Wednesday, December 14, 2011

iPhone 4S Impressions

As you all know I made the leap from Android to the iPhone recently. It was a bit of a shock as I was a long time advocate of the Blackberry until Android came on the scene which prompted a change in allegiance and a two year love affair with HTC brand devices and 4G network data speeds.

After several weeks of daily use I have a few observations about the iPhone, none of which will surprise you very much.

If you recall, there were two main reasons for making the change. One was to explore Siri, the much touted virtual assistant who will learn and attend to your every need. The other was to explore the integration with current models of BMW automobiles.

Siri has turned out to be a fun and occasionally useful feature. Sending a text to my wife and finding the nearest Satrbucks location are the two most frequent practical tasks Siri handles for me. Almost every other request has been a demonstration of how Siri works, some of which have been a bust yielding bad or no results. Frequently we are out of network service either because of location or capacity issues on the server side. Moreover, I find Siri cannot handle complex questions and often presents the results in the form of a web search. Clearly Watson has nothing to fear.

The experience with integration to my 328i is another story. This is a truly simple and seamless connection which enables you to perform all kinds of functions on the iPhone using the iDrive control (that fat joystick on the center console which has three motions; tilt, rotate and depress.)

Of course through blue tooth you have complete control over the phone. Moreover, the address book automatically and dynamically synchronizes to the directory in the car. You can choose to use the music library on you iPhone as a source, selecting by song, album and so on.

With the special software feature called BMW Apps, you can also call up your calendar, Facebook and Twitter -- while parked, of course. You can even have Facebook posts or Tweets read out loud to you.  A selection of predefined Tweets are available to be sent out. BMW Connect also enables you to tune in Internet radio stations from iDrive offering even more audio entertainment sources for the vehicle.

When disconnected the application retains certain information such as fuel, range and distance traveled. Last mile is an extension of the guidance system which allows you to find your ultimate destination on foot after leaving the car. It will also guide you back to the car.

The only complaint I have about BMW Connect is the need to manually start it after plugging the phone into the car. It's not clear to me why the iPhone cannot be made to recognize this connection and engage the application  automatically. Moreover, once engaged, the application owns the iPhone and precludes the execution of other applications without first disengaging. Again, one should not be playing Words with Friends while driving (or boarding a plane) so this point may be moot.

The iPhone has delivered a few other pleasant surprises. It actually handles multiple sources of email and calendar entries better than Android did. While Android clearly integrated extremely well with all of the Google applications, it did not do as good a job handing Microsoft mail or other services I used. So far I have not found an application that I had before or wanted that is not available on the iPhone.

All my favorites including Tweetdeck, Foursquare and Google Plus are there and work well. The camera takes wonderful pictures and video. I can pay for my grande vanilla latte and we even have the ability with Facetime to make video calls to other iPhones.

Battery life, despite reports to the contrary, has not been a problem and performance on the 3G network has been fine. Screen real estate is limited but acceptable.

Having the same interface, applications and performance with WiFi connectivity on a device with a bigger screen would be great. Guess I better get on to testing this iPad thing next.

Captain Joe

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