If you like Apple, then you’ll appreciate the tech-fetishy bits showing off the app.
If you don’t like Apple… well, let’s just say you’ll enjoy it anyway.
I’ve had a few days to go over the iPhone 4′s features and such, and I feel reasonably confident in giving a review of the device.
The short version is that I feel this is the best smartphone on the market right now.
I started off this post with a rather poor attempt to review BT’s latest album, These Hopeful Machines, but as you can no doubt see, I’ve scrapped it. The reasons are many, but mostly they boil down to “I’m not a music reviewer, so anything I say is going to be hopelessly shallow and pedantic”, and “even if I was a music reviewer I literally cannot find the words to describe how this album makes me feel beyond ‘profoundly reflective’, but that’s mostly for personal reasons completely unrelated to the album itself”. I suppose the best I can do, really, is to say that it’s really good, and that anyone who likes electronic music is going to absolutely love it.
If that in fact turns out to be old news, then blame Amazon. I know I do.
Anyway. The word “hope” is a bit appropriate this week, as it turns out, as the Apple WWDC came on Monday and the big video game hoopla, E3, is next week. In both cases the internet has done what it does best: ruined the surprises. We knew about the iPhone 4 months ago, and “leaks” are coming faster and faster as the console “pre-conferences” come closer. I’ll cover these two events one at a time.
First, the iPhone. I found Penny Arcade’s assessment of the technical difficulties a bit… well, anticlimactic. I mean, come on. We all know what really happened. Grey Davis was accompanied on the altar by the employees responsible for the foulups, and together they were all sacrificed by The Jobs to The Beast That Has Naught But Two-Dollar Bills, He Who Thirsts For Quicksilver And The Blood of Interns, Great Bearded Geek With A Thousand-Dollar Computer, W’oz-Loggoth. For Gabe and Tycho to whitewash this just shows you how far lost they are in The Dark Faith of Cupertino. That said, the iPhone 4 was, literally, nothing surprising. I don’t mean that in light of the advances that were known based on the Gizmodo leak, and I don’t mean that it wasn’t technologically impressive. It was, in all respects, exactly what I was betting the 4.0 version of the iPhone would be when I signed on for the 3G two years ago.
See, the only people really getting bent out of shape are the fanbrats who are, either willfully or through sheer stupidity, failing to realize that the iPhone is not a computer and is not beholden to the same product lifecycles as one. It is a smartphone, and as such the decision to purchase or to skip it must be made from that paradigm. Phones are updated on an almost weekly basis. I’ve lost track of how many “phone X running Android-/Palm-flavored OS version Y is now available on carrier Z” posts I’ve seen in the last year. Hell, I couldn’t tell you how many I’ve seen this week. The point being that it doesn’t matter which phone you buy, or which platform you commit to. You need only blink before something “better” comes along. If you’re going into the iPhone, or an Android handset thinking that you’ll be hip and completely up-to-date, think again. Also please hit yourself on the head with a hammer, repeatedly, until the stupid leaks out of your ears. It’ll be a gray color, you’ll know it when you see it.
I can’t speak for everyone, and I certainly can’t speak for someone who’s taking this opportunity to jump from iPhone to an Android set. Who I can speak for is myself, and I’m going by the same rules I’ve had for cell phones since the very beginning– altering them, in point of fact. I started with a fairly basic clamshell phone back in early 2004, and limited myself to one upgrade per year until I made the jump to the iPhone two years ago. I did so knowing that I could not keep up that pace, and that it was entirely likely that I would not need to– remember, the first-gen iPhones shared in a lot of the features that the 3G version did back in ’08. It was not an altogether wild leap to assume that it would be merely one year between each version of the phone, and it turned out that I was right. The 4.0 handset has features that I want, and makes upgrading an attractive option– and since I was planning to do so anyway, there’s no problem. (If the 4.0 had, in fact, not been announced this year– I would have waited until the end of summer– I’d have gone to the 3GS for the extra storage space anyway.)
As for people dealing with the advertising and marketing campaign surrounding, well, all of Apple’s products, I refer you to the dissertation available on this weblog dated the twenty-eighth of February, Anno Domini Twenty-Ten, and shall leave it at that.
This ran a bit longer than I expected, and got a little ranty and preachy near the end. I’ll skip the E3 discussion until tomorrow, but I have a lot to say about that, too.
