Got an iPhone and hate how difficult it is to place Google Voice calls now that Apple has removed all the dialer apps from the App Store? Check out this "simple" howto:
This is a more thorough explanation of a previous post. In lieu of an GV app, I figured out a quick and easy way to dial your most frequent contacts using no more than 2 clicks. All we're doing is adding a bookmark to your iPhone home page that links to a contact's unique URL in your GV address book. Ready?
Load up the mobile GV site (https://www.google.com/voice/m). It works fine in Firefox -- it doesn't redirect to the non-mobile version like other Google sites.
Find your desired favorite in your contact list. Let's use "Mom" for our example. Each contact has its own unique URL - something like https://www.google.com/voice/m/contact/793238491687864. Copy this link to your clipboard.
Use your favorite photo editing software to find the perfect headshot of mom. Crop it so it's EXACTLY a square (I use Picasa).
Resize mom's picture so it's 57 x 57, and save as a PNG to your desktop. (I used http://www.resize2mail.com/advanced.php)
Fire up http://webclipicons.info/ Upload your 57 x 57 PNG, give it the shortcut name "mom" and paste the GV unique contact URL from step 2 into the "shortcut URL" prompt. Put in your email address, and uncheck "make public." Hit "create shortcut."
Check your iPhone email. You should receive a message with link -- click on it. Safari should launch. Bookmark that page to your home screen. Your mom's smiling face should appear along with your fart and other useless apps.
When it's time to call mom, click on her face. Her contact page in your GV account will load in Safari. You can then call or SMS any number that you have stored for her.
While I've made some round-about howtos for accomplishing time-saving things, this one made me laugh out loud. That's a helluva lot of work for initiating a call.
A much BETTER solution can be accomplished in just 3 steps:
Now there's no official or unofficial Google Voice dialers. Nice one, Apple.
While it's still possible that an official Google client may turn up at some point, it's not looking promising; Apple says that the reason they pulled the apps is that they 'duplicate functionality already found in iPhone,' namely 'dialing.' When Google submits their official app, it will also be 'dialing'; consistency says that'll be rejected as well.
Lucky for us, consistency is not high on Apple's list of things to worry about. You may remember from the other day when they said they rejected Google's Latitude app because they thought another app that draws maps would be 'confusing.' Yet the market is still chock full of GPS/mapping apps. Apps that, as far as I know, nobody's ever been confused about.
It's pretty clear that Apple doesn't want any more Google present on its iPhone platform than there already is. If you want some more, you're going to have to pick one of the many other platforms that doesn't reject innovative apps.
UPDATE: Sean Kovacs, author of GV Mobile, one of the "unofficial" Google Voice apps which Apple pulled from their market, is now available via Cydia if your iPhone is jailbroken. Compelling enough reason to finally jailbreak?
For weeks now, there've been a number people on Twitter and blogs expressing disappointment with Google over leaving out iPhone when it comes to many of their key properties. One such article, by social media rockstar Wayne Sutton, does a pretty good job of summing up the feelings of many in the iPhone community, but unfortunately, manages to completely get the wrong end of the stick. He seems to be under the impression that Google just doesn't feel like putting out apps for iPhone, forgetting that it's Apple themselves who are both the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper when it comes to what iPhone users get to run on their handsets.
Meanwhile, just yesterday Google "finally got around to" -- if you listen to the chatter on the Internet, anyway -- releasing their Latitude for iPhone app -- which is actually not a native app at all, but instead a web app that runs in Safari -- along with a lengthy article on their mobile blog which makes it crystal clear that it's Apple with whom we should be disappointed, not them.
We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.
I've been saying all along that it was Apple's 3-month+ wait approval queue, and/or the nature of Maps.app as a "core" app (that can only be updated via a firmware update) that's the holdup, but it never occurred to me that Apple wouldn't want Latitude on iPhone at all, which seems plainly clear now.
The brewing speculation suggests that Apple's $99-a-year MobileMe service, which has some location aspects to it now, is going to be expanding to more directly compete with Latitude, Loopt, and other such social/location apps, and thus doesn't want the early -- not to mention free -- competition from Google. This is purely speculation, but it's based on the past times that Apple has rejected iPhone apps with features that they themselves were planning to implement, so I'm going to place my bets squarely on that being truth. We'll have to wait and see.
