On Monday Steve Jobs announced the new line of iPhones, the iPhone 3G, which will go on sale July 11 (exactly one month from today). My wife and I have had our iPhones for almost a year now and we love them. I originally considered it a “luxury” purchase, something fun and fluffy we didn’t really need. Boy was I wrong. They are super practical. We use them all the time, so much so that it’s hard for me to imagine getting through the day without one.
Here are just a few of the ways the iPhone has come in very handy for me:
1. Full internet in my pocket. Anywhere I can get a cell phone signal I can read/write emails or surf the internet (I can also surf over wi-fi if I’m in a hotspot). Not just the “baby internet” like most cell phones. This is the full internet, just like on your home computer. Well, the iPhone doesn’t support Flash and most internet video so a few websites don’t work. But otherwise it’s pretty much the same. It’s miles ahead of most other cell phones.
The iPhone’s internet access comes in handy in all sorts of places, and its so much fun I find myself pulling out my iPhone almost any time I have a spare moment. I can read and write emails while I’m in line at the grocery store or post office (no more rushing back to the studio just to check my email). I can browse the latest news headlines while I’m filling my car with gas. I can catch up on blogs while I’m waiting to meet someone for lunch.
I also send myself email reminders on the fly. Often in conversation someone will suggest something that I want to add to my to-do list, buy at the store, or read up on later. I just type a quick email and send myself a reminder. No need to ever forget anything again.
You get the idea. If you can access the internet anywhere, anytime, it opens up a lot of possibilities. Such as…
2. Smart shopping. More than once I’ve been in the bookstore or video store and considered buying an item, only to look it up online and find that I can get it much cheaper at Amazon.com. At the video store I can review the movies in my Blockbuster queue and find just the right title to rent. I’ve even used the iPhone for groceries or trips to Wal-Mart. While I drive to the store, my wife will type up a list of what she needs and send it to me as a text message. By the time I get to the store, there’s my list.
3. Maps and Directions. With a few taps of my finger I can quickly get directions to a client’s office or to the nearest restaurant, coffee shop, gas station, airport, etc. . Say I want to find a bookstore. Just type in “bookstore” followed by the city or zip code and almost instantly Google finds the nearest bookstores. Tap a store with your finger and get the store’s phone number. Tap the phone number and it dials it for you, so you can ask if they have the book you want on hand, or find out how late they are open. A couple more finger taps and you can get driving directions to the store from wherever you are. Very slick.
If you live in a large urban area like I do, the Maps feature is extremely helpful. I use it almost on a daily basis.
4. Notes. I confess I originally thought this was one of the lamest features of the iPhone. Now I use it all the time. I keep a running shopping list of business items and “guy stuff” that I use whenever I’m at Wal-Mart or running errands. Did I run out of AA batteries or office paper? Need a new lawn mower blade? I just add it to the list and it’s there the next time I go shopping. My wife occasionally suggests ideas for birthday/Christmas gifts or for romantic dates, so I type them into a note or easy reference. I recently found myself at a presentation that was really fascinating, so I used my iPhone to take notes. I did a remodeling project and wrote down everything I needed to buy, including size dimensions, as a note. With the tap of a button you can also send any note as an email. Super handy.
5. Calendar. I’m a busy guy so it’s nice to have my schedule at my finger tips wherever I go. The iPhone makes it super easy to add, change, or delete an event such as a meeting, a social get-together, or a deadline. You can even set multiple alarm messages to go off to remind you of an event (which is a big help since I sometimes get so caught up in my freelance work that I forget I’m supposed to be somewhere). Once I get home it’s easy to sync up the iPhone’s calendar with my computer.
6. Camera. The built-in camera takes pretty good pictures (for a cell phone) that can come in quite handy. For example, last Christmas my Dad wanted a new pair of slippers to replace his old pair. He has gigantic feet so he needs a special size and brand. I just snapped a photo of his old slippers and with a few taps of my finger I was able to send the photo to myself as an email, along with the brand name and size written in the email text. The photo also stays in my iPhone gallery for quick access at the shoe store so that I make sure I find the right kind.
7. Clock/Timer. When I travel to a hotel I use the iPhone’s alarm feature as a backup in case my wake-up call is late or I need a little extra sleep. My wife and I also use the timer to replace the old-fashioned hour glass that comes with our favorite board game (Boggle). No more waiting for the little plastic hour glass to refill. I’ve even used it to help me know when to flip over the meat on the grill.
8. Music/TV/Podcasts/Audiobooks in your pocket. Don’t forget, the iPhone is also an iPod. You can watch or listen to media anywhere you go. We bought a converter that lets us listen through our car stereo. I enjoy listening to art and business podcasts or audiobooks while I’m driving.
9. Contacts. The iPhone automatically syncs up my entire address book with my computer. Every phone number, email address, etc. on my computer is also on my iPhone. I can even mark some phone numbers as favorites for one-touch dialing. My only complaint is that there is no voice-dial feature, but I’ve heard rumors that there will be one available for purchase when the iTunes App store opens next month.
10. Visual Voice Mail. This one is an idea that was long overdue. You don’t have to read your emails in the order they come in, so why should you have to listen to all your voice mails in order? With an iPhone you can see each voice mail as a bullet list (date/time and who called), and then just tap the ones you want to listen to. Jump to the important voice mail right away, and if you want you can even delete other voice mails without even listening to them.
Those are just a few of the handy-dandy ways I use my iPhone on a regular basis. There are dozens more, and I haven’t even mentioned the hundreds of software applications that will be released next month from third party developers. It’s an amazing machine. The longer I’ve had my iPhone, the harder it is for me to imagine my life without it.
However, I should mention one note about price. Apple has recently slashed the price of the new 3G iPhone in half from $399 to just $199 for the 8GB model. However, this is misleading. An iPhone requires a 2-year contract with AT&T, and their standard 3G plan costs an extra $10/month over and above the previous iPhone plan. $10 x 24 months = $240, so in the end you actually wind up paying $40 more for the new 3G iPhone. You do get a much faster download speed for your money, so you aren’t paying extra for nothing. Just be aware that Apple’s “half-off” promotion is only half the story.
You can find out more about the new 3G iPhone at the Apple iPhone page.