The iPad was announced today. I can see how it would be kind of cool, and I’m thinking oh dear you’ve already stopped reading. I’m sorry, did I offend you by not frothing myself up into the righteous nerd rage that is demanded of me simply because it did not meet up to the specifications that everybody and their brother pulled out of their asses the past three weeks? And I’m not saying that just to be colorful, I mean it quite seriously– some of the speculation, including from people who honestly should know better, was clearly made from whole cloth once the event occurred.
I made a point last night and this morning to gently remind people that nothing was “confirmed” until the event actually occurred. Naturally, nobody listened. They started harping on the event for not providing what was “confirmed”– specifically multitasking, any update to the iPhone’s OS, support for Chocolate-Chip-Muffins-Over-TCP/IP 2.3, that sort of thing– instead of remembering one important thing.
People lie. Everybody lies. I guarantee you 95% of the “confirmed” leaks were “confirmed” bullshit thrown around by trolls and misinformation mongers. When you get that kind of a noise-to-signal ratio, there’s only one sensible thing to do: disregard everything. That way you can retain your objectivity and look at the device on its own merits. With that said.
I’m a little surprised at the iPad for not exactly having a clear idea of what it’s supposed to be. Then again, I didn’t care for the iPhone either. The more I thought about it since the end of the event, the more I realized that quite frankly, this version of the device isn’t for me. Just like the original iPhone wasn’t for me, and how waiting for the 3G turned out to be the right thing to do. Just like how waiting for a little while on the 360 and PS3 was the right thing to do; just like how I should have waited for the Rock Band 2 peripherals (I don’t regret that one nearly as much); etc. etc. The iPad is a good device, and a good start– but it’s not for me yet. When the technology matures, and developers start showing off some cool things to do with it, I’ll consider it.
And now that what I hope is a fairly reasonable and level-headed set of remarks is on here, you may proceed to the comments, whereupon shortly you will find a thousand people calling me a retard for not immediately hurling all of my Apple products off a cliff in retaliation for this “atrocious”, “boring”, “useless”, and “lol” event that I just got done saying disappointed me. If you want you can even go ahead and add vitriol to the pile.
Yeah, relaxation? Gone now. Today was stressful to a ridiculous degree. Tomorrow is not looking much better. Still, a bright spot did come up: the rumored Apple event for the 27th just became official. So in a week or so, I’ll be able to see lots of new and interesting things that I’ll never in a million years be able to afford. Sort of like CES, but more smug.
Folks with iPhones or Palm Pres should definitely check out Word Ace, a free game available now on both platforms. If you like poker, and if you like Scrabble, then this game is definitely for you. Let me put it this way: I said I was going to bed an hour ago. I’m just now putting the phone in the cradle so I can charge it overnight. It’s that addictive.
Something that I’ve struggled with for a very long time is the matter of morning momentum. When I was little, I would wake up almost immediately ready to do whatever was needed of me. These days– particularly since the end of college– getting up in the morning has become a long, drawn-out affair that sees me taking sometimes hours to get out the door. This isn’t good. I can pinpoint, in fact, when I got into this bad habit. When I worked the evening and night shifts at Adelphia, I tended to get up earlier than I should have to “do stuff”. This meant that if I had to be at work at 10p, I would be awake by 4p so I could putter around– surf the web, play some games, that sort of thing. I would then go to work, come home, and instantly crash into bed (around 8a). Do that for a year and you have a bad habit in the making– made worse when, later on, I got a second-shift job and did more or less the exact same thing, also for a year.
There’s lots of ways to break this habit, but the first one that I decided to use was LeechBlock. I’ve set it up with an aggressive filter, giving me just ten minutes to get through my normal webcomic crawl in the morning.
Secondly, I was thrilled to hear that Minuteur had been updated to Universal Binary. A good timer is invaluable for constraining slacking, and Minuteur is one of the best for OSX. Since I’d last used it, though, it added some very nice features, including the “time-left bar”, a simple vertical meter that drains as time goes by. I’m sure it will get a lot of use once NaNo comes around.
Finally, I dusted off my shell scripting skills in order to gather data for GeekTool. GeekTool works along the lines of Samurize, which allows you to specify information to appear on the desktop. Since I’m using quite a bit more of the base OS X tools such as iCal and the like, and because I have the annoying tendency to not dress properly, I set it up to show the next week’s worth of events as well as the current weather. (I also have my current memory usage listed for curiosity’s sake more than anything else.) This allows me to save time by not having to react to things, but rather being able to be more proactive (for example, if I know a game or something is being released, I’ll make a plan to swing by and pick it up).
