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Monday, September 7, 2009

iPhone: Five reasons I didn’t use the original one

When I explain the two factors that are revolutionary about the iPhone, I’m often asked why I don’t use one. With the first generation iPhone, there were five factors that kept me from using it, but that list is now down to one.

1) Speed – The bad thing about loading up full-size Web pages is that most of them are quite large. Many sites assume users have fast broadband connections. The iPhone’s Web browser is abysmally slow when connected over the cellular network (and still not super-fast when connected via Wi-Fi). Many sites never even load at all. The iPhone 3G is better, but there are still times when a non-3G BlackBerry or Treo will load a mobile Web page far faster than the iPhone 3G will load the full Web page from the site. The iPhone Web browser simple renders pages slowly, since it’s using Safari like a Mac OS X computer but the iPhone has far less processing power than even the slowest Mac.

2) Price – At $499 (4 GB) and $599 (8 GB), the original iPhone was way too pricey for me to justify, and I’m sure many IT departments felt the same way. Apple eventually dropped the price of the 8 GB iPhone to $399, but that wasn’t low enough for me, since the iPhone still had other limitations. Apple has dropped the price of the iPhone 3G to a more palatable $199 (8 GB) and $299 (16 GB).

3) E-mail – The primary reason that I use my smartphone is for checking e-mail. Since the first iPhone did not include support for push e-mail and could not connect to Microsoft Exchange it simply was not a viable replacement for a Treo, BlackBerry, or Windows Mobile device. Apple has rectified that by building Exchange ActiveSync support into the iPhone 3G.

4) Headphone jack – Although it’s nitpicky, one of the most maddening features of the original iPhone was its recessed headphone jack. This meant that you could only use Apple’s proprietary headphones, which don’t fit my ears and hurt whenever I try. The only other option was to buy an adapter to make the jack compatible with normal headphones. Thankfully, Apple has replaced this with a standard jack in the iPhone 3G.

5) Keyboard – For me, the worst feature of the original iPhone was its on-screen keyboard. While it’s better and more intuitive than the on-screen keyboard in Windows Mobile and other devices, it is still not very useful when you need to do any kind of serious typing. It’s just too slow and error-prone. It really forces you to hunt-and-peck with one finger. I have much better luck using my thumbs on the qwerty keyboards that come on most smartphones.

Will I use the iPhone 3G?

Apple rectified the first four items on my list with the iPhone 3G, but unfortunately the on-screen keyboard remains. If the iPhone 3G had a slide-down qwerty keyboard in landscape mode, I would have seriously considered adopting it. However, without a usable keyboard the device is still just an innovative, ground-breaking piece of technology that doesn’t quite have a place in my day-to-day life yet. And, I also wouldn’t recommend it to any IT leaders or business users who need to do a significant amount of typing from a smartphone.

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