Apple iPhone Review from Apple Store Test Drive in Woodfield Mall

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The Apple iPhone was released to consumers at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 29, 2007. The Apple Store at Woodfield  Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois had several iPhone demos connected via the store Wi-Fi network on hand for walk-in consumers to check.

iPhone crowd test driving iPhones at the Apple Store in Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg.

On first sighting, the actual unit is thinner and smaller than expected, but the display is beautiful and large. The first thing I checked was the Weather Widget. It was very easy to add a new city and flick your finger to browse through different city forecasts. The iPhone has beautiful graphics and it is the best quick overview of daily forecasts I have seen on a phone or PDA. However, there is no radar or satellite widget. Hopefully, more widgets will be available. I use MyCast on a Motorola E815, which gives me radar, infrared satellite, a lightning strikes map with alerts and more. As a personal trainer, I need more real-time weather information to make decisions about outdoor workout safety for clients.

Next, I checked the YouTube application. The YouTube videos are displayed and some are remarkably clear. However, I couldn’t find videos that I knew were up on YouTube using keywords that I know would find the videos on YouTube using a desktop computer browser. Apparently all of YouTube’s video catalog is not yet available for the Apple iPhone.

According to Apple, Inc…

To achieve higher video quality and longer battery life on mobile devices, YouTube has begun encoding their videos in the advanced H.264 format, and iPhone will be the first mobile device to use the H.264-encoded videos. Over 10,000 videos will be available on June 29, and YouTube will be adding more each week until their full catalog of videos is available in the H.264 format this fall.

The combination of H.264-encoded videos plus iPhone’s built-in Wi-Fi networking, stunning 3.5 inch display, and custom YouTube application with its multi-touch user interface results in the best YouTube experience on any mobile device.

Next, I checked the Google Map application, which is truly amazing. You get map and satellite views, just like on a desktop browser. You use a double tap with one finger to zoom in and double-finger tap once to zoom out. The finger pinching and finger spreading technique to zoom out and zoom in (respectively) of the map or satellite also works, but it can cause accidental motion north and south or east or west. You use one finger to flick right and display more western views and you flick left to display more eastern views, whether you are in map or satellite mode … same goes for North or South with up and down flicks. A directions mode shows the route and a list mode gives text directions. A tap on a list item glides you to the turn or instruction on the route map.

I brought up a map of Woodfield Mall and was looking at the satellite view and showed the guy next to me to share the Google map application I just discovered. He laughed and said ‘That’s funny … I am looking at my house in Denmark!’ He then showed me his house in Denmark in satellite view.

Next, I checked the Safari browser on the iPhone. The clarity is superior to any PDA. The ability to zoom and ‘go wide’ is elegant. It is very easy to flick up and down and left and right. The ability to flick and finger pinch on Safari and most other applications is elegant and takes some of the stress out of using these smaller-display devices. Scrolling a MySpace profile page is faster on the iPhone than it is on my Mac Mini. A double-tap on a column on a web page zooms into that column in portrait or landscape mode and is nicely readable. iPhone methods of looking at a page are far superior to the methods of other PDA’s. The browser did not show motion radar on Weather Underground, but it did show alternating Celsius and Fahrenheit thermometers. Drop down menus are magnified nicely for selection, although it takes a little coordination to master.

Wi-Fi or MAC address displayed on the About page in iPhones Settings.

The next thing that occurred to me was how I would use this device at a friend’s house that restricts devices on the Wi-Fi network to specific MAC numbers. I couldn’t find my answer right away after searching the Wi-Fi setup and looking in Network in the settings category. But after sidetracking and checking a few more applications, such as the Camera, the Phone and E-mail, I discovered the About section in the Settings category. That is where I discovered the MAC number.

The Camera (2.0 megapixels) takes very clear pictures and can take pictures very ‘up close’ like a macro mode. The picture is automatically stored and browsing multiple pictures is a delight by flicking left or right. The pictures are also stored in the ‘Camera Role’ in the iPhone Photos section that syncs with any or all iPhoto folders from within iTunes.

The iPod works very well and keeps playing while you move to other applications. Flicking through albums is cool. A user can sync with any or all playlists in iTunes, but you can’t just drag a song into the iPhone window like you can with an iPod. You are restricted to working with the playlists that you create.  I didn’t check any movies — probably since I had seen that demo on Apple’s website.

The Stocks Widget is beautiful with charts updating as you switch stock symbols. It is very easy to add a new company to the watch list.

The clock section comes in four modes: a World Clock, which allows easy addition of cities from a round the world in any order (I ordered them by time zone), an Alarm, a large Stopwatch with lap times displayed in a flickable list, and a large Timer (countdown).

The E-Mail application also works well. Typing was easy to get used too. A finger drag over words brings up a cool magnifying effect, so you can pinpoint where you put the cursor. Account setup looks simple with big logos for GMail, Yahoo Mail, AOL and There is also a category for others type of e-mail accounts.

SMS text messaging is easy to read and switch to phone calls.

Plenty of demo iPhones available for a test drive at the Apple Store in Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois.

And finally, the phone display and interface is clear, simple and easy to use — a nice and large display (480-by-320-pixel resolution at 160 dpi and 32-bit colors) that is easy to read. Zoom levels of Safari are displayed remarkably fast. Using the iPhone is not tedious, it’s unobstructed fun.

Wish List
AOL Instant Messenger or iChat
Weather with radar on a widget

Probably the biggest problem affecting the iPhone is slow activation times to get the phone up and running with a phone number. Apparently the slowdown involves credit checks at a late stage of configuring the iPhone in iTunes. The problem has been reported to be a possible overload of the AT&T servers that manage the credit checks during the sign-up process.

At the activation phase of sign-on, customers are getting a message that says …

Your activation requires additional time to complete.
You will receive an email confirmation sent to <<email address>> once your activation is complete.

There is no estimated time of completion displayed and there is no message informing customers whether they should leave iTunes open or not —  during the wait.

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