Saturday, September 13, 2008

We've got the iPhone

Recently I converted to iPhone.
For a while I wasn't sure I wanted to go with it. Then one day I found out more about the 922SH, also known as "Internet Machine" and went to a SoftBank store (contract and phone provider) to get one. But once I saw it physically I lost interest and started checking the iPhone instead.
Many from abroad think that Japanese phones are so advanced.. but to me they are more like items from the Fetish section on Wired magazine 8)
Sure they introduce a lot of variety and cuteness, some odd functionalities, but other than that I don't see much advances, other than cell phones being pervasive, etc etc.
Some mention the digital wallet feature, but honestly I don't see too many people using it. It's more likely that one will use the Suica or Pasmo cards, as one already uses them for public transportation. Plus there are a few other alternatives like the WAON card. All pretty diffused in Tokyo, but mostly for small purchases like at the convenience store or McDonald's.
I tend to mostly use cash still, but it's a pain to deal with coins.. maybe I should get used to those cards.

Back to the iPhone.. my reason to buy it was that I already had an iPod Touch which is great for listening music and watching some videos. But not terribly useful as a web browser without Wi-Fi coverage (Wi-Fi is everywhere in the city, but 99.9% of the spots are password-locked 8( )
With the iPhone instead I can web browse from anywhere I have signal (not the best, but good enough to browse form the office's bathroom ;)
I also wanted to use it for PDF reading.. but so far I haven't done much about it.
Note that one can only browse PDF files via web browser and only online !! ..or from read/cached email or cached web page (meaning that the browser tab is left open).

In this period I'm very busy developing and have no time to read research papers. So, I went for a full book. I tried downloading The Road to Reality (the biggest of my unfinished books !). I downloaded it "illegally" (wooooo !! Thiefff !!!!! Terroristttt !!!), but I already paid for the paper book and I need the PDF damnit !!
The PDF is 14MB and the iPhone's web browser has a very hard time not "returning to the dashboard" (read: crash).
So, I split the book in chunks of 1.5MB (also to load the needed section without waiting for the full 14MB) and it seems more doable, but then I didn't really follow... because in the end the real winning point of the iPhone is that it allows to browse web sites in a more human way when compared to the other cellphones.

The biggest flaw however is a pretty serious one: Japanese input !!
The Japanese input by keyboard system on electronic devices always allows for kanji character selection from an internal database. Cellphones expand this by adding common suggestions based on recently typed or predicted words or words that make sense depending on a context. A system that works flawlessly even on the cheapest Japanese cellphones but that bogs down the iPhone !!
Typing Japanese can be a real chore. Sometimes it's fine, but most other times the GUI gets stuck "thinking" for 1-2 seconds at every input.
This is really facked up.. and Apple has no hope in hell to get any satisfied Japanese customer until it fixes this (I'm assuming it's a common problem as it's all software driven and I have installed no extra apps).
Another major problem is that the email app doesn't support Japanese emoticons (or emoji).. which are really a big deal in Japan. Emoji sets used to divide people between cell companies with many willing to stick to their provider in other to be able to exchange icons to some specific people (read chicks).
Luckily nowadays every Japanese phone supports the same sets of icons and even GMail has a limited support for emojis. But Apple Japan ignores that ? ummmm !!!

In conclusion, I'm still fairly happy with the iPhone, but I can't possibly continue to take minutes at the time just to briefly answer an email.
Also notice that Japan's texting is email-based, though one can to some extend SMS. iPhone has a quick access to SMSs, but accessing email is not as smooth.

Get busy, Apple Japan !!!