My trusty Epic 4G, my cellular companion for over two years, was beginning to feel a bit long in the tooth. Add to the fact that my desire to tinker with my primary phone line was beginning to wan, and you have the recipe for making the switch from an Android powered device to the iPhone. Also, this was really the first time an iPhone was available on Sprint while I was eligible for an upgrade. If my contract were clear, I might have even made the jump to Verizon (alas, the third party on my family plan decided to upgrade her phone around a year ago, so there was still a year left on the overall contract).
Additional comments about the previous sentence: It’s not that Sprint is … “bad”. And I was probably experiencing issues with an old phone that had an old battery. Sprint still is the only provider (ignoring those being grandfathered in) with truly unlimited data plans. After some examination, though, we really didn’t need more than a GB or two a month. And Verizon’s LTE network is quite fleshed out. Sprint’s is a bit anemic right now – no service in Tampa. But, we’ll stick with them for a couple more years, and see how it goes. It may have been CyanogenMod‘s occasionally questionable management of reception coupled with the rapidly fading battery life on the old Epic that was beginning to irk me.
I had actually been eyeing the Samsung Galaxy S III. Bigger screen (which, with my eyes, would be quite welcome), running Android (originally Ice Cream Sandwich but surely to be upgraded soon – if not already – to Jellybean). But, in a sense, my experience with my iPad 2 (and, actually, the iPod Nano I had gotten as a free upgrade to an older Nano) was like a gateway drug for me. Knowing that many of the apps I had purchased for my iPad would work on an iPhone gave me a bit of comfort. Which is not to say I don’t have apps purchased from the Play Store I won’t be using any more; but I have spent more money on apps for the iPad than I ever considered spending on the Epic.
Woke up in the wee hours of September 14 to preorder the phones. They arrived on the 21st, release day. Activation, considering how busy the cellular network was, did not go smoothly: Mine required getting into an elusive chat session to get it activated; my wife’s activated after a second try but it took a phone call and an hour wait after said call before 3G data would work and text messages would go through (though she could make calls).
So, in no particular order, here’s a few thoughts:
It’s skinny. This is one thing so far that I’ve found easy to overlook, but in my weaker moments, I think “There has to be some lame excuse for this.” I mean, I guess I understand wanting to use a 9×16 aspect ratio for the four inch screen (diagonally, the same size as the Epic was, but different aspect ratio) – widescreen movies will show on it properly with no black border on the sides. Except, who in their right mind is going to watch more than five minutes of a movie on their phone? This isn’t really a good form factor, in my opinion, for a phone. Really, the iPad would have been a better choice for this aspect ratio. My wife said that she heard it was sized this way so that it fit in the hand well. My response (and she agreed with this) was that, “They’ve got someone there with tiny [expletive] hands.” I dunno … maybe they were expecting people to need to use a case of some sort for everyday usage. Looking at the back of the phone, though, there’s a design choice there that makes one think they were just trying to avoid changing the factories too much, while still making the phone “bigger”. Thing is, I think they could have gotten a significantly bigger screen (which I would have liked) if they had just made it a bit wider, and it would feel better in my hand, at least.
Coming from Android, there are some interface issues that are taking me a bit to get used to; settings menus that I’m having a hard time tracking down or remembering where they are. It’s not worse than Android, just different; and having used an iPad, you’d think I’d know what I’m doing. Thing is, the iPad (until recently) wasn’t using iOS6, and I would also automatically tell apps to STFU when they asked for permissions to do notices. On the phone … not so much. I am heavy into customizing my ringtones and notification sounds on my phone, and there are apps I might actually want to see notices from …
Oh, and as for customizing ringtones or SMS notifications, I was pleasantly surprised that I can change not only the ringtone for a given user, but the message tone as well. If an Android handset manufacturer hasn’t coded it up themselves, Android operating systems might require a separate app to do this. Google: You really need to fix that.
Battery life: It’s held up quite well given that I’ve been making a lot of use of it today. It’s one thing I think Apple has on most of it’s competition is its understanding of the need for a durable battery … though rumor has it Samsung may be giving them a run for their money these days.
A list of straight up bad things:
- I’m finding the high resolution but tiny screen useless for all but emergency web surfing.
- Really, really, [expletive] missing Swype. Please, please, please Apple: pony up the money and license the patents. NOTE: There are “SWYPE Input Method” and “SWYPE Pro Input Method” apps in the app store. DO NOT DOWNLOAD THEM, and definitely DO NOT PURCHASE THE PRO VERSION. They are, in my opinion, fraudulent: when you download the free one, all you get is a “notepad” you can use a “Swype like” keyboard with, but you cannot use that keyboard with any other app; the free app suggests that the “Pro” version provides a “fully integrated” keyboard. It does not. It simply stops bugging you to download music.
