Revisiting My iPhone Review
Everybody can stop staring at me on Metro: The iPhone I've been carrying around since the end of June is going home to Apple, so the white headphones jammed in my ears will once again connect to a boring old iPod.
* The iPhone's Safari Web browser continues to be my favorite part of this gadget, making the software on any other phone look pitiably obsolete. But it desperately needs some way to automatically fill in forms and remember user names and passwords--the very things that the iPhone's auto-correction software is least likely to help you type.
* Otherwise, I've been pleased by how well the auto-correct has cleaned up my copy. You can barrel ahead with your clumsy typing and get clean copy most of the time... unless you're typing in another language.
* The screen's clever auto-rotate feature can be an outright annoyance in iPod mode. Carrying the iPhone to work, I usually hold it as I would an iPod--its long axis parallel to the ground, with my fingers on one side and my thumb on the other--which almost always causes the screen to flip into landscape mode. That wouldn't necessarily be a problem, except that this screen orientation drastically shrinks the size of the play/pause button, hides the back and forward buttons and provides no apparent way to assign one-to-five-star rating to a song. (Also, when I hold the iPhone in my left hand, my pinky lands at just the right spot to swipe the pause button by accident.) To flip the screen back into the more useful portrait mode, I have to hold the iPhone upright for a moment.
* One other music-playback annoyance: Having the screen go completely black, instead of just shutting off its backlight, means I'm often forced to press a button to turn the screen back on, just so I can see what's playing.
* The iPhone's headphone cord tangles too easily, since it doesn't have the plastic widget that corrals the cord on a regular iPod. And without the usual foam padding, the earbuds often aren't loud enough (I would push them into my ears when trying to listen to spoken-word podcasts on Metro) and pop out too easily.
* The touchscreen has done an amazing job of responding only to the press of a finger, not anything else--with one exception. This is really gross, but you need to know: When I've carried the iPhone in my shirt pocket on a day hot enough for me to start sweating through my shirt, the iPhone has changed volume on its own.
* With all your data onboard, an iPhone should be set to lock itself automatically. To have it require a four-digit numeric passcode after a period of inactivity, tap the Settings icon, then the General icon and then the Passcode Lock item. You can choose a delay of anywhere from "immediately" to one hour.
* For a while, the iPhone had a different sort of auto-lock issue; It would stop playing a song for no apparent reason, then get cranky about unlocking the screen until I rebooted it. But I haven't seen that problem since the first of two Apple software updates for the iPhone.
* Officially, the only way to add software to an iPhone is by bookmarking a Web site written for it. (Try the RSS reader at m.newsgator.com or the Metro timetables at meenster.com.) That has angered (warning, grown-up language) many Mac developers, but after some tinkering they've found ways to get their own programs onto an iPhone. I found a program called Installer.app surprisingly non-tricky to use: Download and run this application from a Mac, connect the iPhone and quit out of iTunes when it starts, wait for for the iPhone to restart and then you'll have an "Installer" icon on the iPhone's home screen. Tap its "Sources" button and select "Community Sources" to browse from and download add-on iPhone programs and get rolling. In a few minutes, I had a copy of Lights Off, a Bejeweled-type game that seemed easy before making me look silly in the fifth level.
Now that programmers have showed how easy it is to add new programs to an iPhone, I expect Apple will make this a supported feature in future update. The company ran almost the same playbook with the iPod--let hackers fiddle with the product, then adopt the best of their work. But I don't think Apple will be so supportive of attempts to break the iPhone's bonds to AT&T Wireless.
* As for AT&T, its coverage has some serious issues, compounded at times by the iPhone's occasional habit of not seeing a signal at all until it suddenly reports five bars of coverage in a spot where it registered none moments before. Some friends and I have confirmed a gap centered on Clarendon's Liberty Tavern, and I've also seen bizarre dropouts at nearby intersections and at George Washington University's Ashburn campus. It could be worse: At least I'm not trying to use it in a state where AT&T doesn't offer coverage at all, like Vermont.
* How durable is the iPhone? Ars Technica did the stress testing that I--being obliged to return the iPhone to Apple in working condition--did not. The short answer is that dropping the iPhone three stories onto concrete will kill the touchscreen, and dropping it into the toilet will kill it outright. But watch the video on that page for yourself; it's worth viewing in its entirety.
Now I'd like to hear from all the iPhonesters in the audience. How's this gizmo been working out for you over the last couple of months?
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