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Posted by Nathan Strum, in iBlogs 02 July 2009 · 6,506 views

So I've finally joined the rest of the world, and got myself an iPhone. Of course the first appropriately nerdy thing to do with it (after using its GPS to plan an alternate route around the traffic to get home from Northridge), was to type an entire blog entry with it. I must say I'm rather surprised at how well the virtual keyboard works - especially in landscape mode and in no small part thanks to its on-the-fly auto-correct feature*. Of course I could type way faster than this on a real keyboard any day of the week, but all things considered I don't really see myself missing a physical keyboard for the amount of typing I'm likely to do. I appreciate Apple's approach to keeping the screen multi-functional instead of eating up extra space with a bunch of buttons.

Even two weeks after its release, I still had to wait in line for over an hour at the Apple store in Northridge to buy the thing (I blame AT&T and their convoluted sign-up process for the delay). Also, AT&T is to be blamed for me having to drive down to Northridge in the first place, since their local store (less than a couple of miles from me) was all sold out. Again.

Anyway, I've now got my first cellphone, a GPS, a replacement for my recently-deceased iPod, and a whole host of other things all-in-one. But the most amazing thing about this little gadget? It actually has more memory, storage, and a faster CPU than what came with the previous Mac I owned (bought in '96). Now that's progress!

*As a side note, the iPhone doesn't seem to understand "it's" isn't always typed with an apostrophe. Posted Image (Also, I'd kill for some virtual arrow keys in the onscreen keyboard.)




I have literally not been able to connect to AT&T's Edge network since the release day of the 3G-s. I wonder if AT&T has snubbed us original iPhone users so we will upgrade?

I did call AT&T and their response was that service is not guaranteed. I wonder if my experience is unique?
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I guess that makes me the last person on Earth to not have a cell phone.
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I guess that makes me the last person on Earth to not have a cell phone.


Basically yes :ponder:
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I guess that makes me the last person on Earth to not have a cell phone.

A title I was hoping for, but ultimately failed at. Hang in there though - keep the faith for those of us who have fallen! :ponder:
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Just curious - have they fixed two annoyances?

First, when you hold down the delete key and it starts erasing whole words at a time, when you lift your finger from the key, it keeps on deleting for 5 more seconds or so instead of stopping right away, and usually erases a few sentences in that time.

Second, most of the time when I try to type "for" it comes out "fir" as the keyboard seems to have a preference for "i." Sure, fir is a real word, but most of us want the common preposition 99.9% more often than we want to write about trees.
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First, when you hold down the delete key and it starts erasing whole words at a time, when you lift your finger from the key, it keeps on deleting for 5 more seconds or so instead of stopping right away, and usually erases a few sentences in that time.

Seems to be working just fine for me. It stops deleting as soon as I let go.

Second, most of the time when I try to type "for" it comes out "fir" as the keyboard seems to have a preference for "i." Sure, fir is a real word, but most of us want the common preposition 99.9% more often than we want to write about trees.

It seems to work fine fir me. :ponder:

Actually, I haven't had a problem with that. There are a few keys I'm prone to miss-hitting though. The landscape keyboard seems to help with some of that. But I'm not exactly touch-typing on this yet, either.
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First, when you hold down the delete key and it starts erasing whole words at a time, when you lift your finger from the key, it keeps on deleting for 5 more seconds or so instead of stopping right away, and usually erases a few sentences in that time.

Seems to be working just fine for me. It stops deleting as soon as I let go.

Second, most of the time when I try to type "for" it comes out "fir" as the keyboard seems to have a preference for "i." Sure, fir is a real word, but most of us want the common preposition 99.9% more often than we want to write about trees.

It seems to work fine fir me. :ponder:

Actually, I haven't had a problem with that. There are a few keys I'm prone to miss-hitting though. The landscape keyboard seems to help with some of that. But I'm not exactly touch-typing on this yet, either.

Good to hear - I'm getting one.

Yesterday I went for a hike and got kind of lost, so I pulled out the iPhone to search for a trail map. It actually connected to the internet, but only after a half hour of trying. I guess I will get a new iPhone sooner rather than later, as this is really annoying. I wouldn't have minded so much had there not been mosquitoes out in droves. I hope that AT&T's network works fine for the whole contract period this time.

I wonder if a 1st gen iPhone is worth anything? Seems like someone might want one to use as an iTouch at least?
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I wonder if a 1st gen iPhone is worth anything? Seems like someone might want one to use as an iTouch at least?

