This past weekend, I bought an Apple iPhone as a replacement for my AT&T Tilt which was slowly succumbing to hardware glitches. As a big fan of Windows Mobile devices and their integration with Microsoft Exchange I was wary of adopting an iPhone. I was concerned about it not having all of the features I'd gotten used to but on the other hand I was looking forward to replacing my iPod+AT&T Tilt combination with a single device.

Here are my positive and negative impressions of the device after five days

The Good

There are lots of things I like about the iPhone experience. Below are my favorite aspects of the experience thus far

  • Visual Polish: The visual polish of the 1st and 3rd party applications on the iPhone is amazing. There are so many nice touches in the phone from the coverflow browsing experience when playing music to the transparent pop over windows when you receive an SMS text. The few 3rd party applications I've used have also seemed similarly polished although I've only downloaded less than ten apps. It's like using a futuristic device that you see in movies not an actual phone from real life. 

  • Browsing and Purchasing Applications: As someone whose used Handango and ActiveSync to install applications on my Windows Mobile device, I have to say that experience pales in comparison to being able to browse, search, purchase and install apps directly from my phone. Having the app store integrated into iTunes actually seems superfluous.

  • It's also an iPod: I used to think my iPod classic was a fantastic music playing device until I got my iPhone. Now it seems rather primitive and ugly. I shocked at how much better the music playing experience is on my iPhone and have tossed my iPod classic into our junk drawer.  Now my pockets are lighter and I got an iPod upgrade. Nice. 

  • The Web browser: The browser supports multi-touch for zoom and it does AJAX. Hell, yeah.

  • Autocomplete when sending emails: When sending a mail, it uses autocomplete to fill out the TO/CC/BCC line by looking in your contact list and the email addresses of people in your inbox. This is a very nice touch.

The Bad

There are also a number of features I miss from owning a Windows Mobile device which I hope are addressed in the future or I might eventually find myself switching back

  • Email Search: Windows Mobile devices can search emails in your Exchange inbox by sending a query to the server. Using this functionality you aren't limited to searching the emails on your device but can search at least month of emails and get the results sent down to your phone. The iPhone has no email search functionality.

  • No integration with the Global Address List: On my AT&T Tilt I often needed to send emails to co-workers whose email addresses weren't in my contact list. All I needed to do was type out their names and then I could pull up their information (email address, phone number and office location) down to my phone to either add them as a contact or insert their email address into an email. I've felt rather handicapped without this functionality.  The autocomplete feature which uses all the email addresses from your local inbox has been a slight mitigation.

  • No Flash in the browser: After getting used having a Flash-capable browser on my AT&T Tilt via Skyfire it is rather irritating that I've now lost that functionality by switching to an iPhone. You don't really notice how much Flash video content there is on the Web until you start missing it. My last post was of a Flash video which is a broken link when I browse my blog from my iPhone. Lame.

  • Managing meetings is awful: As a program manager at Microsoft I schedule a lot of meetings. Every once in a while I may be running late for a meeting and have to either send a mail out to the attendees telling them I'll be late or cancel the meeting. Neither of these options is available on the iPhone.

  • Reply flags not set in Exchange: With a Windows Mobile phone, when you respond to a mail via the phone it is properly marked as a mail you've replied to when you view it in Outlook on the desktop. The iPhone developers remembered to track which emails you've responded to on the device but failed to propagate that information back to Exchange. For a while, I thought I was going senile because I remembered responding to mails but they weren't marked as being replied to in my inbox. After I found my replies in my Sent mail folder, I realized what was wrong. 

  • Tasks: Although I've never tried Getting Things Done, I am a big fan of Outlook Tasks and often add new tasks or mark them as complete from my phone. The iPhone does not synchronize your Outlook tasks from Exchange which is a glaring oversight. For now, I've gotten around this by spending $10 on KeyTasks for the iPhone which is somewhat hacky but works. 

The Ugly

So far there have been two aspects of the user experience that have been facepalm worthy

  • Ringtones: On my AT&T Tilt it was pretty straightforward to make any MP3 snippet eligible to be used as a ring tone simply by dropping it in the right folder. The iPhone requires that I pay $0.99 for a song I already own to use it as a ring tone. Seriously?

  • Using your iPhone on multiple computers: I typically purchase music and burn CDs on my home computer while using my iPod as a music library at work. This functionality is disabled out of the box on the iPhone. You can only sync your iPhone to one computer which includes only being able to play music off of your iPhone on a single computer. This is pretty ridiculous given multicomputer households and people who use their iPhones at home and at work. Thankfully, the Internet is full of workarounds to this foolishness on Apple's part. 

