First Report on Using the iPhone

Today I received a comment at a different post asking what I think about the iPhone now that I’ve been using it for a few weeks. Here’s my reply.

Almost daily I’m amazed by the iPhone. I never used a cell phone for email before owning an iPhone. It’s a breeze. Text messaging has a cool and pleasing look, and message history person-to-person stays in your stream until you clear it (like Apple Chat application). (Unlimited text messaging with AT&T costs $5 a month.) The Safari browser is incredibly stable and quick, using the network options on the iPhone. And, of course, there’s the ease of syncing iPhone apps and their databases with their corresponding apps on my Apple laptop.

The truly remarkable thing about the iPhone is its power to run applications designed for virtually every purpose. As one of my colleagues told me after I flipped for the iPhone, “iPhone users size each other up based on the applications they have downloaded to their iPhones.” I’ve discovered there’s a little (sometimes large) community of enthusiasts for specific applications. It’s like you join a club and make new friends simply for having such a little thing in common. And I have to admit, it’s pretty satisfying when, (a) you ask someone if they have some application, A, and they say no, then (b) they watch your quick demo of A on your phone and confirm the “Wow!” factor with their own exclamations, and (c) they start searching to download A on their own iPhones. Yep. I’ve had this happen. Always makes me feel my app choice was “right.”

Speaking of apps, here are the ones I have on my phone as of this moment:

(1) First screen (left to right, top to bottom): Things, iCal (standard), Google Calendar, Camera (standard), Settings (standard), TripCase, Packing, Maps (standard), Clock (standard), Stocks, Weather (standard), Quickvoice, Text (standard), iTunes (standard), Notes (standard), WunderRadio

(2) Screen two: SplashID, Calculator (standard), Corkboard (standard), iTweet 2, Photos (standard), Fast Web, App Store (standard), AppSniper, link to home page on my laptop browser, Pandora, AOL Radio, Contacts (standard), iFitness, Fandango

(3) Screen three: iPhoneHome, iLounge, iPhoneApplication List, iPhone Widget List, Widgeteria, Wordress link, PocketExpress

(4) Screen four: White Pages, Yellow Pages, IMDb link, iCafe, iPhone Freak, WOWIO, Tor.com, Memoware, WebScription, Biola Portal link, Night Stand, YouTube (standard)

(5) Screen five: Alarm System, Equate, Quip, Eye Security, KitchenCafe, iRuler, Google Earth

(6) Screen six: Stanza, WordBook, WordBreaker, Dictionary, eReader, Classics, 3000Facts, History

(7) Screen seven: Travel, Urbanspoon, Park Maps

(8) Screen eight: iTakeCredit, Daily Finance

(9) Screen nine: FlightControl

Many of these “apps” are links to online services or web pages, which are launched when you select the app. Notice that I have nine screens. The first screen utilizes all the screen space available, with the maximum of 16 apps visible (four across and four down). Other screens show fewer apps. This is because I’ve organized my apps into broad categories or themes, and separated them by placing them on screens by theme. I discovered this possibility quite by accident. But it’s very handy. (There’s lots about the power and versatility of the iPhone that you learn simply through use. I’ve also perused three or four books devoted to iPhone use and discovered a handful of useful tips I probably wouldn’t know about otherwise. For example, holding down the caps key—a metaphor for keeping your finger on the shift “key” on the keypad—and sliding it to a letter of the alphabet capitalizes the letter. This is convenient when you want to cap a word in the middle of some text, for instance. Simple trick, but very handy.)

Some of the apps are iPhone versions of applications I’ve been using consistently on my laptop (Things and Splash ID, for example). I haven’t used all of the apps I’ve listed. The ones I use the most are: everything on the first screen plus Splash ID, Fast Web, App Store, AppSniper, Fandango (used it last night to find a movie and location while on the road), and FlightControl.

FlightControl is the only game app I mess with. You get addicted to landing airplanes and helicopters. I enjoy recommending this one to people (especially guys) because they have all liked it so much. I’ve found that if there’s someone in a small group who isn’t interacting and looks bored, I can launch this app, hand it to them, and watch them come to life.

It’s easy to move apps around onscreen and from screen to screen. So in recent days I’ve had two travel-related apps on the home screen: TripCase and Packing. This is because I have a trip to St. Louis this weekend. When I return home, I’ll move these apps to the screen reserved for travel apps. TripCase stores my flight itinerary and tracks any changes in flight schedule, keeps me posted, and sends the same information to designated “followers” (e.g., anyone meeting me at the airport). TripCase has other features I’m not using for this trip. Packing is a database app that keeps a master packing list arranged in categories, and any specialized packing lists I create for specific trips or kinds of travel. I’ve created a packing list for St. Louis, so that everything I take with me is included. I’ve kept list like this on my laptop until now. This app puts everything at much more convenient disposal. And I’ve often wished I had a list I could consult before returning home to make sure I don’t leave anything behind.