I dunno. It's probably not worth a whole lot thanks to the 3G being only $99 now. But then again, if it will work without needing a contract, then I'm sure someone would be interested. I'd bet a quick search will turn up a bunch for sale (and the prices they're going for), since I already know several people who are upgrading their first-gen iPhones.
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Well, I've had my iPhone for about a week now, and I'm growing more impressed with it each day. I once wrote that 3rd party apps would be the killer app for the iPhone, and that's turned out to be the truth.

What makes the iPhone so appealing, is all that you can do with it, despite the fact that it's a cellphone. I've only actually made three or four calls on the thing, but I've used it for a whole host of other things.

The Maps feature is very handy for plotting out travel routes. Sure - you can do this with Google Maps anyway, but this is on the go. And the GPS means you can plot out a route from wherever you happen to be - even if you don't know where you are. There's even a free Google Earth iPhone app that's surprisingly responsive.

AT&T have a couple of free apps that I've downloaded - one to keep track of your phone usage and current charges (which would seem a no-brainer), and another that lets me program my U-Verse DVR. Unfortunately, it won't stream video from the DVR to my iPhone. Maybe someday. Ironically, of the apps I've downloaded, the AT&T ones are the least reliable. They tend to simply not work at times. I suspect this is because AT&T's servers are probably messed up at any given time of the day, and so therefore can't send out the requested data. Maybe they should hire an IT company to help them out. :ponder:

I've also grabbed a few games. I'm a big fan of racing games, so I grabbed the free preview of "Fast and Furious", although I wasn't impressed enough to buy the full version. I was also impressed by the WWDC video of Asphalt 5 (not yet released), so I thought I'd try Asphalt 4. Hey - it was only 99. It's not bad, but it's not great either since the controls are a bit wonky. After reading some more reviews, I downloaded Need For Speed: Undercover. Now, this is an "expensive" app, as far as the iPhone is concerned - $9.99. But it was on sale for only $6.99, and it had some pretty good reviews, and for good reason - I'm really impressed with the game. Sure - it's not as full-fledged as maybe even its PSP counterpart, but it's a far sight better than the last Nintendo GBA NFS games, and I paid a lot more for those! The graphics are excellent, and the controls are spot-on. The story is typical for an NFS game (completely superfluous), but I think it's well-worth the $6.99. Plus, I can listen to my own music during the game (thanks to it also being an iPod), instead of the ear-splitting thrash metal they provide.

After that, and some more review reading, I got Tiger Woods' PGA Golf, also on sale for $6.99. One flaw some reviews mentioned was that the game kept crashing their iPhones. Well, if they would have clicked on the "Support" link that's right on the game's page, they would have found several solutions for this. For me, simply restarting the iPhone solved it completely. It's an excellent arcade-style golf game (I always really liked Nintendo's Vs. Golf in the arcade), again with some really well-done controls. I've read some complaints about the graphics, but c'mon... this is a cellphone! The graphics are far and away better than PC golf games from only 10 years ago. I suppose it's all a matter of perspective.

My other favorite app at the moment is another pricey number - MLB At Bat 2009, for $9.99. But what you get is live, streaming audio from every baseball game. Any team, any time, you can listen live to your home town's radio broadcasts! Now that's cool. I miss being able to listen to the Mariners' games on the radio, and now I can. Plus it has live graphical updates of at-bats, various stats, and video replays of significant plays during each game (which load surprisingly fast, even over 3G).

My single biggest impression about the iPhone 3GS is just how fast the thing is. On 3G or Wi-Fi, it's much faster than you'd expect a device this small to be at web surfing and the like. (Especially if you've ever suffered through the agony of web surfing on a PSP.)

That said, there's still one glaring omission in the world of apps: Quicken. Yes, there's an app of sorts that works with their online version, but nothing that syncs with the desktop version of it. This is a gap they need to fill. I'd even pay for it. :)

Oh, and Stella would be very cool, too. :D
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maybe 2010 with the next release of Quicken for OS X.

Stella would be cool, but won't happen unless Apple changes the App rules - C=64 App Rejected by Apple.

If you own any stocks you'll find the free Bloomberg App to be handy - you're able to plug in your shares and purchase price and it tells you your loss/gain.

The free Flashlight App is surprisingly handy.

Field Runners is a well done Tower Defense game for $2.99

Centipede by Atari is extremely well done, controls are perfect for the iPhone. It goes for $4.99.

I've use the free app Shazam a number of times to figure out what song was playing on the radio.
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Pardon my ignorance but do all iPhone apps need to be purchased from the Apple Store or is it possible to download from other sources? In the same way the Stella and other freeware and open source computer apps are distributed?
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Pardon my ignorance but do all iPhone apps need to be purchased from the Apple Store or is it possible to download from other sources? In the same way the Stella and other freeware and open source computer apps are distributed?

