iPhone Wishlist – Form Input

Added to my list of iPhone annoyances that I hope are someday fixed:

When entering text into a form input, the first letter defaults to uppercase. This is fine for textboxes and most other inputs, but it is annoying for username/password inputs because more often than not these fields are case-sensitive. Perhaps the iPhone could be more intelligent with the auto-caps by disabling it when you’re on a text input named “username” or “login.”

iPhone / Gmail / Google Calendar wishlist.

I’ve had my iPhone for about a year now, and while I love it and the fact that it has made me more productive, it is still not perfect. There are still a few things which give me a headache, so I thought I’d compile a wishlist here for no reason other than my own sanity.

To start off, here is the context under which I have compiled this list:

  • Running Windows XP
  • Using Gmail’s hosted mail for my domain
  • Using Google Calendar for all of my events and time tracking
  • Using iPhone 3G, firmware v2.2.1
  • Using iTunes v8.0.2 to manage and sync my data

My main goal is to have all contacts & calendars sync seamlessly between all of my devices: my desktop workstation, my iPhone, and my online Gmail/Google Calendar accounts. To break it down, starting with contacts:

When I first got my iPhone, I synched my contacts with Outlook. This is annoying to me because I hate Outlook. It’s also an unneccesary step because I don’t use Outlook for my email, I use Gmail. So while I had a decent backup of my iPhone contacts on my desktop machine, this didn’t help at all with my daily Gmail usage. In order to keep things in sync I would have to manually export from Outlook to CSV, then import into Gmail. Who wants to manually export/import contacts all the time? I do so much emailing that my contacts change at least weekly, if not daily. Undoubtedly I’d give up on a regular manual sync, causing my contacts to became a clusterfuck of chaos.

Then to my surprise, I noticed that iTunes has an option to sync with Google Contacts. “Yay, my prayers have been answered! I can finally ditch the middleman (Outlook) and my life is complete!” Or so I thought. The problem is that it syncs all of your contacts, even Gmail’s “Suggested Contacts,” which I never use. The sync worked flawlessly, with the unfortunate side effect of filling my iPhone with hundreds of random email addresses, most of which I don’t know who they belong to and I will ever need to contact again. So here is my wishlist to make my iPhone/Gmail experience perfect.

  • iTunes: Allow me to chose which contacts to sync from Gmail. A checkbox of groups would be ideal. If I could disable the syncing of the “Suggested Contacts” group, things would be perfect. Or…
  • Gmail: Allow me to disable the “Suggested Contacts” feature. I don’t like it, don’t use it, and it messes up my iPhone sync. Just add a simple checkbox to settings that allows me to enable/disable Suggested Contacts. How hard is this to add?

First off let me say that I love Google Calendar. I use it to track everything from friend/family birthdays to my work hours as a freelance contractor. The problem here again is that I am reliant on Outlook as the middleman to sync all of my calendars between my Google Calendar and iPhone. I have installed the Google Calendar Sync app, and it works great between Google and Outlook. iTunes then syncs with Outlook so that I have events synced to my iPhone. The problem here is that Google Calendar Sync only syncs your main calendar. I have all birthdays in their own “Birthday” calendar in Google in order to keep them separate from personal/work events. So when I sync calendars, my iPhone doesn’t contain any birthdays because Google Calendar Sync only syncs my main calendar. It sure would be nice to have birthdays on my iPhone! I could move all of the birthdays back into my main calendar, but then they’d be intertwined with my work hour tracking and personal events, resulting in a big confusing mess. So here is what I need in order for this process to be perfect:

  • iTunes: Direct sync with Google Calendar so that I don’t need Outlook and Google Calendar Sync. Also, let me select which calendars to sync. Or…
  • Google Calendar Sync: Allow me to select which calendars to sync.

Overall, I wish that iTunes would sync directly with Gmail and Google Calendar, with the option to select which Contact Groups and Calendars to sync. That way I could ditch the middlemen (Outlook and Google Calendar Sync). I’m sure that these changes will come eventually, but I am throwing a digital temper tantrum here because I want these NOW NOW NOW! What is so frustrating is that these seem like trivial changes that could be made with minimal work. Google has provided APIs for Contacts and Calendars, so why doesn’t iTunes use them to their full potential? Probably because they want me to pay for MobileME. Also, why doesn’t Gmail give users control over their annoying and useless Suggested Contacts feature? Does Google know better than me? Reminds me a lot of that old dinosaur Microsoft. It drives me crazy that fixes which are so simple and obvious haven’t been implemented a full year and a half after the original iPhone was released.

