Monday, June 29, 2009

iPhone Revisited

I just realized that I posted a “first thoughts” post on the iPhone post, but then I never posted about it again. What about my second thoughts?

First, and probably most importantly, it’s a lot more stable than my old phone was. That’s not saying much—the old one was terrible—but still; it’s nice to have a phone that works, and just keeps on working. Every once in a while, I do have to turn it off and on again, but it’s rare. (I think I’ve only turned it off maybe three or four times since I had it. That’s including the first time or two that I did it just for fun, when I first got it.)

One thing that annoys me more and more as time goes on, though, is the “auto-complete” feature they have when you’re typing. It’s just a bit too aggressive in when it decides to “auto-complete” what it thinks you’re trying to type. It works like this:

You start typing, with the virtual keyboard, and as you go, it tries to figure out if you really meant to type what you typed, or if you typed it by accident. For example, if you start typing “thr” it assumes that you probably meant to type “the” since the “r” is right next to the “e” (and “the” is a word whereas “thr” isn’t). This is all well and good, and most mobile devices have functionality somewhat like this. The difference, though—and it seems like such a small difference, but it turns out that it really is a big deal—is this: How do you tell the iPhone that you want to take its suggestion, instead of what you typed? On most devices, you’d probably hit Enter or specifically choose the word they’re suggesting, but on the iPhone, you hit the Space bar. So if you type “thr” and then hit Space, a funky little animation will pull out the “thr” and drop in a “the” and everyone’s happy. Except… what if you did mean to type “thr”? What if you’re working on a project called the Thermite Holding Reactor, and you keep using the acronym THR? Well, then what you have to do—every time you want to type that acronym—is type in THR, remember not to hit the Space, click a tiny little X to cancel the suggestion (see the screenshot below), and then hit Space to continue on. My problem is that I am a pretty fast typer, and it’s very hard to stop myself from hitting Space when I need to, so I’m constantly having to back up and re-type what I wanted to type.

There is one nice thing, though: if you type “thr” and hit Space, which replaces “thr” with “the”, and then backspace and type “thr” again, the next time you hit Space the iPhone won’t auto-correct that word again. It’s smart enough to realize that you just un-did what it had done, so it doesn’t do it again. Of course, the next time you want to use the “thr” acronym somewhere else, it will. There are some specific examples that have been bugging me:

  • I have been working on a project called BARRT, and every time I type BARRT—for example, if there’s a BARRT-related meeting that I want to put into my calendar—my iPhone keeps correcting it to “BARRY”.
  • Every time I try and use the word “wont”—which I am wont to do, from time to time—it changes it to “won’t”
  • Any time I type “txt” (yes, I’ve started to use some of these short forms when text messaging), it changes it to the all uppercase “TXT”
So the reason I started to type this post in the first place is that they’ve released updated software for the phone’s operating system, and it has some great new features. Well… when I say “great,” some of these features should have been there in the first place. I haven’t installed the update yet, but I’m looking forward to the following, at the very least:
  • You can now copy and paste. This should probably have been there in the first place, although I’m amazed how well I’ve been able to get on without it.
  • Notes can now sync with Outlook. I was surprised this wasn’t there for the first release, either.
  • You can now do voice memos. Before the iPhone, I’d never had a PDA that couldn’t do this—although, to be fair, the iPhone never marketed itself as a PDA, so I guess you can’t fault them for not having some PDA features. (I guess that would apply to syncing the notes, too.)
  • You can now send pictures over SMS. (It’s actually called MMS, when it contains more than just text.) I was shocked when the iPhone couldn’t do that; every camera phone does that these days. Not that I have much use for it, but still… how could they not include that feature? Anyway, I already ranted about this in my “first thoughts” post; the point is, with the upgraded operating system, you can.
  • Calendar can now connect to web-based CalDAV calendars, like Google Calendar and Yahoo! Calendar.
That last one is the one I plan to play with the most. I find that it’s a bit of a hassle to keep syncing my iPhone to Outlook every night, so I simply don’t—which means that I have to enter all of my appointments by hand, usually twice (once in Outlook and once on the phone), so I sometimes get lazy and miss typing some into the phone. Maybe I’ll find it easier to update a web-based calendar like Yahoo! or Google, which I can do throughout the day, and then sync to that? (Especially if I can get Outlook automatically syncing to one of those services.) I plan on spending some time trying to figure out the best way to keep both instances of Outlook (work and home), my iPhone, and my calendar(s) all in sync. (I’ll probably also start using both Google Calendar and Yahoo! calendar—I don’t currently use either—and see which one works better.)

Which will be great practice for the Pre, which I’m still looking forward to.

Wow, this was a long post, wasn’t it? It must have been all pent-up inside me, since I so rarely post these days…