- One neat feature of the weather app I had on my Epic was live wallpaper: It would update the background once in a while and show me where it was raining. The iPhone has no live wallpaper. Minor thing, but still – a neat thing that was nice to have (but also probably a battery drain).
- The change of a non-USB standard cable to yet another non-USB standard cable is, frankly, a shitty thing (so much so that I’m not censoring that). Apple – in this aspect, you guys truly suck.
- The stores appear to be out of many of the nice to have extras – like extra power cables, the 30 to 9 pin converter cables.
- The iPhone doesn’t accept ringtones in MP3 or WAV format. See below for a possible resolution.
- The Google Voice app doesn’t have any way to customize its notification tone. This isn’t so much Apple’s fault as it is Google’s, and they really need to fix that.
- The speakers, on the very bottom of the device, are easy to accidentally mute when playing games in landscape format – your hand will naturally cover the speakers up. I find this very annoying – initially I was wondering if there was something wrong with the game I was playing when I could no longer hear the sound.
And now, my list of tips:
- If you’re in a region with no 4G LTE, you might want to just turn that off to save your battery a bit. Go to “Settings”, “General”, “Cellular” and ensure that “Enable LTE” is “OFF”.
- Also, if you don’t use “Bluetooth” at all, you will want to go to “Settings”, “Bluetooth”, and turn that “OFF”, too.
- I think there’s some safety to be gained from telling your device not to just arbitrarily join unknown WiFi networks. Go into “Settings”, “WiFi”, and turn “Ask to Join Networks” “ON”.
- If you aren’t using Google Voice for your voice mail (LUDDITE!), I suggest you make sure your voice mail is configured. It’s easy: Go into the “Phone”, and follow the prompts on the “Voicemail” icon on the lower right of the screen.
- If you are using Google Voice, be sure to download the app.
- Also in the “Phone”, set up your favorites. There are multiple ways to do this, and it can be dependent on how you do your contacts.
- As previously mentioned, you’ll have to convert MP3 and WAV ringtones to the M4R format, which you can then import as “Tones” into iTunes (new to the iPhone? For Windows, go into iTunes’ “Edit” – “Preferences” dialog, and under “General”, make sure “Tones” is checked). I haven’t found a free way to do this en masse, but if you’re willing to do it one at a time, check out Audiko. Upload your MP3/WAV, download the M4R, and then “File” – “Add File to Library”.
- There are two ways to configure GMail: As a “GMail” account, and as an “Exchange” account (three if you count the “GMail” app, but it’s not all that good in my opinion, and using the built-in stuff has some additional benefits). For various reasons, I’m using both. Each has it’s benefits:
- You can get mail, calendars, and notes synced to your account. However, you can’t get contacts, which is damned annoying.
- Doesn’t appear to use “push” methodology, but then that might save battery life a bit.
- Calendars automatically take on whatever color you assigned them on your Google Calendar web interface.
- Notes are simply saved as pseudo messages with their own labels. I actually use them to save my “Notes” and sync them between devices. Everything else, for the time being, I use “Exchange” for.
- If you use this method for email, double check: “Settings” – “Mail, Contacts, Calendar” – your GMail account settings, and make sure “Archive Messages” is set to your preferences. I prefer to “delete” mail, so when using this method (as I have bounced between the two for email and calendar) I have “Archive Messages” off.
- You can get mail, calendars, contacts … but not notes!
- Calendar colors you would set through the Calendar app.
- Uses “push” to make sure you get your email as soon as possible.
- To set it up, leave “Domain” blank, use your full email address for the username, and “m.google.com” as the server.
- Dissatisfied with Apple’s “Maps” app that replaced “Google Maps”? Open “maps.google.com” in Safari and add it to your home screen, after approving all of the “location” permissions.
- The “Messages” app by default tries to use iMessage. iMessage is a chat system for Apple devices. If you’d rather force your phone to use SMS (perhaps due to personal preference, or that you’d rather people not know/use the email address you use for iTunes), go into “Settings”, “Messages”, and turn “iMessage” “OFF”.
Well, the word count for this is over 1800, so I guess that’s my rundown for now. Tips that seem important enough to add will be tacked on to the end of the list above or added as comments below; and as always, my blog posts are subject to edits within the first week of posting (as I tend to reread them a few times and find gross grammatical errors that even I can’t let stand, or accidentally a word).