This rejection now makes it pretty clear that the other native Google apps that people like Wayne are eagerly awaiting are simply never going to come. Sorry, Wayne :(
The upside to all of this, though, is that, judging by the comments on Google's Latitude for iPhone announcement post, iPhone users and developers alike are starting to become more aware of how bad an idea it is to tie themselves to a platform that's actively stifling the innovations its users want. How much time and money did Google spend writing a native Latitude app for iPhone that will never see the light of day? Now imagine it was your time and money down the crapper. Fun.
If you're dying for a native Latitude app on your iPhone, you shouldn't give up completely; Apple does have a bit of a track record of caving on stupid decisions under pressure from large vocal minority groups, so it's possible that they may one day let Google put a native maps app on iPhone. It's not very probable. There is only Zuul.
I don't have much to say lately, but I need to say this:
Google's Android mobile phone platform is freakin' AMAZING. T-Mobile's "G1" handset -- which is the first of the commercially available Android phones -- is very nearly as awesome a device as is the underlying platform.
Imagine the offspring resultant from a drunken one-night-stand between a Sidekick/Hiptop and an iPhone. That pretty much describes the G1; it is fully touch-enabled and has a wealth of downloadable applications ala iPhone, but boasts the flip-out keyboard and actual navigation buttons which are the hallmark of a Sidekick for those times you don't feel like looking like a total tool rubbing your fingers all over your phone.
Best yet, you don't need to deal with any of the iTunes bullcrap that every iPhone owner has to admit to disliking dealing with. If you want to put mp3s (or oggs, w00t!) on it, you simply plug a NORMAL USB CABLE into it and it shows up as a removable drive. Copy your music over and you're good to go. Same with photos and videos. Software updates come automatically over the air, so no dealing with the endless cycle of backing up and restoring when iTunes makes a mess of things. (Or, if you're a nerd like me, you can manually download the firmware update and apply it yourself.)
Unlike with iPhone, users can install applications that modify very nearly any aspect of the device, and are not at the whims of Apple as to whether the app will be "allowed" or not. For instance: I have an app installed that can turn on and off features when certain criteria are met. When the GPS finds that I've arrived at home, it automatically enables wifi. When I leave it turns it off again to preserve battery. If my battery drops below a certain point I've got it set to turn off GPS as well to further save battery. Try doing that with iPhone :).
Want to set an mp3, m4a or ogg file as a ringtone? No problem, support for that is built in.
All-in-all, Android has far exceeded my expectations, and is quite the anti-iPhone platform that I'd envisioned. I highly recommend it.
Since it's been so long since we've spoken, I've amassed a number of things I wanted to share with you. Sadly, I've forgotten most of them. Here's the first one I remember.
1) I can no longer live under the protective mantra of "Oh, I'd never BUY an iPhone, I just use this one because I won it in a contest." That's right. I bought an iPhone 3G. Go ahead, mock -- I'll wait. So the purchasal of the 3G is noteworthy for another reason: it marked my first venture into an Apple Store.
Know how when, walking into a skyscraper or something, there's often an air pressure differential? Where, you can feel the conditioned air ruffling your clothes and hair as you open the door? That's what the Apple Store is like, except that the pressure differential is not with the air, it's with SMUG. You can sort of smell the smug leaking out around the doorframe as you approach, but when you open that door... it's almost overpowering. If my hair weren't firmly glazed up in a mohawk prior to entering, the blast of smug would surely have formed a fauxhawk of some sort. Those hipster glasses? They're not so much for fashion as they are EYE PROTECTION from the smug.
The first thing you notice about the Apple Store is just how many employees there are. The second thing you notice is that none of them can actually HELP you. I asked if they had any 3Gs in stock and was told:
"Yep! We sure do!"
I let a full beat pass before adding:
"Well, can I BUY one?"
This required her flagging down some other hipster employee, who passed me off at least 3 more times. Then I was left standing for 5 minutes while the latest hipster went to go try to find a 3G for me to purchase. While Hipster #5 was in search of my iPhone, I got to witness a conversation that nearly made my head explode. It was between a Typical Mac Owner and an Apple Store Hipster, and it went like this:
TMO: "Hi, I bought this iPhone and I can't get it to work."
ASH: "Oh? What happened?"
TMO: "Well, I plugged it into my Mac and iTunes said it needed to upgrade itself to version 7.7"
TMO: "So I tried to do that, but it said it couldn't."
ASH: "Right. You must be running Kitten."
TMO: "Yeah. I am."
ASH: "WELL, iTunes 7.7 requires that you be running Sabretooth, not Kitten."
TMO: "Oh. So I need to upgrade in order to use this $200 phone I just bought?"
