The iPhone Report: A Few Irritating Problems Persist!

June 5th, 2008

Ahead of next week’s expected release if the iPhone 2.0 software and a new version of this hot-selling smartphone, I have to tell you I’m reasonably happy with mine.

When I got one, I didn’t make the decision lightly. In fact, I waited until February, the day before the 16GB version was released, actually, before I took the plunge. However, I did get upfront exposure weeks earlier, when Apple relented and sent me one for review.

I was highly skeptical on the matter, as my primary use of a wireless carrier was to make phone calls. My previous phones, including the Motorola RAZR I got with my AT&T account, worked reasonably well considering the state of the art. So why should I require the ability to surf the Internet and check and write email? It’s not as if I was an inveterate iPod junkie, so I put that capability at the very bottom of the list.

So maybe Apple sent me that iPhone with the full expectation that, once I had used it for a few weeks, when I returned it at the end of the review period, I would immediately go out and buy my one. They were right.

My favorite feature is the ability to keep track of my email. My wife has long suffered my regular calls when I’m on the road about whether I got any important messages. It’s not that I could do anything about it until I had access to a computer, but I didn’t want to be kept out of the loop.

Now she is happy, and so am I. In fact, I keep my iPhone on a night table next to our bed, so, if I happen to wake up early, I can check for important messages, and sometimes I actually receive them. I can also keep tabs on the Web sites to make sure there are no problems that need fast fixing.

Now as a telephone, the iPhone is good, about on a par with most of the quality wireless handsets out there. I don’t perceive any particular advantage, for example, among such models as the iPhone, Motorola RAZR or the various LG units I’ve had. It’s really hard to find a phone that sounds bad; you just get the generally clear audio, occasionally clouded by digital haze, but that’s the state of the art for the wireless industry I fear.

However, there are some areas where I would like to see improvements. Call me petty, for example, but I’d really like a way to presort my email accounts in the same sequence as they are setup on Apple Mail. Unless I actually set up the accounts manually, they go into a random sequence on the iPhone and remain stuck that way. They don’t even follow the order shown in the Info panel in iTunes.

Now maybe there is a secret way to accomplish this minor chore, but I couldn’t find anything about it over at Apple’s support site. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough. I also contacted some of the iPhone gurus out there — people who have written articles and books on the subject — and they didn’t have an answer either. Well, it may not matter for one or two accounts, I use eight on a fairly regular basis, and if I had more, I’d have to continually scroll to get to the one I wanted, if it was in the wrong sequence.

The other issues that annoy me are speed and stability. Even on my home Wi-Fi connection to Cox’s 15 megabit broadband network, Safari can still be a slow renderer even on a site that ought to display with reasonable rapidity. At times, it stalls out, and you’re thrust back to the Home screen. That’s the equivalent of an application suddenly quitting under Mac OS X. At times, I’m even forced to restart.

Another issue of less importance occurs if I happen to want to make a general configuration change on my email accounts. I’ve duplicated this issue several times, so it wasn’t just one of those things. Once I get past four or five accounts, even after making a minor change, such as switching access port numbers for connecting to my mail server, the iPhone freezes. Holding the Home button for a short period will get me out of that situation.

Such issues smack of software bugs of one sort or another. While I can see such irritants as part and parcel of a version 1.0 product, as of 1.1.4, I would have thought that Apple might have cured them. Or maybe it’s too busy working on version 2.0, which will address the little things, I trust, rather than just deliver the big picture.

The other issue is related to the iPhone’s Bluetooth interface with an auto. Now I can’t say if the problem is related to the car or the phone. The dealer’s service foreman assures me that the vehicle’s firmware is current, but sometimes the connection seems to succeed only partly. The audio cuts in and out rapidly. Switching to the iPhone’s own headset will cure it, so it seems to be an artifact of the connection. Sometimes just turning off the ignition and starting up again fixes it. Sometimes I have to actually reboot the iPhone, so maybe it’s the combo that creates this anomaly. And, yes, the car is certified as compatible with the iPhone, according to the manufacturer’s documentation.

On the whole, as I said, I’m hugely satisfied with the iPhone. There are certainly features I’d like to add, such as the ability to cut, copy and paste, and perhaps the results of a reconciliation between Apple and Adobe to deliver true Flash support. I’m also certain there will be a fair number of whiz-bang features added to give the new software and 3G iPhone a great sendoff.

But I do hope Apple doesn’t ignore the little things when it concentrates on the big picture.

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