Despite what looks like a long list of complaints this is probably the best mobile phone I've ever owned. It just isn't perfect.

Note Now Playing: Jay-Z - Can't Knock the Hustle Note


Thursday, February 12, 2009 3:24:26 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
You can actually search the GAL, it's just hard to find ;)

The meetings/tasks/Exchange bugs are ridiculous to me - it's like they didn't even test it with a real Exchange server.
Thursday, February 12, 2009 3:45:58 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I'm pretty sure the IPhone has the global list when working against exchange. Hit Contacts > Groups (at the top) and you should see two options. All contact for your personal and Whatever you named the exchange connection. In this directory you can look up against the Global Address List
Thursday, February 12, 2009 4:25:09 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
The inability to use any music you already own is due to Apple's legal agreements with the labels for the iTMS. The recording industry oligopolists think it is their god-given right to double-dip when music you already paid for is used as a ring tone.

Mac users can get around that using Rogue Amoeba's free tool MakeiPhoneRingtone. I wouldn't be surprised if there were Windows equivalents out there.
Thursday, February 12, 2009 5:08:07 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Ugly: no tether unless you jail break it.
Thursday, February 12, 2009 6:48:42 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I use to make ringtones, you upload an mp3, use their flash interface to select the fragment you want, and it spits out an iphone ringtone you can add to iTunes. Works really well.
Thursday, February 12, 2009 7:09:13 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
As has been said, there are MANY tools for making ringtones. The built in editor in itunes is disabled, but any application that lets you edit music will work - create a sound file < 40 seconds in length, flag it as a ringtone (find tools on the web) and add it to iTunes - then either sync it over or drag it over to your iPhone. Tada!
Thursday, February 12, 2009 7:13:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Actually on Mac OS X there is an Apple approved free ringtone method: using GarageBand you can create ringtones from any DRM-free song in iTunes.
Ted Todorov
Thursday, February 12, 2009 7:14:12 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I hope this blog post isn't a vote of no confidence in next week's MWC announcements...
Thursday, February 12, 2009 7:44:26 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
You can create a rington right in iTunes. Set the start and stop time, make an AAC file out of it, drag it to the desktop and give it the ringtone extension, and then drag it into the ringtones folder. I've done this with all my ringtones. Fast Free and Fabulous

I use my iPhone for all my personal accounts (contacts, email and calendars) and also do the same with my exchange (work) account. It works very well and is separate. I can overlay both calendars at once if I want to. Incidentally, the GAL is available as mentioned above.

The best part of exchange access is that you don't have to ask I.T. to help you and they don't even know you are doing it. Don't ask don't tell!
Friday, February 13, 2009 5:11:48 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Ringtones? Garageband can take any DRM-free track you own and turn it into a ringtone for free.

Multiple computer syncing? Not a problem on a Mac. Yes, only one music library, but you can sync your photos from one computer and your music from another.

Why sync music at all? You can stream your music library to your phone using SimplifyMedia on a Mac. On a PC, I suppose you can use OrbLive.
Friday, February 13, 2009 4:49:26 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
if you are not in a hurry, I would say wait for Palm pre (end of Q1) and them make up your mind. Mutiapp in Palm Pre could change your mind. I would say try out the android but for the looks of things, if sounds like style is important to you as well so I say Pre is your best best. Call it a best of iphone and android in one package.
Friday, February 13, 2009 6:28:55 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
iPhone does give you that "sense of child-like wonder" Dear Leader was talking about... Especially coming from the ugliness of WinMo. I was also sitting on the fence for some time, waiting for WinMo 6.5, but it does not seem to be significantly better then 6.0, and the current crop of devices (TouchPro being the best one) is just subpar. No 3.5mm headset jack? Come on! The Pre is an interesting possibility, but it's going to be available on Sprint only (other carriers are planned for 2010? Jeez.), will not have the iPod (as in "best in class music player"), and the applications landscape is going to be much weaker then the iPhone. So it seems that iPhone is the best overall choice... One thing I hope Pre accomplishes is kicking Apple into releasing the async notifications framework they've been promising for almost a year now, so that all the IM apps can work properly (or even -- gasp -- doing something about the multitasking, so you can listen to Pandora and browse the web)

PS. You can't have Exchange GAL and your contacts at the same time on your iPhone -- it's an either/or deal. Unless you shell out $100/y for MobileMe.
Saturday, February 14, 2009 8:01:50 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
you're such a consumer
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 5:27:24 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Dare, I used this for my first mp3 ringtone. Worked easy. The trick was converting the mp3 to ACC then renaming the file extension to .m4r from .m4a

-- Yeah, I read you. ;-)
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