TMO: "So I just run Mac Update --"
ASH: "Oh, no, you have to BUY Sabretooth. That'll be $299."
TMO: "Wait... so, in order to use this $200 phone I just bought, I have to spend like another $300 to upgrade my operating system first?"
TMO: "... ... OK! Let's do that! HERE ARE MY CREDIT CARDS!"
That conversation ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Geez. Apple customers...
Anyway, all said and done, I got out of there with an iPhone 3G. Most of the smug did eventually come off -- not all of it, mind you; Apple smug can never really be completely removed. I still catch my internal monologue mocking people without iPhones sometimes.
After getting home, I proceeded to get all the contacts from my old iPhone to show up on the new one. This took 45 minutes of frustrated fighting with iTunes on D's machine. In the end, after only ending up with the contents of D's Outlook contacts on my phone, I decided to try letting iTunes sync my contacts to Google Contacts. That did the trick. Except that now every email address that has ever sent mail to my gmail account is now a contact on my iPhone. Good thing the phone app filters contacts to show only the ones that have phone numbers associated -- wait? It DOESN'T filter them? Whose stupid frakking idea was THAT? So now, in addition to thousands of contacts on my phone, all the people who have both a phone number AND were in my Google Contacts have duplicate entries in my address book. Well, not DUPLICATE, per se; one has phone number, another has email address. Thanks, Apple.
So the iPhone 3G has GPS capability that is quite awesome. Many apps support it, allowing you to, for instance, look up movie listings without having to put in a location. Find which of the five Starbuckses that you can currently see is the closest. Stuff like that. It's really great -- or WOULD be, if it didn't always think I was in Houston, Texas whenever 3G is turned on. (Which is pretty much always... why would you turn it OFF?)
Despite this annoying crap, a jailbroken iPhone is by far the most "open" internet device/phone I've ever used, so I'm unapologetic about my love for it. It does make me feel a little funny, though, being seen with one. The anti-hipster in me cringes and can only be quieted by showing it all the awesome stuff MY iPhone can do that Apple doesn't approve of.
That preposition at the end of that sentence means it's time for me to once again bid you adieu.
The Kindle is nice and all, but it's a lot of money for a dedicated device for reading books when I already have tons of devices capable of reading books. A screen, a wireless connection and a keyboard. That describes a Kindle. That also describes laptops, cellphones, iPhones, PDAs, etc.
If you want to sell lots more ebooks, I suggest you release Kindle software for some or all of those devices. Specifically I would suggest laptops and iPhones. The iPhone is my preferred way to read Kindle books (it is way smaller and lighter than Kindle, and I already have it with me all the time), but it'd be really swell if I could wirelessly purchase the books from you and not have to break the law in order to read them.
Now that Apple has 3rd-party apps for iPhone/iPod Touch, I HIGHLY recommend that you make a Kindle app for them. You'll sell bajillions more books than you already do. BAJILLIONS.
Update: This tutorial is largely superseded by the much nicer and easier 'Kindle For PC' method: see it here.
UPDATE 2: included Preston Lee's online PID generator.
D got a big fat tax refund, so she recently bought one of those new-fangled Amazon Kindle thingies for purchasing and reading books in an electronic form. (She loves it.)
I like to read books in an electronic form on my iPhone, but find that it's pretty hard to come by them legally; there are many different sellers and formats, some of which have certain books but not others. Sometimes they have the book, but not in a format I can do anything with. It's generally easier just to illegally download them from torrent sites.
Amazon has tons and tons of books available for Kindle, and have chosen the standard MobiPocket format as the one their reader uses, meaning it is theoretically trivial to purchase them and convert them to something else. Except that they won't sell them to you unless you have already purchased a $400ish Kindle on which to read them. Meaning you don't need to convert them...
In any case, now that our household has a Kindle, it frees me up to purchase books from Amazon in Kindle format without actually having a Kindle myself. I then just remove the DRM that Amazon puts in the files (to keep people from converting them, natch), and then convert them to HTML or txt to read in Books.app on iPhone. Want to know how to do the same thing?
Step 1) Find someone with a Kindle.
Step 2) On their Kindle, go to the Settings menu, and type '411' on the keypad. This will bring up a little information dialog with a bunch of things in it, of which you only need the Serial. It is a 16-character string of letters and numbers. Write it down.
