By Carl Howe
Thanks to the generosity of a reader (Thank you so much! You know who you are!), my own 8 Gigabyte refurbished Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone arrived Monday. And while I don't have much to add to the stream of reviews out on the Web, I do have a few observations because I've just spent two months sparring with my Nokia (NYSE:NOK) E61i:
- Physics makes the iPhone interface feel real. We expect physical simulation in a video game, but not in a phone interface. But when you flick scroll lists on the iPhone, they bounce off invisible stops at the end of the list. When you flick through photos, they slow down and come to a stop as if you flicked a photo across a desk. All this video-game-like simulation adds to the sense that you're interacting with real media, not an electronic simulcrum. The Nokia? Physics is just not in its software vocabulary.
- Black on white text rocks. This is a little thing, but after reading my emails and texts as white text on a blue dotted background, I now find the iPhone black on white and gray on white text so restful and comforting. I feel like the iPhone is a first class email and Web client instead of an approximation.
- iPhone typography is gorgeous. While the Nokia occasionally uses multiple font sizes, by and large, everything is 9 or 11 point ugly face type. It has little or no anti-aliasing, so it looks oh-so-computery. The iPhone, on the other hand, uses size of type for design and readability impact. Web pages and emails on the iPhone look like printed documents, not computer-rendered imitations.
- YouTube is watchable!. As a guy who actually did some video in a past life, I find a lot of Internet videos unwatchable, especially because the Flash-encoded versions render it so badly. Because the iPhone uses a H.264 video encoded version of YouTube instead of the lame Flash version, many (but not all) videos that come from there actually look better than they look on a computer. Browsing YouTube becomes much more like channel surfing on TV instead of feeling like I'm looking at an Internet peep show.
- The polish of the interface creates a very high touch experience. Many aspects of the Nokia E61i -- particularly the music and video player -- feel rather ad-hoc and tacked on. On the iPhone, I get the impression every single touch, icon, and animation was designed to create a specific user response. The result: I feel like the iPhone rewards my effort to work with it, while the Nokia feels more like a collection of partner software slapped together.
Now that I've activated my iPhone on my family AT&T (NYSE:T) account, my unlocked Nokia phone is now emulating a brick, since the phone number attached to its SIM is now on my iPhone. So I decided to take advantage of its strength: the fact that there is software available to customize it. So I've downloaded the Gizmo Project IP phone software onto the E61i, done some reprogramming of it, and repurposed it to my younger son David, who isn't yet ready to pony up $30 a month for a cell phone service plan. So now, he can make and receive calls from us on his Gizmo number, send and receive email, and even get voicemail via his email account. It only works when he's in range of a free WiFi network, but since his school and many of his friends have them, that may not be as much of a restriction. We'll see as he works with it.
The bottom line: I've enjoyed the pride and joy my son has experienced by saving for and buying his own iPhone. But I can now say from a day's experience, owning an iPhone is an even better experience and a rare delight. And describing it just doesn't do it justice.