Friday, September 12, 2008

What is there in an iPhone?

Its been about 3 weeks I think since I brought my iPhone home. What do I think about it? Well.... Apple has really done it again, that's what. The device is SO much more than the shiznit, I don't even know what to say....

I have this anti-Apple tendency because I think they exploit the naivete and tech phobias of the masses by putting out uber-simple to use devices at a greater price than other companies that are putting out similar devices, earlier and for less money. These last three weeks have reminded me of my reaction to getting to know my first iPod after using two Zen jukeboxes and really loving them. There's just no disputing the niche they occuppy in the market thanks to their wilingness to meet consumers at their knowledge level. It pays off for uber-geeks, too, because easy to use is---well, easy to use.

The thing that has bothered me, and still makes me chafe a bit, is how it disregards the more sophisticated segment of the user population. Too much of their processes happen in black boxes that you can't even see let alone manipulate. I'd like to have my hands directly on my music metadata, thanks very much; I'd like to look at directory structure directly and put things exactly where I want them. In all its efforts to create the "anybody can do it" experience, they've created applications that uptight data geeks don't want to deal with---too much unknown, not enough control. Sincerely: I still haven't been able to figure out where the device puts my "sent" SMS text messages on the device and figuring out what version of the firmware I was running....phhhhhtfff. It just shouldn't be that hard.

I will say they work to improve. When I put my hands on my first iTunes (5th Gen, jan of 2006) device I was really unhappy with the onboard controls; they really were quite far behind the Creative people in terms of on-the-fly playlist creation and searching. By the time I bought the Classic last October, I'd say they had closed the gap entirely---2 years, hey! No one's perfect. At least they know where the market is going.

I said rather boldly back in January of this year I was holding off on buying a convergence device until either the Android based phones were on the market or until Apple built enough capacity into the iPhone to allow me to say bye-bye to my classic 'pod---at least 80 gigs is what I really have to have. Google has had a lot of troublewith getting the phone manufacturers who are developing Android-based devices ready for market. I guess that should be expected---those guys are brilliant but they're not wireless device engineers or programmers. Its just going to take some time. But then Apple blindsided me by releasing their 3G models. And I was eligible for an equipment upgrade with my cellular carrier....

So would this purchase turn out to be the time-killing diversion I expected while Google and their partners finish up their development? Not at all. The iPhone is brilliant. It is WAY better than I might have imagined.

Here's what there is for me to love:
1. speaker -- you know, its not great quality, but sometimes you want some music or online video without the earphones. I'm surprised how much I've enjoyed watching videos on the device without having to block out all the ambient kid noise that I need to monitor.

2. Nice integration of the phone---if you have a call while you have the 'pod playing, the music volume quickly decreases and you can conduct the call with the earphones and their integrated mic. That's very nice---no juggling phone, earphones and ipod to catch a call.
3. Great web browsing -- the Safari-like browser is easy enough to navigate, the virtual keyboard works well enough to avoid frustration and that browser sho'nuff handles java script so much more content is viewable than I was accustomed to on my Blackberry. Its much closer to a "real" web experience than I would have imagined. And nicely integrated with phone---hyperlinked telephone numbers are dialable with one-touch...
4. My favorite games are available and imminently playable using the touch screen!
5. For a day or two out of the house, it effectively consolidates 3 devices for me: my blackberry, my DS (for my serious sudoku habit) and iPod. Its not a solution for a long drive or trip because 16 gigs is just not enough music for me for that long, but for a bit? Yeah; definitely makes life easier. LOVE IT.

6. I actually have a longer list but this is too long already and I've not yet talked about Genius---its Apple's brand spankin' new playlist generator and it really does represent a huge improvement over anything else I've found and ya'll know I've been watching. Genius uses track-specific metadata to to create playlists of songs similar to your selected seed song. It does two things: one, it creates a list of songs that you have in your library and it also suggests other similar tracks that you don't have and may like (much like iLike and Last.FM). I think there remain two big gaps in playlist generation and they might both be more ambitious than anyone would like to take on but in my mind a good playlist generator needs to accommodate the mood of the listener and tunes and rely less on metadata, more on what's actually going on the song...the musicality, as it were. So far I've been fairly happy, not ecstatic, over what I've gotten out of it. Of the ten or so I've created, all were decent enough to listen to and one was good enough to keep around a while. And given that today Apple added the Genius functionality to the iPhone firmware and listeners can use it on the fly, I'm thinking it will see a lot of use. To me it seems just the right thing for when you're listening and you hear something that really hits the spot and you'd like to continue on in that vein----click and there you are.

So yeah, I'm thrilled with my iPhone. In the last week I've actually left my house once or twice with JUST the iPhone and left the 'pod at home. It was scary but you know...I managed just fine...

You know you want one.


KSM said...

You are so addicted. Intervention is needed, or you'll move on to bigger and more powerful devices. Trouble in the making.

KHM said...

Smaller more
Powerful devices, perhaps. Yes, I think you are correct.