Step 3) Ask the Kindle's owner to buy a book for you. Give them some money so you don't look like a mooch. Once you've given them the money, ask them to log in to their Amazon account and navigate to their 'Kindle Downloads' page from your computer. When they complain, mention that you've already given them money. The Kindle Downloads page will list all the books they've purchased, and yours should be right at the top. Click 'Download to computer' and you'll get a file named 'Title-of-Book.azw'
Step 4) Download MobiDeDRM.zip, which is a small suite of Python scripts that some kind soul wrote and then distributed through links that expire all the time and can be kind of a pain to track down. I've hosted them from my site so that they won't expire. This .zip file contains mobidedrm.py, mobidedrm2.py, kindlepid.py and mobihuff.py.
(These scripts require that you install Python on your system, which is something outside the scope of this howto. I'm on linux, but there's a Python for Windows called "ActiveState Python." Google will help.)
After unzipping the archive, open up a terminal window and pass the Kindle's serial # (which you previously wrote down) to kindlepid.py. Something like this:
python kindlepid.py XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Where all those Xs are replaced with the Kindle serial number. It will return something that looks like this:
Mobipocked PID for Kindle serial# XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX is Z1QFCDQ*74
where my 10-character gibberish string is replaced with the one you made note of in the last step. This will take about a minute, and when it finishes you'll see:
Decrypting. Please wait... done
Now you will have a decrypted MobiPocket-formatted ebook that you can read in any MobiPocket reader.
If, however, you want to convert it to HTML to read on any device you wish, you'll want to install MobiPerl. (This, of course, will require you to install Perl. MobiPerl's website will walk you through that.)
6) With MobiPerl installed, do this:
This will create a directory named 'unpacked' that will contain Title-of-Book.html
Things that can go wrong:
Amazon seems to compress longer books in a slightly different manner than shorter books. If your resulting .mobi file and/or .html file are oddly gibberishy (for example, if the first line starts in the middle of a sentence, and clearly not the beginning of the book), let's go back to step 5.
Step 5b) These 'huffdic-compressed' books require a slightly different script to remove the DRM. Do this:
This script will output the .html file in the directory from which you are running it.
All in all, this is as much of a pain as it looks, but the selection and availability of books on Amazon makes it worthwhile to me. They have far more books than The Pirate Bay does, and I feel better paying for them
Update: several readers have alerted me that there's a much newer version of mobiDeDRM available. You can download it here.
Would it have killed you to have made the 'new tab' button in Mobile Safari automatically put the new tab into URL entry mode? I mean, what else could I possibly want to do with a new tab other than go to a URL?
[Full disclosure: I am no fan of Apple. I didn't even own an iPod until recently, and only then because I was able to immediately wipe Apple's software off it and use the far-superior (for me) open-source Rockbox firmware on it instead. I did not buy iPhone, and had no reason to hold any bias towards it prior to playing with one. In fact, when I did play with one after finding out that I won mine, I hated it. If anything, my bias is against iPhone, and is most definitely against Apple.]
I've been having the hardest time writing up a full review of the iPhone, partly because even I am sick of hearing about them. The short answer is that for me, iPhone is a lot like Michael Bay's Transformers; sure, there is a lot wrong with it, but I like it anyway. Would I pay $600 for one? Probably not, but everyday I get more value out of it, putting me closer to the point that I would. I'm up to about $350 right now, for those that are curious how much I would pay for one.
If all you want is a phone with email and access to the "real internet," (<--- you should really click that) then I'd say your money is better spent on one of the many other cheaper options (many of which do a better job of those things, some say. I agree with them.) that aren't crippled in such painful ways. One of my favorite examples of iPhone stupidity is the following: if someone sends you a calendar appointment in iCal format, iPhone doesn't know what to do with it. Yes, Apple's email client on Apple's phone can't understand Apple's calendar format. Yes, iPhone actually HAS an Apple calendar app on it, there's just no way to get appointments into it without plugging it into a computer.1 Stupid. There are many other stupid things that I don't feel I really need to go into here. If you know someone that has one, you've surely asked them about something and been told "no... but maybe in the next update," or heard other people bitching about them. In many ways, iPhone really sucks.
