Thursday, January 10, 2008

Apple iPhone Review By [6]

iPhone0026.jpg The first and most important thing to note is that there is no GPS in the iPhone. The Google Maps app does the best it can without a GPS, but having to enter your current location (if you even know it) before getting directions is annoying. Once you do enter your starting location, you can get turn-by-turn directions that even simulate a GPS (you tell it when you're turning by clicking next). The real-time traffic is nice if you're commuting, and will definitely save you time when you're rushing out the door. And even without GPS data, it would be nice to be able to set a home town, or cache your last location of search so that unspecified queries for businesses would be local. (Tip: I just use my local zip code.)

This app, BTW, is far better than Safari/Google for searching for businesses. Locations can be easily added to the contact list, a separate bookmark in maps, and the phone numbers of any businesses can be dialed right away.

iPhone0028.jpgContact integration, again is excellent, and you can map the address of anyone in your main address book. To go home, just search for yourself or make a bookmark of your home named "home." Once you find a business, you can get directions to or from that location, add it to your bookmarks, or even create a new contact for it if you want to save it for later. This usually works, but searching for "ramen" sent me to "Ramen Sovramonte Veneto, Italy", where there's probably very little actual ramen to be found.

IMG_0404.jpgThe map app shares similar UI traits with other iPhone apps, and this consistency is both Apple's strength and a thorn in its ass. It's great that the app remembers exactly what you were doing if a call comes in; this could have been a source of major headaches. But other UI traits like pinching and scrolling don't quite work all that well here. Scrolling gets the job done, but pinching is a pain if you want to quickly move from one place on the map to another. Google Maps just requires a far greater level of zoom and pan than any website or photo in your album. Zooming by double clicking many many times is the better way to go. And, you will look like a woodpecker going from city to street view. Map data seems to cache, and do pretty well over EDGE. (Street view is faster than the detailed satellite mode, however.)

What's lacking from maps, besides GPS, is hybrid satellite view. The current satellite view just shows satellite and not street names, which is fun for peeping around, but somewhat useless because you can't tell what streets you're looking at without toggling back and forth between map view. EDGE is also slow, but it eventually loads the map and gets the job done. This is fine if you're not in a hurry, but if you're totally lost and trying to find out exactly where you are, it can be exasperating. For the chronically lost (me), this definitely doesn't take the place of a real GPS or even the Helio Ocean's Google Maps. In the end, it's still the best implementation of Google Maps on a phone that we've seen yet. [top]

iPhone0032.jpgThanks to the its great big screen and iPhoto syncing capabilities, the iPhone is probably even better than the Video iPod if you want to take your videos on the go. That is, unless you want to view videos on a TV (no TV out), view them full size (they get shrunk for space conservation), or store more than 8GB of photos. But yes, it really is like a mini iPhoto you can take with you.

IMG_0638.jpgTiles! We love em, but could also do with a multitouch zoom that would resize thumbnails. I know, sounds CPU intensive to resize hundreds of photos at once, but a dream is a dream.

iPhone0034.jpgOnce you've got your photos synced from iPhoto or a directory, you can browse photos by flicking, using the onscreen buttons, or even using the slideshow. There are a handful of transitions, but the best two are ripple and cube effects. But despite iTunes resizing down photos to save space on the iPhone, they still retain enough detail that you can zoom in once or twice. Speaking of zooming in, pinching is intuitive, but it ends up being a hassle after you've gotten used to the novelty of it. The same goes for swiping to get to the next picture—you'll find yourselves preferring the onscreen buttons more and more. Unless, of course, you really enjoy scrubbing your auntie's chest area to advance to the next shot.

iPhone0035.jpgAn example of the iPhone's great integration is how easy it is to take a photo and set it either as a wallpaper or as a contact photo. You can even move the photo around or scale it to get the best fit, much in the same way you do so in Address Book on OS X. It's easy to see which one you want, thanks to the thumbnail view. Pictures there are just big enough to make out details but small enough to fit loads on a single page. And it scrolls fast.

The phone also allows you to view photos in all four orientations, so turning the phone every which way will result in the photo turning with you. Short of a laptop, this is probably the best way to take pictures of your baby and annoy anybody at a second's notice. 1950's father stereotypes would be proud. [top]

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