Second Thoughts About the iPhone

I’m thinking very seriously about giving up my iPhone and going back to my Blackberry. I know, I know. I was initially so enthusiastic. (But I also discussed the pros and cons here.)

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My first Apple product was an iPod that I purchased about five years ago. Based on that, I bought an Apple PowerBook for one of my daughters. Then I bought one for myself. Later I upgraded to a MacBook Pro. Now every one in my family is a Mac user. I even own a little Apple stock.

So, last summer, I couldn’t resist. I saw an iPhone, and it was love at first site. I ditched my trusty Blackberry and bought an iPhone. I thought to myself, As the CEO of a publishing company, I need to stay current with the latest technology.

Initially, it was a good experience. I loved the user-interface and Apple’s elegant and simple solutions. However, I am now beginning to wonder if I made the right decision. Today, after a full day of travel, I am frustrated and ready to give up. Here are my top five reasons why:

  1. The battery life is insufficient. If I am in the office (i.e., not on the road), the battery will last for the whole day. By the time I put it in its cradle for the night. I usually have a little juice left, but not much.

    If I am on the road, forget it. Between trying to keep up with email and a few phone calls, it is dead by mid-afternoon. I am not kidding. Yesterday, by 4:00 p.m., after two phone calls (about 20 minutes total), I was dead in the water.

    I think most of the issue is email. Unlike the Blackberry which has email and calendar changes “pushed” to it. The iPhone has to “pull” the mail from the server. And, sometimes, it seems to work hard to get a connection and start downloading mail. I watch the “checking for mail” icon spin for minutes. I can almost watch my battery discharge as it does so.

    Regardless, this isn’t sustainable. I travel too much to be caught on the road without email and a phone. When my device shuts down, I am out of commission. As a point of reference, my Blackberry would easily hold a charge for a full day, often two. I don’t recall ever draining it.

  2. The keyboard is more trouble than it’s worth. As you probably know, the iPhone has a virtual keyboard rather than a physical one. It only appears when you need it. When you don’t need it, it disappears. This is impressive and great in theory. Until you start using it on a regular basis.

    Yes, I know, the iPhone employs a version of “predictive text.” It attempts to anticipate what you are trying to type. It is often right on the money. But, in my experience, the keys are simply too small. As a result, I often find myself using the backspace key to correct my errors. In fact, it’s safe to say, it is my most-used key.

    Supposedly, some people can type on the iPhone with two thumbs—just like a Blackberry. (Of course, some people can type on a computer keyboard with their toes, but this isn’t really an option for most of us.) I worked at the thumb-thing for some time but could never get the hang of it.

    Evidently, I’m not alone. User Centric, a market research company, warned that business users will take a tremendous performance hit with the iPhone. That’s certainly been my experience.

    Even with a singular index finger, I find that I have to concentrate on the keyboard rather than on what I’m trying to type. This is not good. The technology needs to be transparent, so that I can focus on what I want to say, rather than how to get it on the device.

    Again, I have to compare the iPhone to the Blackberry. If you are a serious email user, I don’t think you can beat the Blackberry. It may not be as beautiful or elicit “exclamations of childlike wonder,” but it gets the job done. Efficiently.

  3. AT&T coverage is often spotty. I never had dropped calls with my Verizon Blackberry. I mean literally never. (Your mileage may vary.) But I frequently have dropped calls with AT&T. There are two problem spots between my office and my home. (And this is on the Interstate, close to downtown Nashville.) I can almost guarantee that if I am on the phone when I hit one of these spots, I will lose my connection.

    I need something where I can get near-universal coverage. I don’t know how the iPhone is internationally, but I have heard horror stories of people roaming abroad and being slapped with huge bills from AT&T. When I was in Ireland this past summer, my Blackberry world edition phone connected effortlessly. I could download email and make phone calls effortlessly. I didn’t notice any significant uptick in my bill.

  4. The calendar doesn’t automatically sync. You have to do it manually. This is a pain, and I often find myself out-of-sync with my office. With the Blackberry, new appointments or changes to existing appointments are synced automatically—in real time. This is essential if, like me, you have an assistant who manages your calendar.

    I have also found that the calendar has the annoying habit of duplicating calendar entries on the iPhone, especially all-day appointments. Perhaps this is because I have to sync Entourage with iCal in order to sync with iPhone. For Apple, a company that prides itself on ease-of-use, this is just too much work. I don’t have time to keep cleaning up my calendar.

    And, alas, there is no built in to-do list manager? Yes, I know about Nozbe and Vitalist, but I don’t want a browser-based application that requires me to be online to access my to-do list. (To be fair, the Blackberry won’t sync to the Entourage task list automatically either.) It is astonishing to me that Apple didn’t anticipate this. How can you manage any workflow without some sort of to-do list?

  5. I don’t use the other applications that much. The iPhone has numerous features and applications that will impress your friends. But in actual day-to-day usage, I just don’t find that I use them all that much.

    Yes, I like being able to push a single button and see the temperature and the weather. I like to check on the stock market with a single tap of my finger. But I rarely use the other “eye candy” features.

    For example, I never watch YouTube videos—or any other videos—on my iPod. It just takes too much battery power to be practical. I have a difficult time keeping the thing charged as it is. The Safari browser is really, really nice—and familiar. But the text is too small for serious surfing. I find myself constantly having to enlarge the text manually. Again, this is just too much work.

    Initially, I was really excited about the camera. I am a heavy iPhoto user, and I thought this would be a great way to grab quick pictures and integrate them into my library. Not so much.

    For starters there is no zoom feature. So to frame the picture correctly, you have to adjust your distance by actually moving closer or further away from the subject. And unless you hold your breath and stand perfectly still, you can’t snap a picture that isn’t blurred. Honestly, I’ve given up on the camera entirely. Until they can incorporate image stabilization technology, this feature is worthless to me.

So where does this leave me? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m probably going to hang in here until after the first of the year. Maybe Apple will provide a significant upgrade to the iPhone software.

The truth is, I love Apple, and I want to love the iPhone. But, for right now, the technology is just not capable of supporting the serious road warrior or productivity devotee. If you are in that category, I think the Blackberry is still your—and probably, my—best option.

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