26 August 2013

Ever since I bought my wife a new iPhone 4s to replace her 4 (she takes a LOT of pictures, so the camera upgrade was worth it), I have, with one short break when it died, been using an iPhone 4 as my main phone. So I’ve logged about 18 months of usage with one by now, and I think I hate it.

Let me start with the everyday annoyances. Brightness control can only be done from the settings screen. I often turn the brightness all the way down because I do a lot of reading on it at night or in rooms without enough glare to make the screen unreadable. However when there IS enough glare, you can’t see the screen well enough to navigate the settings menus to fix it. I can do it by memory now, but it is still a pain in the ass. Why can’t there be a hardware shortcut like there is for taking screenshots, lock button + volume buttons to adjust brightness?

Then lets talk about pictures, I don’t use OSX or Windows (so no iTunes), so when I want to get some pictures off the phone and onto the UNIX server I host images from what do I have to do? Email myself the pictures one by one. The reason I do this is because while, as my friend Jon points out, you can send several pictures to an email account via iMessage, you can’t control the resizing it does. If you use the email application, you can BUT you can only send one image per email. This is horrible. When I had it jailbroken at least I could scp the pictures off.

How about that rotation lock? I do a lot of reading in bed, and neither mobile Safari or Chrome for iOS support a rotation lock. This means I have to keep the phone angled just right so it doesn’t decide to flip into landscape mode. I dislike mobile safari for various reasons, and I use Chrome almost exclusively (but I can’t make it the default browser without jailbreaking). Chrome isn’t perfect either, the UI experience is better, but something about it seems to screw up mobile browser detection (probably a strange UA). [Edit] Jared tells me there’s a global orientation lock in the ‘multitasking’ bar, and he’s right. I’d never used the stupid multitasking bar for anything but killing applications, so I’d never noticed it, but it does work. The only problem is that it is global, which is kind of ridiculous.

Now let’s talk about that charger. My wife and I have had 2 of the iPhone wall warts burn out on us. Like just one day they stop charging the phone. Also, the iPhone cables are pretty bad too, they use a weird nonstandard connector, the plug has no tactile indicator of which way is the ‘front’; there’s a little icon printed on one side, but it not embossed. This means that if you want to plug your phone in in the dark you’ll be unable to tell which way it needs to go in without fiddling around with it trying both ways until it fits. This cannot be good for the connector. Additionally, for purposes of ‘design’, Apple didn’t bother to put proper stress relief on the end of the cable where it goes into the phone plug, so if you use your phone while it is charging, you’ll put stress on the cable right where it meets the plug, and the cable will fray/short out right there. We’ve also gone through several iPhone cables to match our wall warts for this reason.

Then there’s the wifi. The other day I was in my backyard with two friends. I was complaining that my wifi didn’t reach into the back yard, they both pulled out their android phones and picked up my wifi AP no problem, while my iPhone couldn’t see it at all. Really the iPhone wifi seems flaky in general and likes to do awesome things like forget WEP keys (yes, I know WEP is a joke, but that is what was available where I was at the time).

I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea. The bundled software seems to have a sort of low grade mediocrity to it, it works but you sort of resent the limitations it imposes on you after a while. The App store is an unnavigable mess, I can never find anything I want. I use about 3 non-stock applications, all of which I found by reading about them or having people mention them to me, none of them via the app store. I could jailbreak it again, I’ve purposely not upgraded it, and maybe I will, but I just haven’t had the will to bother. The Cydia app store is also a mess, and beyond basic things like scp and scummvm and a SNES emulator, there wasn’t a lot that I ended up doing with it.

There are some bright spots, mostly in the hardware:

  • Battery life is reasonable, and it charges very quickly
  • The camera is good
  • It is fairly tough

I’m struggling to think of much more, though.

I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t really want to spend more money on a new phone, so I’ll probably keep rocking the iPhone 4 for a while, but I’m beginning to feel like I have Stockholm syndrome - held hostage to mediocrity and unwilling to break free. Basically I feel like my iPhone is the 2001 Chevy Cavalier (base model) of smartphones - servicable but it sort of robs you of the joy of driving some other cars provide.