Thoughts on the New iPhone & What's Still Missing

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Hebrew Search Comes to Olive Tree iPhone Bible Reader Beta

Earlier this week I posted a screenshot of a basic Greek word search in the Olive Tree iPhone beta. Since then Olive Tree has released the ability to do a basic search of Hebrew texts as well:

I’ve also found that reading Hebrew on the iPhone works better in landscape mode.

Again, this is still just a beta. Olive Tree has a number English texts already available (go to the iTunes store and search for “Olive Tree” ).


Greek Search Comes to Olive Tree iPhone Bible Reader Beta

Above is a screenshot from the beta released last Friday. The actual method for entering Greek text is still a bit awkward, but it’s a good beginning. Hebrew search is not yet implemented, but is in the works.

Olive Tree has given me permission to discuss and post images of the beta.


First Look: Hebrew & Greek Biblical Texts on the iPhone

For my initial review of Olive Tree’s Bible Reader for the iPhone, go here.

The screen shots below are from a beta released yesterday from Olive Tree (I have permission to post these images):

Frequent readers of This Lamp will know that I’ve lamented the loss of original language biblical texts “in my pocket” ever since switching from my Palm Treo to the iPhone last year. After a long wait, Olive Tree comes through with the promise a full replacement, and I have to admit that the texts look much better here than they ever did on my former device.

As you would expect, these texts are fully downloaded to the iPhone and do not require an internet connection for repeated access.

While I’ve got your attention, let me show you a couple of other things Olive Tree is working on for their Bible Reader.

Since my initial review, Olive Tree has incorporated links to textual notes and cross references in their modules.

For instance, as demonstrated in the above modules, clicking/touching the superscript letters in the ESV leads to a appropriate section in the ESV notes. This is still not split screen, which I would prefer, but it’s a good start.

Traditionally, Olive Tree has allowed users who purchased texts for one platform to download these on any other platform as well. For instance, after purchasing modules for the Palm years ago, I was also able to download the same texts to a Windows Mobile device while I was testing one out a while back. However, this generous level of cross platform mobility has not been possible so far with the iPhone because Apple tightly controls iPhone apps and requires them to be distributed via the iTunes Store only with the exception of beta releases as seen in some of the images here). And not only do previously purchased modules have to be re-purchased, they have to be purchased separately. Again, this is not a policy from Olive Tree, but rather from Apple.

Right now, for instance, if an iPhone user purchases the NIV Family Pack for Bible Reader and the ESV Study Bundle, two separate installations of the Bible Reader are loaded with each respective set of modules. Other text reader programs in the iTunes App Store have been allowed to include modular purchases, so Olive Tree is trying to work with Apple to make the same kind of access available to users of their Bible Reader.

These screen shots below from a beta release (features not yet approved by Apple) show a “store” from Olive Tree where users could purchase texts directly for download over the internet to their iPhones. Once texts have been purchased and downloaded, they show up on a “My Olive Tree Account” page.

Let’s hope that Apple will approve Olive Tree’s solution because it’s a good and fair answer to the current modular dilemma.

See also:
Olive Tree’s iPhone page
• To see Olive Tree’s current offerings in iTunes, search for “Olive Tree” in the iTunes Store Search window.
   Then in the “Applications” box, select “See All.”


More on Olive Tree's iPhone Bible Reader

In August, I posted a review of Olive Tree's iPhone Bible Reader. That particular post still manages to get quite a few hits.

Today, Steve Rogers (Captain America?) left a comment asking the following questions:

Will these bibles work with the iphone 3G? Are there plans to create an NIV and NLT versions for iphone 3G. Those are versions that I read.

Olive Tree’s Bible Reader works with any iPhone that has the 2.x software loaded, obviously including the iPhone 3G.

And yes, there are plans to release the NIV and NLT versions. In fact here are screenshots of these two translations from a beta version I have loaded on my iPhone:

Note: Olive Tree does not require I sign an NDA for use of its beta, and I have been given permission to share any information about the beta including the images above.


Olive Tree Comes to the iPhone: Finally the Promise of a Decent Bible App

Once upon a time (actually going all the way back to 1998), I had a Palm PDA. Then I got a cell phone. For the longest time, I carried my Palm in one pocket and my cell phone in the other pocket (no, I’ve never been one to wear everything on my belt). Then in 2003, technology converged and I only had to carry one item: my Treo 600 which was both cell phone and Palm PDA.

Well, wait... there was still my iPod, obtained in 2002. Although I didn’t carry it with me everywhere as I had done with the cell phone and PDA, it was still handy for listening to audio books, the Mars Hill Audio Journal, and occasionally some music. But it was always something else to keep up with.

Then in 2007, my electronic gadget world converged one more time with the iPhone. Now I had a PDA, cell phone and iPod all in one device. But two things were missing on the iPhone that I had used quite extensively on previous Palm PDAs, including my Treo: Pocket Quicken and Bible software from Olive Tree.

Intuit now has an online version of Quicken that works with the iPhone, but I’m not yet sold on the idea of placing all my financial data into “the cloud.” Originally Apple was not going to open the iPhone to 3rd party applications, insisting that all such endeavors were to be handled through Web 2.0 internet apps. Regarding Bible applications, there were initially some halfway decent web apps, but they had two drawbacks: (1) they were all dependent upon internet connectivity to work, and (2) there was no real support for original language texts.

With the advent of iPhone 2.0 software last month, we were finally able to obtain true third party applications on our iPhones. But as I had previously written, I had been enormously underwhelmed by initial offerings because they were either lackluster or required internet connectivity to function.

Yesterday, Olive Tree launched its first offerings for the iPhone: its BibleReader and ESV Study Bundle for Bible Reader.

The BibleReader by itself is free and the ESV Study Bundle costs $24.99. In the past, Olive Tree has always offered its BibleReader software for free as a standalone product for hosting various modules available for purchase. The iPhone BibleReader comes with nine versions of the Bible included:
  • American Standard Version
  • Darby’s New Translation
  • French Darby 1991
  • German Luther Bible 1912
  • Modern King James Version
  • New English Translation (without notes)
  • Spanish Reina Valera
  • Weymouth New Testament
  • Young’s Literal Translation
I was surprised to see that the basic 1611 King James Version was not included. The ESV Bundle includes the ESV (obviously), KJV, the Phillips NT, the nine Bibles listed above that are part of the basic package, the Matthew Henry Concise Commentary, the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, and the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.

None of the texts in the free edition are formatted yet (image below on left), but as this screenshot taken iTunes (image below on right) shows, the ESV text is formatted:

I’m not sure yet if the red lettering can be turned off. The ability to turn off red lettering will come in a later update.

The search dialogue at the top of the screen can be used for either direct reference input or word searches. It also automatically updates as the user scrolls through the biblical text. A search for “righteousness” yields 134 hits in the NET Bible as seen below:

Touching any of the underlined references takes the user to the verse in context of the entire passage. Pressing the icon at the bottom of the screen (is that a window or a plus sign?) brings up a listing of all books available in that particular Bible module:

Clicking on any of the biblical books leads to another screen (not pictured) that lists all chapters in the biblical book and then to another screen with all verses. Selecting a particular verse will not display the verse by itself but the entire passage in context which is very helpful.

The most beneficial aspect of Olive Tree’s BibleReader is easily that it does not rely on an internet connection to use any of the biblical modules. All texts are fully loaded onto the iPhone. I especially appreciate that because I still find myself without any signal from AT&T at times when I am deep into the heart of a building--especially older buildings. At this point, I’m not worried about space limitations. iPhones now come in either 8 or 16 GB models, so for most users there should be room to spare. This is in contrast to my old Treo 600, of course, with which I had to use an extra SIM card in order to store all 60,000 notes of the NET Bible.

The interface for Olive Tree’s BibleReader is completely customizable as seen in this settings screenshot:

In fact, until I installed BibleReader, I had no idea what fonts were available on my iPhone:

[In addition to the fonts listed in the graphic above, BibleReader also tells me I have the following typefaces installed on my iPhone: Helvetica, Helvetica Neue, Hiragino Kaku Gothic ProN W3, Hiragino Kaku Gothic ProN W6, Marker Felt,
STHeiti J, STHeiti K, STHeiti SC, STHeiti TC, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana.]

I noted in the title of this blog entry that Olive Tree’s BibleReader was the first third-party iPhone Bible app with real promise. I say that because not all of their extensive language offerings are available yet, including their Greek and Hebrew texts. But I corresponded with Stephen Johnson of Olive Tree yesterday, and he assures me they are in the works along with many of the other modules in Olive Tree’s library.

Certain features that we’ve come to expect from Olive Tree, such as split screens, aren’t available yet, but features will be added to BibleReader over the next few months.

Users such as myself who had already purchased Olive Tree texts may face a bit of a conundrum. In the past if a customer had bought a module for the Palm platform and then switched to the WindowsMobile platform (or vice-versa), it wasn’t necessary to re-purchase the texts. For instance, a few years back I briefly owned a Compaq iPaq and was able to load modules such as the Greek New Testament with Gramcord morphology onto the Compaq device even though I had previously purchased it for the Palm platform. After a few weeks, I decided connecting to a WindowsMobile (I believe it was called WindowsCE back then) device from a Mac was too much hassle and switched back to a Palm PDA. In all of this switching back and forth, I never had to pay anything extra to OliveTree. I’ve always found their cross-platofrm policy to be very generous.

However, with the iPhone, the issue is a bit more complex and the problem doesn’t lie with Olive Tree, but with the iTunes Store. Apple doesn’t allow third-party iPhone developers to sell their applications from their own websites. It has to be done from the iTunes Store. So, for instance, if a user has already purchased the ESV text for a Palm or WindowsMobile device from Olive Tree, there’s no way at present to keep from paying for it again if purchased for the iPhone. Olive Tree is in talks with Apple to determine if there’s a way around this, but for right now if an ESV aficionado already bought it for another platform and now wants to install it on the iPhone, he or she will have to pony up another $24.99.

And there is another problem for Olive Tree and their customers. Olive Tree’s modular model of distributing texts doesn’t work as well with the iTunes Store. In the past on the Palm or WindowsMobile platforms, once the BibleReader software was installed as many text modules could be added as their was room available in the device’s memory. Currently, the iTunes Store doesn’t allow this adding of one text at a time as the previous model allowed--at least not without having many separate apps installed on the iPhone. So, if for instance, Olive Tree releases the TNIV text next week, a user couldn’t simply add it to an already-purchased ESV Study Bundle. Rather, two separate installations of BibleReader would have to be installed with the TNIV in one and the ESV and accompanying resources in the other. And theoretically, even once split screen features are implemented, modules in two separate installations couldn’t be viewed side by side.

