iPhone 3G Review: Top Apps, Gripes, and Gadget Love: Page 4

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Location-Specific Issues

In my testing so far, 3G voice and data on the Orange (France Telecom) network has been fine, just as I'd have expected in the biggest city in the country. All the location-based features (GPS, cell tower triangulation, and Wi-Fi hotspot proximity via Skyhook) have functioned brilliantly.

However, I had much less luck with third-party applications. For example, the much-praised BoxOffice application, which shows you what movies are playing at nearby theaters, can determine the postal code of my current location (good); but then it simply treats that five-digit number (75010 in my case) as a zip code and shows me movies playing in and near Hebron, Texas.

Of course there are a zillion theaters in Paris, most of which have online listings and ticket purchase available, but BoxOffice doesn't know about anything outside the U.S. Since BoxOffice was free, I simply said, "Oh well," and deleted it.

Unfortunately, many ostensibly location-aware third-party applications cost money and don't specify in advance whether, or to what extent, they function outside the United States. If in doubt, contact the publisher to ask before making a purchase.

Another location-related problem I encountered regarded formatting. The iPhone 3G lets you specify how things like date, time, and addresses should be formatted, with many different country-specific options available.

The problem, though, is that these settings are both global and available only as a set. For example, 10-digit French phone numbers are usually formatted as XX-XX-XX-XX-XX rather than (XXX) XXX-XXXX, and French addresses follow different patterns from U.S. addresses. If I want my iPhone to display French phone numbers and addresses correctly, I can go to Settings > General > International > Region Format and select France. Fine, but that also changes the date and time format to "14:49 19 juillet 2008" rather than "2:49 p.m. July 19, 2008" as I'd prefer. You can't mix and match formats, as you can in OS X (though you can choose a keyboard layout and UI language separate from region format).

In fact, both on the iPhone and in OS X's Address Book, I'd prefer more granularity—I want my French addresses and phone numbers to be formatted properly for France while my U.S. contacts are formatted properly for the U.S. (and likewise for every other country).

Having to choose one or the other presupposes that all one's contacts are in a single country, which is a profoundly weird thing to assume, considering the other respects in which the iPhone is internationally aware.

Other iPhone Gripes

I'm not the first to mention any of the following quibbles, but they certainly diminish the iPhone and must be addressed in a future firmware update.

• No to-do list syncing. This blows my mind. You can sync your iCal calendars—but not any to-do items on them. You have to use a third-party app to even maintain a to-do list on your iPhone, much less sync it to your desktop computer. That's beyond silly. With everything else the iPhone can do, the absence of a proper, and well-integrated to do list is an embarrassment.

• No cut/copy and paste. There are all sorts of note-taking apps for the iPhone, but if you want to, say, get information between one of them and an e-mail message, get ready for some tedious retyping. So many situations in normal, day-to-day use of an iPhone require getting text from one place to another that the lack of a system-wide clipboard is seriously irritating.

• No horizontal mode for Mail and Notes. In Safari, and most other apps, you can turn the iPhone on its side to get a widescreen display, with a large, more comfortable on-screen keyboard. Except in the two most text-intensive apps, which need it most.

• No video recording. It's like this: iPhone users, who are supposed to be the hippest and most envied cell phone owners, should not have to endure the scorn of people with cheap Nokias that can record respectable full-motion video. Seriously.

• Limited syncing flexibility. Syncing of contacts and calendars via MobileMe works more or less as advertised; if you use Exchange, you can instead sync the contacts and calendars from your Exchange server. But although the iPhone lets you combine Exchange accounts with POP and IMAP email accounts, you can only sync your contacts and calendars with either MobileMe or Exchange. That means if you have an iPhone both for work and personal use, you'll have to put all your personal contact and calendar on the Exchange server—or do without it on your iPhone.

• No Flash support. To be candid, I've never liked Flash (for a long list of reasons), but it's just a reality of modern Web browsing. Ordinary people can't do the ordinary things they need to do without it, and the iPhone needs to have it in some form.

• No voice dialing. My six-year-old Sony Ericsson phone, which was about to self-destruct out of shame, could dial numbers by voice. It astonishes me that what is supposedly the world's most sophisticated and easiest-to-use mobile phone still can't.

Creating iPhone Envy

Despite the complaints I have (all of which were issues I was fully aware of before purchasing the iPhone 3G), I have to say I'm thrilled with my new toy.

Although the 3G download speeds and GPS are nice, they make up a relatively small part of my experience, so I'd probably have been about 85 percent as happy with an original iPhone running the 2.0 firmware.

But, see, my phone has a shiny black case, which is really, in a way, its most important feature. Merely by taking the phone out of my pocket, I can demonstrate to all my geeky friends who still have the earlier iPhone model that I have now surpassed them in cutting-edge consumerism. And all that for the bargain price of 199 euros.


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Tags: email, iPhone, smartphones, app store, iphone 3G

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