Promotion to Apple Fanboy Complete

Today was a banner day for Apple in our household – we heralded the arrival of my iPad case and both of our new iPhone 4s. All told this month I’ve ended up ordering two iPads, two iPhone 4s, and accessories for each of them.

I think this single month expenditure earns me an automatic spot in Apple Heaven, even if I’m not a mindless Jobs Acolyte, right?

The Hemorrhaging, Make It Stop!

I’ve been hemorrhaging cash left and right lately. This has been an expensive few months for me, and it doesn’t look to be getting better this month. Fortunately, almost all of these expenses can be viewed as investments in my life instead of frivolous spending. Today’s latest round of spending was a Dell R210 that had a $573 discount on it and an Apple iPad.

The Dell R210 is going to be the foundation for the NinjaLAN in our new apartment. It’ll have ESXi on it so I can setup VMs to experiment with Windows 2008 and Linux (two skillsets I need to polish). It also has a iDRAC6 card, so I can remotely power it on and off when I’m traveling for work.

The iPad is the more controversial of the two purchases… When the iPad came out, I was fairly vocal about my disapproval of the pricing. And truth be told I still think it’s overpriced. (It’s Apple, so no real surprise there, right?) But I’ve decided to make a real push at going completely away from paper for my work. At this point, I’m down to a notepad that I use for daily notes and at meetings, etc. I’ve already started transitioning everything I take notes on to Evernote, but the iPhone is just too small and unwieldy to use as a note taking tablet in meetings.

The other hurdle I’ve had with the iPhone platform for the last year or so was the absence of a task tracking sync between Outlook and the phone. However, I started using ToodleDo this past month and have been extremely happy with it. The features are so much richer, I would have happily moved to it from Outlook regardless of the mobile device issues. The combination of the ToodleDo app and the ToodleDo mobile website make using the iPhone and my laptop/desktop a perfect integration.

So now the end goal is to get to a completely virtual workflow for my professional work. The last impediment to that goal is the paper notebooks I lug around. I have more than one, because I separate my clients into separate notebooks. (I typically surrender the notebook to the client when a long term project completes, so they have complete work notes of how everything was put together.)

So we’ll see how it all works out in the end. Hopefully this really will be the last major expense for a while!

iPhone: A Polished Turd

My last smart phone – a Sprint Mogul – finally died a few months back. So I found myself facing the decision – to iPhone or not to iPhone? I decided to take the plunge, and Cindy and I ended up with two brand new iPhone 3G phones (a few months before the iPhone 3G S came out… of course….).

Since I’m not a Apple fanboy, I didn’t automatically cream my pants when touching my iPhone for the first time. As a matter of fact, I quickly came to find it had a number of shortcomings compared to my several year old Windows Mobile based Sprint Mogul. I eventually did find some of the strengths of the iPhone as well. But now that the much anticipated iPhone OS 3.0 is out I’m more convinced than ever that iPhone is really just a well polished turd. Let me list a few reasons why before you Apple fanboys slash my tires…

  1. You pay for hardware you aren’t actually using. The iPhone 3G camera was capable of recording video. If you jailbreak it, you actually can record video. And yet even with the release of OS 3, video recording is not supported on the 3G. It is supported on the 3G S, but guess what? Same deal – the 3G S camera hardware could record HD video, but Apple only allows you to record VGA video.
  2. Apple supplied apps look good, but actually have usability flaws. Bad usability flaws. Usability flaws that a college undergrad software engineer could find and fix. Two illustrations: First, mail account navigation is stupid when you have multiple accounts. To check the inboxes in my two accounts on my iPhone requires 6 taps after starting the mail app. In Windows Mobile, it took 2. This was a known complaint in OS 2 and nothing was done to improve it in OS 3. Second example, the new voice memo app. It looks really slick, and the developers even took the time to make the signal meter jump if you “tap” the picture of the microphone. But the damn record/pause/stop buttons are so small, I can’t reliably hit them without concentrating on the screen. News flash, I want a voice memo app so I can record thoughts while driving, when I can’t safely look at the screen to type. What I need is a big record/pause/stop button, not a artistic rendition of a mic that takes up 80% of my screen. Want to record a voice memo in Windows Mobile? All I had to do was hold down the memo button on the phone, listen for the beep and start talking.
  3. Photo management is non-existent. This was another area that was desperately in need of work in OS 3 and got nothing. I can have folders for my photos, but I have to copy the photos to my laptop and organize them there then sync them back to the iPhone. What? Are you serious? Apple apparently spent a year working on cut-n-paste but couldn’t devote a month to coding this functionality. So my Photos app continues to be nothing but a huge long linear stream of photos in a timeline. If I’m going to load them on my laptop, I’m not going to bother to organize them and sync them back to my iPhone. I’ll just tag them and send them to Flickr, thank you very much.
  4. No Task List. Again, I can only say “Seriously?” This is supposed to be a “business savvy” smart phone and you don’t support a task list of some sort?
  5. No file management and no business apps. So now I have a 16GB device, but I can’t load files on it? Of course, I can always email my documents to myself and then open them in email. *cough* *hack* *cough* But even if I do that, I can’t edit anything. Again, Windows Mobile has had a “Mobile Office” suite for years. It’s not as powerful as the real thing, but at least I can put together a spreadsheet when I need to. Of course, for $99 a year, you can get Apple’s MobileMe service which is reportedly going to start offering the ability to send files to your iPhone via the website. But you still can’t edit your docs…
  6. No Adobe Flash for Safari. I was surprised it wasn’t in the original iPhone, amazed it wasn’t in the iPhone 3G and just stunned that it hasn’t been added to OS 3. Please, someone at Adobe and/or Apple, get your heads out of your asses!

So, given that I have some major issues with the iPhone 3G, am I ready to chuck it out a window? Not really. Just like the iPod, the iPhone really has done some revolutionary and great things. It’s just that those things aren’t really technical! But here’s an obligatory list of what I see as the iPhone’s strong points, just to present a little balance to my opinion.

  1. App Store. Part of what you have to admire about Apple is that they don’t really sell products, they sell integrated systems. Before the iPhone, no one had a marketplace like the App Store. Personally, I think the slick integration of the App Store directly with the phone is the single biggest reason for it’s success.
  2. GPS integration. Other phones have GPS, but Apple really pushed the concept of integrated location awareness for both native apps and for third party development. Geotagged photos, Zagat To Go, and with iPhone OS 3 Safari extends the location awareness possibilities to websites and not just apps. Very cool.
  3. Social media integration is really stellar. Not much I can do to explain this one – if you use social media (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter) the iPhone has you covered.
  4. Camera quality is really quite good for a phone. The Windows Mobile phones seem to have universally shitty camera hardware and the iPhone still takes mediocre photos at best, but it’s a big step up from the Mogul.
  5. Seamless data network usage. On the prior smart phones I’ve used, you had to connect the data network and disconnect it when doing Internet Stuff. Apple and AT&T really went the extra mile to make the network experience seamless on the iPhone.
  6. Web rendering is excellent. Safari may not be perfect, but it does the best job of any mobile browser I’ve seen, bar none!

Should you buy an iPhone? Honestly, I’m not sure what else is on the market that would convince you not to. Blackberries didn’t impress me and I haven’t played with a Palm Pre enough to judge it. If you’re a business user, you might want to at least shop around. If you’re a social media or mobile game junky, stop wasting time reading blogs and just go buy one already.