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iPhone 3G - The Honeymoon is Over


Seven Common Complaints From iPhone Users

By Andrew Eisner

We created a little controversy when we put together a list of reasons why the new iPhone was not as perfect as Steve Jobs would lead you to believe. Here we are over one month after the iPhone 3G first went on sale and we thought we’d see what users had to say about their experiences so far.

Broken iPhone from Wired.com
Wired.com

What Are Users Saying About the iPhone 3G?

Recently, complaints about poor reception and dropped calls have been mounting to the point where one owner has sued Apple for misrepresenting 3G performance. Here’s a run down of some complaints we’ve seen.

1. Connectivity Problems

Steve Jobs

"Connectivity problem? What connectivity problem?"

The most serious complaint to date appears to be a connectivity problem. Users have been noticing an unusually high number of calls being dropped in mid-conversation along with seemingly arbitrary switching between the lower speed EDGE network and high speed 3G network in some cases, when the phone remains in a fixed position. As of this writing, Apple has been mum but some theories point to problems with the Infineon chip set integration as well as deficiencies in AT&T’s 3G coverage.

2. Battery Life

Usage Screen

The original iPhone would never win an award for battery life. Apple claimed it improved battery life in the iPhone 3G however, there were concerns about how much the 3G radios and GPS would affect battery life. Out of the gate, there were many complaints about short battery life on the 3G. There still appears to be widespread concern over poor battery life with some users barely able to make it through a day of normal use.  

Apple released some battery saving tips that recommend turning off unused features like 3G, WiFi, and Bluetooth but why buy a car that you can only drive Tuesdays? One user pointed out that turning Location Services off again when using the GPS returned a huge savings in battery life.

3. Periodic Resets, Freezes, and Lockups

Frozen iPhone

We’ve seen more than one complaint about the iPhone locking up in the “Apple Logo Reset” mode during updates or installs. You can find work-arounds like this one that have saved many users a trip to the Apple store. This video that has been viewed over 90,000 times (which should tell you something) might also be helpful.

 

4. Hairline cracks in the case

Hairline Cracks

Apple went with an all plastic case for the iPhone 3G. Now we’re seeing postings of users with cracked cases and furthermore, reporting that when they take them into the Apple store they are told it’s either their fault or nothing can be done although there are also many reports of Apple offering to replace  iPhones with cracked cases.

 

5. Sluggish performance

Sluggish Performance
Many users have mentioned performance issues like waiting for a contact list to become usable or iTunes synching times feeling like they take longer than they should. Many users find overall performance degrading over the course of a day and perform a reset to bring their iPhones back up to speed. Sounds a little like Windows, doesn’t it? Here’s a video on how to reset your iPhone.

 

6. No Slingbox

SlingPlayer
IntoMobile.com

This is not a common complaint but wouldn’t it be cool if you could watch live TV on your iPhone through your Slingbox? You can do that now on Windows Mobile based phones. This thread on the Slingbox forum might lead you to believe that Slingbox for the iPhone is not around the corner.

7. No Tethering

Tethering

Tethering your laptop computer to your iPhone's high speed connection through Bluetooth is much lamented by iPhone owners who are all too aware how common this feature is on other cell phones. An application from nullriver that turns your iPhone into a WiFi access point appeared briefly on the App Store but was quickly removed. A similar application from Joiku is available for Nokia phones like the N95.

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iPhone's lack of features

The iPhone hasn't lived up to the hype. I bought one based on the great reviews, but, in retrospect, I haven't seen a serious review of the iPhone's capabilities, or, more accurately, its shortcomings. Many reviewers have ended up just being promoters, without really putting the device to any real tests.

Here is my review, based on really trying to use it.

Phone:
Reception has been really spotty with the phone. Calls cut out often.

Contacts:
If you're on the phone, you can't make new entries, as when someone on the phone gives you a name and number to call. 411 works well with the number being sent to you via SMS, but at a cost of $1.75 per 411 call!

There are no categories in the Contacts. Thus, I can't display only my contacts in one of my categories, such as Auto or Pool or Personal. I have to scroll through all 1,600 entries.

Apple almost fixed the search problem in the Contacts. You can now search by first or last name or company. Apple software is too simple. If you want to search by phone number or some part of the address, forget it. You can't do it. If you want to search on something in the Notes field, forget it. I don't think I will ever use the phonetic entries, so having fixed options for fields is really restrictive.

