I got a chance to play with an iPhone Saturday. The big-city Apple Store was packed. Even though they had about twenty iPhones out for inspection, you had to wait ten minutes or so to get your hands on one. Here’s my quick review, based on a thorough in-store inspection.
It’s a sweet-looking device. I was blown away by the screen resolution, which made photos and videos look great. For the first time, I believed I might actually be willing to watch a movie on a handheld device.
The other software, from email to Safari, seemed as slick as advertised. This has to be the biggest attraction of the iPhone.
The screen seemed big when I was playing videos. But it seemed too small when I tried to browse the New York Times site. You had to choose between seeing a good portion of the page in nano-print, or zooming in to see a couple sentences in a comfortably readable size. Other newspaper and magazine websites had the same issue.
I tried typing on the on-screen keyboard, which worked poorly, getting about 20% of the keypresses wrong. I typed with my thumbs, Blackberry-style, which was the only way that seemed natural to me while holding the device. My thumbs aren’t particularly large, so I assume many people would have the same problem. Maybe I would get the hang of it after a few days of typing, but if I didn’t the device would be unacceptable for touch typing and I might have had to fall back on tapping keys with a stylus.
The AT&T cellular data network was painfully slow when browsing the web. A colleague and I had a conversation about cellular plans while we waited for one web page to download. A WiFi connection was much better.
My first reaction was that even if you never used your iPhone to make phone calls, it would be a nice little portable communications device. You could use it only with WiFi and be pretty happy.
But Apple won’t let you do that. If you buy an iPhone, it won’t do much of anything until you purchase an AT&T Cellular plan for it. You can’t even use the non-phone features unless accept a two-year contract from AT&T, which I’m not about to do.
So: no iPhone for me.