I haven’t actually used FastWeb so much yet. But it speeds of web surfing on the iPhone without launching Safari. Fandando speaks for itself. AppSniper is great for tracking applications you have discovered but haven’t purchased, and for being notified when the price on those apps is lowered.

Every phone is fully customized by the configuration of apps.

Are you convinced yet?

***

Thanks, Tim, for asking the question that prompted this post!

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

9 Responses to First Report on Using the iPhone

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    Tim,

    As a grad student, you’ve got to have a laptop. If you’re ever in major travel mode, then an iPhone will make more sense.

    -Doug

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  2. Tim says:

    As for the PDF, a document like that would be helpful. I’m always on the lookout for helpful productivity software, particularly for project management. I’ve used MS Entourage for the past year, and it has a decent “Projects” feature, but Things looks like it might have Entourage beat.

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  3. Tim says:

    Thanks again, Doug. In your second to last paragraph, you said you’d save the money and wait to buy an iPhone til life gets more complicated. It looks like you’re making a case for the iPhone except for that phrase. Did you mean to say “laptop” there?

    Like

  4. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Tim,

    I’ve been using Things for over a year. I’ve compared it with the major software alternatives for the same sort of thing. If all you’re doing is managing a To Do list, you probably don’t need to buy the software. But I use it as a project management program. It works wonders for this purpose, and the cost is a value. OmniFocus is the major alternative used by people who want something of this kind. I like the look and simplicity of Things in comparison, though I do use OmniOutliner Pro for some writing and database stuff I do.

    The Things platform for desktop use has everything the iPhone version has. I prefer to enter and track Things data on my laptop, since I have the full-size keyboard that way. But the iPhone version of Things does everything the desktop version does, with the convenience of being able to have all the data, update it, make new entries, etc., on the go. The two sync with each other very neatly and quickly.

    Note: This summer Apple is releasing OS 3.0 for the iPhone. This version will make several improvements. One is supposed to be to enable “landscape” view (orientation) for the keypad for all apps that include keypad use. That will make data entry from the keypad much easier, since the keys will all be a little larger.

    If I wasn’t on the road quite a lot and wanting to have online access, full integration with my laptop, and so forth, I’d save the $ and wait to buy an iPhone until life got a little more complicated. With my Kindle, my laptop, and my iPhone, I have just about everything I could possibly need to sustain my productivity and manage my projects, wherever I happen to be. And I would—believe it, or not—leave my laptop at home sooner than I would my iPhone. (Let’s not forget that a notepad will serve when you don’t have a laptop handy for writing.)

    I’ve been thinking about creating more posts about the software I use in my project management as a writer, teacher, speaker. I can see how this could be useful to students. I’ve also thought about creating a detailed PDF file that could be downloaded for a nominal fee. Maybe I should poll viewers at my blog about whether there would be much interest.

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  5. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I haven’t yet used iTakeCredit. I need to establish a merchant’s account. But in my traveling and speaking, I often have copies of my publications available for purchase. iTakeCredit may make it easier for me to process transactions made with a credit card. It looks like a great app!

    -Doug

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  6. Tim says:

    Hey Doug,
    Thanks for that helpful and thorough update. Count me convinced. My only concern is the dough; not the phone, but the service plan. I hear if a couple wants two iPhones, they’re gonna drop $160 a month. My wife and I spend $90 a month total right now. That’s one of the few things that makes me think twice.

    A couple questions, now. About your apps, what do you think of Things? I’ve been using a trial version of their desktop client for a few days and think it’s great. The $50 is steep for a to-do program, but it’s slick and most importantly, it looks like it’ll actually help me stay on top of things. Has this been your experience? Are the iPhone app and desktop client best in tandem or does one or the other do most of what you need?

    Second, suppose I have a laptop in a bag with me most of the day except on errands. Would an iPhone be overkill? I know their uses don’t overlap that much, but I bet an iPhone would be a good laptop substitute for many tasks. Do you think it’d be feasible to get most of one’s work completed with just an iPhone and desktop (which I have)? I ask because I’m thinking of getting a laptop and/or iPhone but have bought neither yet.

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  7. Jeff Katz says:

    I see you listed iTakeCredit on page 8 — this is software that I designed and implemented in partnership with MerchantPlus. I was wondering if you had any specific comments on it, and also what you’re using it for.

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  8. Doug Geivett says:

    Steve, it sounds like the peace of such a pastoral setting would be sadly disrupted by over-dependence on gadgets. Count your blessings!

    -Doug

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  9. Convinced? Painfully so. It may be hard to imagine, but out here in the boonies of north Idaho, we do not get AT&T cell service. It was only a year ago that our carrier, Verizon, added data services. Yep. I can now text. But never while driving down main street. I might hit a cow.

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