Why I Love my iPhone 3Gs, and Why I'm Returning It

Last week I got an iPhone 3Gs. It took a little getting used to, but as time went on, I liked it more and more. I rarely had a chance to use it as a phone, but I used it regularly in my office on WiFi to get email and surf the web. Today was the first real test I had to use it on the road, on AT&T’s network. Today is also the day I decided to return my iPhone to the AT&T store where I got it.
The soft keyboard took some getting used to, but as I used it more, it got easier. By this afternoon, I was typing complete sentences with hardly any mistakes, and the auto-correct feature was very accurate at fixing my typos.
The Compass application rocks. It looks and acts just like a real compass. It was very useful in conjunction with the GPS, as I could immediately tell which direction to start walking or driving in without having to pick a direction, move in it, figure out I went the wrong way, and turn around in the right direction. Google Maps and GMail also are superior to their equivalents on my Nokia e71, although I noticed no significant improvements or differences in Google Reader.
In general, most of the apps I used on the iPhone were superior to those I used on Symbian phones, mostly in polish and “bling,” but the basic functionality in calendar, contacts, chat, mail, and web browser were the same.
Mail (now that it decided to start working) works well. However it didn’t work for the first day. No explanation there. I definitely like the Mail application, with a couple of catches. The first catch is that scrolling through long messages takes a long time. If there’s a way to jump all the way to the bottom of a message, I haven’t found it, and I have to “fan” the screen (think of an old west gunslinger fanning the trigger of his sidearm). Unfortunately, on a backup log or large logwatch report, this can take a while.
The other catch is synchronization with Exchange, or lack thereof. I was unable to get Exchange sync to work. A friend has advised me to try syncing with Google via their Exchange sync to see if it works at all. I did not have a chance to try that. I was told by AT&T that I needed to purchase the “Exchange plan” which costs more than the standard $30/mo data plan. I was told by a friend that this was baloney, as he uses the Exchange sync and pays nothing extra. Regardless, it did not work for me.
The iPhone 3Gs is incompatible with my existing docks and other devices. This means it will not charge in my Bose Sounddock, my Logitech knock-off of the same, or my Harmon-Kardon Drive+Play car interface. The iPhone plays music through these just fine, but won’t charge on them. Normally I would not expect this to be a problem but…
The iPhone 3Gs battery life is terrible. A little Googling revealed that I am not the only one with iPhone 3Gs battery life issues or issues with the units overheating. Mine did both, and I suspect they are related. Using the unit in my office, strictly on WiFi to surf the web and get email, the battery was down to 50% after 3-4 hours of use. Today, out “in the field,” and operating on AT&T’s network, mostly with the alleged battery-intensive 3G service turned off, after only two hours of surfing, mailing, and instant-messaging, the battery hit 50%. A few short phone calls later (totalling not more than 10 minutes) and the battery was down to 25%. I turned off the phone to conserve the rest of the battery, but needed some GPS functionality in the afternoon. By 2pm, after about another 30 minutes of use, the battery was dead. There is no way that this thing will be able to sustain “up to 5 hours of talk time.” Not even close.
Will many other people having these same issues prompt a recall? I hope so. But I don’t plan to wait. Frankly, I can’t afford to. As with all iPhones, this thing was not cheap. I paid over $300 out of pocket for the top of the line 32G model, and then committed to a two-year contract to the tune of $80/mo. According to my AT&T sales rep, I have 30 days to cancel the contract and return the unit. For now, that’s what I intend to do, lest I be stuck with a slick, sexy paperweight.
For now, I’m going to continue to use my Nokia e71 until I can either get a different iPhone, or maybe some other smartphone. To all my open-source fans who suggest something running Android, or a T-Mobile phone, they don’t offer coverage here, so it’s not an option. And Verizon is still the devil.

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