iPhone. No, I didn’t buy one.

Becki and I went to the Columbia mall last night, and while we were there we stopped in the Apple store to play with a couple of iPhones. After five minutes or so of screwing around with the thing, I sated my gadget-lust with it, and also decided that I’m glad I don’t own one. I’ll be comparing the $600 iPhone to my $100 Motorola Q, throughout.

It’s long, so here’s a jump/cut/break.

The iPhone is smaller than I’d thought it would be. A little (very little) thinner than the Q, a noticeably narrower, and almost exactly the same width. Smartphones in general seem to be smaller in person than they look in photos to me, though.

The multi-touch interface is amazing. Using iTunes or Google Maps is absolutely jaw-dropping.

The screen is about twice the physical size and resolution of the Q, but it doesn’t seem to be any sharper or brighter. That’s not a knock on the iPhone, by the way - the Q’s screen is absolutely gorgeous, so if the iPhone is on par, than it must be pretty good.

One thing that struck me as odd, though, was the transition from portrait to landscape. If I held the iPhone flat on its back, the way it would lay on a table, the gyroscope (or whatever) didn’t rotate the screen. But if I held it on edge, ie standing up or on its side, I could rotate it any which way and get the display right side up. This pretty much makes sense, but I sort of expected it to work in any orientation.

Also, and this isn’t really a problem, just a strange little quirk, is the way Safari works. You can pinch and expand web pages the same way you can with maps, and the pages render just the way they would on “real” Safari.

(I should point out that the comment about “real” Safari is based on a comment someone at work made. Apparently this guy, who used to work at Apple, has a friend who de-compiled the Safari app on the iPhone, don’t ask me how or why, but probably involved the leaked firmware that came out last week. What he found was that Safari on the iPhone is a Widget. Yes, a regular old OS X dashboard widget.)

Anyway, they look normal, but if you zoom in, the text blurs for a second, then sharpens up. If you scroll while it’s doing this, you can see the grey-and-white checkerboard pattern in the background while the page renders back in. In short, it seems to work exactly like Google Maps. I thought that was interesting, and if anyone knows anything more about this, I’d love to hear about it, because it’s kind of clever.

Also, AT&T’s EDGE data network blows. Page loads and map views were agonizingly slow, compared to the Q on EV-DO. Not a problem with the iPhone, obviously, but if you’re planning to buy one in the next five years, you’re getting it on AT&T due to the contract Apple signed, so this is going to be a problem unless there’s Wi-Fi nearby. For me, if there’s Wi-Fi in an area, I’m probably at work or at home, which means I’ll use my computer, not my phone, to browse.

The biggest thing is that the on-screen keyboard is really weird. I’m used to either T9 on a dial pad, or a physical QWERTY board. Either way, the iPhone’s lack of tactile feedback took some getting used to. Also, particularly in portrait mode, the “keys” are far too small for two-thumb typing. Obviously it gets easier with time, and I’m not saying that typing three sentences and a URL are enough to really judge the thing, but hunt-and-peck with one finger was the least-error prone way I found to type. Oddly, the keys are bigger than the ones on the Q, but the Q is far easier for me to type on, because it has some physical form to it.

All in all, I can definitely see the appeal of the iPhone. It’s the best iPod (and so the best MP3 player) ever made, one of the best phones I’ve gotten to play with, has hands-down the best mobile web browser, and the “wow” factor is absolutely unparalleled.

But there are some shortcomings. Notably, AT&T’s data rates, the virtual QWERTY, and the nervous pall over buying first-rev Apple products. For 5 or 6 hundos, and making a deal with the Devil AT&T, there are very, very few acceptable shortcomings, and I simply don’t think the iPhone offers enough to justify it’s stratospheric un-subsidized price point, even moreso considering that it’s not quite perfect.

I signed up with Sprint after the iPhone came out, and got my Q for $400 less than the cheap iPhone, and it’s going to cost me half as much, for almost the same plan (I still have unlimited data, but I get 500/unlimited minutes instead of 450/5000 - still far more than I’m likely to ever need). Granted, I got a completely absurd deal, but especially after getting some face-time with the iPhone, I don’t regret a thing.

Judging by the fact that Apple moved almost their entire inventory - 750,000 units, which sold out every AT&T store and all but two Apple retail stores - on opening weekend, I think I’m in the minority.

2 Responses to “iPhone. No, I didn’t buy one.”

  1. I <3 my Q.

  2. Just don’t call Sprint’s customer service line or they’ll discontinue your plan.

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