Alright, I'm really in business now. A post describing how to edit an iPhone preferences file led me - after a few trials and errors - to Internet access on iPhone via T-Mobile's $5.99/month T-Zones data plan. This isn't supposed to work for about a dozen reasons. But it does, for now anyway. I'm getting somewhere around 160kbps downloads, which pales in comparison to WiFi but is around average for EDGE.
I've also loaded up SSH, SFTP, Installer.app, and ... what? I basically followed a bunch of other folks' handiwork to access a lot of iPhone's "computer" capabilities, This includes the ability to connect to the phone via an FTP client from my computer and add, delete, and move files around the handset. Perhaps the killer of the killer apps for the phone right now is nullRiver's Installer.app, which not only automates the process of installing new iPhone programs, but also serves as a repository for new apps and updates which can be downloaded over WiFI (or EDGE) and installed on the go. Excellent.
What kind of apps? Games (including the retro-tastic Nintendo NES emulator), utilities, UI extensions that allow for customizable home screens, ringtones, and the like, and so much more. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the iPhone right now is the robust community of developers working 'round the clock to develop new and better ways of using the handset as mini-computer.
Messaging and Web are roundly great (especially since I installed the Apollo IM instant messenger client), though I've heard some folks gripe about a lack of advanced messaging features. I'm not a heavy texter, and I'm easily amused by things like the ease of snapping a photo and sending it off in an email, so I'm happy. One gripe with the generally excellent Safari Web browser: It's too easy to accidentally click a hotlink when trying to scroll through a page packed with content and links.
Of course, iPhone is a phone first and foremost and while I'm obviously all excited about its computing capabilities, I'd be remiss to not point out that it's still lagging a bit behind other smartphones when it comes to actual phone usage. It's certainly not a bad phone - voice quality is good during calls and I haven't suffered from any dropped signals - but there are some advanced features missing from Apple's mobile that power users would really miss.
There's no voice dialing or one-touch speed dialing available. In fact, making a call requires a few more steps than on any other phone I've used. I've set up my Favorite Contacts list to cut down on the number of touches involved to place a call, but it still requires going Home, then to Phone, then to the Contact at the very least. Also, while the phone pairs easily with Bluetooth headsets, stereo Bluetooth is not supported. That's a real drag considering that dumb recessed audio jack that rejects most headphones' plugs. Luckily, my Etymotic er-6i canalphones not only fit iPhone, they're amongst my favorites and perfect for travel.
I'm flying from Oakland to Washington, DC Monday morning for some on-site work with a client, so I loaded the phone up with a movie and three TV shows to test out on the flight. iPhone only plays nicely with mpeg-4 video, so I had to convert all four of my files: I'm a Mac user and so used Handbrake (DVD to mp4) and Visual Hub (avi to mp4), both of which seemed to work well. I'll report back alter in the week on video playback and battery life under real-world conditions.
Again, so far I'm pretty psyched about my new toy. If you read my blog regularly, you'd be absolutely right to point out how I was singing a different tune only a few months ago. But now that the iPhone's unlocked and the price is right, it's so much easier to gloss over the issues (lack of 3G support, no physical keypad, etc) and focus on all the techno-wizardry and eye candy the device has to offer.
More from the road later in the week. In the mean time, here are a few links to some highlights of the iPhone development community thus far:
Gizmodo's guide to setting up SSH for the iPhone. You'll need SSH if you really want to get into adding applications to your handset.
iPhone Forum - Keep up on all of the latest hacking and development news.
dot net - The iPhone Dev Wiki, where you can learn your techincal stuff regarding unlocking and development for iPhone