Pondering the iPhone

Reihan borrowed Peter's new iPhone to write a review of it for Slate; the gist is, it's pretty good, but after being turned away thrice, he's not going there. I suppose it's time for me to weigh in.

Since Reihan already had an iPhone, and I don't, he's choosing between the marginal upgrades--mostly the GPS and the 3G network, and his old phone. I, however didn't have one before, so I get to be all gee-whiz about features the rest of you have had for a year. Which are, as I have repeatedly been told, pretty great. The phone interface is unbelievably easy to use--so easy that my technophobe mother and luddite crank sister want to join me on an AT&T family plan with iPhones of their very own. Unlike Reihan, I've had absolutely no trouble with call quality--indeed, it seems quite a bit better than the reception on my old Razr. And the iPod sounds great.

On the new side, there are a host of new apps that take advantage of the GPS feature, and I've installed most of them. The killer app is, obviously, using Google maps to get you un-lost. But people have also coded a bunch of social networking applications that let you, for example, see where all your friends are. The ones with iPhones, anyway. And if they don't have iPhones, they should be dead to you.

Just kidding. Since I'm the early adopter on a lot of these applications, it remains to be seen how useful they will be. But things like Twitterific, AIM, and Facebook are already pretty key.

The phone does have two downsides as far as I'm concerned: short battery life, and fragility. Peter broke his less than 12 hours after we emerged from the Apple Store. Unfortunately, it's hard to imagine how you could make such an easy to use interface without making the thing fragile; touch screens are inherenty vulnerable. And while the battery life apparently suffers a bit in comparison to the old iPhone, that's the price you pay for significantly faster download speeds. I'd rather hook up my iPhone to the laptop once a day than spend fifteen minutes waiting for a YouTube video to download. And Blackberries are battery hogs too--if you want to check email, you'll pay for the privilege with frequent recharges.