This complication is not something that just affects Olive Tree, but rather all developers who offer modular add ons to its software. Again, Olive Tree is in talks with Apple, and hopefully the way iTunes is currently set up can be adjusted for the benefit of the customer in the future.

Regardless of these early snags, Olive Tree’s venture into the iPhone platform looks very promising. I am hopeful I can eventually reproduce the same functionality with Bible texts on my iPhone that I had previously experienced on my Treo. Since useful iPhone Bible functionality is something I am genuinely seeking, expect to see more on This Lamp about the subject as new developments arise.

For further information:
Olive Tree’s iPhone Page
Olive Tree’s Blog


Still Looking for a Decent iPhone Bible App

No, I didn’t rush out and buy an iPhone like lots of folks did on Friday, July 12. But I did upgrade my original iPhone to the 2.0 software. I actually downloaded the 2.0 update and the MobileMe update on Thursday, one day before the official launch. For whatever reason it was sitting on Apple’s servers, and a few of the Apple news sites had links to it. Everything worked fine on Thursday, but it all went to Hades in a hand basket on Friday. Not a big deal to me; I knew the issues would be worked out. but I’m nevertheless amazed at how impatient and immature some people are when there are technical problems of this kind. Nobody seemed to remember all the problems with the launch of the iPhone last year. I just always assume it will be less than perfect performance at a launch like this and am usually willing to wait for it to be sorted out. A week later and everything seems to be working great. Although the MobileMe sync [which Apple has stopped calling “push”] drains my battery a lot faster.

One of the best features of iPhone 2.0 is the App Store. But I’m still waiting on two applications that I was fairly dependent upon back when I had my Treo before the iPhone. One is Pocket Quicken which I hope will eventually be released for the iPhone. The other is a decent Bible app. Initially, I was reviewing a number of the original iPhone web-based Bible apps here on This Lamp, but I finally lost interest in it because although some were some apps better than others, none of them really satisfied my needs.

When I had my Treo, I had the Bible Reader software from OliveTree. On my Treo I had installed the Greek New Testament, the NET Bible including its 60 kazillion notes (which I had to keep on a sim card), and the NASB with Greek and Hebrew dictionaries.

Access to English language Bibles abound on the iPhone, buth for web-based apps and now in the App Store. But there’s still no original language texts, and to be honest, none of the current offerings really stands out in my opinion.

One of the Bible apps currently getting a lot of attention seems to be the free Bible app from Lifechurch.TV. It idraws its content from the website. This means you can switch easily among vairous translation. And it has some good ones, but no Greek or Hebrew.

But there’s a catch. Unlike some of the fee-based Bible apps, the Bible app from LifeChurch.TV depends on an internet connection because of its ties to YouVersion. This means that if you are without a signal--Edge, 3G, or Wifi (which is a situation I occasionally find myslef in)--you cannot access your Bible at all. You must be connected to the internet to use this app. At least its free.

I made the mistake of purchasing “Bible Unleashed: NET” in hopes of having the NET Bible with notes on my iPhone. But it doesn’t contain the notes at all, AND it is totally dependent upon the internet for its content. So, I wasted $1.99 on this purchase. A better offering is simply the NET Bible (with notes) available at It’s a web app, but certainly superior to this one.

Speaking of, I noticed that with the iPhone 2.0 software upgrade, we finally have Hebrew text on the iPhone as seen at the top of this note from Exodus 2:2 in the NET Bible:

You may remember that the original iPhone software would display Unicode Greek, but not Unicode Hebrew.

I am hopeful that OliveTree or Laridian will develop true self-contained suites of biblical texts available for the iPhone soon.

Finally, another good thing about the new iPhone software is that we can finally make decent screen captures as seen above unlike with the original software in which I had to take photographs of the screen with my camera.


3rd Party Apps for the iPhone: Finally

After months of saying no to 3rd party apps on the iPhone, Uncle Steve did an about face today with this announcement:

Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users. With our revolutionary multi-touch interface, powerful hardware and advanced software architecture, we believe we have created the best mobile platform ever for developers.

It will take until February to release an SDK because we’re trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once—provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc.

I want just two things: Pocket Quicken and a robust Bible app with access to the original languages. The screen on the iPhone has a much higher resolution than any Palm or Windows Mobile device, so Greek & Hebrew should look incredible...assuming they get Hebrew working on the iPhone, that is...

The downside is that if an SDK is not available until February, it might be a number of months until significant apps are released.


iPhone Bible App Roundup: 08/09/07

[This post was supposed to go up July 28 originally, but RapidWeaver has consistently crashed four times while I'm writing it. Perhaps it has to do with the large number of graphic files. I don't know, but this is becoming increasingly frustrating.]

About three weeks have passed since I wrote my first iPhone Bible app roundup. Yet in that very short span of time, four new iPhone Bible offerings have been made available. In this post I will offer short reviews of each of these apps.

While looking at these apps, I began to notice some similarities in interfaces. I discovered that a number of them are based on the "iPhone User Interface" (iUI) created by Joe Hewitt. This interface is similar to the color and design of some of the Apple-based apps on the iPhone such as the Mail app and the list view in the iPod app. Of course, it's not just Bible apps that are using the iUI; a quick look at the iPhone Application List shows that lots of folks are using it. This is in spite of the fact that Hewitt himself has called the interface a bit boring. Personally, I like the simplicity of Hewitt's interface because I immediately know how to use any app created with it.

Also, I want to point out that although I used screen captures from my MacBook for the last roundup, from this point forward, I will be using a camera to take pictures of the screen to give a better idea of what these apps look like on an actual iPhone (with one exception below). The downside of that is that the images will not be as clear as the previous ones. That is not to say that these apps are not clear on the actual iPhone, but rather that it is just extremely difficult to take a picture of the screen on an electronic device. I did finally figure out that I should turn off my flash though.

iPhone Bible (NAB)

I was initially intrigued when I first heard of the iPhone Bible (does this mean they now have control of that name?) because it would be the first iPhone Bible app to include the deuterocanonicals/apocrypha. Using Hewitt's aforementioned iUI, the opening screen of the iPhone Bible is both clear and colorful. Using a similar method we've seen elsewhere, the user selects Old or New Testament, which leads to the appropriate books of that testament (plus preface and section introductions), chapter numbers, and finally the full text of the selected chapter. That's where the surprise comes.

The biblical text for the iPhone actually comes from the already existing NAB pages from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops website. What that means is that these pages are not already formatted to a mobile device such as the iPhone and as demonstrated above, can be barely read at first. To see the text better, the user has two options. First, the iPhone can be turned sideways:

This is helpful, but still not a perfect solution. Another option of course is to simply do the iPhone multi-touch pinch resulting in text as large as desired:

Yes, Steve said we'd have the actual internet on the iPhone, but it's not always as practical as it sounds. Even with the text enlarged, this is still not an ideal solution for reading large sections of Scripture as one would constantly have to move the page around to see the entire text.

The NAB iPhone Bible is a great idea, but it suffers from the inherently small text that renders from the original USCCB pages. There is no search function built into the iPhone Bible, but there is a search available upon arriving at the USCCB pages. However, the user will want to restrict searches to the entire Bible because by default the entire site is searched. This was certainly a good idea, but perhaps the developers could get permission to reformat the NAB text specifically for the iPhone and other mobile devices.

The Net Bible

Soon after I got my iPhone, I thought to myself how incredible it might be to have the NET Bible with all 60,000 notes literally in the palm of my hand. I contacted the folks at to suggest they offer a NET Bible iphone app, but they were already well ahead of me as they had already been considering the very same thing. The NET Bible for the iPhone also uses Hewitt's iUI, and the navigation to a particular passage of the Bible is similar to the one described above.

In my last set of reviews, I praised iBibleSpace for the best interface of any iPhone Bible app so far. That evaluation remains so far, but I can say that the NET Bible has the best layout of text of any of the Bible apps so far. Not only are all formatting features (italics, bold, etc.) retained from the original NET Bible, but also the text is large and not crowded. There are spaces before and after section headings so that the text does not run together. Note the blue numbers above. These are links to the NET Bible's 60,000+ textual notes. The folks at have thought through the implementation of these notes quite well because when the user seeks to access the NET notes, an entirely separate page is launched. This allows the user to flip back and forth between the text and the notes without having to wait for a page to load from the internet.

However, a current limitation of the iPhone causes a problem in the NET Bible notes as well. Compare these two screens below--notes from Gen 1 on the left and Mark 4 on the right:

[Note: the actual screens of the NET Bible notes are the same color. The images above just reflect my poor photography skills.]

As I mentioned in a previous post, Hebrew does not show up correctly yet on the iPhone. So notice on the left image which contains notes from Genesis 1, that square boxes appear where Hebrew text displays in the original. There are other places where the boxes show up in place of Hebrew, such as the section headings in Psalm 119 and references to Sinaiticus in the NT notes. However, on the right screen, with notes from Mark 4, the Greek word μυστήριον appears correctly. I would recommend to the NET Bible team that for right now they do nothing to "fix" this text. The iPhone will have to include Hebrew as the phone is marketed internationally. One would assume that the addition of Hebrew and other international fonts will be included in a later iPhone software update. I should also point out that the since I took these shots, the superscript numbering at the beginning of each note has been enlarged.

The NET Bible on the iPhone will no doubt be very beneficial to many iPhone users, including myself. Like a lot of these apps, there's no search feature as of yet. I might also throw out a challenge to the programmers to create a window that has the biblical text on top and the notes on bottom (or side to side if the phone is turned). Regardless, this is a good and needed beginning.

God's iPhone (GWT)

[Note: the above image was taken as a screenshot off my MacBook because the opening screen has changed so dramatically since I first took my photographs.]

God's iPhone was created by Israel Anderson of New Zealand. This Bible app uses the lesser known, but still very good, God's Word Translation of the Bible. This project is not yet complete, but so far, Anderson has made available the entire New Testament and parts of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, and Psalms). Also Anderson has added a section for Christian classic (presumably public domain) works. The first entry made available is A. W. Tozer's Pursuit of God.

I'm assuming that Anderson has used RapidWeaver's new iPhone template for his Bible app. As a RW user myself I've played around with this template in hopes of eventually offering a Greek NT for the iPhone (but I'm not sure how legal this is since the NA text is copyrighted). The RW iPhone template includes a drop down menu seen in the icon at the far right of the image above. Anderson has opted not to take advantage of this leaving all menu items on the screen. This is just as well because I've found it difficult to make selections with this menu in my own tests.

As seen in the image above, text is clear and well spaced, but I can't help thinking it would be easier to read if the text were not displayed using full justification. Studies have shown that full justification, while looking neat and orderly, is actually harder to read because it makes it harder for the eyes to find the next line.

