Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Past the Euphoria: Why I Want to Wait for the iPhone

Like many other people, I was really caught up with the iPhone hype, and experienced the same euphoria that many others did while the iPhone was attracting crowds in front of Apple Stores nationwide. But something held me back, other than my budget. I didn't know if I wanted the iPhone right away, because I didn't know about some key features that I really want in a mobile device.

Yes, that's right, I said mobile device, not mobile phone. I hate mobile phones, because I hate mobile phone networks. There isn't a single one out there that I would willingly go with again. AT&T would only get my business if I were forced to purchase a phone for any given amount of time. In fact, I have been looking for an alternative that would be acceptable through various WiFi phone options for voice communication. No, what I really want is a mobile device that has internet capabilities, small enough to fit in my pocket, and doesn't require a stylus to use.

So why don't I just purchase any number of PDAs out there? Because they don't all support SIP or other VoIP phone services, they all have a stylus that make using it annoying (particularly when you have a son that breaks your stylus), and the really good ones are bulky to say the least. And on top of all that, they don't sync easily with the Mac. Yes, I can use The Missing Sync, or I can install Palm's desktop software for the Mac, but either that's an additional expense that I don't want to justify, or it doesn't work very well (my wife has constant problems with her palm sync process).

The iPhone has a touch screen that is just amazing. That's what I want in my PDA, a multi-touch screen that won't get damaged if it's sitting in my pocket with my cross pen. I want something that is less likely to get scratched because there is a minute speck of dust that the stylus managed to catch and cause a scratch that is very, very visible. I want something that will work with my finger or thumbs and not restrict the screen size. The Pocket PC has the virtual keyboard, but it doesn't work well with just your finger or thumbs.

But as I start to look at all the reasons I want the iPhone, it really comes down to the screen. That's it, pretty much. I don't want a stylus. Other than that, everything else I want is either standard with other phones, or isn't provided by any of them anyway. So what do I want? You may recall in a previous post I mentioned my wishlist. Well, here is another one, with many of the same features on it:

A Calendar That Syncs With My CalDAV Calendar
The Calendar on the iPhone is just as bad as any other mobile device out there. Apparently mobile device companies seem to think we all have simple lives with little to do. I have three calendars that I keep my information in, and combine them all in either iCal, Google Calendar, or Outlook 2007. Multiple calendars make my life easier to manage, because it keeps the appointments compartmentalized. That way I can better gauge the importance of an entry.

No, just color-coding doesn't work, because I need to sometimes limit access based on the event I am participating in. If someone asks me what classes are being taught, I need to see the whole calendar. But I only want to see the entries that apply to me when I take a quick look. iCal can do this (sort of), Calgoo can do this, and Outlook 2007 can do this. Why should I have to deal with a watered down version for my mobile device? I want something that is just as robust as a computer while I am running around, but small enough to sit in my pocket.

The Real Internet
I hate watered down versions of the Internet. Just because the device is small doesn't mean I want to have to deal with less than what I have on my desktop. I want the same display in a high resolution as I get with my Powerbook or my Mac Pro. The thing is, I need an easy way to navigate as well, and be able to zoom in and out when necessary. Luckily, that's one thing that the iPhone does really well (sans the crashing browser). It works really well when on WiFi, and somewhat OK on EDGE. I haven't seen what Pocket IE can do since 2003, but I would hope that it has gotten better, particularly with the zoom.

Real Messaging
I don't believe I should have to use SMS messaging, just because I am on a mobile device. If there is true internet access, why can't I use AIM, MSN, etc. for my communications? After all, I live in Adium at work. This is where the iPhone was a big disappointment. Sure, you can SMS, but you can't use AIM? Even my old Nokia I bought right off my mission with Sprint had AIM. Yes, I really need some sort of communication through my mobile device that is real, and really easy.

VoIP
This is very unlikely with any cell phone, but I would love to have VoIP capabilities with my mobile phone. Something like Skype or Gizmo for my mobile device. Why? Because I may want a phone, but I don't want the network baggage that comes with it. Skype is a decent alternative with much better rates than any network. And, as I have a really nigh-speed wireless network at all my work locations, I don't see the need to settle for anything less.

Of course I could just purchase a WiFi phone and use it, but why would I want to carry more than one device? I'm all about consolidating my devices as much as possible. I don't want to have to carry my laptop, PDA, cell phone, and iPod just to have the benefits of any one at any given time. Call me crazy, but I like the minimalist approach to life.

This is why I am really hoping that 3rd party apps are opened soon for the iPhone, either through Apple or through hackers. Please Apple, let Skype come to the iPhone! You can limit the usage to WiFi only, to stay compliant with AT&T's anti VoIP stance for their network.

