Tuesday, October 4, 2011

First impressions of the iPhone 4S

I just finished watching the keynote video for the iPhone 4S. I have to say I am impressed. I am really excited about the release of the new iPhone, but I think I'm more excited about the release of iOS 5.  In my household there are two iPhones and an iPad, so the release of a new operating system is more exciting to me than a new device.
The release of Siri could turn out to be revolutionary or it could flop. There have been other voice recognition technologies, however none have used real English language commands. For example, Windows 7 and Vista both include voice recognition technology, but in order to use that you have to stick to a pre-defined list of commands.  The fact that Apple's new device allows you to speak to it in normal words could mean success where others have failed.
iOS is set to release next Wednesday, so, I'll give a full review of the new features when I get it installed.

In the mean time, I've promised a review of the Boxwave clip-on keyboard for my iPhone.
All in all, it's what I expected.  I hoped for a physical keyboard.  Here are the pros:


  • It was incredibly easy to setup.  I have used Bluetooth before, so I was familiar with the general pairing process.  It wasn't any different from any other Bluetooth device I had ever used.  
  • It's Bluetooth, so it doesn't require any cables and it doesn't occupy my sync port.
  • It is a physical keyboard, so typing on it has been an improved experience over the virtual screen keyboard because of the added real estate and because of the tactile nature of a physical keyboard.
  • It has a 'show/hide keyboard' button that allows me to show or hide the virtual keyboard just in case I ever want to go back temporarily.  I've actually had occasion where using the virtual keyboard was better (I'll explain in the cons).
  • It has arrow keys!  I can use the arrow keys to move the cursor around.  This is especially helpful when i'm editing text that I've typed incorrectly.  I can go back to the mistake without having to erase everything after the mistake and do it again.  The arrow keys also allow for 'home' and 'end' functions, especially helpful when typing.
  • Charging - while the keyboard is charging, there's a light.  When it's done charging, all the lights go off.  This is disconcerting because I came back after an hour of charging it the first time and I thought the charger had become unplugged and it hadn't been charging.  I discovered that about 20 seconds after unplugging it and plugging it back in, the charge light went out, hopefully indicating a full charge.  After a few charge cycles, this is indeed the behavior.  It was not documented anyway.  Boxwave, put a green light on there that lights up when it's fully charged.
  • They keyboard is not lit - the keys on the keyboard are not lit up which means that when it's dark, I can't use the keyboard.  I fumble around for the 'show/hide keyboard' button (or just power off the keyboard) to force the virtual keyboard to come up and I can use it like normal.  So basically, when it's dark, the keyboard is dead weight.
  • The apostrophe requires a function key to be pressed.  This is annoying since there are other keys, like the equals sign, that don't require a function key.  The apostrophe is going to be much more utilized than the equals sign.
  • Function/Shift keys - the keyboard has a plethora of function keys to allow numerals and additional characters, which is great.  However, when typing in a long string of numbers or special characters (think :-)), I can't just hold down the function key.  I can either press and depress the function key between each character (frustrating) or I can double tap the function key to go into function lock (double tap again to undo function lock).  While both of those options are great, I'd also like the ability to just hold down the function key and put in all the special characters I want.  Same goes for the shift key.  That way, it acts more like the keyboards I've been using for the last 30 years.
  • Autocorrect - now that I'm using an external keyboard, iOS' internal auto correct feature doesn't always work.  For example, if I type 'i', it doesn't get corrected to 'I', nor dont to don't.  Nor does it automatically capitalize the first word in new sentences.
That's pretty much it for now.  If I come across any other glaring problems, I'll post them.