Regardless, God's iPhone has an easy to use interface and has the distinction of being the only way to view the GWT on the iPhone. There is no search function yet, but it is still a work in progress.

ESV Mobile

I've found the community of ESV users to be quite savvy when it comes to the internet and most things technological. They tend to be forward thinking and embrace new technologies quicker than those who sponsor competing translations of the Bible. Crossway, the publisher of the ESV has updated their mobile site making it more iPhone friendly. This now makes three separate iPhone apps that use the ESV (iBibleSpace uses the ESV by default and 3onesix allows for the ESV by including the abbreviation before a search). Crossway is distinguished as being the first major Bible publisher as of this writing that has offered a method of reading the Bible to iPhone users.

A very helpful feature of the ESV Mobile site is the inclusion of a search feature on every screen. The text is formatted with plenty of space, perhaps even better than iBibleSpace which tends to run headings and text together and use a verse by verse format. Oddly however, the text itself when viewed on the iPhone is serifed in spite of the fact that when I look at it on my MacBook it is sans serifed. I'm not sure what font is being used, or if one is specified at all, but I would think a sans serifed font like Arial or Helvetica would be much easier to read not only on the iPhone, but other mobile devices as well.

The ESV Mobile site also offers a variety of daily devotionals/readings as well. Like I said in my review of iBibleSpace, I can't imagine reading a devotional from my iPhone (or even a full daily reading of the BIble), but others may be more so inclined.

If you hear of an iPhone Bible app, or an iPhone app related to biblical studies, be sure to let me know and I'll mention it here on This Lamp.


Biblical Fonts on the iPhone: Greek--YES! Hebrew--NO!

Yesterday, I read on iPhone Central that Arabic and Hebrew fonts are not displaying correctly in the iPhone's Safari web browser (see "iPhone lacking Unicode support for Arabic, Hebrew").

As I said in my post yesterday reviewing Bible apps on the iPhone, I would like to eventually see original language biblical texts on the iPhone in addition to the English translations already available. So I decided to conduct a couple of tests on my own. If the iPhone won't display Hebrew, will it display Greek?

First, I wanted to confirm the lack of Hebrew character support, so I ran over to Iyov's blog where I remember he used some Hebrew fonts last Monday in regard to a post by yours truly. Below is an actual photograph of my iPhone screen on Iyov's post "Brief Notes (Rosh Chodesh Av, 5767)":

Sure enough--the Hebrew does not display at all.

So what about Greek? On Wednesday, Suzanne McCarthy posted an entry on the Better Bibles Blog titled "From Sapho 2." While not technically a biblical passage, the post includes Greek text. Here is another photo of my iPhone:

As you can see the Greek renders fine--in fact, it's perfect. So why doesn't the Hebrew? Modern Unicode fonts include characters for both Greek and Hebrew as well as quite a few other character language sets. My only conclusion is that iPhone v. 1 software uses limited font sets.

Hopefully, as the iPhone is introduced in other parts of the world, these missing languages--including Hebrew--will be added in.


TNIV Truth: TNIV on the iPhone

Want to access the TNIV natively on the iPhone (and a few other translations, too)?

See my newest post at TNIV Truth.


iPhone Bible App Roundup: July 2007

Believe it or not, only three weeks have passed since the release of the iPhone. In spite of a few rough edges, I'd still have to say it's the best smartphone/PDA/iPod experience I've ever had. I mentioned in my review of the iPhone that I miss third party apps like PocketQuicken and Olive Tree Software's BibleReader. In BibleReader, I had the Gramcord Greek New Testament and the NASB with Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries installed.

Let me say up front that on the iPhone, there's nothing like the kind of offerings Olive Tree has for other PDA's and smartphones. In fact, I contacted Olive Tree to see if they were working on any kind of solution for the iPhone. They asked me if I would be interested in testing the text files they offer for iPods on my iPhone since no one at Olive Tree actually has an iPhone. I had to inform them that text files cannot be placed on an iPhone in the same manner that one can on an iPod because the free space on the iPhone's flash drive cannot be directly accessed. At this point, I don't know where Olive Tree's strategy stands for the iPhone, if there is one at all.

A major drawback of the iPhone is that Apple will not allow third party applications on the iPhone at this point. Now, I've heard rumors that a software development kit is in the works, but supposedly the Windows version isn't up to speed with the OS X version at the moment, so Apple wants to wait until the SDK's have platform parity before either is released. These days, Apple Inc. (no longer Apple Computer) has quite a few Windows software offerings and actually sells more iPods and iPhones to Windows users than to Mac users. Until the Windows SDK is up to par, we have no third party apps. Again...if this rumor is true at all.

The solution, and one endorsed publicly by Apple, revolves around Web 2.0 apps that can run in the iPhone's stripped down Safari browser. Quite a few "programs" have been released so far and are cataloged at websites such as The iPhone Application List. Some of these applications are quite handy, but in the interest of myself and readers of this blog, I thought I would try to create an ongoing series regarding the Bible offerings for the iPhone as they become available.

Currently, there are three iPhone applications that offer access to the Bible. I will offer brief reviews of them in the order they were released.

iPhone Scriptures/LDS Standard Works (KJV & Mormon)

Technically, these are two separate programs, but they use a similar interface, so I'm going to assume there's some connection between them. Released about a week after the launch, iPhone Scriptures was the first Bible related app available for the iPhone. The interface is straightforward. Clicking on a selection such as "New Testament" offers the user a list of New Testament books. Selecting a book takes the reader to another screen with chapter numbers. Selecting a chapter yields the entire text for that chapter:

The button at the top of the text that says "Library" takes the reader back to the initial screen. What seems to be an obvious omission are arrows that would take the reader to the previous or next chapters. No search features are present, but it's promised to be available soon. In case you didn't notice, the biblical text is limited to the King James Version, which is the officially used translation of the Mormon Church. This isn't surprising, but will certainly limit widespread use of this program.

The only functional difference between iPhone Scriptures and LDS Standard Works is the ability to turn off the Mormon Scriptures in the latter program for those who don't want to look at the Mormon-specific titles. This is done in a "Settings" tab at the bottom in place of the "About" tab in iPhone Scriptures.

I saw iPhone Scriptures within a day or two of it's release, and the initial interface had very tiny tabs making it virtually unusable. The current version is much improved.

3onesix Ministry Tools (NIV)

This Bible was released around July 10, and takes a slightly different approach to accessing the Scriptures than the programs mentioned above. In 3onesix Ministry Tools, the user must know what passage he or she wants to view in advance. For instance, typing "Matthew 1" results in that chapter being displayed.

Clicking either of the links on the chapter screen takes the user to the regular eBible website which is what this program is based on. Currently, the only text available from 3onesix is the NIV, but one would hope that others would eventually be made available since eBible offers multiple versions. At the moment, unless the user goes to the eBible site, there is no direct search feature in the app specifically made for the iPhone.

iBibleSpace (ESV)

By far the most impressive iPhone Bible app to date is iBibleSpace released a couple of days ago. Anyone who has already spent time on an iPhone will immediately recognize an interface that draws its cues from the regular iPhone home screen. By choosing the first option, "Bible," one is presented with a similar interface as found in the original iPhone Scriptures application mentioned above, but it's designed to look much better in iBibleSpace. Again, the user can select a book of the BIble (OT & NT books are on the same screen), and then a chapter.

The text as shown above is quite clear, and contrary to the screenshots I took above on my MacBook (I don't know of any way to grab screens on my iPhone), the text such as the word "Reference" above fits perfectly onto it's button on the iPhone.

iBibleSpace has quite a few features going for it that puts it ahead of the other two iPhone Bibles. First of all, the ESV text as shown here includes access to textual footnotes: notice the "" at the end of v. 3. That note designation is actually hyperlinked and will take the user to the bottom of the screen where the footnotes all appear at the end of any chapter. You might also notice the right-pointing arrow that will take the user to--you guessed it--chapter 2 where there are both previous chapter and next chapter buttons.

A number of other options are offered at the top of the screen as well. The large single-colored left pointing arrow will take the user back to a listing of all chapters in the biblical book. The "Notes" button allows the reader to access a personalized account where one can store customized notes. The plus (+) button on the far right allows the user to add a new note and even highlight a verse in one of six different colors [gee, maybe I could transfer all the notes from my wide margin NASB to my iPhone!...or maybe not]. The "Reference" button takes the user to notes from Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary (not of great interest to me, but it's a nifty feature, nonetheless).

The only real downside I saw of the biblical text in iBibleSpace was the dreaded words of Christ in red. If this "feature" could be turned off, I believe that would be helpful to many.

Going back to the IBibleSpace main screen is simple because it always remains as a separate page/tab in the iPhone browser (in case you didn't know, the iPhone will allow the user to have multiple pages open at once, much like tabs in regular browsers). "Today's Verse" is just what you would expect it to be: a daily Bible verse. There is a link to read the entire chapter from which the verse comes in context if one is so inclined.

Another distinguishing feature of iBibleSpace is its search feature:

One can search either or both testaments and exact phrases. Results are displayed in groups of five at a time with an option to select "More."

However, I found it odd that NT hits are listed before OT results. I would prefer them my results to be listed in canonical order. Further, in most Bible programs the search word is usually highlighted in some way, but not so in iBibleSpace.

The other two buttons on the home screen will lead the user to daily devotions from Spurgeon or podcasts from a variety of conservative Christian radio shows. The selections are a bit odd in my opinion. I cringed when I saw Joyce Meyer, but I occasionally enjoy listening to Ravi Zacharias' show. The great majority of the offerings, however, I would not have any regular interest in. I also doubt I'd run to my iPhone for a daily devotional from Charles Spurgeon either. In fact, it seems odd to me that it's a primary button on the home screen.

Regarding the podcasts, though, I followed one all the way to the show to see if the iPhone would actually play it. The link was to an MP3 file that launched QuickTime on the iPhone. I think that was the first time that I realized that I even had QuickTime on my iPhone!

iBibleSpace is impressive on many levels: features, design, and consistency of its interface (one never follows a link that leads to a page not formatted to the iPhone unlike the 3onesix app). Even though the ESV is not one of my preferred translations, I put iBibleSpace at the top of my iPhone app bookmarks. At the present time, iBibleSpace is far and away the best Bible app available for the iPhone.

I'd still like to see original language texts on the iPhone, although I have no idea if the iPhone would even support Greek and Hebrew fonts. Of course one would presume that it is using Unicode fonts already. Something like the NET Bible would be interesting to have on the iPhone as well, and perhaps because the folks behind the NET have been so Internet savvy, we will see something in the near future. One also wonders if an iPhone interface to something like Bible Gateway couldn't be created to take advantage of multiple translations.

