iPhone 3GS Impressions

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It’s the apps, stupid.

I’ll be the first to admit that up until I purchased an iPhone, my cell phone usage was for the basics. Then my son’s wife received an iPhone for her birthday and as I played with it a bit, I was taken with it… and the reason I was impressed was because it became readily apparent that what made this device so appealing was not the cell phone aspects – it was the more impressive computer aspects that made this gizmo so appealing.

As fate would have it, my cell phone died and I needed a replacement, my contract was up and the release of the updated 3GS model all converged, pushing me inexorably to an iPhone purchase. Even so, I diligently researched various phones and cell plans to get a sense of what’s available. Consumer Reports weighed with their testing and Verizon comes out as the preferred carrier, but no iPhone. In addition, Verizon’s international coverage is really weak – does not come close to ATT; for me this was an important consideration.

I never had any problems with ATT, so my experience was good – I can live with it.

The plethora of phones is another story – the range is stunning and making sense out of user reviews turns out to be a daunting task. CNN does a “Top 5” ranking, for example. You follow the links, start to read user reviews and it seems for every positive one there’s a negative one, some vehemently so. I get two takeaways:

  1. The more you spend, the more capabilities you get (DUH!);
  2. The basic “free” phones are capable units with varying extras.

So now I’m asking myself “How much texting and emailing will I do? Do I want a keyboard?” Basically what I’m confronting is how much mobile computing will I do. And the answer comes back “You’ll never know until you do it.”

What swung me to the iPhone, however, was the depth of the apps that are (IMHO) fundamental to the iPhone’s appeal. There is no doubt that there are LOTS of apps (50,000+) that do not appeal to me, but there are more than a few that do. There are free apps (such as the carpenter’s level) that are great to have and the navigation apps (with marine charts) just blow my mind. As a boater, one thing I do is have backups – nothing worse than needing an engine belt miles from shore. The cost of a belt versus the cost for a tow disproportionately favors the belt.

The convenience apps dazzle me – I’ve looked at car-finder, locate public bathrooms, city guide apps – the list goes on.

And that’s the conclusion you get to fairly quickly – it’s the apps, stupid. I consider the iPhone 90% computer and 10% cell phone. The only limit you have with it is your imagination. What’s also cool is that you can download an app when you need it – if you’re in New York City and need a subway map, there’s an app for it. Love Starbucks? One to locate the nearest one to you.

You have to hand it to Apple for pushing the iTunes model to cell phones – nothing less than a brilliant marketing move. Competitors are rushing to duplicate the App Store for other smart phones, but with Apple’s commanding lead and army of app developers, it is going to be tough to catch up.

One area I wish was more robust is the camera – there is no way to change basic settings, such as image quality or size. I hope future OS upgrades will recitify this – I am using Photoshop to change these after the fact. However the video is quite a nice feature, with decent quality.

So am I impressed? Yes, for the apps that go with it. The hardware is a marvel as well – a totally awesome package.

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