Apple. As a company you either love them or hate them and their most famous creation - the Apple Mac. Contuning the fine tradition of the last couple of decades, I'm more in the PC camp and therefore take an instant dislike to Apple and their swish gadgets.
Now before I start to make this sound like an Apple-bashing exercise, I'd like to point out that I'm a web designer/developer and that I've used Macs and PCs in my work over the past decade - PCs moreso, but I still use a Mac at least once a fortnight for reasons too dull to go into.
The great divide that originally existed whereby Mac's had all the power and the better design software is no more. PC's are now just as powerful if not moreso, they're cheaper, can be even nicer to look at and just do more stuff. I can also consistently crash a Mac as much as I can a PC because - unlike the millions of trend-whores out there - I actually push the Mac I use a little beyond browsing the web, checking emails, listening to music on iTunes and using it as a fashion accessory the other 99% of the time. You know who you are.
So I have no great love for Macs. They're over-priced, over-hyped, made by a company that has a dislike for compatibility and a hunger for money to rival that even of Microsoft which I'll go into a bit further on.
Well now that's out of the way I can get onto the main article - the thing that Apple have got just plain right - the wonderful, lovely iPhone.
Just to give you a bit of a background, I was after a new phone when my contract was up that would allow me to check my emails more easily (I have five accounts for various websites) and preferably allow me to check client websites when they tell me something's not working without having to wait an hour for the page to load and without having to resort to using my laptop.
I did originally look at the Google G1 which, despite it's quirky email program, seemed to fit the bill perfectly. There were the usual kinks in it that you expect in a brand new product and aside from that it was a great bit of kit doing just what I needed it to, but in the end I had to return it for the stupidest of reasons - no 3G signal where I really needed it. Thanks T-Mobile.
After returning that, I went to O2 and looked at the iPhone properly for the first time. I'm slightly ashamed to say I'd discounted it beforehand partly because it was Apple, but mostly the extra £100 I had to shell out for it over the G1. After testing it out I was pleased with the browser and the overall functionality and decided to go for the 8GB model as I don't have that
Email account setup was a bit quirky for IMAP. Seemed that for some reason on some accounts I had to go through the whole process 2 or 3 times before it took the settings on board. Having said that, the email app itself is VERY easy to use, works perfectly with my accounts and I can easily browse my somewhat complex folder structure with ease.
Facebook on iPhone, better than Facebook on normal browser!
Facebook and Twitter apps (very important business tools, honest
) installed easily and without a hitch. The Facebook app is actually better in my opinion than the actual Facebook website and has allowed me to become one of those annoying Ubergeeks who post an update at least once a day. I then heard Skype for the iPhone had been released, which was great til I then heard you couldn't use it over 3G (unlike the Google G1) so it's Wi-Fi only for now. Still, quite good and really
easy to set up and use. I hear they're working towards a Skype 3G version too which will mean some free phone calls for me wherever I am!
The web browser - Safari - is a battery-hungry beast and, for power reasons amongst others it seems, does not play Flash videos thus rendering a very few
websites unusable. That said it does allow you to view web pages full-size in landscape mode using the cool zoom functionality.
The interface for each application is pretty similar and is something that Apple have clearly worked on for a long time to make sure it's intuitive to use - 10 out of 10 for that as it's a joy to work with. This obviously makes it easier for people to use any apps they install as the vast majority make use of similar features (including the annoying "shake your phone to refresh your Facebook wall" feature - I personally hate the shaking features). There are some really nice touches - the icing on the cake is probably the answerphone for me. Messages are listed in this app in a media player format, so the person's name, a Play button and the ability to rewind a bit at the touch of the screen - no more calling a number to listen to your messages, or re-listening from the start to catch that all important telehone number again!
Onto the actual device itself. Apple, why do you have to be so bloody greedy? I mean, if my phone battery dies, I can't replace it - what the hell is that all about? I have to send it off to you and, if it's out of warranty it'll cost me as much as a new unit (well maybe not, but it's bad enough). Also, if I ever do want more memory I have to buy the 16GB iPhone - no memory card slots in sight. To top it all off, you give me a screen wipe cloth, but not even the most basic of cases to protect the unit - I have to buy my own (unlike with the G1). Greedy aren't we hmm?
Aside from that and the fact you get fingerprints and scratches all over the highly glossy surface within seconds, it's a nicely designed bit of kit. It's obviously larger than a normal phone, but so thin that it doesn't feel too big in your pocket. The unit is also pretty light as well for it's size which makes it great when you're in the pub, snap a pic on the camera and upload it to Facebook on-the-fly without getting arm-ache from holding a brick. The camera itself isn't toog reat and doesn't have a flash, but being able to upload pictures instantly nicely distracts (me at least) from it's shortcomings.
Skype joins the fray to become coolest app
Coupled with the unlimited data usage on O2 (for a £35 a month minimum cotract at the time I bought mine), you can frankly browse the internet and use Facebook and Twitter all day long without paying a penny so that's really nice. Provided your battery doesn't run out of course. With bluetooth on for an hour or so paired with a headset whilst on the phone to someone, using Facebook a couple of times a day and browsing the internet for twenty minutes or so, you'll have drained around 50% of your battery by the end of the day (or more if you keep forgetting to switch bluetooth off when you're not using it). That said, I don't mind charging it up every day or so as it's a small price to pay for what you get.
So, overall not a bad unit and most other software niggles will be resolved in the iPhone 3.0 software rmoured to be released around June/July, undoubtedly at the same time as the next generation of iPhone - one release a year keeps Apple's pockets nicely lined with your cash, and your pocket nicely lined with an empty wallet and a nice iPhone!