Thoughts on the iPhone

Posting some user experience and observations on the Apple iPhone.

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My two cents...

What I'm describing does not fit into the low-cost DIY style, but maybe some out there might be interested. No, I don't work for Apple or have any business connection. :-)

I've had my iPhone (8 Gb) for about three weeks now. I'd been using a Palm PDA device for about the last six years and had found it a great way to track appointments, maintain a contact database, read ebooks, keep a small photo album, etc. In the last year, I've been settling in on a combination digital/analog system where my calendar and contacts were maintained on my computer, synced to my PDA, and printed out (as a monthly) for my paper planner/notebook. The latter is normally what goes with me to meetings, so I would only have to carry the notebook and cell phone, instead of all three. But, it meant that I didn't have access to my full schedule or contact database if I needed it. Being able to search six years of datebook events or hundreds of contacts was sometimes very useful.

So, how well does the iPhone work as a PDA substitute?

Organizing Functions:

Datebook/Calendar - I transferred the Palm's Datebook data to Mac OS X iCal, then synced that to the iPhone. You can enter events into the iPhone Calendar and sync bidirectionally with your Mac or PC, so keeping an appointment schedule on the iPhone works well. It's the first usable Calendar/Scheduler application on a cell phone that's ever worked well for me.

Contacts - Similarly, I transferred my Palm Contacts data to the iPhone, and can also enter and edit the data on the iPhone and sync back to the computer. The Contacts database on the iPhone (under Phone operations) is very comprehensive and stores even more information than Contacts on the Palm, and is so much easier to use than the lousy phone book on my cell phone.

Notepad - There is a Notepad application on the iPhone, but alas, there is no synchronization of it with the computer. Hope they fix that someday. Can still work for capturing data.

To Do - There is no To Do application on the iPhone and likewise, no syncing with the computer. But, one could enter To Do's as dated events on the iPhone, as a workaround - hopefully, a temporary one.

World Clock - Palm had it and so does the iPhone. The iPhone works better. And, yes, you can set up the iPhone as an alarm clock.

Other Functions:

Email - I didn't have email on my Palm, but do on the iPhone and it's great. It's not webmail, it's a real email client, albeit with some limitations. But, I've got my two home email accounts and work email account working on the iPhone and love it.

Photos - Palm could display photos, but it didn't have a camera. The iPhone can do both. Cool.

Music - Never bothered to set this up on my Palm, but the iPhone is also a great iPod. Enough said.

Video - Never bothered to set this up on my Palm, but the iPhone also does a great job of showing videos, TV shows, and movies you can get from iTunes or load in yourself. Now I don't have to take a portable DVD player or a laptop to view the movies I want on the many long flights I have to make. And, I can put the iPhone in my pocket. Try that with your laptop!

Cell phone - My Palm couldn't do it - it wasn't a Treo. The iPhone does and does it well. It has better reception and audio quality than my previous cellphone. The Contacts database integrates seamlessly with the phone and the email. Tap a phone number to make a call; tap an email address to send an email.

Web - My Palm could do this in a crippled fashion. It was almost not worth bothering with. The iPhone does it very well even on sites that aren't optimized for handheld viewing.

Ebooks - My Palm had the Reader application - the iPhone doesn't, well, at least not officially. With the large, sharp screen of the iPhone, it would make a great ebook reader.

Map and Routing - You could do this on the Palm with the appropriate software and data. Google Map is built into the iPhone and it works really well. You can even get a satellite view, which is just amazing. But, no GPS built in. On the other hand, GPS isn't built into every smartphone either.

Miscellaneous - Weather, Stocks, Calculator, YouTube, SMS text messaging.

On-screen Keyboard - People have complained about this, but it works so much better than the multi-tap entry system on my old cell phone, and at least to me, better than the thumb keyboards of most cell phones. Probably less likely to cause the tendonitis some people experienced using keypads or thumb keyboards.

The best part is that it has a visual touchscreen interface that works great that doesn't require reading a manual or drive you crazy with frustration, like my previous cell phones did.

When I leave the office, I carry the iPhone. It keeps the data I want close at hand, and it can function as a capture device when necessary. The Palm is being transitioned into retirement. The Circa planner/notebook still goes with me if there's any work to be done. That hasn't changed. Besides, can't write on an iPhone with a fountain pen. :-)


The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.
B. Banzai?

Sounds cool

Hi Walter.
Your combination sounds really cool. I know the iPhone was supposed to replace all other gadgets, but you make it sound like the Palm + iPhone is the best of both worlds (at least for now). I'm a great fan of the Palm (I had one until I broke it some time ago).

Yup, it is cool, but does it work?

Hi Rebecca,

Actually, I'm hoping to replace my Palm with the iPhone. The office supplied my current Palm and the IT department has mandated that Palms and other specific PDAs be phased out. So, I was actively looking at the iPhone as a replacement.

I started my planning journey (still on it) with a DayTimer, switched to a Palm after a couple of years, and after more years, am using a hybrid digital/analog system. I find now that I use the Palm primarily to hold my historical schedule/calendar (six years of appointments) and contacts database (800+), and it's all searchable. Can't do that with a paper system.

The iPhone doesn't have a search function, and I hope they add it in a future software update.

My evolution continues.
The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.
B. Banzai?

Lucky me

Because my son was able to replace his work pager, cell phone and notebook with his iPhone, I got to buy his Macbook at Mom prices. And it's still under warranty! Go iPhone!

Too expensive (for me)

... and I do not like combination gadgets. I do not like the idea of a combined MP3 player / phone / PDA. When the one item malfunctions, all capabilities are lost.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Combination gadgets...

Hi everyone, my first post, so here it goes...

I believe that convergence with gadgets is simply inevitable. I find that the main reason that people don't believe in it is because, until now, the implementations have been awful, and the hardware hasn't been powerful enough. People were saying exactly the same things about computers fifteen years ago; then they got to the stage where they became good at multitasking, networking, and integrating digital media, and now no-one looks back.

It's best to think of devices like the iPhone as general purpose computers; for that is what they are. They have a general purpose CPU, memory, persistent storage, a screen, audio output, and audio input... just like most computers. From an engineering perspective, the major difference is the size, shape, and input methods.

Since it's a general purpose machine, all functionality is simply implemented in software (except the 3G phone parts).

When I think of it this way, the 'when one item malfunctions, all capabilities are lost' doesn't really apply. It would apply if there was custom hardware in the device to play MP3s, and custom hardware to implement the PDA functionality, but there's not. It's all done in software, with general purpose hardware which is used as a PDA/MP3 player/phone.

Sure, if the hardware fails, you lose everything, but that is what backups (syncing) are for. If you have 3 different devices, statistically, you'll get failures 3 times as often assuming the same failure rate per device, which to me is worse. You have to lug 3 devices around, keep them charged, and keep them properly backed up and synced; a recipe for disaster, if you ask me. Plus, if you have a separate PDA and phone, chances are they'll both contain copies of the same data (e.g. address book data), which is a potential syncing disaster.

After that pro-iPhone spiel, they're too expensive for me as well... I dislike the constant 'care and feeding' that digital devices require, and I find that the way the software keeps changing (i.e. new versions, potential compatibility issues) is an annoyance... so it's paper for me, except password tracking, which doesn't work well on paper (lack of security).

Way too expensive for me

The cost of the hardware may have dropped, but the necessary service plan is about $100 per month.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)