I've been using my iPhone for about four days now and I mostly like it. I've had some frustrations but since I realised that the iPhone is intended to be a <em>read only</em> device I've started getting on better with it. At first I was amazed that I couldn't save any content from the web such as images. Then I found the same problem with email in that there seems to be no way to properly interact with attachments. It doesn't support any kind of storage capabilities when plugged into the USB port. Even the bluetooth is crippled to only pair with headphones - no file transfer either way.
In fact the only way to get stuff onto the device seems to be via iTunes. I run Ubuntu but iTunes only supports OSX and Windows. I had to boot into Windows to register the phone but I don’t plan to switch my OS just to get music onto my iPhone.
So, in terms of the traditional PDA/smartphone function the iPhone scores a big fat raspberry! But the iPhone isn’t a traditional PDA – it very well connected to the Internet. It switches between cellular data and wi-fi transparently and reliably. The iPhone version of GMail works superbly, as does Google Calendar and Google Docs. They really are beautiful on the iPhone. The built in Google Maps application is awe inspiring! In fact I’ve fallen in love with Google all over again. I’ve even signed up to Google Apps for iandavis.com so from now on all my personal email is going to be managed by Google plus I get calendar, docs and sites for free too. Best of all I can access all of it from both my desktop and my phone. I’m out of the iPhone jail and I’ve even removed the built in email and calendar from the front screen.
The other application worth raving about is the BBC’s iPlayer which now has an iPhone version. It’s truly amazing quality even if it only works over wi-fi.
There are a couple of implications to all this. One is that O2 aren’t going to see much revenue from me. They give you unlimited data transfers hoping to make it up with text and voice. I haven’t made a call on it yet and will probably only make one or two a week. Plus I only ever use SMS to let my wife know which train I’m on. I use twitter and email for everything else which I can do for free now.
The other implication is that Apple had better look over their shoulder at Google and Android. The iPhone is a sublime piece of engineering and usability but the siloed approach is so 1997. Google have online apps that are more open and even more functional than the built in apps ( e.g. Reading office docs). Android as a platform is almost certainly going to allow a festival of iPhone-alikes to emerge all with Google’s killer apps built in. Apple’s only differentiatior is iTunes. How long before Google sets its sights there too I wonder?
(written on my iPhone which explains why there are no links – I need multiple windows or a clipboard!)