After a couple of weeks since the iPhone 3G launch, I gave in and picked up a device at the Apple store just over a week ago to personally give it a try. It is a good device, but the only two improvements over my original iPhone are the 3G support and GPS. The 3G has been very spotty, especially compared to the solid reception I am seeing on the Nokia E71-2, N95-3, and HTC Advantage. I saw 3G at work for the first couple of days, but for the last four days all I get is an EDGE connection. GPS is nice and I have actually used it twice to help me quickly navigate around traffic jams and in an unfamiliar area, but I could have just used Google Maps and the approximate position on my original iPhone to do the same thing. Recently the device has almost ended up going airborne across the room because of the constant instability with both 3rd party and native applications and I am strongly considering a return of the device this week.
As a person who enjoys trying out and using lots of 3rd party applications on my mobile devices I expected issues with some applications because not all developers are created equal and Apple doesn’t seem to be performing much of any kind of actual review in letting applications appear on the iPhone App store. However, I have had way too many experiences where I go to start an application, it appears to load and then I am taken right back to the home screen again. The only way I have figured out how to get the application back up and running is to remove it and then reinstall it on the iPhone. I also discovered that for paid applications you have to “repurchase” the application on your device and then as you go through the process a pop-up will appear that states you already paid for the application and would you like to download it for free. Thus you don’t actually have to buy the application again, but that is the method you have to follow to redownload it. I would think that the iPhone would be smart enough to know which applications I purchased before you have to get to this point and think there is definitely some room for improvement in the App Store on the iPhone.
There have also been syncing issues where I load the application on the phone itself and then when I sync it to my Mac the application disappears. Also, when I delete an application on the phone it gets reinstalled when I sync at times. I think Apple is having a difficult time managing the store synchronization between the device and a Mac/PC.
I was actually willing to forgive some of these early adoption/third party application issues, but lately I have been noticing major issues with the native Safari web browser that I never see on Internet Explorer Mobile or Opera Mobile on Windows Mobile. Over the last 4-5 days, I have noticed I’ll be just scrolling down a web page reading it when the browser will just close and kick me back to the home screen. I will then relaunch the browser and surf for a while before it kicks me off again. It isn’t even a case of trying to do something crazy like watch a video or stream something, but I am just trying to read the text on a page. I spend quite a bit of time browsing the web on my mobile devices and if the iPhone 3G is going to keep kicking me out of the browser then it is going back.
I also do not like that jumping between tabs does not always take you back to where you were on the page. The page may refresh or go back to a previous page and the browser does not seem to do a good job of maintaining the state you left it in. The browser supports up to 8 open tabs and I tend to limit myself to 6 so I can open another tab or two when I find a link I want to check out so it isn’t a case of trying to open up more tabs than are supported. This type of performance reminds me of using the Blazer web browser on a Palm device that rarely, if ever, let me go back to where I was browsing previously. I never have this issue on Windows Mobile or S60 devices and browsers.
In addition to the application sync/loading issues and browser crash issues, the iPhone 3G will tend to pause or slow down (especially noticeable when using text input and seeing a significant lag) and require me to reset the device. In the old days of Windows Mobile I would have to soft reset it from time-to-time when a 3rd party application would lock me up and the current performance, or lack thereof, on the iPhone reminds me of those good old days. I NEVER experience resets on current Windows Mobile non-touch screen devices (like the T-Mobile Dash or Shadow) and they are rock solid. I occasionally have to reset the Windows Mobile touch screen devices (like the Touch Diamond), but at this time the Apple iPhone is requiring more resets than even these devices and I don’t see much of an advantage in the iPhone over these more stable devices. I rarely (and mostly never) experience resets on S60 devices either. The Windows Mobile and S60 devices are also multi-tasking with 3rd party applications so the fact that they are more stable while the iPhone is only running a single 3rd party application with a native application or two in the background is also significant.
Other rants: As long as I am talking about some major issues I am seeing on the iPhone, I wanted to mention a couple other things that bother me on the iPhone. People used to constantly complain about Windows Mobile’s lack of ability to work as a reliable alarm clock, but that has now been fixed for the most part. I find the iPhone to be practically worthless at ever waking me up and keep going back to a reliable and loud Nokia S60 device to serve as a trustworthy alarm. Basic functions like this used to be required for a device, but we seem to let these issues slide today. Also, why do I have to turn on the device and slide across the display to get to the Home screen to see how many text or email messages I received? The notifications on the iPhone are very weak in comparison to other mobile devices.
I know that we have been clamoring for 3rd party applications on the iPhone and there are some awesome applications available (and some really stupid ones). However, the stable days of pre-iPhone 2.0 may be gone forever and Jobs may not like the can of worms that he has opened up. It is particularly a shame when the native applications on the device can’t even perform reliably and I just have to keep remembering this is the early days of the iPhone and I suppose it is similar to the early days of the Pocket PC when stability was also an issue. I did cut Microsoft and Nokia a break back then when they were starting out and I’ll keep using my original iPhone because I do think that many of the applications are useful and well designed and we will see lots more coming from developers. I expected Apple to have a better product with this second generation of iPhone though and have been disappointed with its performance. I think I’ll wait and see what the 3rd generation brings us next year (we are on a yearly cycle, right?) since it took these other companies a few tries to get it right as well.