some sort of Tom-Tom-like interface that could tell me that I need to turn left at the next corner, instead of assuming I know how to read a map), the gyrometer that the 3Gs now uses allows for “on the fly” map rotation, allowing me to always know which way is actually North, based on the direction I am facing.
  • A very large portion of iPhone apps are actually developed right here in Canada.  While this may not exactly be an iPhone or an Apple perk, it’s most certainly one for Canada.  Kudos to Canadian App coders!
  • Many of the Apps are actually reasonably priced.  Yes, you do have to sometimes pay for the programs you want… but with the literally thousands and thousands of Apps available on iTunes, it wouldn’t be too hard to find exactly what you are looking for.  Sure, there are a few out there that are… well, I guess I could say unreasonably priced, but you encounter that anywhere you go.  I can justify the higher prices on some Apps by simply pointing out that you’re probably still saving money over buying new hardware that does the exact same thing… and only that thing.  So overall, you’re likely still ahead.  And if not, just be determined and keep hunting for a cheaper version.

Overall I am thus far very impressed with the investment.  While it is of course open to improvement (as any piece of hardware would be), it’s certainly a very sleek and smooth-working piece of equipment.  I would avoid just calling it a phone, as it’s become very obvious that we have since moved away from the basic cell phones that were strictly for calls, and the new “mini computers” that we get now.  Apple is well on their way towards dominating the cell market with this release, and I can’t wait to see what they can come up with next to top it.  Expect to hear more from me on this phone as things progress and I discover new and exciting ways to break an iPhone.  🙂

Out of my own curiousity, what do you (the readers) consider to be a “must have” application for the phone, assuming you have one.  Don’t have one?  What would be a definite required application you would want on one if you did?

This entry was posted on Friday, July 17th, 2009 at 5:14 am and is filed under Gear Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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