Further, I still am hopeful for third party apps. The major drawback of any of these apps relates to their dependence on the Internet. Even with a WiFi connection, they are not as fast as a native application would be.

In the meantime, three weeks have yielded three distinct Bible apps of varying creativity and features. As others will undoubtedly come available in the weeks ahead, I'll be sure to cover as many as possible here on This Lamp.


iPhone = Convergence

In 2003, I had three electronic devices (not counting my laptop) I used regularly and carried with me most places: a Palm Tungsten T, my Motorola Timeport cellphone, and a 20GB (second generation) iPod. Then in October of that year, I obtained the newly released Treo 600 which combined the cellphone and Palm functions. The number of devices I carried were down to two. I remember reflecting at the time that if only I could combine something like the Treo with the functionality of the iPod, I'd be set.

I realize, of course, that to some such gadgets seem unnecessary, but they've become extremely integrated into my life. Let me explain. A little more than a decade ago, I carried a physical daytimer. It was convenient enough for the calendar and address book, but for anything else I had to remember where I had written it. Then in 1997, I bought a Palm Professional which appealed to my proclivity to all things electronic and computerized. Truth be told, there's something I miss about writing appointments with a physical pen or pencil onto an actual page made from wood pulp. Nevertheless, the Palm was most practical. It went into my pocket. I could run searches for information without having to worry about where I had written it. It wasn't something extra to carry with the stack of books that often seem to follow me around wherever I go.

[Sidenote: For those curious, since 1997 I carried in this order a PalmPilot Professional (came with 1 MB of memory but I upgraded it to a whopping 2 MB), Palm IIIe, Palm Vx, Palm Tungsten T, and finally a Palm Treo 600. Of those devices, for purely Palm-based features, the Palm Vx was probably my favorite of all. It was slender, sleek and had a crisp monochrome screen that I felt was never equaled in the color screens of the Tungsten or Treo models that I used. Oh, and I also briefly carried a Compaq iPaq 3850 in early 2002. This PocketPC device was certainly more sophisticated that a Palm PDA, and the promise of it appealed to me; but in the end, I found it to be buggy and needing regular (as in at least daily) reboots to function normally. My final straw was calling tech support about its unreliability, asking why I had to restart it so much, only to have the tech from Compaq say, "What do you expect? It's Windows!"]

As for the iPod, you may be saying to yourself, "I have trouble imagining Rick with headphones on, psychedelically bebopping around like one of those iPod commercials." Well, no, you won't see me doing that. In fact, you'd rarely see me with an iPod although I carried it with me everyday. Generally, I only used it during my commute, which can sometimes last up to an hour. Yes, I do have music on my iPod, but I admit that I don't listen to it that often. My iPod use is mainly geared around listening to content such as lectures, the Mars Hill Audio Journal, audio books, or even audio Bibles (lately I've been listening through the entire TNIV).

And regarding the cell phone aspect, a number of years ago, when we first moved to Simpsonville, Kathy and I opted not to carry local telephone service. Why did we really need to? Couldn't we simply use a cell phone for everything? Is there ever really any need for a landline anymore? So we each have our own cell phones and we haven't missed the $30 or so dollars we used to send to the phone company each month.

So perhaps you can see why the iPhone would appeal to me. It is the next step in my pursuit of technological convergence. In 2003, I was able to go from three devices to two; and now in 2007 with the iPhone, I can simply carry ONE device that does everything. I won't bore you with a full review. They're a dime a dozen these days (however, for the most complete I've seen go read the one at engadget). Yet, I will point out a few discoveries I've made and offer some reflection on my experience with the iPhone.

First of all, after a week of use and after experiencing the activation woes I wrote about (see here and here), I can say overall that I'm very pleased with the iPhone. Yes, there are a few features it's lacking, which I'll mention below, but overall, it lives up to its promise. Plus, the key to the iPhone is software and currently it's listed at version 1.0. I fully expect that the rough spots and the gaps in the iPhone's applications will be worked out with software updates in the weeks to come. So while, I'm missing some functionality here or there--some of which I was even used to on my Treo--I'm not really concerned.

In my opinion, when timelines are drawn twenty years from now on the the history of mobile phones and the like, the iPhone will have a prominent place along the line. One could easily point out where another PDA or cell phone does many of the same things the iPhone does, but it's the ease of use and the intuitive interface that's key for the iPhone. Email is easy and works as it should. And internet browsing is not an exercise in frustration as it was on my Treo. On the Treo, invariably, the internet's memory cache would get full and I would have to go in and clear it out. Graphics would take so long to load that I completely turned them off so that I simply had little squares with graphical symbols. Plus, it was invariably difficult to maneuver around a webpage on my Treo because it would convert multiple columns to one column. With the iPhone, a webpage renders correctly (except for Flash, but they're working on that) and you can resize it as you need. Double-tapping on a block of text zooms in wonderfully. The internet is actually usable on this phone, and because the screen's resolution is much higher than a typical computer monitor, even the smallest text is quite readable.

A number of folks have complained about AT&T's Edge data network, specifically in regard to speed. However, when the iPhone sense a wifi internet connection, it immediately switches over to that which is faster than any data network anyway. And maybe Edge is slow to some, but I can tell you it's certainly faster than whatever I was using from Sprint on my Treo 600.

I'm so pleased with the email and internet capabilities of the iPhone that it enables even another level of convergence for me. Often, in making a daytrip somewhere, I'll carry my MacBook simply so that I can check email once or twice while I'm away. The iPhone's capabilities are so extensive, however, that I think I could get by for significant amounts of time simply with it alone. Therefore, on short trips I can now leave my laptop at home and simply carry the iPhone. Traveling light is always a plus.

All the concerns over the iPhone's virtual keyboard are mostly gone by now for those who have spent anytime with it. Mistakes are usually corrected with a tap of the virtual space bar if I'm paying attention and willing to trust the iPhone's own "intuition." I think for heavy editing, I might still like an external keyboard. I admit that I haven't used one of these since I had the foldout keyboard for my Palm IIIe (again, it was just something extra to carry), but such a keyboard would be useful with the iPhone, and it could connect via the iPhone's built-in bluetooth, so I hope third parties are already working on something like this.

One of my early concerns for the iPhone was the relatively small flash drive (8 gb). Only recently have I actually filled up the space on my 20gb iPod purchased back in 2002 (this is a pre-photo, pre-video, old-school monochrome iPod). At that point, I began unchecking a few of the unabridged books I have that take up so much space. But the iPhone encourages a different approach. The idea is not to carry everything with you, but just what you need between syncs. And really, this makes sense. I mean if I listened to everything in my iTunes library, I would have to listen for over three weeks with no sleep. I realize now that it's really unnecessary to carry all that stuff with me. The key is to create albums in iTunes so that you can simply select those and sync over what you think you'll need for the time being.

And that's the other thing about the iPhone. I know folks who have so-called smart phones that never sync them regularly. The iPhone seems to drive the user to sync on a regular basis, to update the content for the next day or two's use.

Having said all that, not everything is rosy. Apple's restrictive policy toward 3rd party apps is a real pain. Two applications I miss from my Palm Treo are Pocket Quicken and Olive Tree's Bible Reader. I kept Pocket Quicken synced regularly with Quicken on my desktop Mac and used the mobile version as a check registry when away from home. And although I usually have access to a Bible with me (or Accordance on my MacBook), there were quite a few times that the Bible Reader on my Treo came in quite handy. On the Treo I carried the Greek NT and the NASB with Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. The only third party apps available for the iPhone have to be created using Web 2.0, so I don't expect anything to reach the sophistication of Pocket Quicken. And so far, I've only come across one Bible program for the iPhone (which I'll review in a separate post), but it's KJV only in addition to Mormon scriptures which are, naturally, of no interest to me. I would really like to see someone create an iPhone interface for something like Bible Gateway.

And there are a few basic missing features on the iPhone. For instance today, Kathy emailed me asking for the address of a family member. I had that information in the contacts on my iPhone, but currently, the device does not allow for selecting text and copy and paste. So while I could look up the information, I couldn't copy and paste it into the iPhone's email program. I still had to retype it. This certainly seems like a step backwards. Didn't the original 1984 Mac have copy and paste?

Also, a day or two ago, I signed up online for a couple of iPhone training sessions to be held at the Apple Store in Cincinnati. At this point, I'm not really expecting to learn a whole lot that I haven't already discovered, but nevertheless, I thought it might be fun. So after making the reservations, Apple in turn emailed me confirmations that included calendar event attachments. Logically, I should have been able to click on the attachment in the email message on my iPhone and have the calendar event automatically added to the iPhone calendar. But such functionality does not yet exist on the iPhone. So I had to do it the old fashioned way by adding it to iCal on my MacBook and then syncing up again. Such basic features are standard on Palm and Windows Mobile devices, so I hope that this will be addressed in a future update for the iPhone.

But I'm riding on the assumption that these kinds of issues are minor inconveniences that are inherent to a version 1.0 of the iPhone's software. I'm confident they will be address and hopefully very soon.

Finally, a word about AT&T, the exclusive service provider for the iPhone. On the positive side of things, reception has been exceptional. We've been traveling over the last few days, and I've noticed that even on the most rural Arkansas and Louisiana roads, I've usually had five AT&T bars on my phone at all times. Sprint used to regularly drop out when we left civilization. But not AT&T--at least not so far.

However, on a negative note, those "fewest dropped calls" commercials on television are starting to seem a bit disingenuous. Granted my experience is only anecdotal, but I promise you that I've had more dropped calls in the last week with AT&T than I ever did in seven years with Sprint. It's very annoying.

Overall, I highly recommend the iPhone. Yes, the price is a bit steep. But if you can use the features and if it brings convergence to some of the devices you carry, you may agree with me that the iPhone is worth every penny.


iPhone Activation Woes, Part 8 [3 updates]

To read my initial tale of iPhone activation purgatory and six subsequent updates, see my previous post.

Quick summary: after waiting 35 hours, AT&T finally activated my iPhone on Sunday. It worked for a little over 12 hours and was deactivated. Kathy's iPhone took much less time initially: only 24 hours. Then, after getting my iPhone reactivated and after about two hours of activation for the second phone, Kathy's phone was also deactivated. So my phone works; hers does not.

Now keep in mind that I first started the activation for Kathy's iPhone on Sunday afternoon. Now it's WEDNESDAY night, and except for the aforementioned two hours, her phone is nothing more than an expensive WiFi capable PDA and iPod. These other functions work because it was activated for a brief while.