Overall, while it seems like I’ve spent a lot of time getting all this set up– and I have– the cumulative effect of all the wasted time being put to better use from here on out far outstrips the initial investment. We’ll see in the morning how well it works.
I’ve mentioned before how much I like Delicious Library, haven’t I? Because I totally do. I was lucky enough to get the iPhone sync tool before it was pulled from the App Store, as well, meaning I don’t have to wait to go home to check to see if I have something already upon coming across a good deal. I hope Delicious Monster and Amazon can come to an agreement on that front, too– it’s an excellent feature, and DM shouldn’t be punished for tying to bring something good to its customers (and drive Amazon sales while they’re at it).
Sorry for what might seem like free advertising, but I really, really like the app, and it came in extremely handy this afternoon.
Still on break, folks, but I did want to let you know that I’ve recently had opportunity to look into wireless headphones since the 3.0 OS update hit, permitting stereo Bluetooth use with the iPhone. The pair I settled on is the Samsung SBH500, which should be going for about $50 in most circles, less if you can swing a discount. I highly recommend you do. Granted that $50 for headphones is a bit exorbitant, but for iPhone users they’re the least expensive way to get your music and talking done on the same device, without strangling yourself on silly cords and adapters. The sound quality is excellent on them, and the controls are placed very intuitively on the right earpiece. The fact that the music-related controls beyond “play/pause” and volume don’t work is sadly on Apple’s part; they probably rushed the A2DP implementation and are planning to patch it out soon. Even if they don’t, wireless is without a doubt the way to go, and this set is a great way to do it. Be aware, though, that Bluetooth anything drains battery life ridiculously fast on the phone… so grab some spare chargers and keep ‘em handy.
I don’t have a whole lot of time, so I’ll just give the rundown of what I think about the biggest parts of iPhone 3.0:
Push: Well, I would have preferred BG apps, but I can see this being helpful as well. I don’t entirely buy the excuse of the delay being caused by feedback from developers causing them to re-think push. It will be enough for me to get back onto AIM, at the very least.
Peer to peer: I don’t see much use for this outside of games. Beaming contacts is now done via MMS (see below). Still, for the right kinds of games…
Maps in Apps/Turn by turn: I dig this. The “bring your own maps” requirement means it’s probably not going to show up for free, but it’ll produce a good app, I suspect.
MMS: I fail to understand why MMS is such a big deal. Email is fine for sending photos and other things, though maybe a few other uses for it will become evident as time goes by.
Landscape standard: I really dig this. Reading is just so much easier on the device in landscape mode. At the same time, iPod video and Youtube video should include portrait mode as well (for watching while it’s docked).
Native voice memos: Saves me from buying a dedicated memo app (I was looking into one a few weeks ago). If it syncs, all the better (and it better sync, now that we have…)
Notes Sync: I have a ton of reference material that I like or need to have with me at almost all times (car data, tech specs of my computer, reclamation lists– well, not anymore on that last one), and typing it all up on the phone only to lose it if I need to restore sucked. This will help greatly (esp. if there’s an import feature).
Copy/Paste: Even if there’s no direct import feature for notes, then this will be just fine. I haven’t had much abject need for c/p, but I have noticed its absence the more I use the device.
Calendar sync/subscriptions: Explain to me that this will allow non-destructive syncing with Google Calendar and we’ll have a winner.
Search/Spotlight: I dig this, too, but I was kind of hoping the rumors of a category-based home screen redesign were true as well. This is basically Quicksilver for the iPhone anyway, though, so no real problems.
Stereo Bluetooth: On the one hand, stereo BT headphones are ridiculously expensive. On the other hand, they are also really freaking cool and I want them; wireless anything has spoiled me rotten, folks.
Overall there weren’t too many bombshells dropped but the gist is that a few things promised last year, and a few curious omissions, are being rectified at last. (Also the fact that the 1st-gen iPhone doesn’t get stereo BT makes me very glad I wasn’t an early adopter.) As always, the iPhone isn’t perfect– nothing is, no matter what anyone tries to tell you– but it’s my favorite mobile phone and one of the ones I honestly don’t think I could be without. Either I’m too dependent on its features, or they’ve really integrated themselves into my normal work/life flow. Meh, I like it, your mileage may vary.