If anyone has any suggestions to tackle the items I’ve listed above, I’m all ears. I know there are better syncing apps out there, but I don’t feel like paying $40 to accomplish something that I feel should be standard in today’s mobile world. Switch to Mac and use iCal? Sure, I’ll get around to that someday. MobileMe? I’ve thought about it, but would rather use a simple and free solution.

iPhone AIM App: How to switch accounts.

iPhone AIM AppThe newly released AIM client for the iPhone is pretty cool, but it still needs some improvements to be a killer app. One issue I’ve come across is how to switch between various accounts. There doesn’t seem to be a way to store multiple AIM logins and switch between them quickly. The only way this seems possible to is edit your login infomation. The hardest part was figuring out where to edit the settings. This is because your AIM settings are stored inthe iPhone’s Settings page rather than within the AIM app. So here is how to switch accounts using the iPhone AIM App:

  1. Click the “Home” button
  2. Tap the “Settings” icon
  3. Scroll down to the “AIM” section and tap it
  4. Edit the “Screenname” and “Password” to match the account you want to log in
  5. Tap “Settings” at the top to return to the Settings screen
  6. Click the “Home” button to return to your Home Screen
  7. Tap the “AIM” account to launch the app

That’s the only way I’ve found to switch accounts in the iPhone AIM App. Hopefully AIM will update their app to facilitate this process, and hopefully they will keep it within the AIM App. It seems silly to me that you have to quit the AIM App to edit your settings. It would be better if all AIM settings could be edited directly within the app.

Debunking the iPhone Total Cost of Ownership meme (again).

3G iPhoneWhen the 1st gen iPhone came out, I got annoyed at reviews proclaiming that it cost too much when you factor in the cost of the voice/data plan (see my previous post). I figured that with the release of the 3G iPhone (and its cost being cut in half) would stop the usage of this ridiculous argument, but I was wrong. It seems now even more people are complaining about to TCO of the iPhone over a 2-year plan. So here I am ranting again against the TCO argument, using similar examples in the hopes that people will consider them (highly doubtful):

Every negative review just loooooooooves to point out that despite the fact that the price has been slashed to $199/$299, it ends up costing the same (or more) when you factor in the AT&T voice & data plans over the span of the required 2-year contract. That is a valid point. The problem I have with using this point is this: since when did service and residual costs become a negative point against any product? Lets try a few examples:

How about that 32″ LCD HDTV you just spent $700 on? Great price! Those used to cost $1500 last year! But wait.. you forgot to include the two years of service from your cable/satellite company. After all, without that, your shiny new TV is basically useless. So lets do some math here, based on my cable bill from Cox Communications last month:

Cox Limited Basic $12.95
Cox Expanded Service $34.00
Cox Digital Cable Service $10.00
HBO $11.00
Cox Digital Video Recorder Service $9.95
Digital Receiver – DVR/HD $5.25
TOTAL $83.15/month

So on top of the $700 for the TV itself, we have an additional $83.15/month to make it useful, for a whopping total cost of $2,695.60 to purchase that new TV. And that’s not even including taxes/fees charged by Cox or the electricity to power the thing. So why don’t people mention this in TV reviews? I can see it now: “Yeah $700 is a good price, but after 2 years of running the thing, it actually costs $2,695.60!” Of course that is a valid point, but the problem is: no one ever makes it. So why make it against the iPhone?

Lets try another example, one that is all the more relevant in today’s world of inflated fuel prices: Cars. Nowadays people pay more attention to fuel costs, but when purchasing a car, do people actually do the math and calculate how much it will cost to operate a car over a 5-year lifespan? No. Do they include oil changes and maintenance estimates? No. The irony here is that on most sticker prices on car lots you will in fact see the fuel estimates to operate the car over X number of years. But most people don’t even consider residual costs when purchasing a car. So why should we consider them when purchasing an iPhone?

And now the most ridiculous example of them all: other phones. People are using the TCO argument against the iPhone as if all other phones don’t have the same issue. What can you get a RAZR for now, like $9.99? I remember when it cost more than an iPhone. Perspective, people! Lets see some intellectual honesty here and admit that it actually will cost you at least $968.79 ($9.99 + $39.99 * 24) for that $9.99 RAZR. Where’s the outrage there? All phones are subject to the same issue, so if you’re going to argue against the TCO of the iPhone, you’ve got to do the same for all other phones, including the iPhone “killers.”

It seems to me that the haters are grasping at illegitimate straws to make their anti-iPhone arguments. First they complain that it costs too much, then when the price is slashed in half they complain that it’s not actually cheaper. I am in no way stating that the iPhone is the perfect phone — far from it — but it is a damn fine piece of engineering (both hardware and software), and well worth the costs in my opinion. And that’s including the 2-year contract fee. So there.

The 4th Leg.

What happened to the 4th leg?

So today Apple unveiled iPhone 2.0. The whole Internets is abuzz about how much it sucks or how much it rules or how we wish technology could improve faster or how we hate it when it does. For some reason, my mind wasn’t really on iPhone 2.0 today. It was on something that went completely unmentioned on the Internets, but was subtly referenced to in the keynote today. I normally don’t write this kinda stuff on this blog, but it’s late, I’m tipsy, and I wanted to put my thoughts down on the record so that I could come back 10 years later and see how right or how wrong I was. I’ll laugh either way. So what is this mysterious item I’ve been thinking about all day?

The 4th leg.