I haven't posted anything since Monday afternoon because we've been traveling (we're now actually in Louisiana) and we spent the day with family, but in the last 48 hours or so, the incompetence displayed from the tech support for the iPhone has reached new heights. Now keep in mind, that with the exception of one, all the reps I've talked to have been extremely friendly. And I can't imagine that anyone would have a secret agenda for keeping Kathy's iPhone deactivated. Nevertheless, the events I'm about to relate would be described as a comedy of errors if only it simply were so not funny.

And here's an interesting tidbit: during one of my conversations with a representative from AT&T, he gave me some interesting insights into the problem that go well beyond the late training that AT&T employees didn't receive until the day before the product's release. He told me that the reason I keep getting handed back and forth between AT&T and Apple is that Apple will not release to AT&T complete information about how the phone works. He told me that with the Blackberrys they sell, all support is done entirely through AT&T. Not so with the iPhone.

In the last post, I also mentioned John from Apple who sympathized with my case and promised to stick with me until everything was resolved. To his credit, he has done just that. He lets me use his Apple email address to contact him when successive attempts to activate the phone have not worked after a few hours have passed. And he also never simply transfers me to any other support person. Instead, he's stayed on the phone with me in conference with AT&T. That level of personal support has been graciously appreciated. However, I hate to say it but the biggest blunder in this whole situation also came from his hand.

Over the past two and a half days since my last post, I've been on the phone a half dozen times and have spoken to a dozen or so people. The good thing is that unlike previous days, I don't have to start at ground zero with support. John from Apple has been with me every step of the way. I've been offered all kinds of crazy explanations as to why Kathy's phone is not working. Truthfully, I don't know if I'll ever have the answer, and frankly, I don't really care. Keep in mind that I started the activation on her iPhone on Sunday and now we're at the close of Wednesday and it still is not active.

So yesterday after we had arrived in Louisiana after driving straight through the night, I was going to take a nap when John called me. Believe it or not, I had also handled some of the troubleshooting while driving. John said that he was certain that my SIM card was bad. He knew I wasn't at home, so he asked for the ZIP code where I was. After telling him, he hung up with me, and began hunting down the closest AT&T store. After discovering one about 15 miles away from where I am, he called the store and said he was going to send in a customer to swap out the SIM card.

Now, I'll admit to you, my faithful reader, that upon hearing this, my spidey-sense began tingling. Like anything of this nature, I've investigated these iPhones pretty well, and I was certain I had read that the SIM cards could not be swapped out. Nevertheless, he's the expert right? So I got in the car, picked up an old friend who lives in the area, and we headed to the AT&T store in Bossier City, Louisiana.

At the AT&T store, they switched the card out with no hassle. Of course, I found it odd that they charged me for the new card--a whopping 2¢.

So, I got home, emailed John that the card was switched out, and then we waited. Kathy got another notice in her email that her phone was now activated (between our two phones, we've received about a dozen of these so far). But we waited and then nothing. I emailed John and let him know. He called me back and got AT&T support on the phone. As I've mentioned, everyone has had a different theory as to the problem, but I think this one fellow from AT&T was probably right: he said we should have never switched the SIM card on the phone. Surprise, surprise (I should always listen to my spidey-sense).

I read to him the number of the new SIM card, but his system wouldn't let him change it. He said this was because only certain SIM cards were to be used in the iPhones. He believed that Kathy's iPhone had not activated simply because Sprint had not yet released the phone number. I reminded him that her iPhone did work for about two hours on Monday. Nevertheless, he said that another department would have to help me--one that had the authorization to change the SIM numbers in the system. We toyed with the idea of my going back to the local AT&T store, but decided against it on the assumption that the SIM card was probably discarded in the trash. The fellow from AT&T gave me a case number (FINALLY--a case number! My problem is official!), and said that he was submitting it to a group working on specific problems. He said the wait was longer (meaning probably that since it was the end of the day they were probably gone and wouldn't be back until after the Fourth of July holiday), but that my case was being handled and everything should be resolved within five days. Five days. That's five days from yesterday which means that by SUNDAY, July 8 at the latest, Kathy's iPhone should be active. So we're back to waiting.

So I didn't expect to hear from anyone today. I's a national holiday, and although I assume AT&T support was open at some level, the guys who tackle the major problems (such as authenticating a rogue SIM card number) were probably eating hot dogs and tossing horse shoes. So last night I settled in for what I hoped was at least eight hours sleep--after only getting about one and a half hours' sleep the previous night because we were traveling and getting only four hours' sleep each of the two nights before that because I was on hold with tech support. I went to bed about 11 PM and set the alarm clock on my iPhone (mine works, you'll remember, and yes, it even has an alarm clock for travel) for 8 AM. That would be a solid nine hours' sleep. And when the alarm on the iPhone went off, I hit the snooze (it has a snooze feature!) In fact, I slept a good extra hour--all the way till nine o'clock. Then my iPhone rang--not the alarm but an actual call.

Because I've talked to so many people at Apple and AT&T over the last four or five days, evidently I'm now on multiple "check back" lists. I've started getting follow-up calls to see if my problem has been resolved. That was the subject of the call at 9 AM this morning. In a very friendly voice she asked if my issues had been resolved. In a very groggy voice, I told her that they had not been resolved, but I had been given a case number and was promised resolution within five days. She told me that they tell everyone five days, but it's usually much shorter than that. I certainly hope so.

At the end of the conversation, she asked what I've come to realize is the obligatory "Have we resolved your problem and is there anything else I can do for you today?" closing sentence. It seemed a bit out of place under the circumstances. I laughed and said, "Well nothing is resolved, but I appreciate your checking on me." That was understandably the only call I received today since it's a holiday.

Stay tuned. Surely tomorrow...

Update 7/5 12:01 PM. Starting over?
As expected a representative from AT&T called me this morning to see if my phone was now working. According to her, everything was clear on their end of things. After starting the iPhone over a couple of times, she said, "Well it should work. I can't do anything else for you. Let me get you this number so that you can call Apple."

Then the call dropped. It was another one of these situations that I've experienced where my signal will go from five bars to nothing.

To her credit, she called and left a voice mail giving me the number to call Apple. The problem with this is that now I'm essentially starting over with my problem yet again. So while I called Apple, I also emailed John, the representative who had promised to see my problem through. Meanwhile, a representative from Apple came on and I gave him the twenty second version of what was wrong with the phone: the activation process began on Sunday; it was working for about two hours on Monday, and now it can't get service.

Of course because this fellow is new to me, he begins by going through the same old things I've tried with other reps a dozen times before: turning the phone on and off, switching airport mode on and off, etc. He even at one point asked my area code because he wanted to know if there was coverage where I was. I quickly explained to him that I was using another iPhone to talk to him.

He was about to have me redownload the software for the iPhone and completely start the activation process over when I suggested that we should see if the SIM card number is correct, and I explained to him the issue from two days ago when an Apple rep had me go get a new SIM card. He thought that was a good idea, but of course he has no access to that information on his screen and needed to call AT&T. He put me on hold.

Then the call dropped. Unlike John from a few days ago, and unlike the AT&T rep this morning, he made no attempt to contact me although obviously he has access to contact information. If you've read my entire account of this issue, you'll know that this is not the first time this has happened, and I find it totally irresponsible and the complete opposite of any definition of customer service.

So I've emailed John again, but I got a message back that his case load is extraordinarily heavy today due to being gone yesterday for the 4th, but he'll try to get to me when he can.

Meanwhile I'm just waiting. Considering my problems started on Monday, you'd think my case would have some kind of priority. Actually, I've been told by both Apple and AT&T at different times that it did have priority; nevertheless, I'm simply waiting, and I get the feeling I'm waiting back at the starting line...

Update 7/5 1:54 PM. Attention received, but still waiting. John from Apple has come through once again. He called me stating that he was able to offer some of his lesser account issues to some of his co-workers so that he could concentrate on my issue. Neither he nor I believe there is a problem with the physical phone, but rather in the service on the AT&T side of things. He is running interference for me with AT&T rather than making me do it endlessly waiting on hold and such. Plus he's got much more direct access. I asked him to double-check the SIM card number with AT&T's records. I'm waiting for his call, so hopefully (again) we'll see something resolved very soon.

Update: 7/5 2:46 PM. iPhone working! I'm a bit gunshy to claim the problem is resolved since we've been down that road. However, I am pleased to report that Kathy's iPhone IS now working. John Clark of Apple got hold of a fellow named Samuel Brown at AT&T and together they solved the problem. Exactly what the nature of that problem was, none of us know for sure. Samuel contacted a number of departments at AT&T and there were some flags on the account such as one stating that the number had not yet been ported (it had). It's possible that these flags were in error but simply causing the system to not allow use of the phone. Who knows?

Samuel was nice enough to give me his personal email at AT&T just as John had done at Apple. I hope that we won't have any more problems with our phones, but if we do, at least I now have direct contacts with both companies.

In appreciation for their help, I sent both John and Samuel iTunes gift cards.

So all's well that ends well, I suppose--assuming that it has, in fact, ended.

There's no need for me to write a full review of the iPhone. Those are out there aplenty. But I will give you a few minor thoughts and reflections tomorrow.


Apple's iPhone: GREAT! AT&T's Service: NOT SO GREAT! [6 updates]

Well, my reaction is mixed. The Apple iPhone is one of the most impressive little gadgets I've ever seen. On the other hand, the whole process of activation (and sudden unexplainable deactivation) has been one of the worst service experiences I've ever been a part of. After a 35 hour activation wait, I got to use the iPhone for most of the day, and it was both impressive and a lot of fun. Then, inexplicably, my phone has been deactivated this evening. I'm currently on my third support call since the "line" was cut. The first two, both over 40 min. long, resulted in inexplicable hangups without ever talking to a live person. Currently, I just reached the hour point of my third attempt, so I figured while I'm waiting, I may as well share my experience with the rest of the world.

The whole ordeal started this past week. In spite of all the hype and mass hysteria surrounding the iPhone, I was undecided as to whether I'd get one until just a few days ago. I do use a so-called "smart phone"--a Treo 600 purchased in 2003 (actually, I've gone through five of them because they're a bit fragile, but fortunately I had insurance with Sprint). After watching Steve Jobs' keynote in which he introduced the iPhone a second time and the slew of videos released by Apple over the last few days, I made my case to Kathy and we decided to take the plunge. I determined that I could cash in some Membership Rewards points from Amex, grab the hundred or so in rolled coins, I've saved for a rainy day, sell the Treo and a couple of other phones I don't use and I should have enough cash to cover the iPhone.