You can "jailbreak" your phone and download third party apps for free using Cydia.
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maybe 2010 with the next release of Quicken for OS X.

Hope so. Still, you wouldn't think it would be that big of a deal for them to come up with a simple app that 1) kept your current balance for your accounts 2) had a list of your expense categories to choose from and 3) let you do quick entries so you could keep track of your on-the-go expenses, and then 4) sync back up with the desktop version. Maybe the hooks aren't built into Quicken for syncing (although that doesn't explain Pocket Quicken... :ponder: ).

Stella would be cool, but won't happen unless Apple changes the App rules - C=64 App Rejected by Apple.

I can undertand why, based on a strict interpretation of their SDK restrictions: "An Application may not itself install or launch other executable code by any means..." But there should be a way for Apple to make exceptions for that. I wonder if Centipede and other arcade translations use emulation, or are complete re-writes?

I've use the free app Shazam a number of times to figure out what song was playing on the radio.

Radio? What's radio? :)

Pardon my ignorance but do all iPhone apps need to be purchased from the Apple Store or is it possible to download from other sources? In the same way the Stella and other freeware and open source computer apps are distributed?

You can "jailbreak" your phone and download third party apps for free using Cydia.

I still haven't even hacked my PSP yet... so I'm not about to be adventurous enough to do that to my iPhone.

Anyway, yes - apps need to be attained through the Apple store (specifically iTunes), if you want to get them for an unmodified iPhone. Many are free, many cost 99, and most are just a few dollars. The trick is finding out what's really there, since there are so many thousands of them. Right now, I'm just limiting myself to stuff I know I'll want or need. I'll start exploring all the other stuff later.
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Pardon my ignorance but do all iPhone apps need to be purchased from the Apple Store or is it possible to download from other sources? In the same way the Stella and other freeware and open source computer apps are distributed?

You can "jailbreak" your phone and download third party apps for free using Cydia.

I still haven't even hacked my PSP yet... so I'm not about to be adventurous enough to do that to my iPhone.

Anyway, yes - apps need to be attained through the Apple store (specifically iTunes), if you want to get them for an unmodified iPhone. Many are free, many cost 99, and most are just a few dollars. The trick is finding out what's really there, since there are so many thousands of them. Right now, I'm just limiting myself to stuff I know I'll want or need. I'll start exploring all the other stuff later.

Mine has been jailbroken since the day I got it (Xmas 2007.) Back then it was a convoluted method that relied on a bug in the OS, but today it is quite robust and safe.

There are some apps that are very nice to have (for me, BSD subsystem is a must) and some powerful apps aren't even available in the app store (such as the video recorder for older iPhones.)
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So, I've been perusing the iPhone/iPod Touch App store. Man... what a disjointed mess that is.

First, they need to have some sort of minimal IQ requirement for people to be able to submit reviews. So many apps have one star reviews from people who are obviously just too clueless to understand what the app is for, or were too lazy to read the instructions. They usually write something like... "i donlowded ths peice of crap and it dont work i wasted my money dont buy this is stupid and u r stupid for putting this in the stor or if u buy it"

(As an aside... I have really grown tired of people who use text-messaging shortcuts or are too lazy to use capitalization and punctuation in public posts. It is extremely annoying and tiresome to read. But moreover, if they're trying to make a point about something when writing that way, nobody is going to take them seriously since they just come across as rambling, illiterate, incoherent nincompoops.)

There are also many reviews out there that give a glowingly positive written review of an app, but then the person somehow missed the whole point of giving it a star rating that matched. So that further skews what could be a good app, to have more negative ratings than it should.

The biggest problem though, is organization. There are so many apps, they really need to start breaking the store down further into sub-categories, and do a better job of placing apps where they belong - and not relying on the people submitting them.

For example - why have different tip calculators in Travel and Utilities and Reference and Finance? They should all be in one place!

They should be in Finance: Tip Calculators. Period. But of the areas of the store I've looked at so far, only Games has subcategories.

Also, next to each app's listing, whether looking at categories, or search returns, it should always show the average rating for it. (Yes... the rating system is badly skewed as I mentioned above, but at least it gives you a starting point.)

It would also be nice to see the stats on how many times an app has been downloaded, and more to the point, how much those apps are still actively being used. (Of course, that would probably violate all sorts of privacy regulations - but it could be a voluntary thing.)

