Display goes a long way
As you clearly imagine by now, the display is the best and most important part of the iPhone. Given the lack of a physical keyboard, the 16M color TFT display is basically everything you’ve got to control the handset. First of all it’s very attractive and bright. Secondly, it measures good 3.5″, running at 480 x 320 pixels resolution – a feat that is rarely surpassed (Check out the Toshiba G900 PocketPC, which boasts a 3″ display with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels). And third… one should just see for themselves.
By the way the pixel count isn’t always decisive of what you get. More vital is how the phone is using the screen’s real-estate. Compared to other mobile devices with high resolution displays, running on Windows Mobile, which are showing the text in microscopic size, the iPhone serves you a smooth, easy readable font size. Trust us, with the cool browsing opportunities and given the big amount of text flowing trough the display while reading web pages or e-mails, you’ll quickly appreciate the excellent viewing experience that the iPhone offers.
The visibility under direct sunlight has what it takes to impress. In outdoor conditions the display remains completely readable and maybe just the viewing angle leaves a little something to be desired. It’s probably the best display we’ve seen upsofar when it comes to legibility under direct sunlight – it even beats our all-time favorite Nokia smartphone displays.
Sensing the difference
Talking about the iPhone features, we must not forget the sensors that Apple have put into the handset. First – the light sensor. Its main purpose is to save power by adjusting the screen’s brightness to the surrounding lightning conditions. It does its job, but because it’s automatic it may sometimes irritate you by being slightly inadequate. However you have the option for turning that sensor off.
On the other hand, the orientation sensor works like a charm and comes very handy. As soon as you rotate the iPhone form portrait to landscape, the screen flips accordingly. This allows quickly changing the way a picture is taken/shown, or a web page is displayed. It also provides you with a nice widescreen layout when viewing videos. The correct angle when holding it is crucial to the performance of the sensor – it won’t rotate you screen if you hold the device parallel to the ground – you have to get the right angle. Unfortunately only selected parts of the interface can be rotated that way – too few according to us.
And last, but not least, the proximity sensor. Since the iPhone is completely touch controlled there is always the possibility of touching the screen with your cheek (in the middle of a call that is) and switching something on or off. The proximity sensor automatically switches off the display as soon as you raise the phone to your ear. It’s really snappy and works seamlessly.
Mac OS goes mobile
Now, this is where the fun starts. The whole UI is actually very simple, consistent and intuitive. You can access all the functions with just a few taps. First of all the speed is incredible – no lags, no hanging, simply marvelous. Plus, now you get to use the revolutionary gesture-based (or multi-touch) control system. Well, it’s needless to say that it’ll take some time for you to get used to it, but once you master it, which shouldn’t take that long, you’ll find it very entertaining.
Every action of the iPhone is performed with some sort of eye-candy animation – everything is animated in some way. Things don’t just pop up; they slide in with a swoosh. It looks great and it doesn’t get in your way.
In order to give you full control and navigation opportunities, Apple has assembled an interesting set of gestures to use. And you won’t find anything new about the function itself, but about the way you experience it. The iPhone offers a great time with its touch-controlled interface and even the most boring function turns out to be fun. So with this list posted you’re probably beginning to feel a bit scared of all the new things. We recommend watching this video to get the whole touch-control picture.
When it comes to touch navigation, the iPhone offers probably the most intuitive and user-friendly interface interaction we’ve seen so far.
The virtual keypad of the iPhone is definitely a mediocre performer. Its main flaw is the lack of any tactile feedback when you touch a key – a quick vibration for every key press would have come in handy (haptics they call it). For a virtual keyboard, it’s actually ok. It does fine, although it is of course slower than a hardware one and a lot of mistakes are easily made, but you know – practice makes perfect.
Apple developers have added a type-assistant, which auto-completes your words, if they are in the dictionary (you can add more words to it in the process) and highlights the next possible letter you’d type in, drawing the assumptions from its built-in database. Sometimes it really helps, sometimes it’s rather irritating.
Something of an unexplainable drawback is that in landscape mode the keyboard is a lot wider, the buttons are bigger and more convenient, but you can only use the horizontal layout when typing in Safari while browsing. What’s up with that? We really wish Apple would enable horizontal input in all of the iPhone applications.
Now with the user interaction all covered, it’s worth saying a few words about the UI looks. Unfortunately, Apple gave us almost no chance to personalize the iPhone. We’ve got practically no view customization options. There are preset themes for the different applications, which are nice of course, but having some personalized visual styling available wouldn’t have hurt.
Furthermore, you can only change the incoming calls ringtone; the messaging alerts and almost any other types of alerts are fixed. You can’t even use your own ringtones; you must select from what Apple gives you by default – most of which are pretty quiet even at maximum volume.
The iPhone home screen contents are pretty much all you need to access all the features the handset is loaded with. All the icons lead to particular functions, and you can return to the home screen (actually called springboard) by pressing the Home button. The four icons in the bottom of the screen represent the iPhone main functionalities (as Apple see it): phone, mail, web browser, and music and video.
The OS doesn’t have a Task Manager for managing the currently running programs. Returning to the Home screen in the middle of something doesn’t “quit” or “close” the current application. Instead, it continues running and doing its job until you return to it later.