Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The iPhone Experience: From Ad to App Store

I'm getting more requests for iPhone application development, so it's time to get up-to-speed!

I've played around with the SDK, but haven't really done much besides build the demo apps and read some of the documentation.

So I ordered some books (yes, dead-tree edition) and purchased a 3G iPhone.

Let's examine the entire iPhone experience:

The Ads
The iPhone experience really begins with the ads. They show ("show me, don't tell me") why the product is cool. They demonstrate how to use it. When someone picks up an iPhone, they've already been trained, you don't need to explain how it works.

The Web Site
Once you've decided to make the purchase you can go to the web site: https://buyiphone.apple.com/.
There you can pick your phone and service plan. I took plenty of time to compare plans against my current phone use and was able to select a cost-effective plan that will actually lower my monthly communications bill.
You also fill in all the paperwork needed online and the credit check is performed right there.
Finally, you select when you want to pick up your phone and at which store.

The Store
Next stop, once you've done the paperwork online, is the Apple Store.
I went on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The second largest mall in Minnesota was a ghost town. Apparently, most shoppers were waiting for Black Friday specials.
Well, most of the mall anyway... There was a steady stream of people heading for the Apple Store. This particular Apple Store is very small, yet there was at least a dozen people working the floor. Someone greeted me within a minute of my walking in, and within 8 minutes I had my shiny new iPhone and had transferred my phone number from my existing cell phone company.

The Apple sales staff carry portable computers they use to ring up sales, acquire needed signatures and the like. My sales person used one of the laptops on the floor to perform the initial iPhone setup. The process was quick and painless since all the paperwork had already been filled out on the web site.

The Phone
As we've come to expect from Apple products, the fit-and-finish on the iPhone is spectacular. The phone feels solid in the hand. The buttons are solid with a positive action. The interface is crisp. The screen is sharp and crystal-clear.
The package includes a slick little tool for extracting the SIM card.
The charger is tiny and solid. Heck the BOX is built beautifully!

If you plan to use all the features of the iPhone, you'll be using iTunes to manage the content on the phone.
There's a reason the iPod is the most popular Digital Media Player out there: iTunes is easy to use!

In addition to buying music and ringtones, renting movies, buying TV shows, and subscribing to podcasts, you can access the App Store from iTunes to easily browse available programs and install them with a couple clicks.

The Network
I will admit, I had a bit of trepidation about the AT&T network. I've many stories of spotty coverage. So far, I've had terrific luck. I have fewer "bars" in many locations than with my previous phone and network, but I've yet to have a problem making or receiving a call.
The Edge network appears to work pretty much everywhere. I traveled with some family members to Rochester, MN, and we had internet connectivity during the entire drive down from the Twin Cities.
I was stunned to find that I had 3G connectivity at my Dad's place out in the country. He has dial-up internet out there, but I had a nice high-speed connection in my pocket.

The App Store
It's hard to explain just how well Apple implemented the App Store.
From iTunes or directly from the phone, you can browse, rate, download and purchase applications that become active immediately on the phone.
Within 3 minutes of opening the box, I was installing new applications.

The variety of applications is astounding for such a new platform.
One of my favorite computer games of all time is the "Same Game." "Collapse" is a more recent rendition of that game. "Collapse Chaos" for iPhone is probably the best implementation of the game I've ever seen.

I purchased another "smart" phone earlier this year and the quality of the experience was inferior at every step.
Heck, when I went to activate a new feature, I wanted to review the terms and conditions first - accessing that page (at the phone company's web site) crashed the built-in browser.

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