‘Je­sus phone’

Or just a costly catch?

Finweek English Edition - - Communication & Technology - Bene­dict Kely

PEO­PLE HAVE CALLED the iPhone the “Je­sus phone” – with an ap­pro­pri­ate amount of sar­casm. That came about be­cause Ap­ple fa­nat­ics in the United States and else­where were treat­ing the launch of the iPhone as if it were the sec­ond com­ing of the Mes­siah. Af­ter a year and a few months South Africans can fi­nally buy the much-hyped de­vice. But does it merit the hype and is it worth a visit to your lo­cal store?

The ba­sic premise of the iPhone is that it’s the eas­i­est phone to use. At its cur­rent level it does ful­fil all its prom­ises. Mak­ing a call and send­ing SMSs are eas­ier than on any other phone I’ve ever used. Its touch screen is easy to use and even typ­ing on the on­screen key­board is quick and ac­cu­rate – once you get used to it.

If I had to choose one fea­ture that makes it stand out in day-to-day use it would be the way it han­dles SMSs. In­stead of sim­ply or­der­ing them chrono­log­i­cally the iPhone lists them by the per­son they were sent from (or to). Once you tap the name of the per­son ev­ery SMS they’ve sent you – or you have sent them – is listed in lit­tle bub­bles down the screen. That elim­i­nates the of­ten time-con­sum­ing task of fid­dling around in the sent items folder or try­ing to find that SMS that Joe sent to you three weeks ago. Ev­ery­thing is there in an easy to browse for­mat.

The iPhone’s email client and web browser are the best I’ve seen on any mo­bile de­vice, bar none. Set­ting up a Gmail ac­count is re­ally as sim­ple as typ­ing in your user name and pass­word and wait­ing for the mails to flow in.

Those are just some ex­am­ples of how the de­vel­op­ers at Ap­ple have taken a good hard look at what works and what doesn’t work on a phone and fixed a lot of the stuff that doesn’t work.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that in build­ing the eas­i­est phone to use, they also left out a whole lot of stuff. So you can’t send MMSs. If you want to send a photo to some­one you have to email it. The cam­era is only 2 megapix­els and has no flash, so its func­tion­al­ity is lim­ited. It also can’t shoot video. You can’t sync it to your com­puter via Blue­tooth. On the iPhone Blue­tooth is in­tended to con­nect a wireless head­set. Bat­tery life isn’t the great­est and if you’re plan­ning on us­ing it to send and re­ceive emails and surf the web, you should be pre­pared to recharge it ev­ery night. Those neg­a­tives are sim­ply things that can be worked around and from my (ad­mit­tedly bi­ased) opin­ion aren’t rea­sons to not buy an iPhone. Its sim­plic­ity and ease of use out­weigh any crit­i­cisms of the de­vice. How­ever, there is a down­side: price. I’m not go­ing to dwell on the ac­tual amount you’re ex­pected to pay – be­tween R1 799 and R3 299 (R6 389 or R7 569 if you’re pay­ing cash) de­pend­ing on the model of phone and the con­tract cho­sen. Save to say the real prob­lem with price is the amount of data that Vo­da­com is bundling with the con­tracts. With what’s of­fered in those coun­tries.

The prob­lem is that for those who ac­tu­ally want to use all its fea­tures that al­lo­ca­tion is sim­ply not enough. I’ve had an iPhone to as­sess for just over a week and will ad­mit to surf­ing the web quite a bit, not us­ing WiFi as much as I should and watch­ing a few YouTube videos and rout­ing my per­sonal mail ac­count through the de­vice. That means I’ve al­ready used 170MB of the 250MB al­lo­cated.

In my opin­ion I’ve been us­ing the de­vice for what it was in­tended. You don’t see ads on TV say­ing: “Get your email, surf the web, watch YouTube… just not too much”. So there’s a costly catch. On the one hand the iPhone is the ul­ti­mate mo­bile data de­vice de­signed to pro­vide on-the-go ac­cess to all your in­for­ma­tion. How­ever, by lim­it­ing the use to 250MB (af­ter which you pay R1,50/ MB) Vo­da­com is set­ting up its clients for a big bill each month-end.

There­fore I find it hard to whole­heart­edly rec­om­mend those pack­ages (even though the phone it­self is bril­liant). Rec­om­men­da­tion: Vo­da­com needs to dou­ble its

You don’t see ads on TV say­ing: “Get your email, surf the

web, watch YouTube… just not too much”.

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