Friday, August 8, 2008

IPhone 3G and the App Store

So yes... I finally got my hands on the iPhone 3g. Thanks to the high demand and the incredulously ridiculous Apple iPhone activation process, it took me almost 20 days since the release to get my very own.

So I've been using it for a week and here are my initial thoughts
  1. Build quality is much better and sleekier than the original model. The back is plastic now, making it more glossy but also more smudgy.
  2. 3g reception and call quality is very good (despite complaints from many). Browsing is atleast 2x times faster.
  3. Speakerphone volume has drastically improved (finally)
  4. Flush 3.5mm headphones is nice to have. Now I can fit in some high quality earphones or headsets.
  5. Software update 2.0 ain't so good as the previous version - hangs frequently, quite buggy and even crashes now & then. Looks like the phone needs a clean boot every couple of days to keep away the crashes.
  6. GPS is still a big mystery. While this definitely ain't so good as the real GPS devices, it still remains to see if they can be leveraged for turn-by-turn directions. My initial tests had mixed results - indoors, no way it picks up signal and outdoors, sometimes it took too long (>1 min) and sometimes it snapped spot-on in just a few secs.
All besides, I think the real win for Apple is the App Store. Finally I get to have my own games and utilities. And a real way to tap into the iPhone's real computing capabilities. The initial set of apps have been mind-blowing - amazing simulation and intuitiveness - with a wide variety of apps to cater to all target audience.

So here's a list of my top 5 favs - some cater to my needs perfectly and some coz they are just too innovative.
  • Texas hold'em: well yeah - call me biased, towards Apple, towards poker - but this is my most favorite app so far. Very clean game-play, amazing graphics, two modes of play (landscape & portrait) and multiple poker tables make this game a real winner.
  • Shazam: this one is purely purely innovative. Takes a 10-15 sec sample of any song using the microphone and within seconds pull out the whole history of the song. What's more - one more click and you're redirected to the iTunes store. Better still - one more click and the song is already bought and downloaded on your iPhone - beat that!!
  • Box office: For a movie buff, this is a must-have. It takes advantage of the GPS coordinates to list theaters and movies near you, provides reviews from rottentomatoes and finally links to fandango to book your tickets.
  • Remote: turns your phone into a remote controlling the music collection on your laptop/apple tv.
  • City transit: when on the move in NYC and totally lost, this one is a savior. Shows the entire subway map and also the stations closest to you. Lots of scope for improvement but for now, good enough to be a favorite.
Finally, the more interesting part - what apps do I see missing and I really really wanna have
  • Expense calculator: If I ever gotto get my hands on the Apple iPhone SDK, this would be the first thing I would develop. Why? Coz this makes so much more sense on a mobile device than on a desktop/laptop - an app which can keep track of your daily expenses. Any time you spend on anything, pull your phone out and log it in. Categorize your expenses, generate monthly reports and see how they compare with previous months/years - pretty kewl.
  • Turn-by-turn voice navigation: Well, I can then lay my Garmin GPS to rest. The GPS on the iPhone is decent but there's no tool to leverage it to the best. It is known that companies like TomTom are already working on a turn-by-turn guidance software for the iPhone. So we'll see one pretty soon.
  • Zagat-to-go: Zagat is arguably the best site for reviews and comments when exploring for nice restaurants. It has a pretty slick and intuitive iPhone mobile site, but then a zagat app would always be a nice-to-have.
  • Video recording: The iPhone does not inherently support video recording but would love to see a third party app do that
  • An ultimate racing game: F1 racing or the popular motoracer/superbikes, which take advantage of the accelerometer would be very exciting
  • RPG games: my bet is that we'll see a whole lot of role playing games for iPhone in the near future. Would also make sense for the game manufacturers to come up with Lite editions, like AOE lite or Diablo lite. The lack of physical keyboard and haptics support will be the only deterrent.
So exciting exciting times ahead. All I can say is - Bring it on....