There's no cut and paste, or ability to copy a contact. So, if you have entered Bill's phones and address, and now you want to create a new entry for Ann, his wife, you can't leverage off the already entered info. You have to start from scratch.

A phone number is limited to only the main number that you dial, and you can't look at any of the contact's info after you've told it to dial. This means that you have to memorize or write down on a piece of paper the person's extension, or the navigation through an automated corporate phone tree. (You know, "Si usted hable Espanol, marke el nueve. If you want to hear a duck quack, press 3.")

Contact Fields:
Apple allows you to enter extra fields for a contact, but only the ones that big brother has made available, like Prefix, Middle, Suffix, Phonetic First or Last Name, and a few others, including "Notes". The only one I've found useful is "Notes" because I don't use and can't redefine any of the others. I use it for "Hours" for stores, and "Children" for parents, and for "Notes", but you're allowed only one note per person.

Web Browser:
Apple touts Safari as the best browser. But it can't display Flash or any videos that aren't on YouTube, even if they're in the same format as the ones on YouTube. Most of the sites I've looked at on Safari have little icons where the action is supposed to be. Unlike Mozilla, the real best browser, you can't see your history in Safari, you have to re-live it. So, when you slowly navigate through the web on Safari, and then you want to go back to the site you were at 10 clicks ago, you have to slog through 10 page loads in the reverse order.-(

Active pages: This device has 8 or 16 gigabytes, yet only 8 tabs can be resident at a time. Often a web page will want to open a new tab. If you already have 8 tabs open, you have to manually delete at least one tab to continue.

Performance: Maybe with a better radio, the performance will be better. But, with the mandatory $70/month cost of internet service for the iPhone, it's one of the slowest browsers. I've had far too many instances when I wanted to show someone something cool on the web. They usually start off pretty excited when they see the iPhone, but when you have to wait more than a minute to get anything to download enough to display, patience wears thin.

Other apps:

Camera:
This works ok, but there's no flash or zoom.
The photo viewer is nice with its zoom and flick-to-move-to-next picture. It would be better if I could tag the pictures and show off just the ones I want to, avoiding the ones I want to avoid.

Calendar:
It doesn't sync with Google Calendar, which allows me to manage my and my 3 kids' calendars, so I can't use it. I don't want to enter my calendar in two, un-related calendar systems. I hear that the Apple calendar might work if I spend a grand to buy an Apple computer to sync it to, but that's pretty steep for me. I tried using the alarm feature, but you can use only the few settings that Apple has decided you'll need.

Google calendar's access is pretty limited via the iPhone. I can view only a few days at a time by scrolling, then I can say only "Next" to get the next few days. There's no provision for searching and entry creation is really limited too, not allowing me to specify which of my kids' calendars I'm editing. (I get to edit only mine from the iPhone.)

Calculator:
I paid hundreds of dollars for the iPhone, and the only calculator it comes with is a 4-function calculator. No RPN, no date calculations, no financial, trig, or even square or square root. Fortunately, there's one available from Belfry SciCalc, but it requires a good wireless connection to work. So, if you happen to be out-of-range, you can't use it.

Maps:
This uses Google Maps, and works pretty well. The satellite view is really nice.I haven't found the traffic option to be very accurate.
My main complaint is that it's REALLY SLOW! Nine seconds to open up Maps and display whatever I searched for last time. Then another 5 seconds to change from directions to search mode.

SMS:
I thought this is one app was the one app that works and is logical. However, this one app is the reason I will not allow my kids to use an iPhone and I will no longer show off the iPhone to anyone. Granted that's a bit extreme, but let me tell you why. One day I was showing off a cool new app to a curious stranger. In the middle, she handed it back to me, saying that I just got a text message. Sure enough, I did. Apple was kind enough to interrupt my app and force me to acknowledge my first spam text message. Apple was also kind enough to display the phone number and the text. In this case, the text has a sexually-explicit spam message mentioning sex acts someone wanted to perform with my wife. Not only was it very embarrassing, but Apple has no way to turn off the "interrupt everything and look at this message" behavior for SMS. (AT&T isn't willing to turn off SMS (throw the baby out with the bathwater.) or charge me a "protection fee" of $5 per month to allow me to block individual callers.) Because I can't stop spammers from displaying content on my phone, I can't allow my kids to play with an iPhone and I won't risk being fired at work for sexual harrassment.