So on Friday, I decided to go to the sole AT&T store in Shelby County, Kentucky, assuming that the crowds would be smaller than at the stores in Louisville. I was right. Kathy and I arrived at 5PM, an hour before the iPhone was supposed to go on sale, and there were only eight or nine people ahead of us. The wait wasn't too bad. Then we bought our phones and left. What's interesting is that with the iPhone, AT&T doesn't activate it for you. It's a process that you do by yourself through iTunes on any Windows machine or Mac.

However, we should have known we were in for problems while still in the store. This was Friday, and the AT&T staff admitted that they had only received training on Thursday. That had to do with the secrecy surrounding the iPhone, and I imagine had a lot more to do with Apple than AT&T. One of the fellows in line ahead of us worked for UPS and described the armed guards that surrounded the thousands of iPhone shipments through the previous night. Procedurally, everything was different to standard AT&T methods in regard to this phone and it showed.

Inside the AT&T store, there were three salespeople, and the store manager who was working in a supervisory role. AT&T corporate had sent a regional manager to work security and determine how many people to let inside at any one time. Nothing in the store seemed to be working right. The system that controlled credit checks (mandatory before the sale) was down. Strict inventory control was in place. Salespersons were only allowed to go get our iPhones after we requested them. The boxes could not be opened while we were in the store, and the bags were sealed before we left. We had to give our name, address, social security number, drivers license number, and email address just to purchase the phone. One of the salespeople kept making errors. I could tell the manager was getting ticked at her, and it didn't help his frustrations when she mentioned she had been an hour late to the training the day before.

We were in no rush, so I took my phone home and waited until about 8:30 to actually attempt to activate it via iTunes. After requesting that my Sprint Treo's number be ported to the new iPhone, filling out the forms, agreeing to the user contracts (one for Apple, one for AT&T), the software ran through this process to activate my phone. It said that it might take up to six minutes. No problem. The instructions noted that once the phone was activated, I might be able to dial out, but initially calls might not come in. Again no problem because all other features of the iPhone should work.

After the six minutes were up, the activation process timed out. I was given a message that further time was necessary for my activation. I quickly received two emails: one from Apple and one from AT&T. One of the messages stated that my activation would take 24 hours and I needed to be sitting in front of my computer on or before 8:35 on Saturday night. Frustrating, to be sure, but I went with it. The interesting thing about the iPhone is that until it's activated, one cannot make use of any of its features, including internet or iPod features. It's essentially a very expensive paperweight unless it's fully activated. Supposedly, there's an option to make an emergency call even if the phone is not activated. When I touched this button (not to actually make an emergency call, but to see where the screen would take me) I discovered that had I been in an actual emergency, the phone still would not have worked because until it's activated, the signal bars remain flat. No one is going to dial out on an unactivated iPhone--not even in an emergency.

On Saturday, about 20 hours into the ordeal, I decided to call one of the iPhone/AT&T support numbers just to make sure all my information was correct when the 24 hour mark should occur. In trying to explain my situation to one gentleman, I was told that my experience was "mistaken." If I got to the end of the iTunes activation screens without some functionality added to my phone, I must have done something wrong. He told me to plug my iPhone back in and start over. Upon doing this, iTunes recognized the phone and gave me the same message about needing additional time to activate my phone. The AT&T representative all but accused me of lying because evidently, this stage of activation limbo was not in any of his documentation. If I didn't see what was in his manual, I must've done something wrong. I told him that his information was not complete and I'm sure he would get a memo on Monday. The call was going nowhere, so I ended it in frustration (although I never got ill-tempered or rude).

So 8:35 came and went and my phone still was not activated. By 11:30, it was now 27 hours into the process so I decided to call AT&T again. This time, a very helpful woman told me that my number had been ported over. I knew this already because my Treo no longer worked and I was having to use Kathy's Motorola phone (we are planning to transition her phone over to AT&T as well but were waiting until mine was finalized first). The representative also informed me that activation for my phone was now complete in their system, but I was in the cue to be activated. She said it should be very soon. In fact, she even very politely offered to call me back in two hours, trying first on my iPhone, but if there was no answer, she would try my wife's phone. Even though I had to get up early for church, I decided to stay up and review my Zephaniah lesson for Sunday. Two hours came and went, and no call, so I decided to go to bed.

This morning at 6 AM, I got up and upon seeing that my iPhone still was not activated, I called AT&T again. Another friendly sounding representative told me that my activation should be very soon--that all my ducks were in a row for activation. She apologized multiple times for the other representative not calling me back, but took down both my number and Kathy's and promised that someone would call to check on us in the next five days. Further, she emphasized the fact that a couple hundred thousand phones had been activated over the last day or two and it had totally bogged down the servers. I'm always polite on the phone, of course, so I didn't say it, but my thoughts were, "And what exactly did you think would happen?!"

Well, again I was stuck in a position of not really being able to do anything, so I tried to just let it go--to push it out of my mind figuring I could always call again after church. Five minutes before 8AM as we were about to walk out the door, I heard the ding of my email, and would you believe that I had a notice from iTunes saying that my phone was now active. I turned it on, and sure enough it was! I knew I didn't have much time since it was time to leave, so I let it sync my contacts and calendar, and I took off for church. The whole activation process had taken 35 hours before I could actually use the phone.

At church, I only specifically showed it to a couple of folks, but it seemed to draw a crowd. I'm really not one to try to show off such things, so I found it a bit uncomfortable to have so many people interested in this new gadget in my possession. After our Bible study class, and what I thought was a very engaging discussion on the book of Zephaniah, I was nearly rushed by four of the men, not to ask further questions about the lesson, but to see the iPhone because they had heard I had one.

I spent the afternoon playing with it, setting preferences and exploring all the features. As for the iPhone itself, I can honestly say that for the most part, it is just as amazing as what you've seen and read. There's no slight of hand when it comes to the commercials. What you see is pretty much what you get. The most frequently heard complaints have been about the virtual keyboard and the slower internet delivery of AT&T's Edge network. By mid afternoon, I was starting to get used to the keyboard. So I don't think this is going to be a big worry at all. The Edge network itself seemed to be out for part of the afternoon, but I happily noticed this morning that the iPhone automatically switched to our church's wi-fi system which made internet access faster than any mobile phone internet delivery system.

My biggest complaint about the iPhone is that text cannot be selected and then cut, copied or pasted. This seems extremely odd because didn't even the original 1984 Mac have this ability? The only bright side to this is that this is a software issue and could be addressed in a future update. In the meantime, I can't imagine doing any heavy text editing on the iPhone without such basic features.

Interesting side-note: after lunch, I went back by the original AT&T store in Shelbville where I purchased the phone because I decided I needed a case (the device is quite smooth and can simply slide out of the hand quite easily). I saw the fellow who sold me my phone and he recognized me. I pulled it out of my pocket and proclaimed, "After 35 hours, it was finally activated!" He immediately stood up and asked if he could see it. I let him play with it for a while. The amazing thing is that even though he had been through the training about the iPhone, he had actually never seen one or held one in his hand before I walked in. He told me that AT&T employees had been forbidden to buy one until demand went down.

So everything looked rosy by the evening. I had gone up to Kathy's school for a bit to help her as she tried to clean up for the end of her year. I noticed that I didn't get any reception in the middle of the building where her library is, but this wasn't surprising. My reception using a phone on the Sprint network had only been sporadic as well that far into her school.

I walked out of her school about 8:30 to see the signal bars rise once again on the phone. I was about to call a buddy of mine when the phone indicated that there was no service. I thought this was very odd for the signal to completely drop out, and it was still not getting a signal when I got home. I came in to check my email, only to notice another iTunes activation message, the exact same wording as I had received this morning. I thought that was really odd. It was not Kathy's activation. It had my number on it. Had this second activation deactivated my phone?! A few minutes later, a second email came in saying the same thing again.

So about 8:50 PM, I called AT&T on Kathy's Sprint phone which we have left active until my phone is straightened out. I was on hold 42 minutes when suddenly and without warning I got disconnected. So I called a second time. After 46 minutes I seemed to have left the queue because the line started ringing. But no one ever picked up. Then suddenly, I was disconnected again.

So I called a third time, and I'm still waiting. Kathy's phone notes that it's been two hours and seven minutes since I first made this call. I've been on hold the entire time. Two things to consider: each time I've called tonight, the AT&T recording says that due to extremely high volume the average wait time is only 20 minutes. Ha--if only I could be so lucky.

Also, it should be noted that AT&T has only ONE hold song--some piano tune that could surely be used to torture captured enemy combatants.

So now, after being on hold for two hours and ten minutes, someone finally picked up on the line. She said my phone is no longer showing an activated status, but a pending status because I have an incorrect service plan. I told her that the service plan I chose, I chose from within iTunes--a family plan for 1400 shared minutes. She said she couldn't help me, but would have to transfer me over to customer care. I asked her what was wrong with my plan, and she said she couldn't look it up because their system was down.

So, now it's 12:44. AM I've been on the phone for four hours trying to get my iPhone activated again.

The wait for customer care was not as long. Evidently I got sent straight in. The customer care representative told me that there was nothing wrong with my plan. So she's sending me to another department. But she warned me ahead of time that this wait might be quite long.

Also, interesting tidbit. According to this person I just talked to, she said sales of the iPhone have been stopped until all current customers are activated and stabilized.

Again, I have to ask, What did they think would happen?

It's 1:00 AM. Still on hold. I'm going to post this and I'll update more later.

Update 1:53 AM. I finally got through to this third department. A very perky rep said that she sent my activation through, but I still never got any signal bars. I asked if she knew why my phone was deactivated to begin with. She said she didn't know because the system was down.

While I had her on the phone, I asked her to check on the status of my wife's phone. She said that there was a problem with the wrong sim card in the phone. I pulled it out and read her the number to which she said, "No, that's the right one."

But ultimately, with their system down, there was nothing more she could do for me tonight. She suggested I call back in six or seven hours. I only wish I could get that much sleep, but I have to be somewhere in the morning at 6:30 AM.

Right now, when I try to call my cell phone number from my wife's phone, I don't get the new voice mail message I set up earlier today. All I get is a message saying that the number is not valid. I hope to goodness that somehow in all this AT&T hasn't lost my number.

Okay, I'm going to bed. More later.

Update 8:53 AM: RESOLVED. I had an early meeting this morning, and afterwards came back home intending to take a nap after having only four hours sleep last night. Instead, obsession got the best of me, and even though the six or seven hours I was told to wait before calling back had not yet passed, I called anyway.

But here's the intriguing aspect. When I went to make my call, Kathy's Sprint phone would no longer work, thus indicating her phone number had been transferred to AT&T. I checked her email, and sure enough, there was a message stating that her new phone was active. So using her iPhone, I called AT&T again, and upon reaching a second level representative, I found someone who could really help me.

