Monday Jul 02, 2007

Scott's iPhone Story

This past Saturday, I went to my local Apple store, Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg Illinois and bought an 8GB Apple iPhone.

What drove me to get up early and get to a store before it opened?

Last December my Sony Clie organizer died. I was in need of a new device. I started to look at new Palm PDAs and cellphones that had built-in organizer features. I looked at Palm-based devices, Blackberry and even Windows Mobile (but not for very long). To make a long story short, too many friends told me about too many bad stories with their various devices. I also heard that Apple would be introducing a phone next year. Full disclosure: I'm a very happy Apple user (iMac, MacBook Pro, iPod, even a Newton MessagePad, which I still have). So what should I do?

The Engineer in me said to analyze all my requirements and make a decision. Here were the requirements:

  • Need a new electronic organizer: calendar, phone book
  • Get email (IMAP/SMTP) mail via my cell phone
  • Keep Nextel as my carrier. (I'm a Lieutenant on my local Fire Department. We make heavy use of Nextel's Direct Connect feature, I would be lost without it.)

I looked at the Nextel based options. They basically had Windows Mobile device or the Blackberry device. I'm not doing Windows and the Blackberry was too proprietary. I discovered that some Nextel phones had bluetooth capabilities and I heard that it could be used to communicate with bluetooth PDAs ... problem solved. I'll get a bluetooth PDA and a newer bluetooth enabled Nextel phone and "life will be good". I bought a Palm Tungsten PDA in December to replace the Sony Clie. I started researching and shopping for the right Nextel phone to communicate with my new Palm PDA. Then I watched Steve Job's Macworld keynote and I changed my strategy ... I wanted the iPhone.

First impression:

Just like my iMac and my MacBookPro, Apple does a great job of making sure the "experience" is perfect. This includes the packaging, yes ... the box, and even the special bag they put the iPhone in when you buy it. They want everyone to know that there's a new iPhone customer. It worked ... I can't tell you how many people asked me about my iPhone (bag) while I did other shopping at the Mall.

I turned on the iPhone and it said "connect to iTunes to activate". I connected it via USB and iTunes detected the new device. I logged into my iTunes account and it asked me a few questions. After picking a plan and setting a few other things, it said activating, please wait. In less than 10 minutes it said the phone was activated and told me the new phone number. While I was busy writing down some things, iTunes was syncing my iMac info to the iPhone.

Here's the best part ... iTunes automatically detected my Mac OS Mail configurations, and used this data to configure the iPhone Mail system. Before I knew it, the iPhone was "chimming" to tell me that I had new mail. I didn't have to go through ANY configuration to access my Sun secure IMAP mail account from the iPhone. It also set-up my other Mail accounts.

Wifi access:

Up to this point, the iPhone was using the AT&T/Cingular EDGE network for data/web access. My home wifi is locked down to only allow certain MAC addresses (my son's friends can't understand why their GameBoy DS's and Sony PSP's won't get internet acces at our house). After I added the iPhone's MAC address to my home wifi, the iPhone immediately started using it. I'm amazed at how seemlessly it switches between wifi and the AT&T/Cingular EDGE network.

Converting from the Palm Pilot:

My next big worry was how do I get years of contacts/addresses and my appointments out of my Palm Pilot into my iPhone. After a little Googling and asking friends ... iSync. I configured iSync and was able to dump my Palm's data to iCal and Address Book. I used the MacOS iCal and Address Book Applications to "clean house", I had a lot of old contacts. I then plugged my iPhone into my iMac, iTunes started and it automatically started syncing my iCal and Address Book to the iPhone.

My music:

After I got all the "business" features working on the iPhone, it was time for the entertainment ... my music. I started iTunes, selected what I wanted on the iPhone and it started downloading my 650+ songs. The Cover View is very nice, a lot different then my current black/white iPod Mini.

Wish List:

  • The mail interface shows all of my mail folders fully expanded. I have a lot of nested folders and they're all expanded. It's a little hard to scroll through all of them when they're expanded.
  • It would be nice if the Mail reader would support rotating to landscape mode. I get rich text emails and I need to zoom. I end up scrolling side-to-side to read. Having landscpe mode would be nice.
  • Todo's: I'd like to have my iCal todo's accessible on the iPhone as todo's. If i'm missing it, let me know.


If you can't tell ... I'm very happy with the iPhone. I just replaced my iPod Mini, Palm Pilot and my Nextel phone with the iPhone. I'll probably keep the iPod Mini, my wife said that she would like to use it. You might be seeing a slightly use Tungsten E2 Palm Pilot, with accessories, on eBay soon (any offers). As for the Nextel phone, I'll probably dontate it to the Fire Department. Giving up the Nextel was the hardest part of this whole process. I guess you could say that the "iPhone force" was stronger than the "Direct Connect force".

I reserve all book and movie rights to this story. Steve, drop me an email if you want to make a commercial out of this. :-)

Scott Fehrman


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