That said, here's why I love mine and cannot get rid of it: because the high-profile lust-worthiness of the device coupled with Apple's non-commitment to releasing a 3rd-party software development kit has resulted in a "hacker" development community that kicks all manner off ass. Within a month of the device being out, people had already written not only UIKit, a sort of cobbled-together SDK, but also a compiler and linker and various other tools to be able to get the code they write with the SDK to run on iPhone. Tomorrow will be 2 months exactly, and already there is a multitude of really awesome apps out there letting me do any number of awesome things, not to mention a full suite of UNIX command-line tools. (Being able to set up cron jobs on your iPhone to, say, have your iPhone rsync all your camera photos to your webhost over the wireless connection at certain times of the day? Yes, that's no problem.) There's a neat voice recorder app (which hopefully will gain MP3 functionality soon, allowing me to email recordings right to my blog. Instant podcast from anywere? Awesome.), DOOM, a couple different NES emulators, a terminal client, a bunch of neat games, a text editor, a couple different file browsers, an ebook reader, etc. I'm just scratching the surface here. One of the neatest apps is called Installer. It works as a sort of package manager, allowing you to install/upgrade/uninstall various applications without ever having to use a computer.
Speaking of having to use a computer: after gaining access to the whole iPhone, the easiest way to manipulate things on it is via ssh. (Yeah, you can ssh into your iPhone. Also available on iPhone: Apache web server, and SAMBA so you can make it show up in your Windows Network Neighborhood.) One neat little trick is that if your OS is smart enough, you can use 'sshfs' to mount your iPhone's filesystem to your local computer over ssh -- without ever plugging anything in. This allows me to manipulate things on it, even loading music and videos all wirelessly. Whenever my iPhone is in range of my wireless router it shows up on my local machine. That is pretty frickin' fantastic.
So, in conclusion, if shiny trendy expensive things aren't really your bag, but being able to use that UNIX knowledge you've got to do UNIXy things anywhere you happen to be, then perhaps iPhone might be for you. It sure is for me. (But then again, mine was free. I'm confident, though, that after some more time with it I might get to the point that I'm willing to pay full price for one. Just not quite yet,)
1: the calendar, like pretty much every other source of data on the iPhone, stores its data in sqlite3 databases, meaning that it's fairly trivial to manipulate without iTunes. I've been kind of half-assedly working on some scripts to pull down my google calendar .ics file and inject the events into my calendar db, but thus far my heart hasn't really been much into it. Maybe some day.
[UPDATE: Grr. Comments were broken again. I will never intentionally disable commenting on posts, so if you ever happen to be unable to leave one, I'd like to hear about it :)]
Sorry that I've been neglecting all of y'all. I've just been hax0ring around in the inner-workings of the iPhone, and have been having so dang much fun that I haven't had time for you.1
Tonight, for instance, I decided to see if I could take advantage of the on-phone voice mail handling to do things that no one ever intended me to. See, you click a button to record a greeting or play voice mails, never actually having to call up a voice mail system to do anything. I decided that I wanted to try to take an existing audio file and use that rather than recording audio through a tinny cellphone microphone. So, having full system access to every nook and cranny of the thing, I did a little digging around and found where it stores the temporary greeting file that is created (you record it, then you have an opportunity to listen to it, THEN you click 'save' to upload it), finding it in relatively short order.2 It is an 8000 KHz .AMR file. I don't know what that is, but FFMPEG can create them, so I created my own using audio I happened to have lying around.
After recording a couple seconds of audio on the phone, I then replaced the temporary greeting file with my newly-created one, and then clicked 'play' on the iPhone to see if it was dumb enough to just assume the file was the same one it recorded. It was. I then clicked 'save' and watched it upload the audio to the voice mail system.
The same can be done with incoming messages, which should prove rather handy should anyone ever leave any mean-spirited ones.
If you'd like to experience my new (temporary) voicemail greeting, go ahead and give me a ring at 3605211191 before about 6am Pacific time on Aug 16th (I'll be changing it to something a little less... crazy... at that time.)
Also, please feel free to leave me a message after the beep. If I get anything good, maybe I'll post them here.
1: I do have a full review coming at some point in the future, as I decided to keep it rather than off-loading it. Short review: despite the many, many, many (many) annoying stupid things about iPhone, it's still the best (and nerdiest) phone I've ever, ever owned. You can have it when you pry it from my cold greasy hands.
2: In case you're playing along at home, after recording your temporary greeting, you'll find it at /var/root/Library/Voicemail/Greeting.amr on your iPhone. Just copy your 8000 KHz .amr file over that one.
ive got some good stuff to say, and loads of bad stuff as well, but its too damn hard to use punctuation effectively on it.
m gerting pretty good a typing but you have to switch to different screens to use anything but letters.
safari is bloody awesome. im going to have a heck of a tie going bck to the crappy sidekick browser whe i cancel thr att accoun. i will miss it greatly, but eagerly await unlocking so i can use it on tmobile.