She told me that there were definitely some problems with my line, but they didn't believe it had anything to do with the actual phone based on what I was telling them. The AT&T rep was extremely friendly, and I made sure I remained friendly as well (Mom always taught me to be polite on the phone). She put me on hold a number of times while she checked with engineers on this or that. At the very least, in contrast to five hours of rabbit chasing last night, I felt like I was finally getting some attention to my problem.

They were about to pursue one possible solution to my problem (I had already been told that my case seemed to be unique), when on a hunch, she had me read to her the SIM number from my phone. She immediately recognized the problem. In some weird series of events, the registration of Kathy's phone had copied her SIM number over to my records and thus my problems began. I asked her if there was anything I did incorrectly. I explained that I used separate login accounts on our computer for each phone as well as separate iTunes accounts. She said that I did everything correctly, but her guess is that the error occurred because of the high volume of activations over the weekend.

After making the corrections to my settings on her end, the iPhone started working almost immediately.

Again, this AT&T rep was very friendly as have been all their employees that I've talked to (with the exception of the person who argued with me over what I was telling him my screen said). But the title of this post stands because I simply don't think AT&T was adequately prepared for this level of new activations--and they should have been since none of this was a sudden surprise, and they had months to get everything in place.

I believe the idea of activating one's own service is a great one, but this was not the product launch to test it out. The internet is filled this morning with horror stories similar to mine, and in the discussion forums on Apple's website (as of this writing) nine out of ten comment threads are negative in nature. It will all blow over as problems like mine get resolved, and the iPhone itself is an exceptional and perhaps even groundbreaking product. But for me as a new AT&T customer, I've begun my TWO YEAR contract with a really bad taste in my mouth.

Update 10:13 AM: NOT Resolved After All: Okay, so ten minutes after getting off the phone with tech support, Kathy's phone stopped receiving a signal. Same song second verse. I called the same number back, got put through to a number of different departments. After going through my problem, one fellow told me that he couldn't help me, but I needed to call a number that he needed me to write down. I wrote it do it down and hung up only to realize he had just given me the original number I had called to begin with. Maybe we could give that a new name: "Circular Support."

So, now I'm back on hold again. This time, AT&T is transferring me over to Apple.

Update 11:30 AM: Still on hold. I've talked with half a dozen folks in the last hour or so. I keep getting transferred. I wish I could get the same woman again who got my first phone working this morning. Recently, AT&T transferred me to Apple. He wanted me to do inane things like walk outside with the phone to see if I would get better reception--in spite of the fact that I was talking to him on the AT&T network on the other phone from the inside just fine, and in spite of the fact that I was using the phone inside this morning before it died. He wanted to know where I live to see if I had coverage--AGAIN, in spite of the fact that I was on an AT&T phone with him. And would I switch to a company without checking to see if I had coverage first?

After exhausting all these kinds of options, he asked me to hold so that he could get an AT&T person on the line. After I talked with this person for a few minutes, he told the Apple guy just to switch me over to him completely because he said he knew what the problem was.

And so I remain on hold while he's checking on something, eating a donut, smoking a cigarette or something...

Update: 12:55 PM: Starting all over again... After getting two hours into the most recent round (of being switched back and forth between Apple and AT&T), the call dropped. Now it's obvious that the person to whose level I had finally climbed had my phone number because this is inherent to the problem. However, in a move that's an obvious affront to the very nature of customer service, she chose not to call me back.

So I've had to start over yet again. Kathy's phone still won't work even though it worked earlier today. It simply says there's "No Service" even though the other phone is picking up service just fine. I'm about a half hour into the climb to find someone who hopefully will be able to help me. Of course, I was two hours into it last time, which also was essentially starting over as well since they had me call the same number I started with.

Update: 2:37 PM: Waiting. After climbing the tier of response for an hour I was transferred again from AT&T to Apple. I told my story to an Apple rep named John Clark, who was sympathetic to my situation. He told me he was taking ownership of my problem and one way or another he would see it through. Right as I was about to give him my phone number in case we got disconnected, the call dropped! However, true to his word, he emailed me asking for my phone number. John called me back and we started working our way through potential issues that could be causing his problem. He did have to consult AT&T at one point, but he did not transfer me back to them, but put us in a conference call. They seem to think that multiple activation commands have been sent in on some of these phones that upon receiving subsequent commands, have negated the original one. Currently, Kathy's phone is in the queue for activation again, so now we just wait. But John gave me his direct email address and wants me to check in if the phone activates or check in every two to four hours if it doesn't. So that's where we are. I guess I'll go get a shower and start my day...


The Great Apple Blunder of 2007

By delaying Leopard to focus on the iPhone, Apple is missing a crucial opportunity to take advantage of Vista's lukewarm reception.

There's an old saying, "strike while the iron is hot." That means that sometimes there is only a small window of time to act strategically in a particular situation. Historically, Apple has not been very adept at incorporating this principle into their ongoing marketing strategies. The internet has plenty of websites that describe the most notable of Apple's blunders as any quick Google search demonstrates. Of course, the most memorable Apple blunder in my opinion was in 1985 when John Sculley refused to take seriously Bill Gates suggestion that Apple license its OS to other computer makers. In those days there was no standard interface on PC's. They ran ran one program at a time, usually launched from the DOS command line. Had Sculley followed Gates' suggestion, and history had turned out a bit differently, the 80% or so average of you who use Windows who visit this site on any given day might actually be using the Mac OS today instead. Incidentally, in November, 1985, Microsoft released Windows v. 1. It was nowhere near the functionality of the Mac OS which was still fairly new at the time.

Today, while I'm sure that there are a few exceptions here and there, I would guess that most folks like me who use a Mac do so by choice. That's true for a lot of Windows users, too, but for many it's not true. I would guess that for many Windows users, if given good compelling reasons to switch, and given the ability and opportunity to do so, they might just make the move.

That brings us to the current situation here in 2007. This year saw the release of a new Windows OS, Vista, and the promise of a new Mac OS, Leopard (OS X 10.5). Originally, Steve Jobs promised that Leopard would ship pretty much at the same time as Vista. That didn't happen, but we were told that Leopard would ship before the end of the Spring (which if held true would have probably been pretty close to the beginning of summer).

Then on April 12, Apple made a surprise announcement: Leopard will be delayed until October so that Apple's engineers can concentrate on bringing the iPhone to market. I'd simply link to the announcement, but there's no separate page for it. It's in the list on Apple's "Hot News" page and presumably will eventually scroll off once other news items are added. But here it is in its entirety. If you've already read it, simply move on to the next paragraph.

iPhone has already passed several of its required certification tests and is on schedule to ship in late June as planned. We can’t wait until customers get their hands (and fingers) on it and experience what a revolutionary and magical product it is. However, iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come without a price — we had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team, and as a result we will not be able to release Leopard at our Worldwide Developers Conference in early June as planned. While Leopard's features will be complete by then, we cannot deliver the quality release that we and our customers expect from us. We now plan to show our developers a near final version of Leopard at the conference, give them a beta copy to take home so they can do their final testing, and ship Leopard in October. We think it will be well worth the wait. Life often presents tradeoffs, and in this case we're sure we've made the right ones.

Apple has been making computers for 31 years, this month. But due to the success of the iPod, iTunes, and the release of AppleTV and the upcoming iPhone, Apple Computer made the decision earlier this year to change its name to Apple, Inc. to reflect its diversity of product offering. In my opinion, the above announcement regarding the delay of Leopard says clearly that this is a company stretched way too thin. Computers are what made the company. No Mac user such as myself should begrudge these other products because in many respects, they've added to Apple's bottom line and in that regard have supported the ongoing development of Mac hardware and software. Yet, going all the way back to the mid-eighties and the context of that infamous Gates' memo, the Mac OS has been the underdog--the underdog that could've been the top dog.

Two days ago I had lunch with the owner of a computer/network consulting company for which I used to work a few years back. 99.99% of his company's work relates to Windows networks and workstations. Occasionally if he has a Mac issue, he sometimes will still call me, but that hasn't happened in a while. In the midst of our conversation, he made the statement, "By the way, I hate Vista." I was really taken aback by this. I've got a copy of Vista installed on my MacBook in Parallels. To be honest, I kinda like Vista, perhaps if nothing else because the interface somehow feels more Mac-like to me than previous versions of Windows. But then again, I only have a couple of Windows programs that I occasionally run, and I don't run these everyday. Vista is not mission critical for my work. I don't use Vista all day long. But he went on to describe clients of his who've had nothing but trouble with Vista.

And he's not alone. Certain federal agencies have placed a ban on upgrading computers to Vista. Earlier this week, a northwest CIO made headlines because he is contemplating moving his organization from Windows to Macs. Yesterday, I read that Dell Computers "will restore the option to use Windows XP on some of its home systems, marking a potentially damaging blow to Microsoft's hopes for the newer Windows Vista." Many of the individual complaints I've heard about Vista have to do with this or that scanner or assorted peripheral not working with Vista due to lack of drivers. People have short memories because I remember hearing similar complaints about Windows XP in 2001, but eventually solutions were found for most problems. Nevertheless, while people have always complained about Windows in one form or another, I don't remember ever seeing this much discontent and this much balking to the idea of upgrading to a new Windows OS.

And that brings me back to the old "strike while the iron is hot" idea. It's already too late to take advantage of it, but Apple was handed a prime opportunity to take advantage of Vista's shaky reception by pushing the Mac as a more suitable upgrade. Granted, the current Mac OS (Tiger) is extremely stable and can hold its own against Windows, but what a missed opportunity on Apple's part not to offer their new OS, Leopard, at the same time as Vista!

But this is the new Apple, Inc., not Apple Computer. And I believe that what a lot of Mac users feared when the name change was announced is coming true--the computer division of Apple is taking a back seat to its other product offerings. In spite of their growth, Apple's announcement to delay Leopard not only proves that they don't have the resources to steer two new technologies simultaneously, but also that the older product takes a backseat to the newer.

Of course, Apple is betting on the iPhone becoming a huge success. And maybe it will. But who knows? And I'm sure there's a rush to get the iPhone to the market before the copycats bring forth their phones. Personally, I'd love to have one, but not at that price tag. Plus, we all know that the first generation iPhone will not be the one to get. Let the early adopters suffer through the first incarnation and then the rest of us who want to can get one when the second or third generation is released (in the meantime, I haven't renewed my Sprint contract).

Nevertheless, Apple missed a great opportunity by delaying Leopard and putting all of it's resources on a market it has no history in. And they did it on the risk of an unproven product. Hopefully it will work out for the best, but by the time Leopard is finally released, Vista's kinks may well be worked out, and the iron will no longer be hot.


