Sunday, January 06, 2008

iPhone vs. Treo: This Time It's Personal

Ok, gadget fans. With the acquisition of the iPhone, and a few days to play with it, it's time to revisit the "What's Stopping Me From An iPhone" post from last year and see what, if anything, has changed. The rules remain the same: rank each of the day to day functions I use(d) my Treo 680 to do on a scale of 1-10 and compare the score with the iPhone. Got it? Great, then let's get ready to rumble!

Contacts. My biggest concerns were how the iPhone, with it's lack of search functions, would handle the over 8K contacts I have. Verdict: not a problem. The flick of the finger interface is complimented by an "Add to Favorites" that makes it easy to distill the most important contacts. The speed of finding a contact is roughly the same as using the Treo, as the unreal lag of the Treo in searching such a large contacts database was about the same. I would still prefer a real search, but the elegant browse interface makes it more than tolerable.
Old score: Palm: 10, iPhone: 2.
New score: Palm: 8, iPhone: 6.

Calendar. My old review said: "as a view only for my Outlook data, it'd do the job...but that's it." Uh, not sure why I thought that; you can easily edit and create appointments with a very cool analog dial interface. And Outlook synchronization with iTunes is actually flawless. The only feature I miss is a very minor one: the ability to have different colors on the appointments, depending on the category. However, the graphical display is so much better, it more than makes up for it.
Old score: Palm: 10, iPhone: 3.
New score: Palm: 10, iPhone: 10.

Tasks. Well, no change here: the feature does not exist on the iPhone. However, to be fair, I have used a total of 10 tasks in the intervening months since I wrote the last review. I'd say that this is kind of a dead feature for me, but I'd still like to have it.
Old score: Palm: 5, iPhone: 0.
New score: Palm: 2, iPhone: 0.

Podcast Player. If anything, I was way too generous to Pocket Tunes for the Treo. Since that review, it has repeatedly had a problem with skipping and freezing: nothing intolerable, but compared to iTunes and the iPod experience, I can't believe I suffered so long.
Old score: Palm: 7, iPhone: 10.
New score: Palm: 5, iPhone: 10.

Music Player. Uh, ditto.
Old score: Palm: 6, iPhone: 10.
New score: Palm: 5, iPhone: 10.

Movie Player. Wow, the iTunes interface and the big iPhone screen makes a pretty dramatic difference. And no audio sync issues. The biggest change? In the Treo, all applications have a 1 pixel white border around the screen, but in the iPhone, it's all one gorgeous glossy black surface, making it extremely easy to immerse in the video. Of course, not everyone feels the same, including noted director David Lynch: (note: he drops the f-bomb in this clip, so not all that SFW):

I, however, disagree entirely, and am absolutely floored by the capabilities here. The difference between the two is the different between YouTube and HD: yes, you can watch video through either, but what a difference. And the iTunes interface for video podcasts, etc. makes a whole world come alive. The only downside? No DiVX/Xvid support, so I have to reconvert the movies I have. That's aggravating.
Old score: Palm: 7, iPhone: 10.
New score: Palm: 6, iPhone: 10.

Calculator. No change here: still a wash.
Unchanged score: Palm: 5, iPhone: 5.

eWallet. Here's the biggest pain point so far of the iPhone. The Treo offers seamless, encrypted local data access for all of my passwords, etc. The iPhone offers a web-based sorta-solution, but, while security is perfectly fine, getting the data in there is a pain if you are not using SplashID. Plus, I need that info ASAP, not just when I have a web connection. This is the single biggest pain point, and will hopefully be solved with the new SDK in February. There is some hope on the horizon: Ilium, makers of eWallet, are doing a web-based version, but I still want it locally.
Old score: Palm: 9, iPhone: 1.
New score: Palm: 9, iPhone: 3.

Memos. Notes on the iPhone don't sync with the PC. What the heck? Annoying. I can still get all of my Outlook notes through Plaxo's iPhone optimized web interface, but that's just aggravating. However, aside from taking notes in meetings, I really only used Memos for blogging. With the iPhone keyboard, that could be a problem. Still, that interface is SO sexy...
Old score: Palm: 6, iPhone: 5.
New score: Palm: 7, iPhone: 5.

Games.. Yep, it's just that bad. As noted before, sure there are web based ones, but they are all pretty primitive and foolish. The iPhone supposedly runs OSX; you're telling me I can't play games? I've seen Jailbroken iPhones playing a full Nintendo emulator; this HAS to be addressed.
Old score: Palm: 7, iPhone: 0.
New score: Palm: 7, iPhone: 1.