Storage for Media
Yes, I love being entertained. I like watching episodes of my favorite British Comedies whenever I want to, such as on Traxx. I like to listen to audiobooks while bike riding, or my favorite music. Sure, many phones out there can play media, but their storage space is very wanting (unless I pay for expansion cards that are also expensive). I think that my mobile device should be comparable to an older PC. That's why I like the iPhone. At 8 GB of storage, I can keep at least the full "Grace and Favour" series, or even "Dilbert". That will keep me happy, happy for a week, at least.

eBooks
I need something that will read eBooks as well. Why? Because I do a lot of reading, and will even take the time to convert books to eBook format if a format is universal. I have yet to find a perfect eBook system, as they are all too much like DRM to suit me. Granted, there is the Gutenburg project, which I firmly endorse, but I have yet to find a mobile device that supports it natively. Perhaps I just haven't been looking hard enough.

WiFi a Must
Yes, I need WiFi. Bluetooth is nice for simple devices, but if I am going to use any phone I need WiFi to get it to work properly. Why? Because you need that kind of speed to get software like Skype to work correctly. There are precious few phones out there in the US market that will support WiFi, other than really expensive PDA's that have little storage space. One phone had me excited, the Neo 1973 by OpenMoko, but it still has the stylus, and it doesn't have WiFi. The storage is not mentioned at all, but as it comes with a 2 GB micro SD card, I assumed that was the storage.

I need the WiFi to be compatible with 802.1x authentication, so that I can use it at work as well as at home. At the U, the Uconnect wireless network utilizes 802.1x authentication to use it. It's simple to set up on the Mac, somewhat simple to set up on a Windows machine, but fairly complicated on a Pocket PC. I want something that is easy to set up this way.

Video
Yes, I want to be able to capture video, as well as audio. I don't need to publish it anywhere, but I want to be able to use the phone as an ad hoc video recorder for those moments when a small mobile video recorder would be handy. And it needs to be at a decent frame rate, and decent resolution. That alone will make the video recorder option unlikely, as you can get one or the other on a small device, but rarely both.

Additional Accessories
I would love to be able to plug in a keyboard to the iPhone and use it instead of the main keyboard. I want to be able to turn the ideal mobile device into the ideal replacement for my laptop while on the road. Why? Because there are very few laptops that run a full OS and are small enough and light enough to go everywhere. Right now my 12" Powerbook is small enough to fit in a messenger bag, but heavy enough to eliminate anything else in that bag. If I can have a small enough mobile device that runs a full OS, has a Terminal (also missing in the iPhone), and has the ability to plug in or use a Bluetooth keyboard, I would be all set. Particularly if it had a terminal. ^_^

I would also like to see a camera for Video Conferencing. Right now the iPhone only has support for a picture camera, and perhaps a video camera if the software is upgraded nicely. But I would like a camera on the front of the device (much like the Clie had), so that video conferencing is possible. I would even accept it as a third party device that plugs into the bottom of the sucker, as long as it was sleek. With WiFi hotspots becoming more common, there would be a really decent market for this, I would think. It would work well with the VoIP function. ^_^

Dashboard Widgets
Apple could have had a brilliant market boom with just one little addition to their iPhone: Allow Dashboard Widgets to run on the phone. Why? Because that's all the apps are on the phone, and it would instantly increase the possibilities for the iPhone and development. Free apps would be running all over the world, and most of them would be Web 2.0 apps. That's the brilliant stroke that Apple missed out on, and it's what I wanted when I first heard the rumor that Apple was going to release a phone. Maybe that will come with Leopard, and I hope so.

Well, that is my list. You notice that YouTube wasn't on there, nor was some of the other features that the iPhone has. I really don't care about SMS, voice mail, or a calculator. I do like the other features, and I really like the whole iPod aspect of it, but it still has a lot to be desired as a mobile device.

The good news is that there are some significant updates that have been speculated, and if even half of them are true then the iPhone will increase the number of compatible features on my list. Until then, it's still just a wait and see. With activation now no longer contingent on an AT&T account (see Hackint0sh.org, or iphone.fiveforty.net for more info), I would be OK with purchasing an iPhone if most of my desired features are included in the update.

So Apple, this is my invite to you. ^_^

While I wait on the iPhone, does anyone have any other suggestions for me? What would you use as a mobile device with VoIP?

2 comments:

Will said...

Hi, Jeremy.

Thought I'd let you know that the iPhone is an excellent e-book reader; I posted the first pics of an e-book on one in my blog today.

Just thought you might be interested.

Cheers,

Will Entrekin

Jeremy Robb said...

Thanks for the info Will! I had forgotten completely the ability for the iPhone to read PDF's. ^_^