Candid answers to all your iPhone questions…and then some

Read Part 1 of this story: The unvarnished facts about the iPhone

You’re obviously biased, or a fanboy, or both. What are other people saying about the other touch-screen phones? Ya think?

Anyway, here’s a review from the Chicago Tribune of two potential iPhone killers: the LG Vu and the Verizon XV6900. If you wish to skip the gory details, here’s a few quotes:

About the Vu, the Tribune ‘s Eric Benderoff said, “Unlike with the iPhone, I needed to press firmly, and I often hit the wrong keys because the letters are squished together. …More important, the haptics controls didn’t work well for the other functions that the iPhone has made simple: scrolling through the content on your phone or surfing the Web. For instance, you can’t use a finger swipe to move through pictures or, in what enthralls many iPhone owners, use two fingers to enlarge an image or Web page.”

About the XV6900, Benderoff said, “Navigating those Web pages was a pain: Do I use my finger or the stylus? Neither worked well. There is no magic here. The functional XV6900 would be impressive if this were still 2006.”

He concluded, “Perhaps the next few efforts at a touch-screen phone, including Sprint’s Instinct, will provide the fun and function Apple got right in its first effort. So far, if someone asked me to suggest a cool touch phone, there’s still only one worth buying.”

So, there may be a spate of new touch-screen phones, but none comes close yet to Apple’s.

My company uses Exchange for e-mail, calendars and contacts. My BlackBerry supports that, and I think iPhone should, too. The only way to retrieve Exchange e-mail is when certain IMAP functionality is turned on from the Exchange side; whether this function is supported varies from IT shop to IT shop.

Even if it is enabled, that doesn’t mean that e-mail notification would be instantaneous, as is true for BlackBerries. The iPhone pulls e-mail after a set period of time, either manually, or every 15, 30 or 60 minutes. The shorter the interval, the more the battery drain.

Apple has shown a version of iPhone software that will support native Exchange support, with full push-email, -calendar and -contact management. Full integration directly into the Exchange server, without an intermediary machine and accompanying server license and software, means fewer points of failure and increased savings in hardware costs and license fees.

These features are specifically meant to entice business users accustomed to partnering with RIM, but they aren’t the only thing Apple has coming. It also plans on implementing global address lists, Cisco IPsec VPN, certificates and identities, WPA2/802.1x support, enforced security policies, device configuration for enterprise customers and remote wipe. All of this will come standard with the next software update, due sometime in June.

I don’t like how Apple stops you from installing third-party applications. Fix it. I don’t have to. Apple’s next software update should take care of this. When Apple showcased the iPhone SDK , it also showed off third-party application developments as a sneak peak of what’s to come. It also introduced a new way to add software through its App Store that will be part of the next major update for the iPhone. That’s when the floodgates for third-party applications will be unleashed.

There is some information on my iPhone that isn’t syncing correctly, or maybe it’s corrupt. How do I fix this?

Sometimes your iPhone can act up. It’s an electronic device. Your best bet is to try holding down the power button on top until you are prompted with the virtual slider to shut down the phone. Once the iPhone is powered down, turn it back on. You’re basically rebooting it.

If problems persist, you may need to re-sync your data. To do so, plug in the iPhone to your computer using the USB cable and launch iTunes, if it’s not launched immediately. Select the iPhone in the iTunes sidebar and click on the Info tab. If you scroll down, there is an Advanced section that allows you to replace specific information during the next sync. The ability to reset data includes contact, calendar, mail accounts and bookmark information, and can easily be done by checking the appropriate data option and hitting the Sync or Apply button.
How slow is AT&T’s EDGE network?

For real-world usage, EDGE is fine for e-mail, stock updates, weather, Google maps and RSS sites. That said, it is sometimes bizarrely, frustratingly slow. The iPhone’s Safari browser on EDGE is too slow for an audience of impatient friends checking a Web site, but it’s tolerable if you’re surfing by yourself and not in a hurry.

Safari is best when using Wi-Fi, but your level of patience and EDGE strength will determine your enjoyment level. That’s why we’re all waiting for a 3G version. It’ll be noticeably faster.

Does iPhone support MMS? MMS is not supported on the iPhone. iPhone users can get notifications of MMS messages, but that consists of an SMS message telling you to access with the assigned username and password. Given the lack of copy and paste on the iPhone — more on that next — it’s actually pretty annoying. I’d bet anything that MMS functionality will be one of the first third-party applications released.

Does iPhone support copy and paste?

Nope. And there’s been no word on whether this feature will be implemented. It certainly wasn’t shown off by Apple during any iPhone demonstrations, but the fact that this is an often-requested feature means someone should be working on it.

