The wee flies in the iPhone soup

22 Jan 2008

I’ve had my iPhone for 2 months now, and I have to say, it really is the convergent device of my dreams. I wanted to combine my phone and ipod for a long time, and this really does exceed my expectations.

One of the biggest attractions for me is the “at last, a decent UI”. I recently tried out Ms Jen’s Nokia 95 and liked the form factor and features (especially the camera), but the interface hurt my eyes. Its the first time someone has really thought through an interface and made it pleasant to use, rather than just feature-crammed. Also, by throwing away a fixed keyboard the interface can adapt for each purpose and provide tailored options – like a .com button when entering a URL.

It’s also a good family entertainment device. While waiting at Birmingham airport a few weeks ago, I was able to calm a hyperactive son with a plethora of YouTube videos (The mysterious ticking noise is a favourite). As I had EDGE access there, I didn’t have to pay for any wifi fees, and videos streamed really well.

But what’s a blog for if not to rant a wee bit?

First of all, it has to be said, the camera isn’t much cop. I’ve come from a Sony k800i, which has a fantastic camera, but the iPhone camera can be described as ‘not too bad’ at best. Apart from the image quality, it’s quite hard to get a crisp image. There are no settings for things like white balance – there’s a button to take a picture and that’s your lot. I guess the the thinking is that you’d do image adjustment after downloading. Fortunately, I bought the iPhone as a way of combining an iPod and phone, rather than for the camera feature, so no great loss. I still get the odd twinge of “I wish it was a bit better” though.

Another problem is the crippled bluetooth. You can pair with a BT headset, but no more. I’m used to things like Salling Clicker detecting an incoming call and pausing iTunes for me, annoucing the caller or dialling numbers and sending SMS via AddressBook. Small issues though.

There’s also the lack of ‘mark as spam’ on the Mail client, but…

My main beef is the iPod controls. and the lack of a scrollwheel interface. The iPhone controls are OK, but have a very small hit area. The environment I use my iPod the most is in the car. With the ‘classic’ iPod, I could feel the controls without having to look away from the road, and easily pause or skip a track. With the iPhone the process to skip a track is:

  1. Double click the home button to bring up the iPod controls
  2. Glance down and look for the skip button near the top right
  3. Glance up again, pressing what I hope is the button – it isn’t
  4. Look down at the iPhone while I’m pressing the button – not doing it yet
  5. Stab a few times – ah got it that time!
  6. Look up and swerve back onto my lane.

I wondered whether instead of a blank screen, it could display a ‘low-power’ scrollwheel interface like so:

iPhone low power interface

In the car this would be fine, but if you’re walking you might need a click delay to eliminate accidental pressing – click and hold for 1.5 seconds, that sort of thing.

In fact, I would settle for the whole screen to become one large ‘skip’ button…

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