Simplicity Perfected

The iPhone has four physical buttons on it, and honestly you don't need any more.  On the front of the phone is the home button, which takes you to the home screen regardless of what you're doing.  The home button isn't an iPhone exclusive, many phones have it, including Samsung's Blackjack.  The button is key for switching between tasks; say you're writing an email but decide you want to check a fact on wikipedia or you just remembered something that you want to SMS to a friend, hit the home button and fire up Safari or the SMS client, do what you need to do and then switch back to your email to pick up where you left off. 


Take me home tonight

Hitting the home button doesn't close any applications, it merely switches back to your iPhone desktop.  The home button is your iPhone's Alt (or Cmd) Tab, it's your ticket to quickly switching between applications; one press of it and a touch later and you're in another application.  The functionality is perfected by the fact that the iPhone's user interface is incredibly responsive, switching between applications works like a computer, not a mobile phone. 


The ringer toggle switch is set to silent, hence the visible red dot

Along the left hand side of the iPhone are two switches: a volume rocker and a ringer toggle switch.  The volume rocker works as you'd expect it to, during a call or audio playback it will adjust the volume of the earpiece or speaker, otherwise it will adjust ringer volume.  Mac users should find the on screen display comfortingly familiar:


Home sweet home...for OS X users

The ringer toggle switches between normal and silent ringer modes; these are the only two profiles you can configure on the iPhone and even then, they aren't very configurable:

In silent mode, all audible notifications are disabled and the iPhone will only vibrate to alert you of an incoming call/message/email.  You can disable the vibrator so that the iPhone is completely silent and motionless in this mode, but that's all.


Silence!

In normal mode, the iPhone will ring, bark, beep or boing at you as loudly as you have the volume set.  In addition, it will also vibrate to give you the complete aural and tactile experience.  You can control what events will trigger sounds, but that's as far as the customization goes.

For me personally, this is all the configurability I need when it comes to custom profiles.  I usually keep my phone on vibrate, and if I want an audible notification as well a flick of a switch is all I need on the iPhone.  I've never really used profiles on my Blackberries and Windows Mobile Phones of years past, mostly because there are way too many keystrokes associated with switching between them all. 

On the Blackberry Curve, you have to scroll to profiles and select the one you want.  It seems silly to complain about using a trackball and having to make two clicks to change a profile, but compared to flicking a single switch that you can do without staring at the screen, it is a big deal.


Profiles on the Blackjack

To switch profiles on the Blackjack you have to hit the power button and select from a list.  Thankfully Samsung included a silent mode button on the keyboard itself, just hold it down and your phone is silenced.  The only issue with Samsung's implementation is that the button is sandwiched between the spacebar and comma keys, not the easiest to blindly select.


From left to right: sleep/wake button, SIM tray, 1/8" headphone jack (recessed and very particular about what headphones it'll work with)

The only remaining button on the iPhone is along the top of the device, and it is Apple's Sleep/Wake button.  The button is stiff enough where it won't accidentally get hit in your pocket, and just like the ringer toggle you can easily activate it without looking at the phone.  Hitting the sleep/wake button while your iPhone is on and active will shut down the screen, pause whatever you're doing (e.g. web pages will not continue to load while the phone is asleep) and lock the interface.  Tapping on the screen won't wake it back up, you either have to hit the home button or the sleep/wake button again.  Doing so will bring up this screen:

And simply slide your finger where indicated to unlock the phone (which is very cool by the way); if you've got a password set, you'll be asked to enter it next.  Just like the ringer toggle, the sleep/wake button is ridiculously useful yet overlooked on many cellphones.  The Blackjack lets you lock the phone by holding down the end call key for a few seconds, while the Blackberry  requires you manually select the lock button from the phone's interface (or if you have dial from home disabled, just hit the 'k' key).  Both competitors at least offer an alternative, but neither is as easy as the iPhone's dedicated button.

The rest of the iPhone's interface is completely virtual, driven by the 3.5" mult-touch LCD.  Know what you're getting into with the iPhone; on first glance it seems overly simplified, but if your needs and its abilities mesh, it truly is a phone interface done right. 

Pulling its Weight Oh Hashmir, Multi-Touch Me Down There
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  • goinginstyle - Monday, July 02, 2007 - link

    I just finished it, took a minute for the last two images to show up. Great article by the way and now I know what to get the wife for her birthday next week. Reply
  • ButterFlyEffect78 - Monday, July 02, 2007 - link

    I love my iPhone. I love texting all my friends and showing them my poop. Its great. Thank you Apple. Reply
  • rADo2 - Thursday, July 05, 2007 - link

    This phone is horrible.