Anyway, I'm still managing to find some potentially useful apps out there. The trick is, figuring out which any one of the hundreds of a given type of an app is the best one to get.

(Edited for excessive snarkiness)
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Don't download Trism.

I am completely, hopelessly addicted to it.

Save yourselves.

You have been warned.
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Too late. It is a fun game, but the addiction will pass - I can't recall when I last played it.
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It's a nice twist on the color/shape puzzle genre. I noticed they also have Tetris... I may have to get that one. :ponder: (Too bad Strat-O-Gems Deluxe isn't on the iPhone.)

I picked up a freebie solitaire app (Sol Free Solitaire). It's pretty good, although you tap to move cards, rather than drag them. Seems a bit counter-intuitive given the way the iPhone works. But hey... it's free. I only play Klondike anyway. I may pick up Uno at some point, but it's a little pricey for a one-card-game app. Maybe if they'd included Skip-Bo with it (as they did on the GBA) I'd get it.

I've played through Need For Speed Underground (worth every penny - but I wish the story mode was longer). I've unlocked "drift mode" now, so I still have a few more challenges to beat, plus I could replay earlier races to unlock the rest of the cars. Still, more levels and fewer cut scenes would have made it a better game.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour is still really excellent, although as with other computer golf games, once you get the feel of it, you can play under par pretty easily. That said, I still have some 17 courses and all the PGA events to explore. I've just been sticking with some practice rounds at Pebble Beach to get the hang of the controls.

I picked up Real Racing as well. A little more pricey ($9.99) but this thing is literally like Gran Turismo for a cellphone. Super deep racing sim, with outstanding graphics. No licensed cars, sadly, but what they have are well designed and nicely modeled.

I really appreciate the devs who offer a free trial version with limited levels - or at least YouTube previews. It's interesting how quickly you become unwilling to part with 99 sight-unseen. :) For example, I tried out GloBall, but it just didn't do anything for me. On the other hand is geoDefense. Initially, it took me a few games to get into it, but then I began to the hang of it, and really started enjoying some of the strategic aspects of it. Based on the screenshots, I assumed it was a shooter, but it's a tower-defense game with really excellent old-school vector graphics. I'd love to see something like Battle-Girl ported to the iPhone (or some of Ambrosia's classic Mac games).
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Miss me? :)

For the past 3 1/2 weeks I've been on vacation in Seattle, using only my iPhone for web surfing, message posting, e-mailing, blogging, etc. (with the exception of the 100,000 post, which I had to do partially on a borrowed iMac because of all of the formatting). I still have a couple more almost-done blog posts I started on the iPhone during my vacation, which I'll try and finish up in the next day or so.

I'm really impressed with how usable the iPhone is for daily internet use, and even more impressed at just how handy it is to be able to look up pretty-much anything at any time, anywhere, or have a digital camera on hand anyplace I happen to be, or be able to while away time with a game of Solitaire (or geoDefense), or be able to look for movies while out and about using the free Fandango app (such as for the Moon review - also written on the iPhone), and so on.

There are certainly some disadvantages to it though:
  • No spell-checker in online forms (like the full version of Safari has)
  • For that matter, no built-in spell-checker in Notes, or other apps (the auto-correct allows mistakes through without underlining them)
  • No arrow keys on the virtual keyboard (this really needs to happen to make text editing easier)
  • No Flash (although I think Flash is a big, bloated mess, many websites require it now)
  • YouTube videos don't always work right away after being posted. Apparently, YouTube is recompressing iPhone-specific versions sometime after the originals are posted. Even then, for an embedded video you have to go into the YouTube app, and then do a search for the video, since embedded videos don't play within Safari on the iPhone
  • The text entry for online forms (such as blog entries) needs work. Page-up and Page-down keys would help tremendously. Or scroll bars. Hey Apple - PLEASE add scroll bars to Safari in iPhone.
That said, I was still really pleased with how well everything worked (and how sadly reliant I became to using it). Also, the 3G network is plenty zippy enough for most web-surfing (I never had Wi-Fi except when visiting an Apple Store), and I even managed to connect some to their Edge network all the way out on the coast.

For some things (like the release of the Tron: Legacy test footage), I hopped over to my folks' iMac, since some things just need to be seen on a big screen, in high-resolution. After awhile though, I mostly got used to looking at everything on that tiny little screen. But it's good to be back on my own Mac again.

The internet looks so big now... :ponder:
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YouTube seems to use at least two different video formats for the iPhone. There is a substantial difference in quality depending on whether you connect with WiFi or Edge (and possibly 3G.) Over Edge, video also doesn't fill the screen, either.
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