Waxing Nostalgic for Old Apple Hardware: The Irony of the iPhone

I'm still finding great irony in the forthcoming Apple iPhone. I mentioned in my post about the keynote that back in the late nineties, Seve Jobs killed off all the peripheral, non-computer (i.e. non-Mac) divisions at Apple to get back to the company's roots. Of course, the iPod released in 2001 changed everything because this peripheral turned out to be a huge money-maker for Apple (in fact, Q1 sales turned out to be far beyond expectations according to the report released yesterday).

But it's ironic not just because Jobs would introduce yet another peripheral, but instead the irony lies in the kind of peripheral introduced. The new iPhone incorporates not just an iPod (really just an iPod nano) and a phone, but also a device that will contain calendar, contacts, and email much like the Apple Newton canned a decade ago by Jobs (although Newton holdouts are claiming that spec for spec the Newton does more). The iPhone also incorporates a 2 megapixel camera, even though one of the products killed by Jobs when he did away with the Newton was Apple's Quicktake Camera.

Regardless, I've been waxing nostalgic the last few days thinking about the parts of Apple's history that I missed. I only jumped on the Mac bandwagon in 1998. So I never had nifty gadgets like the Newton or the Quicktake camera. I started using a Palm Pilot in 1998 and that has evolved into the Treo I carry now. But the Newton's features still seem to be ahead of their time. You can even still buy refurbished ones from places like J & K Sales here in Kentucky (also check out Ironically, you can still natively sync a Newton with Windows XP, but not Mac OS X although a couple of third party conduits have been created. From what I've read, Jobs hated the Newton because it was a project introduced by John Sculley (also the coiner of the term "personal digital assistant") who fired Jobs in the late eighties from the company Jobs had founded. So Jobs, in turn, after coming back to Apple killed the Newton and denied any native access in OS X. Not quite eye-for-an-eye, but somewhere close to it.

I have to admit that it's tempting to purchase a refurbished Newton from J & K, but it's hard to justify the $150 price on something that might end up becoming simply a collectable novelty than something of practical use. I carry my laptop with me everywhere as it is and sometimes wonder if I even need the PDA functions of my Treo.

So while there are lots of Newton users still out there, I don't see any "underground" group of Quicktake Camera users. The Quicktake was one of the first commercial digital cameras. It's pictures were only 640 x 480, but at the time it was a robust little device for what it was. And while they are supposedly collectors' items, it's very difficult to get pictures out of them because no modern computer can read the images, let alone connect to them. Still I'm surprised. Since there are cult photography followings around the quirky Holga camera, why no aficionados of the Quicktake, the Model T of digital cameras?

Or maybe I haven't found them yet. Are there any secret Quicktake photographers still out there?


AppleTV, iPhone, But Nothing Macintosh: Makes You Wonder if Macworld will be Changed to Appleworld?

Apple Computer, Inc. is no more. At yesterday's Macworld Expo keynote in San Francisco, Steve Jobs announced that the company was changing its name from Apple Computer, Inc. to simply Apple, Inc. I suppose the change makes sense considering Apple makes lots more than computers now. In addition to the iPod first released in 2001, Apple yesterday announced the long-rumored iPhone and the AppleTV (a set-top box of sorts that connects your computer to your television).

I, for one, have mixed feelings over the name change. As the keynote was going on yesterday, I was checking in online on some of the news sites to keep up since the streaming video wasn't released until much later. After wrapping up the iPhone presentation, I thought to myself, "Is that it? And if this is Macworld, why isn't there any reference to the MACINTOSH?!" And it looks like I'm not the only one who thought this was weird (see Paul Therrott's "About the Mac-less MacWorld [sic] Keynote" and Rob Griffith's "Expo Reaction: iDisappointed").

Don't get me wrong, I think the iPhone really is revolutionary (to use the word everyone else is describing it with). I would gladly trade my Treo for one and even jump from Sprint to Cingular (however, like a lot of folks, the high price [$499-599] is going to keep me away from the iPhone party). Nevertheless, my main interest in Apple is related to the Macintosh. As the iPod has risen in popularity, a lot of us Mac users have been a bit uncomfortable that the Mac has been a bit neglected in recent years. The recent Mac vs. PC ads have dissuaded some of this anxiety, but then yesterday Steve gives a keynote at MACWORLD and doesn't talk about MACS?!

The iPhone seems to be an amazing product. If you haven't watched the presentation of it via Quicktime, do so now. Apple is promoting it as combining the features of an iPod, mobile phone, and internet connectivity device. As for the phone features, they are saying it reinvents the phone. With 200 patents on this device, maybe so; and while I'd be glad to trade up from my Treo, this is far from being a perfect solution. The first detraction in my opinion is the small amount of memory for an iPod. This device comes in either four or eight gigabyte models because it is using flash memory. This isn't an iPod replacement--it's an iPod Nano replacement! I imagine that people will get very frustrated once they realize they have to be highly selective in choosing the music, video and pictures they carry on the device. And wait until software development begins, which is bound to happen since the device is running OS X. 4GB or 8GB is not going to be enough room to make people happy. Granted, the iPhone would have to be much thicker, but if Apple makes all these multimedia promises, then give us a 60GB drive in the thing for the love of Margaret!

Another problem with the iPhone is going to be its low 5 hour battery life for continuous use. Although I've got a Treo for which I access email, text messaging and the occasional email, I've never been inclined to play games or watch video because it runs down the battery. On normal use my Treo is good for a couple of days between recharges. But the iPhone is meant to be a media device in addition to being a mobile phone. Further, it's not going to be as with some devices that you can simply carry an extra battery--you won't be able to swap out batteries on the iPhone just like you can't on an iPod. Heavy users better be ready to simply carry a power supply with them.

And while that new "multi-touch" screen looks pretty nifty, it will drive those who abhor fingerprints downright crazy. The advantage of a stylus or mini-keyboard on most smart phones is that fingerprints are minimized.

Finally, the cost is going to be a major problem. This shouldn't be surprising because throughout Apple's history, they have not just made superior products, they have charged premium prices for them as well. While I'd love an iPhone, I already know it's out of my price range. The initial market for the phone is obviously aimed folks like me who use smart phones already. But that market is only so big. For this to really be successful, Apple has to aim for the iPod crowd, which is in the tens of millions. But how many will pay $599 for a phone when they can get a lesser-featured phone for free when they sign up for a new plan? I have no idea how much it costs to make the iPhone, but if they really want to take the world by storm with them, a $299 price would be much more reasonable. Maybe by the second or third generation, the iPhone will come down in cost and I will consider getting one.

Now, I should say that I'm as much of an Apple fanboy as they come, but I'm just very skeptical that the AppleTV will take off. Microsoft has already beat them to the punch a month or so ago by initiating movie and TV downloads directly to the Xbox 360, a machine that's already in the living room. The Xbox's video goes straight to the box and no middle-device is needed. Plus the Xbox 360 already connects to multimedia PC's (including Macs using Connect360) thus performing the same basic functions of AppleTV (although there are a few differences). As of December, there are already 10.4 million Xbox 360's in people's living rooms. How long would it take apple to sell 10 million AppleTV's? Quite a long time, I'm just guessing. The final nail in the coffin for the AppleTV is the announcement at CES on Monday that AT&T and other cable companies will begin rolling out XBox 360's in place of cable set top boxes AND the Xbox 360 will be updated (presumably through a system update to include those of us who already have them) to receive television and movie through IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) streaming. This is an incredible coup for Microsoft against other consoles (i.e. the PS3 or Wii) and potential competitors like the AppleTV. The AppleTV might be a great device, but I fear that it's arrived to the party just a little bit too late.

Back to the keynote... As a Mac user, I always look forward to the keynotes. There were a number of things related to the Mac that I was looking forward to hearing about that simply weren't addressed. This was surprising because had it not been for the AppleTV and the iPhone, they certainly would have been the main features of the keynote.

For instance...

Where was the demonstration of a mature, soon-to-be-shipped, Mac OS X.5 (Leopard)? Back during the summer Jobs told us that he was not revealing everything about Leopard yet because he didn't want Microsoft to copy everything in Vista. Well, Vista is out, so a lot of us were expecting a full demo of the new OS X.

Where was a preview of new features in iLife '07? Besides iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand (the last of which I have no use for), I was especially looking forward to seeing a newly retooled iWeb. I've said that if it addresses my complaints of the v. 1 shortcomings, I may very well convert this site over to iWeb.

Where was a preview of new features in iWork '07? iWork was slighted as it was in last year's keynote, in spite of the fact that it's a rapidly improving productivity suite from Apple. With last year's release, I completely abandoned any use of PowerPoint in the classroom in favor of iWork's Keynote which offers much more of a professional look in my opinion. Although I don't use Pages a whole lot, I've been using it more over the past year. Plus, the rumor is that a spreadsheet app will be added to the mix this year making iWork an actual competitor to Microsoft Office.

Speaking of which, where were demonstrations from third party Mac software developers such as Microsoft and Adobe? I would have guessed that someone from Adobe would have taken the stage to demo the next version of Photoshop which will feature a universal binary for much faster performance on Intel Macs. Also, I would have expected Roz Ho, general manager for Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit to take the stage to promote the upcoming Mac Office 12, now re-christened Mac Office 2008 (even though it will be released in 2007).

I don't use all the apps in Office as much as I used to, but I do still use them, and would have liked to have seen such a demonstration which has been fairly standard in the past at these events. Instead, Microsoft was left to simply releasing its own press release and its own interview with Roz Ho. The main selling points of the new version of Office seem to be it's Open XML file format as well as new interface. Interestingly, from the pictures I've seen the new interface seems to borrow less from Office 2007 for Windows and more from Apple's own iWork suite.

Also, I might've expected someone from Intel to talk about upcoming processors, leading Steve to talk about the Mac's future road to technology. But nothing...nothing about Macs was said at all. It was all AppleTV and iPhone (and 3/4 were simply about the iPhone).

Maybe my misgivings about everything non-Macintosh from Apple is counter-productive. Certainly the success of the iPod has kept Apple a strong company and this feeds into Apple's ability to produce high-quality computers such as the MacBook I'm typing this on. And I suppose that Apple has to think about the future and diversity means greater security.

But wasn't there also a time when Apple produced computers, printers, cameras, scanners, a PDA (the Newton), and Jobs axed all the peripheral to get back to the roots of the company--the actual Macintosh computer. Am I the only one who remembers this? Maybe the difference is that products like the Apple Quicktake Camera weren't near as successful as the iPod and therefore put a drain on Apple's business. But I wonder if in five years or so we won't see another wave of product streamlining. I just hope that when it comes to it, it won't be the Mac that's lost in the shuffle.