As you probably know, I spent last weekend in New York. My last post was actually written from the SOHO Apple Store. The main reason I went there was because I knew I could get a free internet connection, but I was also hoping for the chance to play with an iPhone. Sadly, the iPhone table was about five deep in people, so I gave up on it. But I did manage to play with one at the 5th Ave Apple Store the next morning.
Prior to having actually touched one, I was of mixed feelings on the iPhone. On the one hand, I've been awaiting the so-called touch-screen iPod for as long as there have been rumors of it. The iPhone is clearly that, and more. However I was, as most people were and some still are, concerned about the efficacy of the interface, in particular typing on the touch-screen. Beyond that there were obvious, to my mind, flaws of the first generation device that everyone has gone into already. Jesse Legg
has already written on the technical flaws of the iPhone
and I see no reason to continue harping on them myself. Instead, I'll just say that I never had any intention or desire to buy the iPhone as it currently is. My plan has been to wait at least until the 2nd generation when they've repaired those flaws and hopefully made some other improvements as well.
That was, of course, until I actually got to use the iPhone. My expectations for the interface were high, but the actual product completely blew them away. Using the iPhone is so incredibly simple that anyone should really be able to do it. The screen is extremely bright and sharp and the interface is well designed and takes full advantage of the enormous screen available to it. In other words, it's an absolute pleasure to use for all the basic tasks. This was really to be expected, but Apple completely outdid themselves this time. Then, of course, it came time to test the virtual keyboard. I honestly was not expecting much, and when I saw how small it actually turned out to be I thought I'd be disappointed even still. The fact that the first time I tried to hit a letter I hit the one next to it instead didn't do much to improve my outlook. But when I tried actually typing out a message I was amazed. Within a minute or two of practice my accuracy had improved amazingly, but it really didn't need to at all. At one point I accidentally typed in 'uojpmw'. The iPhone correctly translated that to 'iPhone'. In fact probably about 99% of the time when I hit the wrong letters because of the small keyboard and lack of tactile feedback it didn't matter because the software was able to correctly predict what I had intended to type. The only times there were ever any problems was with it not getting the word right was with shorter words. For some reason it wasn't very good at the two letter words. Other than that, I was flat-out amazed. Even disregarding the auto-correcting, I'm now of the opinion that the small, touch-screen keyboard is more than sufficient. I think that within a week of using it, anyone should be relatively comfortable with it. Within a month, they should probably forget that there was ever any other way of having a keyboard on a phone.
Having entered the store with the position that 'the iPhone is cool, but I have no real desire to buy one at least until they fix a few things', I found myself very tempted to buy one right then and there. As much as I enjoy using a Mac, I would hardly call myself an Apple fan boy, but just then I was probably as close as I've ever been. I resisted the urge, of course; I'm very happy with my current phone (the Motorola e815, though I plan on replacing it with a RAZR 2 when I can) and provider (Verizon) and don't particularly want to drop $600 on a phone and then spend an additional $75 per month or so on the plan (also I have no particular love for AT&T). None the less, I was forced to walk out of the Apple store with the opinion that Apple really hit the ball out of the park with this one. The fact that they sold nearly a million units on the first day would seem to support that thesis. I'm very much looking forward to the future of cell phones now. The iPhone and it's successors, I think, will really stir things up. We're hopefully going to start seeing a whole lot of innovation in cell phones, something we haven't really seen in a while.
I can't wait.