11 days with no laptop, just the iPhone

inspiretech Apple iPhone 3G Full Protect Case, PolyCarbonate (Black)

So, I survived 11 days with just my first generation iPhone as the sole computing and communications device. The iPhone was my companion during my break over the Eid holidays. How did it fare? Here are my impressions.

Communications

Despite the name, the iPhone has never been particularly great as a phone. The built in Address Book / Contacts app lacks the support for standards like vcard, which makes it difficult to share contact information with other phones. In terms of call quality, I would rate the iPhone as “just ok”.

Where the iPhone really shines is in email. My main personal email account is at Gmail, with Yahoo Mail as a backup. Both accounts work very well on the iPhone’s Mail client. With Gmail, I would sometimes fall back to the web-based version since it has more features such as email searching, tagging and starring. The iPhone also worked flawlessly with my Exchange server at work, including Calendar synchronization.

Productivity
I have to admit my productivity went down tremendously, after all, I was on holiday :-) Aside from using email to track goings-on at work, I didn’t do much except write a few blog posts using WordPress on the iPhone. Without cut and paste, blogging is quite limited especially when it comes to doing links.

The iPhone is missing a full fledged Office suite (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations). The built-in viewers are fine for most documents, but there is no editing capability. I’m just waiting for the day that Documents To Go or QuickOffice is released for the iPhone!

Entertainment
The iPhone did surprisingly well as an entertainment device. While it did a decent job with the usual iPod functions (audio and video), my iPhone got much more use as a gaming device. My kids constant fought (with me) for a quick game of Cro Mag Rally and Cubes Lite.

What did not surprise me, was how much I used the iPhone as an ebook reader. I managed to read 2 ebooks back to back over my break. I think the iPhone form factor is just right for ebooks. After all, it’s more or less the same size as the Palm V. I’ve never been a fan of larger tablets like the Kindle — if a device is not pocketable, it wouldn’t be with me everywhere, and it wouldn’t be as comfortable for long use. With something as small as the iPhone, I can catch a quick 10-15 minute read without getting any strange glances.

Earlier this week, Forbes showed that the iPhone is now more popular than a Kindle as an ebook reader. This was based on the download figures of just one ebook reader for the iPhone, Stanza.

Conclusion

Overall, I’m very satisfied with how the iPhone has performed. As I have mentioned before, the only frustration that I had was the inability to update my content over the air. With WiFi Hotspots now common, it would have been very easy to download the latest podcasts directly to the iPhone. Hopefully Apple will soften its stance on third party applications that mimic iTunes.

To the question : “Can the iPhone function as your computer?” The answer is “Yes, but not all the time.”