Notes:
This app needs Categories, so you can organize your notes, search capability, outline support, and more choices for type-ahead when only a few characters have been entered.

iPod:
This is almost good. It's probably great if all you listen to is pop music. But, if you listen to anything long that has lots of tracks that need to be played in order, like a concert or opera, you'll find it hard to play the tracks in order or to stop for a while and then come back to where you left off. (What? You don't want to start the one-hour track over at the beginning, just because you had to stop at a gas station?)

If you want to transfer an audio book into iTunes that you didn't buy from Apple or from Audible.com, then you'll have the same problem with sections and chapters playing out of order. If you play one book for the kids, then switch to your book, it might not start up from where you left off, so you have to spend some time searching. At the end of the day when you pick up the kids, you'll have to search through their book to find the spot where you left off. Bookmarks are a sorely-missing feature. Also, even though the Apple screen resolution is really good, the book "covers" from Audible are in such low resolution, that they're mostly unreadable.

What's missing from the iPhone's iPod?:

  • Bookmarks that I can set for each playlist. I'll play one playlist for my 7-year-old, another for my 9-year-old, another for my 13-year-old, and others when different combinations of kids are in the car. 95% of my playlists are recorded BOOKS.
  • Get "shuffle" mode to tell the difference between a book and music. Better yet, let us tag the content we have so that I can choose adult content (my kids don't like listening to Alan Greenspan or the NY Times!) and kid content or just tailor the mix how *I* want and how *I* feel is appropriate for those also listening to the content. This way I can shuffle through all the content that's of whatever genre *I* choose. (I don't need Big Brother to set in stone how I categorize what I listen to!) Apple & the recording industry can suggest tags, but please let us, the paying customers, tag it how WE want. Apple's software should allow this. We don't want to have the software switch to inappropriate content.

What's missing?

Many things are missing, so I have to carry around the iPhone as a phone, and also my Palm to do the following:

  • A To-Do list with categories, repeats, and alarms.
  • A Phone Log, so I can keep track of phone calls, such as the 10th time I've called Tech Support and they still haven't resolved my problem.
  • Better and more type-ahead choices.
  • A Phone with re-dial until I get connected to the number.
  • Data-entry for use in Quicken, Money, or, better yet, Gnucash.
  • A cool app would be to allow quick entry of prices at gas stations to one of the web sites that keeps track of prices.

Enough criticism for tonight.

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calculator

I agree to some degree with most of your concerns/downfalls of the iPhone. However, the comment about the calculator is misrepresented. It's simple! Turn the phone sideways/horizontal, and you now have yourself a scientific calculator. Genius I believe...

What a mess, Steve.

I read through every last one of your complaints, and half of them are absurd.

Phone: There are categories in contacts. You can use the entire iPhone during a call by simply hitting menu. Or you know, you could just hit the contacts button on the face of the Phone by moving it away from your head during a call. If you wanted to put more than just a simple number in, put in a few pound signs (also known as wait characters), have it dial the extension for you. You can easily add a contact while you are contact.

Contact fields: ... Seriously. Have you never played around with this? There is an option for custom ones. You can add whatever you want. IT even has the customs i used only on my computer.

Web Browser: Will you stop confusing the desktop with your phone? Safari on both does all you speak of, even though I'd use Google Chrome on my PC. Yes, it does have 8gb or 16gb, but that is not MEMORY, which is required to keep things such as web browsers open. It is STORAGE. It's not particularly fast storage at that. This page alone uses almost 8.5mb of memory in a traditional browser. There is a limit to how much RAM they can pack in such a small device. And for flash, this is a MOBILE device. Flash is a big, slow, processor heavy waste of battery. It'll drag down even normal PC's on occasion. And it does have a History. It's the top folder of your bookmarks (that book sign you see in Safari). Do you even use this device? Seriously, do you? The surfing is plenty fast for me. I don't know why it runs so slow for you, but on even a decent Edge connection, it's fast. Wi-fi, same speed as your pc. And the iPhone line is 30$/month. Which you'd have noticed if you have read your contract. It is your voice plan that accounts for the other 40$, which you would have on ANY phone. Besides that, I have played several games such as Bejewled in the browser fine. What are you doing playing flash games on your iPhone anyway, Mr. Businessman?