Safari-based access to the Internet is great and all, but is there a faster way to find numbers and addresses without using Google’s search site or Yellow/

Your best bet for information such as phone numbers, addresses or directions is the iPhone’s Maps application. Let’s say you want to find a nearby gas station. Tap the Maps icon, then hit the Locate Me button on the lower left, and when the iPhone finds your location, tap the text field at the top of the screen. Type in what you’re seeking — in this case “gas.”

The search results appear as pinpoints on the map, and tapping any of the pinpoints reveals the name of the location plus a “more info” arrow. That arrow takes you to a screen that displays the location’s listed phone number, home page and address. You can even get directions from or to the location, save the results to your bookmarks or save the information in contacts for future reference.

In some locations, Maps also offers real-time traffic information, indicated by red, yellow or green overlays on the roads. It’s surprisingly handy when traveling.

How do I prolong my battery life?

By using the phone as a phone — or surfing with it over Wi-Fi — as little as possible. Also, tap the Settings button and go into the Wi-Fi preferences. Turn off “Ask to Join Networks.” Leaving this on means the iPhone is continuously scanning for new Wi-Fi hot spots.

While useful if you’re actually looking for wireless, it cuts into battery life. If you’ve logged into a Wi-Fi hot spot before, the iPhone will remember it the next time you’re in range and automatically connect you, as long as it doesn’t require Safari-based authentication. Changing the time between e-mail checks under the Mail settings can also help battery life. I’ve noticed real-world battery life increases just by changing Auto-Check from 15 minutes to 30.

Another way to make sure you’re iPhone lasts is by purchasing external power add-ons like this one . This could easily help alleviate battery issues if you’re away from a power source for a while.

How is typing on the keyboard?

Here’s the thing about the iPhone’s software keyboard. Once you become accustomed to the way it works, it’s difficult to go back to tactile keys. (Wait, do I hear the BlackBerry fanboys howling?) First, you must get used to the touch screen. While the iPhone does its best to ignore unintentional touches, there is a bit of a learning curve concerning the actual handling of touch screens.

With button-based phones, if another finger or part of the hand rested on the phone’s surface, nothing would happen. On the iPhone, sometimes grazing the screen with a part of your hand may be enough to launch an app, so it’s best to hold the iPhone with one hand and use the other to type. The more deliberate the touch or gesture, the better the response from the screen.

Deliberate doesn’t necessarily mean hard or excessive or slow. It just means deliberate. Since the iPhone is trying to determine whether the touches are intentional, a firm touch is best. Within days you’ll pick up speed.

The iPhone’s keyboard has a bunch of tricks it uses to stay on top of your text entry. If you press down on the keyboard and find that you’ve landed on the wrong letter, don’t lift your finger. Just slide it to the letter you want. Once that letter is selected, lift your finger.

With each successive letter, the iPhone narrows its guesses at the word you’re trying to spell, and even assists by invisibly shifting the tappable area of each letter. The next most likely letter gets the bigger tappable area, dynamically. In concert with that, the iPhone analyzes key presses and figures out what you’re trying to write, even if you never actually hit a single letter accurately!

For instance, I just typed the well-known pangram, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” into my phone as fast as I could, using two thumbs while I timed myself. In less than 10 seconds — 9.7 to be exact — I had that exact phrase typed out, even though what I actually typed was jibberish.

As part of its predictive texting, the iPhone offers suggestions based on its calculations of your button presses, and it makes that the default the moment you press the space key. Once you realize you don’t have to be accurate with your touch strokes and learn to trust the keyboard, typing becomes a breeze.

Who will win out: the BlackBerry or iPhone? The market is big enough for both. While the BlackBerry has had a place in IT shops for a long time, the iPhone puts the fun in functional, and it’s about to get a serious productivity boost with the upcoming software update.

Once the iPhone is updated, it will be able to do a lot more BlackBerry stuff than the BlackBerry can do iPhone stuff. RIM’s response is the Bold and a newer touch-screen model, which implies Apple chose wisely when it skipped physical buttons for a touch screen.

With direct syncing eliminating the need for extra hardware and software, and with the iPhone’s continued popularity, I’d be a little worried if I were RIM.

Michael DeAgonia is a computer consultant and technologist who has been using Macintoshes and working on them professionally since 1993. His tech-support background includes tenures at Computerworld, colleges, the biopharmaceutical industry, the graphics industry and Apple. Currently, he is working as a Macintosh administrator at a large media company.

Read Part 1 of this story: The unvarnished facts about the iPhone

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