iPhone 2.1 Firmware: Finally Out of Beta

My experience leading up to the iPhone 2.1 update was nothing short of horrendous. I think I had maybe a week or two as a honeymoon period and from there the wonder and awe quickly disintegrated into frustration and finally apathy. Before the iPhone would frequently crash and even get trapped in the black screen of death. Usually, the cause of failure was a typical application installation gone bad. It didn’t matter whether you installed via iTunes or wifi though wifi had a much higher failure rate. CJK input (converting characters into Japanese in my case) was a nightmare. The iPhone would freeze between input before finally showing conversion candidates. Then once in a while it would constantly crash until being reset. In the end, the iPhone became nothing more than a browser that was only marginally more useful than my jail-broken iPod touch. The worst part of the ordeal was the backup and restore process. Backups would take more than an hour on average and so would restores. In the end I tried to limit syncing to weekends, so I at least had time to reset everything should the occasion arise and there were plenty of occasions to do just that. Of course, during this whole time the iPhone was unusable as a phone.

With the 2.1 firmware update I can finally use the iPhone as intended. Japanese input is much snappier and I can even install apps via wifi without crashes or freezes, backups are much faster (though they could do more) and luckily I haven’t yet had the chance to test the restore process. I think Apple would have done better to delay the release of the iPhone here in Japan until the 2.1 update rather than tarnish their image. They certainly did a bad job releasing beta ware not only with the iPhone but leopard. I certainly hope they finally put priorities between solidifying current offerings and maybe create a stronger base to build upon for future releases so consumers don’t have to go through this heart break.

It’s Not the Phone but What’s Inside

I’m at a train station on the way back from work tapping away on the iPhone like a one-finger monkey. Aside from the stunted input method I’ve got a full-blown blogging client right in my hands, a dynamic map with current location, an interface to a couple social networks, breaking news, train tables, a camera, beat studio, a full browser, movies, music, email from all my accounts, SMS, and oh yeah a phone. Did I miss something?

Forget the Blackberry versus Android versus Windows Mobile versus iPhone war. Everybody’s gonna win because it’s all pointing at the same future. Of course, at the end of the day a champion will emerge from amongst the winners but it’ll be a good race with each player pushing each other to bring their A-game. Count on it.

For the past decade it’s been about software and market share. You can get better voice quality with Skype than many landlines at fraction of the cost but phones still dominate because they are ubiquitous and the default. But the distinguishing trait separating VoIP and telephones is nothing more than a line drawn in sand by bureaucracy.

At the end of the day it’s who has the most goods. The iPhone is what it is because it came out of nowhere and stormed the world with a whole new perspective. In the closeted world of backroom deals where carriers call the shots because they own the pipes, iPhones stuck them with an ultimatum that delivered something the people have been waiting for without realizing it, shoe horning every bit relevant information technology into the palm of your hand along the way. If something’s missing you can add it yourself within reason.

We’re not really talking about anything revolutionary but more a promise of more revolutionary things to come. A decade from now savvy teens will probably get a kick out of watching old footage of grown adults frantically tapping away on a screen saying, ” life must’ve been tough for them” because it sure the hell was for me to tap this out. Kudos to the WordPress team.

Using the 3G iPhone as a Phone

Now that I got my 3G iPhone juiced up with location awareness (I’m assuming this is a background thing) off by default, the batter life is actually not so bad.  The thing about the iPhone is that it’s a surprisingly good phone.  For some reason, I was under the impression that phone functionality was more a bonus but not so.


First, the bad.  In Japan, lots of reviewers are complaining about the lack of caller blocking options of which there are many available on all phones (i.e. block specific callers, connect them directly to answering service, don’t accept calls from phone booths, only accept calls from contacts, etc.).  Not sure if it’s because Japan has more creepy phone stalkers that the rest of the world but this functionality is sorely lacking.

Other than that I can’t think of much else faulting it.  I’ve only used the phone function with headphones since they’re always plugged in.  Plus, I’m a sweaty dude so putting that thing to my ear would likely cause water and salt damage in the sweltering summer of Japan.

Calling is a snap, nothing special here.  The magic happens in between.  For example, today I made a call to customer support about transferring ownership of my previous iPod Touch.  In order to do so I needed a variety of information: contact details, phone number, etc.  I sent myself the relevant info via email for quick reference but was missing the transferee’s phone number, so I supplemented that with a trip to the address book.  While I was being put on hold, I cruised Twitter and posted an update and also read up on current news.

After I gave all the info, I took notes on the next steps such as fax number, confirmation number, etc.  I jumped back and forth between email, notes, address book and diversions in between all without breaking the phone call.

The headphone’s mic reception is good.  You can let it dangle and use a low speaking voice without any difficulty being heard by the receiver.  You can hold the mic closer for really whispering.  All the while, the earphones ensure reception is crisp.  Also, the volume goes a bit higher than any other phone I’ve owned so that’s good too.  The only gripe is that the earphones are like any other Apple earphones, bad fit lots of sound escaping (can’t hear movie dialogue in crowded trains full blast) and no switch.

Other than that it’s a really good business cell phone that can boost your productivity if you have to juggle all kinds of things on the go.