Thoughts from an unhacked iPhone user in Canada

Apple iPhoneFor someone who had a whole theory about why he wouldn’t buy one, I am very surprised how long I lasted before getting my iPhone. Yes, I finally have one and it is, all in all, and amazing combination of technology and user experience design.

Living about one hour north of the US border, I drove down to a small town in upstate New York last weekend to get my iPhone and activated it as a pay-as-you-go cell phone from a Starbucks (you know, the other Apple partner when it comes to this device) and updated it to the 1.1.1 firmware. As soon as I crossed the border back, I took the SIM card out so that the battery would not drain to quickly, especially as AT&T dosen’t offer international roaming on their GoPhone plans. Oh yes, Apple, I know I removed the SIM card… no need to remind me about that on a regular basis with a modal dialog box.

Having played with the iPhone for about a week, I have to say that the number one complain I have is the missing EDGE network connectivity. I thought about unlocking it, but with the current pricing offered by Rogers in Canada, the GSM mobile phone operator in this country, this is clearly not a viable option. For 10$ you get 10 Mb of data, and anything above that is charged at 3 cents per kilobyte! At the same time, Rogers offers a dedicated box for Internet access through GSM at 30$ per month for 10Gb of data… Where is the catch? All I want is a data-only plan through GSM :-)

Back to the device from Apple. It took me a while to figure out how to type international characters: simply keep the key pressed for a while and you will get access to é è or ç. With this, I have to say that the keyboard is actually better than I anticipated. The predictive recommendation of the word you planned to type is really good, except when you try typing some French, at which point it really becomes an annoyance. My single biggest issue with the text editing capabilities of the iPhone is that there is NO selecting of a block of text an NO cut & pasting functionality on this device, or at least I didn’t figure it out yet. Come on Apple, you even had this on MacOS 1.0 and PalmOS had it as well since the PalmPilot 1000.

I know this has been covered by many other bloggers in there comments, but the user experience inconsistencies are certainly not what I would have expected from Apple. One example: landscape mode. In Safari, this works great to view web sites which have large areas of text. But why isn’t there the capability of turning the iPhone when using the mail application? Many of the emails I get, and especially those newsletters and other automated messages in HTML format such as the Google Alerts, would be much more readable in landscape mode. I suppose this will come with a future firmware update, or at least I hope so 😉

And while on the subject of email, any chance the Junk mail feature of on the desktop could be added to the one on the mobile device? I understand that this is a version 1.0 of the email client software, and I have high hopes that this will come in the (near?) future. Part from this, the email experience is almost as good as a blackberry in my mind, and better in some aspects (direct IMAP access for example).

Now about the web browser. In one word: great! It is, as many have already stated, the best user experience when it comes to surfing the Interweb on a mobile device that I ever had. Navigating, zooming and interacting with Safari is a real pleasure. Two missing things to make it perfect: plug-ins such as Flash or possibly Java, and off-line mode… And this is not only because I am in Canada. As pointed out by Alessandro in a recent blog post, the PDF support, as well as the MS Word reader, are working as well as on a desktop computer and are a real pleasure to use… a lot better than the Sony Reader or any other mobile PDF / Office format reader. Next step, support for the Corel WordPerfect formats 😉

Regarding the YouTube experience, there are actually quite a few things missing. For example, you cannot login into your account, I don’t understand how to set the rating (both are available on the AppleTV). And more annoying is the fact that not every movie is available in an iPhone compatible format as of yet. But I have to say that opening YouTube movies by simply following the link from an email is cool.

Many things have been said regarding the iPod feature and I have to say that in my mind, the iPhone (and the iPod Touch) is the best iPod ever. The only problem, which is a design constraint, is that because this device is based on a touch-screen, you really don’t know what you are doing without looking at the screen. If you want to pause or skip the song you are listening for example, you really need to see the screen to do so, and that can be dangerous while driving.

Regarding the additional applications, the clock is really nice, but I am really sorry to see that you can only set a ring-tone as an alarm song, not any song from your iTunes library. The calculator is basic, but can be useful and the notepad is working very well, outside the fact that there is no landscape mode there neither. I can’t wait for MacOS 10.5 later this month as rumor has it that notes will sync with your computer then. The camera is good enough for a quick shot (I use it often to capture notes on whiteboards after a meeting) and the photo gallery feature is really nice, especially as it leverages the multi-touch capabilities of the device. The Calendar application still needs some polishing: Why can’t I have the various categories that I use in iCal show up correctly on the iPhone? And regarding iTunes, it is very hard to find iTunes plus songs to purchase (I am not purchasing DRMed songs). Oh, and when is Apple adding Podcasts, Audiobooks and videos sales through the Wireless iTunes store?

While Syncing works great, I am a little annoyed with the dialog box that pops-up every time telling me that this device is not certified for the iPhone and that I might have interferences… well, at least it works.

I can’t wait for Apple to start having third party applications for sale on the iTunes store… I was happy to see that my guess about native applications for this device is also coming from other bloggers now (I just hope they didn’t take my blog post as a reliable source of information as that specific post got a lot more traffic than average on my blog).

All in all, the iPhone, even without a SIM / EDGE connectivity is a fantastic replacement for both my iPod and my Palm TX (I didn’t use many third-party apps on it anyway). Looking back to my decision not to get the iPod Touch, I am happy with it. My biggest expectation is now that Rogers will start to sell iPhones with data plans in Canada, and that a firmware update of my AT&T locked device will enable me to use the phone features in the country I live :-)

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5 thoughts on “Thoughts from an unhacked iPhone user in Canada”

  1. I was also getting that dialog saying that “this device is not certified for the iPhone”, but don’t seem to be getting that anymore. I thought that this was because of the 1.1.1 upgrade. But you seem to be still getting this with 1.1.1, so maybe this is something else. Or are you really connecting your iPhone to a device Apple didn’t certified? I hope you wouldn’t dare doing that! 😉


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