Review of the iPhone based upon my trip to NYC

So I have been gone for a week in New York City. I hadn’t ever done NYC, and neither had my wife, so we went and did all the things you would expect a tourist to do. It was a ton of fun, if you are interested in pics you can look at my twitter. My Christmas present was an iPhone. I wanted to hold out for Google’s Android, but after seeing the current offering I realized that it just needs time to bake. Eventually I think that it will be more compelling than the iPhone, and at that time I’ll probably purchase one. In the mean time I decided that the iPhone would do me a lot of good. This last trip proved how true that actually was. I tweeted that I couldn’t have done this trip without the iPhone. In reality I could have done it, but it would have been really hard by comparison.

It started when we landed at China town in lower Manhattan. I needed to go from there to 24th street. We could have walked it, but it was far enough away that public transportation was needed (FYI I don’t do cabs). This was a very simple process, but only because Google has all of the NYC public transportation built in automatically (This is just a side note, but Google needs to get all major cities into their database. Currently Boston is MIA). The iPhone is able to locate my location via GPS. So I simply tell it to route me, via public transportation, from current location to my hotel. Knowing the address helps, but isn’t necessary. Now here was where I ran into my first problem that was recurring. For some reason it couldn’t find my current location. It wasn’t that there was no cell phone reception. I had full bars, to be honest I don’t know what was wrong. I tried everything I knew how and couldn’t fix it until I restarted the iPhone. Once the phone was backup everything worked right away and we were on our way to the subway station. Aside from rebooting this was as painless as it gets. It told me what subway car to get on and where to get off. The iPhone can track you from your current location to make sure you are on track. For my use in NYC this was great.

After we arrived at the hotel it was time to grab some grub. This was also helped out by the iPhone. Sure I could have looked through a phone book or even logged on to the internet via my laptop, but the iPhone makes this so easy why even bother. Two apps that I used in this process: Urban Spoon and Yelp. I use yelp a lot. It has helped me find a body shop and mechanic for my car, as well dog parks, restaurants and grocery stores, but the iPhone app works a little differently. It takes your current location and gives you restaurants near by. Generally the people on yelp are very helpful and honest. You can tell when someone is just blowing off steam or being unfair. And since I didn’t know the difference between any of the restaurants this was quite helpful. This could have been enough, but NYC could easily be the food capitol of the world. There are thousands of restaurants. With so many choices I needed to narrow it down. That is where the urban spoon came in. The iPhone app allows you to shake the phone and the Urban Spoon would randomly select a restaurant. With the combination of both apps we always found a suitable place to eat. The real advantage was no planning. Whenever we were hungry and wherever we were hungry we could figure out a place to eat. Once you found a suitable place you just taped directions and google maps would take you directly to your destination. Simple!

The final bonus of this trip was live social media. The iPhone doesn’t have a great camera, but it does a good job at always being available and having immediate access to upload the pictures. Remember I said you could check out my twitter for pics. I was actually uploading the pics in real time as they happened. You can post the pics to any website, but the two I used were twitter and facebook. If I wasn’t posting pictures I could give status updates of the latest action. You can get similar functionality on other phones using twitter’s and facebook’s txt functions, but this allowed me to tag the photos and write captions. I was also able to keep up with my email while I was gone. Gmail worked perfectly on the phone so I knew as soon as possible when someone commented on a photo I just uploaded. Of course I could also interact with twitter and facebook just the same as on my computer (comment on status updates, or browse other peoples pics).

Draw backs, there are two major ones to speak of. First is the price, not so much for the phone itself, but for the data plan that goes with it. In the end this is needed, my entire NYC trip was over the 3G network (which was pretty fast). Countless pictures and web browsing had to rack up the data. I would prefer to have unlimited access without worrying about overage fees. This is probably more important, battery life. The iPhone MUST be charged every day, in fact, charge it any chance you get. This is rather unfortunate, but not a deal breaker. One day I got up at around 9:00 did quite a bit with the phone (as outlined above) and didn’t charge it till around 11:30 or so; of course the battery was just about to die. There are some things you can do to increase battery life, but most limit the functionality of the phone in ways that I couldn’t afford on this trip (like turning off 3G would slow down my internet connection and turning off GPS limited the maps usefulness). If we went back to the hotel I just made sure that I plugged in the phone. Annoying? Yes. Deal breaker? No.

Bottom line! The iPhone is worth it. Despite all of its faults it does too much good to be ignored. Granted if all you need/want to do with your phone is make phone calls than the iPhone isn’t for you, but to date I haven’t found a phone that can beat out the iPhone when you measure all of its capabilities together (sure some phones have a better camera, touch screen, or peripheral, but all of them lack in certain key areas that make the packaged deal of the iPhone insurmountable). If you are in the market for a smart phone let me recommend the iPhone.

A look to the future: I think that Android is going to be quite compelling later this year. I also see some good competition starting to spark with RIM and others. I just simply couldn’t wait any longer. I figured that by the time they actually come to market I could have already had plenty of use and half a contract done with the iPhone. This will be an interesting year to watch for cell phone development. I’m sure I’ll have more to write on this later.

For those of you in IT I have RDC, VNC, SSH, VPN, WPA2 Enterprise, all on the phone. There is nothing I can’t do, related to work, from my phone. Now that is awesome.

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