It’s been a little while since I last posted – I thought it’d be more useful just to use the iPhone for a bit and see if features I thought were great turn out to be gimmicks that wear off.

The feature that’s faded most for me is the keyboard. While I still think it’s fairly good, I’ve found myself trying to avoid using it at times (e.g. phoning people instead of txting or emailing them). If I’ve got anything more than a few dozen words to write then I have to be in the mood otherwise I get a bit of a headache.

I’ve also avoided replying to emails except when urgent because a) I can’t find a way to stop the thing quoting the entire previous email in the reply, and b) there’s no way to mass delete chunks of text. Sure, if you hold down delete for a while it starts deleting in word-at-a-time mode, but that’s still infuriatingly slow if you’re trying to get rid of a couple of paragraphs. So I have to resort to top posting. Boo.

I did find the setting where you can ask for an “English (UK)” keyboard to be available, which is identical to the “English” one except it has a £ instead of a $ on the symbol keyboard layout to save you digging through further sub-keyboards. Except the default English US one must always be on, and you get a little icon on the keyboard to switch between US and UK keyboards. How stupid is that? How often is anyone going to want to swap between keyboard layouts? I’ve defaulted back to the US one alone, it saves some screen space and I hardly ever use a £ sign anyway.

However, just about everything else, far from fading, has if anything gotten better. I use email and web all the time now: especially the web. If a conversation ever gets to that point where someone says “ooh, who was that person who…”, or “was that in the 50s or 60s?…”, I can just whip it out and have an answer in seconds. The world holds no more mysteries: from the Korean war to Julian of Norwich, I finally feel like I’m starting to learn all those facts about the world, the previous haziness of my knowledge of which always made me feel like a bit of a dimwit when in the company of wiser elders. OK, I’m getting the knowledge because of an unlimited data tariff rather than through reading a myriad of interesting books, but slowly bits of world history start to knit together in my head.

So, the iPhone: a fantastic educational tool. And, of course, one that makes you look like a bit of a twat and which makes your wife really sensitive to the sound of the iPhone’s velcro case opening (“ohh, no, don’t look it up, oh for God’s sake… don’t you ever stop?”).

I think the reason why I’m such a prolific looker-upper on the iPhone is that Safari, with its speed, reliability, easy rotation and double-click zooming makes the web feel like an extension of my own hand. It’s brilliant. Even over GPRS or EDGE it feels relatively snappy: sometimes scrolling can take a second if it’s loading a big page, but overall Safari tries really, really hard to give you what you want as soon as possible, loading in all the other gubbins like images later. If there’s not enough CPU left to rotate the screen smoothly, it rotates jerkily but quickly: no forcing you to watch a deathly slow animation. Safari is without doubt the best feature of the iPhone by far.

Moving on…

The calendar still works very nicely – I can add events very quickly now. Only one thing bugs me: I wish there was an option for forthcoming events to appear on the “wallpaper” screen (the one that appears when you switch the iPhone on, before you swipe to unlock). I keep forgetting to check my calendar and nearly missing meetings. That’s the one thing I miss from the Windows Mobile “Today” screen.

The vast majority of YouTube links I’ve clicked on, either from web pages or emails, have been the modern H264 ones which the iPhone can play. As soon as it detects you’re heading for YouTube, the video app appears and plays the film. It’s really quite impressive watching full-screen video on such a tiny device, but with such a large, glossy screen.

What of my other niggles? I now know what orientation to hold the iPhone relative to an access point to get a decent wifi signal if there are walls in the way (horizontal, pointing towards the AP), and also how long to leave to finish doing its thing even after emails appear to have loaded, so timeouts and disconnections are less of an issue. The SMS character count is annoying but I’ve taken to phoning up O2 every few days (for free) to see how many minutes and texts are left in my account. They might get annoyed if everyone did it, so please do. Oh, and if you ask iTunes to “Sync whenever the iPhone is plugged in”, it won’t – you still have to press the Sync button. Maybe it’s because I’m not syncing music, just contacts and calendar, but still.

Annoyingly, 2 days before my InvisibleShield arrived, I got a big scratch down the back of the iPhone. No idea how. I’m not one to fuss too much about cosmetic damage but it had kept itself so pristine up until then that I felt a bit disappointed. I haven’t fitted the Shield yet, I hope it’s nice.

So in conclusion: I have absolutely no regrets about getting an iPhone. In fact, by this point, I probably wouldn’t be feeling too sore even if I’d paid for it myself, although I would be come April/May when Apple bring out the next version. That said, I’m hoping a lot of the flaws I’ve highlighted will be fixed in software that can be installed on this hardware version. Even now the iPhone’s pros far, far outweigh its cons: who knows how much better it will get.

Happy New Year!