iPhone Review (and a Christmas Song)

I’ve had the iPhone 4, hereafter known as Shinynewphone, for a few months now.  I figured it was time to describe the pros and cons of the new toy.  Overall, I’m quite happy.  Details beneath the cut, along with a sample photo and a video of my son singing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

Phone: Ironically, this is the function I use the least.  I’m 1/3 through the current billing cycle, and I’ve used a total of 8 minutes of call time.  As a phone, it works okay.  The quality is only so-so, and the phone is a little oversensitive when it comes to dialing.  I must have accidentally dialed at least a dozen people when editing contact info.  I’ve never once used the Facetime function.  As a phone, I’d give it 5/10.

Camera: The camera, on the other hand, I use a lot.  It’s not quite as good as a “real” digital camera, but it’s reasonably close.  Outdoor pics work better than indoor.  The phone does have an LED flash, which isn’t great, but it’s better than nothing.  Here’s a shot I took of my daughter Clara.  Click for the full-size, unaltered photo.

Digital zoom is relatively worthless, and the built-in HDR function is pretty weak.  But overall, it’s still a nice camera.  Shutter speed and responsiveness are actually better than our digital camera, and I love the convenience of having it with me.  Compared to a regular camera, I’d give it 7/10.  As a phone camera, it’s a 10/10.

Conventions: Shinynewphone has come to two cons with me, and it’s wonderful.  I can keep my e-mail under control, snap pics, update Twitter and Facebook with random observations about John Scalzi‘s beard, and program the calendar to remind me about signings and panels and such.  If I didn’t mess up the link, this should take you to my WFC album on Facebook.  It’s definitely a useful tool for conventioning.

Games: I don’t play a lot with video games, but Shinynewphone delights in tempting me.  I’ve downloaded a few free games like Sudoku, and I bought Lego Harry Potter a little while back.  I picked up Dragon’s Lair when it was on sale, too (purely for the nostalgia).  Harry Potter is the fanciest game I’ve got, and it’s pretty good.  The touch screen isn’t the best controller, but it works.  Not as good as a dedicated handheld gaming system, but I’d give it a 7/10.

Music:  I’ve got a bunch of music files loaded onto the phone, but Pandora has become my new best friend.  Streaming, customized radio … I love it!  I’ve been using stations based on Lord of the Rings and John Williams during my writing break.  I also set one up based on A Charlie Brown Christmas, and got some great instrumental Christmas tunes for the family.  I’ve got the 2 GB data plan, and I don’t use the radio every day, so this hasn’t come close to surpassing my data limit.  9/10 for music functionality.

Kids: Shinynewphone comes with an unexpected benefit–it’s wonderful for entertaining impatient five-year-olds.  At Windycon, when we were waiting at the restaurant, I clicked the YouTube app and entertained my son Jackson with Star Wars fanvids.  I’ve also used the camera and video camera to keep the kids distracted.  11/10 for parental sanity!

Video: I bought a video camera years ago.  Yeah, I wanted to be that Dad, the one that records everything.  Trouble is, a video camera is big and bulky, and if you don’t use it the battery wears down.  And this one used minitapes, which then had to be copied to the computer, and then burned to DVD.  Not fun.  So having a ready-to-go video camera in my pocket is wonderful, and the quality is pretty darn good.  Here’s a video of Jackson singing a Christmas carol.  (The ending is my favorite part.  That was all him.)  8/10.

Overall: Basically, I’ve got a computer/camera/iPod/Phone that fits in my pocket.  We didn’t have cellphones when I was a kid, so this totally presses my “The Future is Awesome!” button.  It’s a multifunction device, meaning none of those functions are quite as good as they would be in a sole-purpose device … but it does pretty darn well.  It’s absolutely a luxury, but it’s also a fun and useful tool.  I’m happy with it.