Camera: In case you have not noticed, most cellphones do not have a flash or zoom. Most of the phones that claim to have zoom, just double the pixels, which is what we do after we take the picture with the pinch motion. A petty complaint.

Calendar: Don't buy an Apple device then complain it refuses to work with non-Apple proprietary systems. I don't expect your palm calendar to work with my iPhone, now do i? Besides, MobileMe allows several windows calendars to work with iPhone. And there is probably an App that lets you use GoogleCal.

Calculator: Turn the iPhone sideways... (Oi.) Amazing, everything you asked for, with a simple motion! I did not even need to RTFM for that one. Or any of these for that matter.

Maps: Takes 3 seconds to open and display on my end. It takes a fraction to switch between modes... just long enough for the animation to run. What have you done to yours?

SMS: These complaints are completely irrelevant. All phones interrupt you to inform you of text. Just as they should, and should with calls. IT is a PHONE first, PIM and toy second. You can block just text messages from someone with a specific formatted text to AT&T. And, you know, you probably should not of given that person your phone number in the first place.

Notes: This is designed to be simple. Get an app like evernote (free, I might add) for anything more. Evernote syncs with your pc. And it has searchable images.

iPod: Works just like every other iPod. What did you expect? When you pause the track, it holds your position. And if you somehow manage to restart the phone, which is the only way to lose your position, then you can just use the seek bar. The iPhone is not an audio-book player, which is clearly what you want, although I'm willing to bet there is one on the appstore that does as you ask. Perhaps even from audible. And the book covers thing is just dumb. If you can not read them, then that is Audible's fault for having crappy images, as iTunes supports high-quality artwork. and it CAN tell the difference between books and music. There is even an Audiobooks tab for the iPod mode. If you want to tag the music yourself, then set it as part of a compilation, which takes the same amount of time as tagging anything else.

And for the last ignorant section, we have "What's missing." More like what is not missing.

The To-Do list could be done easily on calendar, it has all of those features. Which is more than most phones/programs have. You could also use the highly programmable features in the clock App.

That would be called "Recents" in your phone mode... Which you clearly have not used. Funny, Recents looks like a phone log to me, complete with number of times dialed in a row, with any intervening calls separated.

It is a learning feature, the predictive text. Use it more.

Under half the tabs in phone mode, it is extremely easy to redial. If the call fails, it automatically presents you with an option to redial. Or you can dial from recent, which means you just have to hit your last call again. Easier than two hits on a regular phone.

I'm sure they are on the appstore, along with your last request. If i can have my iphone update my position every five seconds, then i'm sure you can mark gas station prices.

Next time, before you complain and whine like a child over a device YOU chose to buy, make sure you actually know how to use it first. I have discovered all this without using the manual, which is built into the browser... Just imagine what you could learn by actually reading it. Sheesh.

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Absurd? Naahhhh, the iPhone is not the best thing in the world.

I guess you are saying they are absurd because you think the iPhone is the best technology advance in the world...which is actually absurd. It does have a lot of good things, but specially the 1st generation has a lot of troubles for users. If you want to just ignore the reality...you are free to do it.

iPhone Connectivity

I would blame AT&T’s 3G coverage. I have the most non-iPhone imagineable, a Samsung SGH-A707, and it has the same issues with seemingly random switching between 3G and Edge while the phone is just sitting in one spot.

The New att, your connection, dropped.

ATT, as usual has their head.. well, you know where. Appearently the suits have told the techies that the iPhones shall be programmed to grab 3G regardless how bad it is, even when a perfectly acceptable 2G signal is available. The result is effectively no connectivity at times or at least very poor connectivity. The suits have ordered this so that the CUSTOMERS will hopefully complain and report the trouble spots to them to be fixed instead of just paying for more techs to test drive the system themselves. I sure didn't take me long to realize that the ATTs system isn't exactly the most perfectly tweeked system in the world. The result is appearent lousy iPhones, but it's their system. I think the phones have their limits for sure but ATT should be #1 on the blame list for this one. Since I need the coverage (although crappy coverage at times) the offer I'll just stay with my old 9300/b for now in 2G-land. Since many have switched to 3G, the 2G singnal on ATT is almost acceptable now. (ALMOST!)

Apple is developing a new

Apple is developing a new product. If you jump off a bridge, you'll receive it for free...