So, I’m not entirely dead. Just mostly.
I’m finally feeling halfway competent enough to write up my thoughts on the iPhone. In doing so, I figured I’d compare it to my previous phone, the T-Mobile Dash (HTC Excalibur).
Let me begin by pointing out my inherent bias in this discussion – the iPhone was always going to be the God phone in my eyes. That said, it’s not perfect.
Lets start with form factor. The iPhone and the Dash are very similar in size and weight. The Dash is a bit wider, the iPhone is a bit taller. The Dash is a fair svelte device for a smartphone (pre-iPhone), and I’m a huge fan of the rubberized plastic used on the case. The iPhone is far more likely to take an accidental tumble than the Dash. Luckily you’d never be so careless as to put your iPhone in harm’s way.
Taken strictly as a phone, the Dash is also the winner. Much of this is (I believe) down to the fact that my Dash was a T-mobile device, whereas the iPhone is an AT&T device. I’ve had more dropped calls in a week with my iPhone than in 6 months with my Dash. The Dash was by far the best performing phone I’ve used though, so it’d be tough to match. (Other recent phones I’ve used with T-mobile – Nokia 3230, Nokia 3650, Motorola Razr, Siemens S55, Samsung S105). It’s also worth noting that I live in a cave, where any RF reception is tenuous at best.
What about internet functionality? There’s no comparison. The iPhone is by far the best mobile internet experience I’ve ever had. Having a true and proper web browser in your pocket really is a game-changer. Websites render properly and quickly, and navigation is easy, despite the small screen. Similarly, the Email client is fast and easy to use. The Dash webbrowser was slow and problematic, often locking the phone or refusing to render a page. Similarly, the email client always took ages to pull in my mail, and would often fail to complete the process, leaving my mailbox in funny half-present states.
In terms of net connectivity, the iPhone is the first phone I’ve had with proper, usable Wifi. It’s not something you have to think about – any time you make a data request and the iPhone sees a nearby access point, it asks if you want to join. If you say yes, it connects quickly and without drama. If you say no, it uses EDGE. While EDGE is a bit of a bummer compared to the 3G networks, the iPhone is definitely the fastest EDGE device I’ve used. The iPhone also remembers Wifi access points you’ve visited in the past, and automatically joins them next time you’re in range. Nice.
The other smartphone tools are pretty much par for the course. The calendar is functional, the notes tool is a notes tool, and the contact management is “alright,” – no better than other phones. The touch interface makes it all fun, and I have no complaints about the functionality. A todo feature is sorely missing though, and one would hope it would find its way into a software update.
In terms of media playback, there isn’t any comparison between the two. The Dash had a semi-functional version of Windows Media Player which would display tiny little videos and stuttering audio. The iPhone gives you all the functionality of an iPod, with the addition of a beautiful touch interface and high-res screen.
All in all, the iPhone has met my expectations of what an Apple phone should be. It’s beautiful, intuitive, and does a few things far better than anyone has done before. And, like any Apple device, it is also to some extent defined by its limitations. No iChat, no video capture, no third party applications. It’s a good enough device that I can ignore the limitations for now. Because Apple has the ability to push software updates easily and universally, unlike any phone before, I hope the next few months will reveal an ever-improving iPhone that continues to delight and amaze.