The past few days I've been haunting the iPhone haxx0r IRC channels, hoping to glean some working-knowledge of what the progress of the various goals are as they happen.
What is incredibly astounding is the level of impatience among all the non-haxx0r types that keep popping in to see what's up. One guy in particular, who we'll call "dave" (because that's the nick he uses), repeatedly asks the same questions over and over again regarding progress. People keep pointing him to the wiki, where all the known info can be obtained, but he insists there are things we are not being told in regards to "unlocking" the iPhone. (Dave is one of the many who want to use his iPhone on a non-AT&T network.) I suggested to him that actually, they had already figured out the unlocking, but that Apple swooped in and "got to them" before they could publish the hack. Cut to 24 hours later, and he's proclaiming to everyone that "Apple got to" the main guy, which explains why there have been no progress updates in IRC or on the wiki.
The fun thing is that the guy he just told that to hopped over to the OTHER haxx0r channel and asked if it's just rumor that "Apple got to him," where, of course, everyone played along.
Expect that little bit of rumor to show up on Digg and Slashdot any time now.
1) An interesting change here at Casa de Nyquil: a 12 year old boy is now turning our cozy little twosome (9-some, if'n you count the rodents and birds and feline) into a trio (Dectet?). So far this has only meant more Wii time, as only one day has passed. Today D and 12yo are off to the beach, meaning I've got the place to myself for the evening. Updates as to problems/benefits of a child to follow.
2) I'd just like to take this time to point out the value inherent in knowing your audience. As a Dreamhost Blog reader, I saw that Crazy Josh Jones was waiting in line to purchase an iPhone he didn't even want, and that he was giving it away in an amusing little contest: make an image showing the real reason behind the mysterious downtimes all Dreamhost customers fondly recognize. I saw an opportunity -- not to win, mind you -- to make Josh laugh, which is something he's caused me to do on any number of occasions. I entered the contest, making reference to something pretty much only he would find humor in, and did it in bad pun form -- which, after being a customer of Dreamhost for several years and constant reader of at least eight "monthly" newsletters, I know he has quite a proclivity for.
This, apparently, is the trick to winning prizes from him, cuz he's now mailing me his unwanted 8gig iPhone.
I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with this monstrosity, for after spending like an hour at a Cingular store trying to get all the deets from the peeps, I've learned that there is not a comparable plan to the one I currently enjoy thru T-Mobile (0 minutes, unlimited data for $29.99), and the best I can do is 200 minutes unlimited data for $59.99. That's a pretty steep monthly increase, but maybe the super-cool new features the iPhone provide are worth it. Steve would have me believe so. (When you pay $600 for a device, you get to be on first-name basis.)
The two demo models at the store were both borked already, so that's probably not a good sign, but before I did a hard reset on the semi-working one (requiring some Cingular employee to eventually re-enter the WiFi security key. Sorry, future iPhone demo-ers!) I did get to scroll and zoom around things. It is pretty neat.
Safari crashed after loading half of nyquil.org, so I'm not entirely sure how well that works. Most of the apps on the phone actually use Safari to operate (which Blackberry customers will be all-too familiar with) meaning that you can't switch back and forth betwixt a web page and and the cool GPS screen. Or any screen, for that matter. There doesn't appear to be any sort of multi-tasking, as the only button on the unit just takes you back to the menu, where clicking on the application again gives you a new, blank window. Perhaps I am just stupid and couldn't figure out how, though. (But aren't us retards the exact demo Apple's products are targeted to? That smarmy Mac guy on TV is constantly telling John Hodgman how much less-smart (inversely proportional to how much more cool you are) you need to be to use Apple products. Maybe I'm just not cool enough?)
Overall, after the 10 minutes I goofed around betwixt crashes, I was actually pretty danged impressed with the interface. The virtual keyboard is very nice. I've used a lot of portable device keypads, and really, the lack of tactile buttons is far less off-putting than I expected; I was pretty quickly two-thumbing out things like a pro. This will probably be more irritating as I try to compose longer, less "test test 1 2 3 4"-type things... we'll have to see when I actually get mine.
I also learned the crucial bit of info for which I trekked out to a store in the first place: I can activate the phone, try it for 30 days, and then cancel the mandatory two-year contract, enabling me to re-sell it on eBay should I not like it. Yes, even if you are not buying the phone at this time, you are still required to sign a multi-year contract just to activate it.
I'm not sure who is crazier: those loons at Apple or the nutjobs (like me) who can't wait to use their equal-parts shiny/shitty products. Updates to follow.