The Jobs likes to talk about Apple’s 4 legs. He’s mentioned it a couple of times in prior keynotes – how Apple desires to have 4 legs. The Mac platform was 1 leg. You know, the hardware. Computers. Oh and the software that runs them – OSX. The 2nd leg is iTunes and the mighty iPod – generally speaking, Music. The 3rd leg is iPhone – headliner at WWDC today. In the past, The Steve called AppleTV the 4th leg. The coveted living room. Wars for control of your living room have been waged since the beginning of living rooms themselves. AppleTV was to be Apple’s front-line assault on your living room, but so far has been kept back as a “hobby,” in Jobs’ own words. Disrespectfully, today Jobs all but disowned the 4th leg – instead showing in his slideshow a 3-legged stool sans AppleTV.

So where did the 4th leg go? It hasn’t really gone anywhere. It’s been incubating as a “hobby” while the 3rd leg finishes getting sanded and polished, prior to its final coat of lacquer. I own an AppleTV and have a love/hate relationship with it. Its potential is the most frustrating thing. It has so much potential and would revolutionize entertainment if Apple would put as much into it as they have the iPod and iPhone.

My theory is that Apple is, in fact working on AppleTV, but in a roundabout way. All evidence points to an easy installation for the 4th leg when it is ready. Why? Because the majority of the work is being done by the prior 3 legs.

  1. Leg 1 – Mac Platform – Guess what all 4 legs of the chair run? OSX. Guess what’s coming in Snow Leopard (also announced today) sometime next year? A smaller OS. How did they do this? Apple engineers learned a lot from leg #3 (iPhone) by trying to cram OSX onto a computer that fits in your pocket. Who else benefits from these improvements to the OS? AppleTV.
  2. Leg 2 – iTunes/iPod – iTunes and its vast distribution network was built to support leg #2 (iPod). It is still being refined and improved, and guess who is in line to reap the benefits of a sleek, optimized, well performing distribution network? AppleTV.
  3. Leg 3 – iPhone – Not only did iPhone bring optimizations and improvements to Leg 1, it has also given cloud computing the shot that it needs to become a reality. Mobile life spawns too many headaches revolving around syncing data, losing devices containing all of your contacts, and incompatabilities between formats. In comes MobileMe (me.com) to save the day! But wait, there’s more! You know how annoying it is to type in a movie title with the little AppleTV clicker thing? Apple TV needs a keyboard, but nobody wants to tarnish the elegant design of the Little White Box. Why not use you iPhone’s touchpad typing abilities to control your AppleTV? While you’re at it, use your iPhone to set up your AppleTV to download the latest episode of Planet Mars from your desk at the office. So what do the past 2 years of development for the iPhone and neglecting of the AppleTV directly benefit? AppleTV.

AppleTV will neatly slide in as the 4th leg. All 4 legs will work seamlessly together, thanks to the newly launched MobileMe service. All of our data, and essentially our lives, will someday live in “the cloud,” the ever-present virtual storage space in the sky. The MP3 you purchase from iTunes will be saved into the cloud where it is automatically pushed out to your other devices – your work laptop, your home laptop, your home desktop, your phone, and yes, your AppleTV. All of your emails, your contacts, your calendars, photos, bookmarks, maps, and movies, will always be present on all of your devices at all times. No longer will your laptop/desktop/phone be storage devices for your data, they will merely be interfaces to it. And your iPhone will be the interface to the interfaces!

Nobody seems to be noticing the forest because they’re too focused on the trees. Nobody is noticing the chair because they’re too focused on the legs.

The worlds of separate computers, phones, music players, televisions, living rooms… hell, even life itself, will be merged into one, and Apple (and it’s soon-to-be-polished AppleTV) will be at the forefront of this revolution.

Buckle up.

iPhone haters: Quit calculating Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

One argument I see people using against the iPhone is the cost. Granted, $499-$599 is a bit pricey, but what really gets me angry is when people use the flawed argument that the total cost of owning an iPhone is “$2,600-$3,200” if you factor in the cost of the service contract. While that may be true, so what? Lets use some analogies:

  • That new car you bought wasn’t $20,000, it was $200,000. You forgot to factor in the cost of fuel and insurance over the life of the car!
  • That new computer you bought wasn’t $999, it was $10,000. You forgot to factor in the price of your ISP and electrical bills!
  • That new flat-screen TV you just bought wasn’t $1,200, it was $8,000. You forgot to factor in the price of your cable box and service over the next 2 years!
  • You really should stop drinking beer, it’ll cost you $5,000 over the next couple years!

See how ridiculous those arguments sound? Arguing that the iPhone will cost $3k is just as ridiculous. While the claim may be true, no one truly considers ancillary costs when making a purchase like this. It’s a disingenuous and dishonest argument used by people who are trying to find fault with this wonderful new device.

Not to mention the fact that no one is producing similar costs for rival phones in their arguments. I wonder what the TCO for a Crackberry is? I’d like to see that number compared to the iPhone’s. Maybe then we can start a decent dialogue about the iPhone vs. its rivals when it comes to cost.