I can’t even begin to imagine the complexity of rolling out something as big as the iPhone 3G/2.0. You have to coordinate retail, marketing, web services, support, manufacturing, shipping, and many of other business and tech units months in advance.
They all have to be ready by a a date determined by guesswork, pressure, and wishful thinking. Which means that you essentially have to make the call that the product is going to be done long before it actually is.
For the iPhone 1.0 launch, that bet paid off. The software for the phone felt solid. Everything just worked well. Fondling with the phone for the first time was intoxicating. It just tasted so incredibly Apple.
With the iPhone 2.0 launch, not so much. I’ve been using the phone every day for about a week now and it just isn’t up to the great expectations set by the first version. Everything feels so incredibly fragile. Here are just a few of the griefs I’ve felt:
- Annoying delays all over the place.
- Changing to the SMS view can take more than 10 seconds at times.
- Transitions between apps are being dropped entirely or cut short (the latter looks like a UI stutter).
- It some times requires 3 clicks on the fast-forward button in iTunes to get a response.
- The screen will freeze for 4-5 seconds not accepting any input, then replay ALL your feverous tapping when it finally returns.
- Some times the keyboard will not keep up with your input (and I’m not that fast of a typer).
- I’ve had applications crash numerous times.
- The entire phone has crashed twice.
- Restarting the phone kinda helps some of these problems, but not for long and it feels so dirty and Windows-like to do.
Now all of this could probably have been overlooked and forgiven if the payback from the new features was immense, but to me, it just isn’t. I have two screens of applications installed, but don’t really use them that much.
3rd party apps doesn’t make up for it
Twitterific is nice, but not much of a step up from just using the iPhone-optimized web version. I like WeatherBug too to get a doppler radar reading, but nothing a bookmark to weather.com didn’t do almost as well. I’ve installed but not actually used AIM, NetNewsWire, Yelp, Movies.app, Facebook, PayPal, NYTimes, Light, Sketches, and VNC yet.
It seems like the biggest new thing is the games. I’ve been playing some Tetris, some Super Monkey Ball, and a few others. And they’re really impressive! The graphics are great and controlling with the accelerometer often works better than you’d think.
3G is bliss and bastard all in one
The hardware features are also a nice improvement. The built-in GPS is fast and accurate. The 3G is a lot more mixed bag, though. When it works, it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s so much faster than Edge and really takes the experience that 2.0-like step up. The voice quality is also significantly up. But it’s just so incredibly unreliable.
Getting a 3G signal in central Chicago is like playing the corner on roulette. And when it drops back to edge, you lose all your chips of joy. I actually kinda like getting ultra fast just 20% of time and slowpoke speeds 80% of the time less than just being slow always.
As to double down on the insult, the battery life is absolutely terrible with 3G turned on. You’re absolutely required to recharge every day and it’s not unlikely that you’ll flame out in the middle of a day either with heavy use.
The cumulative effect of small problems is exponential
Combined, it’s a rather big disappointment. I’m surprised just how much impact the small griefs have when they add up to a lack of confidence in the system. It’s a great example of the cumulative effects of problems. They have an exponential damage on the experience.
And I haven’t even gone into much detail on how ridiculously bad the buying experience is compared to the first time around. Jason and I bought a EVDO card in a Sprint store the other day and we spent probably 30 minutes there. We joked about how lame that experience was. Buying the iPhone 3G took almost as long and felt almost as bad.
That’s not to say that the iPhone isn’t the best phone I’ve ever had. It is. By a wide margin. But the 2.0 launch itself has been a big disappointment and that’s too bad.
It feels a little like Apple got swept up in knocking down every single detraction point from 1.0 that they lost sight of what everyone loved about the first version. Yes, it got cheaper (not really), faster (some times), installable apps, and GPS, but it lost a bit of Apple soul in the process.