Email. Ok, hang on, here. First, the iPhone keyboard is no tactile Treo, but it's definitely getting better. But the iPhone's email client is...OK. It has some notable lacks:
1) The fact that you can't multiple delete items at once is simply silly.
2) It tries to configure POP email accounts through SSL by default; that's not a usual setting for most POP accounts.
3) It does a good job with Google, but, while there is a default set up for Yahoo, they don't tell you you need a Yahoo Plus! account for it to work.
4) Um...I have yet to successfully configure it for my office. I hear tell from coworkers that there is a way, but the lack of configuration option detail in the iPhone makes me concerned.
5) You can't save emails. Strangely, the iPhone has an interface to file emails, but only to Sent, Trash, or Inbox: you can't add a folder? Well, you can if you use Yahoo or IMAP, but it seems there is only a way to create folders through a Mac or iTunes (haven't even verified if this is possible yet). Only way to save them is to keep them as unread.

Look, this is simply unacceptable. I'm expecting a LOT more here. This will be fine for me to browse email while on the road, but to use as a laptop replacement as I did with the Treo? No way.
Old score: Palm: 8, iPhone: 5.
New score: Palm: 8, iPhone: 4.

Bluetooth. Pairing my Jawbone was painless, unlike the kind of kludgy way the Palm does it. Surprisingly, I don't miss the Bluetooth headphones: the volume on them was definitely not loud enough in my downhill bike runs, and they are a little big. Plus, the A2DP solution I was using was repeatedly failing, making me very frustrated. And let's not talk about the fact that the Treo was simply losing the ability to send the audio anywhere, especially with a Bluetooth headset. The iPhone earbuds, by contrast, are light, loud, and comfortable. I still hate wires, but it's not noticeable.
Old score: Palm: 8, iPhone: 4.
New score: Palm: 6, iPhone: 6.

Camera. I'm pleasantly surprised by the quality here: far better than I expected. And the UI is slick. I would prefer a one-touch button like the Treo, but it's workable.
Old score: Palm: 5, iPhone: 7.
New score: Palm: 5, iPhone: 8.

eReader. Ok, I'll admit it: I will miss this one. However, with the video capabilities and iTunes sync, I think I can find other distractions. Still, I REALLY want an iPhone eReader. On the other hand, I have been reading books on the Treo less and less, and more using Google Reader to keep up with blogs, etc, so the overall impact is much lower. Finally, Amy has a Kindle on the way, and I'm sure it will make my eReader look like stone tablets.
Old score: Palm: 7, iPhone: 0.
New score: Palm: 2, iPhone: 0.

Google Maps. iPhone has the edge right now, with a slick UI, but the lead will be getting better with the new firmware update, which adds cell tower triangulation to Google Maps.
Old score: Palm: 5, iPhone: 7.
New score: Palm: 5, iPhone: 8.

GPS. Hoo boy, this is a tough one. I REALLY love the idea of convergence devices: one device to do it all. However, with the Tro and GPS, there were...issues.
1) If a call came in while using the GPS, the Treo forgot to talk to the GPS unit while I am on the call on my Bluetooth headset. As a result, it doesn't update the map...real helpful.
2) Listening to podcasts while the GPS was on was pushing the Treo to it's limit. Lots of skips and stutters.
3) Like the rest of the Treo, the TomTom software sometimes forgot how to handle audio, so the voice would just...stop. No way to get it back.
Having said all of that, I still REALLY love the convenience of it, but I always had to take a power cord and the GPS unit (about the size of a pack of cigarettes); I might as well take a separate GPS. Still, hope is on the horizon for GPS on the iPhone, soon.
Old score: Palm: 9, iPhone: 0.
New score: Palm: 6, iPhone: 0.

Travel Tracker. Haven't touched it since TripIt allows iCal feeds of your itinerary. Why? I added it to my Google Calendar, and Plaxo picked up the changes, and added to my Calendar. Voila.
Old score: Palm: 5, iPhone: 6.
New score: Palm: 1, iPhone: 6.

The Web. I called this one perfectly: while the minimalist approach of Blazer helps on the Treo, Safari is a FAR superior experience. I wish it supported Flash, and yes, I wouldn't mind some 3G action when I'm out in the Bay, but WiFi everywhere else more than makes up for it.
Unchanged score: Palm: 5, iPhone: 9.

The final tallies:
Old scores: Palm: 124, iPhone: 81.
New scores: Palm: 100, iPhone: 91.

The interesting part here is that parity is much closer, not so much for the iPhone being better than I previously estimated, but for the Treo getting so much worse since the last time I did this exercise. Again, these results are massively subjective, but the gist is that, with some email improvements and the ability to have applications locally on the phone, the iPhone blows away the Treo. Until then, it's a close call. Business users probably want to stick to the Treo for a month or two more until the SDK starts yielding good applications. If you don't care so much about Blackberry type of emailing, it's a no brainer.

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