iPhone experience

Matt and Duncan reflected in the BeanOn a recent trip to LA I bought myself an iPhone, ostensibly for my upcoming birthday. In many ways the device lives up to the hype — the multi-touch interface is amazing, and the iPod/phone integration is great. But there are also some flaws. Here are some detailed notes about my experiences.

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I activated & jailbreaked (jailbroke? such an awkward verb) using ZiPhone v3.0, basically following the The Great Big, Constantly Updated, Australian iPhone FAQ. This worked very smoothly (requiring just one click!), and as an additional bonus installed the BSD Subsystem, Installer and OpenSSH. Even though it seems like most applications etc. are for use on the 1.1.3 firmware, mine — which has 1.1.4 — generally worked fine (although see below).

While in the states I used it initially with a prepaid AT&T card (adding insult to injury), and everythng went pretty smoothly. Initially I had some significant charges from browsing with Safari via EDGE when I thought I was connected via WiFi; tried installing Services 0.6.7, and switching off EDGE; that seemed to work OK, but it seems like EDGE sometimes comes on again when I wake up the phone. If the wi-fi is not connected, and you try to access any data services, it will switch (without notifying you) to EDGE (note that Services has been superseded by BossPrefs). Happily, once I put my Australian vodafone SIM back in, any data request is treated as “Data Roaming”, which has a separate option in Preferences, and so is prevented. On return to Aus GPRS did not work, until I found the appropriate settings for the vodafone network and entered them under Settings -> General -> Network -> EDGE.

The basic functions of the device are executed beautifully. The included headset also has a microphone and doubles as a phone headset, although curiously (for me) there are no supplied foam covers to the earpieces. When a call comes in the music fades out, and you can click the microphone to answer or hang up the call. After hanging up the music smoothly fades back in. Two clicks on the button skips to the next track. I also tried watching a few TV shows recorded on the Elgato EyeTV 200 and exported via the (wonderfully-named) iSquint. The weather application is great, will update via wifi or GPRS/EDGE. Google maps is fantastic, I used it while in Chicago to find a particular deli nearby that my friend had visited but couldn’t remember the name or address. Just a quick search for “deli” nearby and found it: the famous Ada’s. The camera is OK although worst in low light conditions, and the device makes a great little photo browser.

In other respects the device comes nowhere near making the most of its capabilities. There is bluetooth, but no bluetooth synchronisation or file exchange. There is a notes application, but no way to transfer notes to and from the device (iPhoneNotes takes care of that, if you’re using OS X 10.5; otherwise you’re supposed to email them to yourself). There is no file viewer or reader. The (builtin) Calendar application does not support floating events. No copy and paste. There is no built-in chat client. Many such functions already have been or likely will be enabled with third-party software, but still.

Lately I’d been reading a lot of EBooks on my Treo; for the iPhone, I used Books.app initially and downloaded (via Installer) the only appealing title in the EBooks category: Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow. Since then I found manybooks.net which actually offers an iPhone format (this is just html broken into chapters). You can install via scp or rsync, once SSH is enabled on your phone; log in as root, the default password appears to be relatively well-known.

I had major problems when I tried changing the root password; this sent my phone into an endless loop, continually triggering the “rearrange home screen” mode, and making it impossible to use. I had to force it into restore mode and start from scratch. Some photos and updates to some notes were lost, also (these are backed up every sync). The answer seems to be, don’t try changing the root password!

In summary, I’m still a bit ambivalent about it, but I think I’m going to keep it. The iPod integration alone is worth the minor quibbles. Here’s a full list of installed software:

  • Installer.app, BSD Subsystem, and OpenSSH (via ZiPhone)
  • BossPrefs 1.6.7 (replacing Services 0.6.7)
  • Australian localisation (1.1.4 firmware versions); +61 number support, carrier support and number formatting
  • Books 1.4-r469
  • Sketches 0.7b2
  • textReader 0.3
  • Search 1.08.1b
  • HP-15c v1.0.9
  • Apollo v1.0.2, as well as the IM Chat 1.1.3 Fix to solve the inability to make a connection to the iChat server (see here)
  • LockBox 0.7.1

There are already a bunch of iPhone blogs and articles around the place; here’s a sample