    My needs e.g. are much higher than those offered by $500-600 dumbphone with Apple logo on it.. There are dumbphones on the market for $0 - 29.95, that can do more than iPhone. Take any Nokia phone (and they have MMS, voice dial, and record video)... And there are also many $199 smarpthones with Windows Mobile and/or Symbian UIQ that can install 10,000+ apps, many of them being freeware.

    No need to lock yourself in Apple overpriced monopoly with little functionality.

    If your needs are simple, and you value Apple logo above all, iPhone may still appeal to you. Why not. But "dumbphones" with many lacking features sold for $500-600 with 2 year contract most certainly do NOT appeal to smart and advanced users.

    In fact, biggest disadvantage of iPhone is not even missing features like voice dial, MMS, HW keyboard and/or GPS, but completely missing SDK. Developing SDK and giving it for free to developers is a major expense, and even companies like Nokia or SonyEricsson, which are on the market for "centuries", had problems with it. Microsoft has excellent SDK for Windows Mobile.

    Apple has no development platform / SDK. They try to hide this huge shortcomming by saying "Safari is your SDK". Hehe. They can fool "sheeps" that JavaScripts widgets running under Safari are real apps, but not tech people and business people. You cannot code (e.g.) GPS navigation handling 1GB maps, or advanced IM client under JavaScript/HTML/CSS.

    Thus their phone is basically a "dumbphone", not a smartphone, as installing native apps is a primary thing that distinguishes dumbphones for smart ones.

    Why devote 50+ pages review to something dumb? "Sponzored" by Apple?
    Reply
  • michael2k - Thursday, July 05, 2007 - link

    You have to use it to understand, I think.

    You talk about features, but as the review mentions explicitly, it's the interface, a feature in it's own right, that sells the iPhone. Does any 0-$29.95 have a touchscreen as nice as the iPhones? You kind of have to compare it to other touch screen phones to "get it".
    Reply
  • Cygni - Thursday, July 05, 2007 - link

    Exactly. The strength of the iPhone is that it DOESNT have hundreds of features tacked onto it, all done, but none done well. The iPhone does what 95% of the phone buying public wants to do with a phone, and does those functions better than any other phone produced today. That is it strength. That is why its bound to change the way cellphones are made and sold.

    The reason smartphones havent taken off for a vast majority of the public was that they were simply too dificult to use, big, ugly, and counterintuitive. They were systems of endless ugly windows, with terrible fonts, on grainy screens. They were huge fields of buttons with multiple functions for each key. They tried to do everything. Thats NOT what the majority of phone buyers want in a phone. They want something functional, useable, and enjoyable.

    To put it simply, the iPhone does what nearly everyone wants to do on a phone better than anyone else. Anyone who touches it and slides that unlock bar over for the first time has fallen in love. I personally wont be purchasing one for another year, while i wait for my contract with Sprint to expire, and i hope that the second gen has arrived by that time.

    How can you justify spending $600 on a phone that doesnt do everything? The average american spends an ABSURD amount of time with their phone, doing standard phone things. Calls, Alarms, Texts. If i can make those hours of my day far more enjoyable for barely the cost of 2 car payments? I would say thats worth it.
    Reply
  • rADo2 - Thursday, July 05, 2007 - link

    Well, iPhone SW is poorly done IMHO, e.g. not being able to search through contacts by typing is major drawback. I cannot imagine having to scroll through my 1000 contacts...

    There are e.g. great Samsung and/or Nokia phones sold for $0-50 (with contract) that are better "dumbphones" than iPhone, have 3G, MMS, can record video, play music on stereo BT headset, etc.

    iPhone does lack some very basic features, and I consider it to be hype only. Apple has brilliant advertising and "wow" factor, but this will wear-off within next few weeks.
    Reply
  • dborod - Thursday, July 05, 2007 - link

    There is an onscreen alphabet that lets you easily jump to contacts starting with that letter so you don't have to scroll all the way. Reply
  • rADo2 - Thursday, July 05, 2007 - link

    Yes, but that is only single letter. WM5/6 devices can do initial search (multiple letters) or even sequantial search, see e.g. http://www.sbsh.net/products/contactbreeze/">http://www.sbsh.net/products/contactbreeze/

    If you have like 100 contacts beginning with "K", it will be very hard to use iPhone to find and dial the right contact. And voice dial will not hell either.
    Reply
  • michael2k - Sunday, July 08, 2007 - link

    You make it sound like Apple won't be adding search.

    To my knowledge Apple has updated/upgraded via firmware every single one of it's iPods.

    Why do you think the software on an iPhone is "stuck" the way it is now? I imagine within a month of use, with feedback and real world experience, Apple will release an updated browser, mail client, media client, and text interface.

    Then what about your complaints?

    The iPhone is, for Apple, a miniature computer, and as such can be updated with fixes and software.
    Reply
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