Well, tomorrow is WWDC 2010, and the 4th gen iPhone is expected to be announced. I guess it’s a good time to write up my impression of the iPhone 3GS.
So, what made me bought the iPhone 3GS in the first place? If you read my tweets and blog postings of the past, I always criticize the iPhone for being locked to AT&T in the US. Yes, the iPhone 3GS is the first phone I bought that is locked. All of my previous phones were unlocked phones. Why the change of heart? Well, it occurred during the Apple Special Event in September 2009, where Apple introduced the 3rd gen iPod Touch, sans the expected camera. I was so ready to purchase that iPod Touch if it had a camera, but it did not. So I was so upset that I decided to just get the full experience with the iPhone 3GS instead. Yeah, I’m so vain. 😛
Turn out, having an iPhone really change my digital life. I think it is, and still, the phone with the best user experience. I’m going to go through the devices I brought with me all the time. In the beginning, I always carry a dumbphone, a music player (portable CD player, MD, Sony Walkman, etc), a PDA, and a video player (Cowon). Yes, a PDA, remember those? LOL. I always have my Handspring Palm OS PDA with me. At this point, there were times where I even carried multiple audio players. The iPod changed that, being the best music player imo. At least now I’m sticking to 1 audio player. But then I wanted more on my phone. I want to be able to take pictures with it. I bought a Sony Ericsson Cybershot phone (the K550i). It has a decent 2MP auto-focus camera. Being an SE phone, it has a decent music player software on it, so I thought I would be able to use the phone as a music player too. That didn’t pan out, as the experience on the iPod is way better. On the PDA side, I upgraded to the Palm Tungsten E. I also tried to use it as an audio player, but it never worked out. So there I was, still carrying at least 3 devices with me at all times.
Then came the iPod Touch, and the app store. It blew the Palm OS PDA away. I immediately recycled the Tungsten E the minute the iTunes app store opened as the apps that I needed on the Palm OS are available on for the iPhone OS too. It’s also an iPod, and a video player. So, my carry-on devices went down as now I have consolidated the music player, video player, and the PDA with the iPod Touch. But then I wanted to do more on my phone since I started doing tweeter and using google maps. Yeah, the K550i is only an EDGE phone, but it has google maps and tweeter apps. However, the experience is very poor due to the slow data connection, the small screen, and the fact you have to use the phone’s keypad to navigate. My next phone was the Nokia E51. It has 3G, wifi, larger screen, and Symbian, a smartphone OS. Google maps experience is way better thanks to the larger screen. Twitter experience is better too thanks to the larger screen and faster data. Using more and more of the smartphone feature, I feel the phone is extremely limited in terms of usability, and I always wished the screen was larger. Even worse, the camera of the E51 doesn’t have auto-focus, so in the end I was still carrying my old K550i for taking pictures. In the end, I was still carrying at least 3 devices.
The iPhone 3GS changed everything. It has an auto-focus camera, smartphone OS with the apps I use, and it’s an iPod too. Having the 3GS allowed me to just carry one device that does everything. 🙂 The only catch is, now I’m on contract with AT&T. Before, I was always on prepaid, only spent about $25 every 3 months. Now I have to spend ~$75 every month, but at least I have unlimited data (I don’t plan to fall into AT&T’s trap of the 2GB cap).
So, how’s the iPhone? It’s just great. Actually, I wasn’t really surprised as I’ve been using the iPod Touch, but the constant data connectivity really changes the way you use the apps. The experience using the iPhone is just great. The maps app is extremely useful, and the constant data connectivity made it highly usable. The camera is great. Sure, there are other Nokia/SE phones having better cameras out there, but the integration with the apps on the phone made it much easier and usable to use the camera and upload the pics quickly to places like Facebook/twitter. The various Twitter apps (I use Echofon myself) are a ton more usable than on phones with keypads due to the multi-touch screen. Coupled with various location-based apps, social networking apps, mobile Safari, etc, it really changed the way you’re interacting with a phone. Imo it’s phenomenal.
Sure, smartphones are not new. There are Palm OS, Symbian, and Windows Mobile. But the iPhone is the first one that actually makes every feature that it has highly usable. Example, taking picture and uploading it to tweeter. I can do this already with my K550i, but the experience is extremely poor. No difference on the E51. Doing the same activity is a breeze on the iPhone. Maps, email, I can go on and on. You just cannot beat the iPhone experience, yet. It’s not until recently that we see the competitors are turning around. Android OS 2.2, Symbian^3, Windows Phone 7, etc. Things will be very exciting.
Now, why didn’t I go with Android? During that time, the latest Android phone on the market was T-Mobile’s myTouch 3G, aka HTC Dream, using Android 1.5. I played with it, and although it’s a decent phone (and also brought a new paradigm of touch-screen UI and apps to those coming from dumbphones), the overall experience is not up to the iPhone’s level yet. Everything is laggy. This experience is consistence across the various Android devices I tried (the motorola Cliq, and the Droid). I have a friend with a Droid, and when we’re trying to add each other as friends on Facebook, it was a breeze for me on my iPhone while she was having a hard time (mainly due to the laggy and unresponsive UI). Obviously things have improved today with Android 2.2, but seeing how no devices other than the Nexus One are guaranteed to receive 2.2, I was glad that I went with the iPhone 3GS.
Tomorrow, iPhone OS 4.0 will be introduced, and it will increase the usability of the iPhone 3GS even further, with multi-tasking, better mail app, and folders. As for tethering, I gave up. Obviously AT&T doesn’t want anybody to tether. We’ll see what will happen tomorrow, or maybe I’ll get the Nexus One (I hope Google drop the N1 price tomorrow).