Thursday, January 10, 2008

Apple iPhone Review By [5]

iPhone0047B.jpgThis Notes app is useful in the same way that a man dying of hunger eats rats and berries—you can't be choosy when it's all you've got. In the absence of voice notes, to-do lists, and Microsoft Word support, Notes is the only place in the entire phone that you can actually take down notes (unless you count writing an email to yourself). And thanks to the fact that it doesn't actually SYNC to anything through iTunes (not even to the Notes in under Leopard yet), it stays on your phone until you delete it.

Actually typing in notes with the keyboard is fine, but with the standard keyboard up, you can only use half the screen's real estate at once. There's no horizontal orientation for typing either, like in Safari. But there is a fancy magnifying glass cursor that you can use to move the cursor around. And thanks to the fact that the period, commas, and everything else but letters are on the second "symbol" keyboard, you're going to be switching back and forth for punctuation or leaving them out entirely and sounding like your BFF Jill.

The notes themselves are different in look and feel from anything else in the iPhone, complete with Sticky Notes fonts and hand-drawn icons on the bottom. It doesn't appeal to everyone (it does to me). Also, besides the email app, Notes is probably the one place where you're going to miss not being able to copy and paste text. And if you want to get your notes to someone else, your only option is to mail the note in its entirety, sans formatting (there's no formatting
anyway), in the body of an email. There's no way to send it as an attachment.

With the lack of Word document support, it would have been nice to be able to convert incoming Word docs into Notes, edit them in plain text and email them off afterwards, but no such luck here. The nice flipbook effect when you flip through multiple notes is nice, but doesn't make up for feature shortcomings. We just hope that when Leopard arrives, notes can actually sync to your PC so they become slightly more useful. [top]

iPhone0021.jpgWhat can we say? It's a simple calculator. It's nice that Apple added this in, since every phone since the Carter administration has one, but we wish there was some audible feedback when you pressed a button. A click noise, a beep, or even an "awooooga" noise. Anything! But it does make for a nice tip calculator, which may actually backfire with the waiter looks on you with disgust, thinking "You have enough cash for an iPhone but all you're giving me is a measly 12%?" [top]

iPhone0022.jpg Although a clock, timers and a stopwatch would hardly qualify for a "top level" app, Apple's done a good job in combining the OS X Dashboard clock with the boring clock/alarm/timer apps in other phones.

The World Clock app shows four different time zones/clocks at once, but can support any number of locations if you're either pulling off a multi-national bank heist or just keeping track of what time it is where each Gizmodo writer lives. You can re-order the clocks, which is great, but unfortunately the clock icon on the top level icon menu doesn't represent the current time. It would have been so much cooler if it had.

The Alarm app can also set an unlimited amount of alarms that fire off one of your many (somewhat lousy) ringtones on the iPhone, complete with snooze and repeat options. You select the time with a dial, which is actually as much fun to play around with as it is to actually use to set an alarm. Again, if user-customizable ringtones eventually arrive, you may be able to use them as your alarm tone as well. Waking up from a nap to one of the default ringtones is just painful.

The Stopwatch app has nice big digits and supports an unlimited amount of "laps." We tested that by jamming our finger on the lap button spastically, not by actually running. Who do you think we are?

iPhone0023.jpgThe Timer app is a regular countdown timer that plays back, again, one of your ringtones. There's an even bigger dial here that you can fiddle with. [top]

iPhone0025.jpgJust like the clock app, the Weather app borrows heavily from the OS X Dashboard's weather widget. And just like the clock, it's a shame that it doesn't show the current weather as the actual icon (though coincidentally it actually is 73 degrees right now). The weather is displayed in tabs, and you can scroll through your current set by flicking left and right. The dot indicators on the bottom show which weather tab you're currently looking at.

What's strange to us is that the iPhone weather is powered by Yahoo, whereas the Dashboard weather is powered by Accuweather. This mismatch means you're going to get different temperatures depending on where you look, and the question of which is more accurate is up to meteorologists to debate. Suffice it to say, the six-day forecast is enough to make sure you always have a jacket whenever you need a jacket.

Commenter Photoman reminds us of the Yahoo icon:

[The button] takes the city you're viewing on weather, pops it into the browser and gives you a Yahoo info page on that city, with events, movie times, pictures etc etc.

If we could make the weather icon active on the menu, complete with live-updating temperatures, that would be good. (The calendar icon does this.) It's kind of bad that the front icon is always showing sunny and 73 degrees, especially when the calendar app is updated live. [top]

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