iConverged: iPhone First Impressions From Windows Mobile/Verizon User

Posted on July 4, 2007 by Chris Duke
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I converged, again.

Now before you start throwing stones at me for turning my back on Windows Mobile and Verizon, allow me to explain!

I have been a loyal Verizon Wireless customer since the days when it was called Airtouch Cellular (I believe VZW acquired Airtouch) and my phone of choice was a brick-sized Panasonic phone. I even had a pager (what’s that?) My last two phones (Treo 700w, Motorola Q) were Windows Mobile 5.0-based and while the convergence of technologies were adequate, they simply did not live up to what I wanted in a phone.

I couldn’t ignore all the hype over the past few months surrounding the new Apple iPhone. It sounded like the perfect device, but was it? The world found out this past Friday, and while it does work as advertised, there are definitely some shortcomings. Over the past 5 days I’ve read every review published on the web, and I visited a nearby Apple store to play with it first-hand. After carefully analyzing how I personally use a “multi-media” phone within regards to the iPhone, I decided to give it a shot. As for the shortcomings, I completely understand… Apple wanted to launch a device that was not bloated with unnecessary apps (WM5 devices come to mind). With the tight integration with iTunes and the momentum behind this product (who has sold over 500,000 phones in 3 days? Nobody until the iPhone!), it doesn’t take an idiot to realize that version 1.0 won’t be version 1.0 for very long. I can easily see Apple updating the firmware on a bi-monthly or quarterly basis with all of the features people are clamoring for.

Could I be one of the many Windows Mobile fans canceling their Verizon plan and switching to another carrier for the iPhone? At this point, I’d say Yes, but the jury is still out.

iPhone on my deskI bought my iPhone last night at a Starbucks inside a grocery store at 10PM. This, after days of frustration of trying to buy it directly from Apple or AT&T. Numerous daily phone calls and trips to Apple stores (“yes, we have them in stock right now”) only to find out they were sold out by the time I got there. I even went down to an Apple store before it opened the other day only to see a line in front of me and a “sold out” sign on the window. eBay was hopeless… so I turned to CraigsList and by chance found someone in my same town that had one to sell, so 15 minutes later we met at the Starbucks and an iPhone was mine. Yes, I paid a premium… however it wasn’t much more than buying it online at Apple’s store (which is what I had done–but canceled that order last night). My advice for Craigslist buyers: don’t delay, and as soon as you have a hot lead, meet them ASAP before they realize they can get more for the phone. I had many initial leads through CraigsList that fizzled… so strike quickly if you want that phone!

The iPhone is everything it’s cracked up to be. What it has been advertised to do, it does extremely well. What wasn’t advertised is what it doesn’t do. I won’t regurgitate what others have already written, but the short list includes voice dialing, games, immediate 3rd party support, custom ringtones, camera options, video recording, expansion slot, and a delete-all function for email. What has been referred to as the iPhone’s “Achilles’ heel” is the lack of support of 3G networks, and only AT&T’s slow EDGE network is supported. What saves it is the WiFi support, which for me is preferred over 3G for when I am near a WiFi spot. That is something my previous two WM phones did not support and I’m thrilled to see it on the iPhone.

Application-wise, what will I miss most? Really nothing I suppose. I will miss the occasional use of Slingbox to watch TV and Skype mobile, but in reality I probably used those applications perhaps once a month, if that. They are easy to sacrifice. What I used my WM phone for mainly was email and web. WM5 did email well enough, but the web support was crap. A glimpse of hope for WM5 devices was Microsoft’s Deepfish browser, but that is, as far as I’m concerned, vaporware and just experimental (pre-alpha) software. Opera Mini is not really supported, and while I went through the Java hoops to get it running on my Q, it simply looked like complete ass. As a website developer, I’m exhausted from trying to support the many mobile devices. There is hope in our future with iPhone (and a few other devices that are coming out).

So, with my top priorities for a killer fully converged mobile device being email and web, I decided to take the leap of faith and see what Steve Jobs and Apple cooked up, knowing full well they would not launch a half-assed product like so many WM devices with “almost there” applications.

Seems the product has lived up to the hype.

My main concern at this point, like countless others, is the EDGE support. I’ve visited enough websites and configured my four email accounts to know that what I want most out of the phone is unmatched by WM devices. Will EDGE piss me off enough to return the phone and cancel my new AT&T contract before the 30 days is up? We’ll see! Thankfully there is WiFi support, otherwise this phone would probably fail miserably.

For now, expect a barrage of blogging about the iPhone while my Motorola Q sits waiting for its marching orders. I’ll be blogging about the iPhone’s problems that I’ve discovered and found workarounds for, and cool things that I’ve encountered.

Hype update: As of today, July 4th, the iPhone is not only completely sold out on the west coast, but the entire United States, according to Apple’s iPhone availability page. Good luck getting your hands on one, folks! Current estimates are that sales could topple 1 million units by the end of this week, which is unheard of… no mobile device in history has sold so many units, so quickly.