iPhone Questions

I present a number of unanswered questions — the main reasons why I will not be getting an iPhone for at least a week or two (if not longer or ever):

* Does it support dialup networking? Dialup networking via Bluetooth? One of the features I love about my Treo is that I can put it into DUN mode, wirelessly connect the laptop to it, then have a full 17″ internet experience on the laptop. Admittedly, it’s at dialup speeds, but when I’m doing this, I don’t need much more than that: using ssh to connect to servers, checking email, checking a few web pages, IRC, etc.

* It has been said that 3rd party applications are done via the web. I can, more or less, accept that. Fortunately, we have a pretty good free WiFi cloud here in Portland — between PersonalTelco.net and MetroFi, it’s covered. Still, it would be nice to do a couple of things without connectivity. I wonder if it is possible to keep a cached copy of a self-contained webpage stored on the phone? For instance, if I made a Sudoko game or Sudoko solver webpage that was implemented in JavaScript and entirely self-contained, would I be able to keep a copy, or do I have to connect to the internet?

* We have already seen that some of the applications are really widgets and not applications: weather, stocks, etc. Are 3rd parties able to make widgets? This would solve the above question — if the Sudoku (or whatever) could be packaged as a self-contained widget, then there’s no worry.

* How well will it work for Podcasts? I see that seeking through an audio or video is done by sliding a scrollbar. If I have a podcast that an hour or longer and just want to skip back 20 seconds to catch something I missed, how easy will it be with that slider? Or is there an alternative method? How will show notes work? I know that iTunes slurps up the show notes and presents them on the regular iPod as text. With the iPhone will links in the shownotes be presented as actual links (or, at least, as copy-and-pasteable text?)

* How does copy and paste work? DOES it work at all? Can I open the address book, copy a phone number or address, and paste it into an email message without attaching a full-blown vCard or whatever?

* We’ve been told that, unlike iPods, the iPhone won’t show up as a disk when plugged in to the computer. Is that because Apple has a proprietary USB protocol or is that because the iPhone drivers in OS X and/or Windows make it a hidden device? For instance, when you plug in an iPod, you see the icon and SOME of the folders in Finder, but if you drop to a shell and do something like “ls /Volumes/iPod” you’ll see and can access all of the hidden folders. (This is how the programs like senuTi can slurp music off of an iPod.) Is it a hidden disk, or is it a completely different device? Can it be accessed from the shell? What if you plug it into a Linux box?

* What will the hackability be like? When the AppleTV came out, it was less than a week before people were upgrading the hard drive, installing custom codexes, writing custom plugins, enabling the ssh server, and all that good stuff. Will the iPhone be similarly hackable? Will I be able to activate a shell server, then use that to log in to the iPhone’s OS X and kludge together some dialup networking with shell scripts and Unix CLI tools? Will there even be a version of bash, ash, sh, csh, tcsh, etc precompiled and sitting on the iPhone’s disk?

All of this remains to be seen, but I know that the best minds of Silicon Valley are preparing to line up to be the first to have an iPhone, and they can be the guinea pigs and tinkerers to shell out the cash, void their warranties, and determine what is possible.

Posted in: iPhone Questions

3 thoughts on “iPhone Questions”

  1. Apple has the dumb.

    Maybe it’s me, but the thought of loading an applet across a 2.5G EDGE wireless connection, with it’s painfully slow 30-40kb/s data rate, is the equivelent of scraping your fingernails across the chalkboard. I have trouble waiting for the average webpage to load on my Treo 650 on 1xRTT without wanting to claw my face off.

    And, we tried “web clipping” once before with the Palm VII, and “abbreviated webpages” with WAP. It sucked then. It’s an idea that is still lubricated in fecal matter. You have a real web browser, and only Apple’s hubris (and AT&T’s inadequate deployment of real 3G wireless service) appears to be what stops iPhone from being a usable product.

    Cricket now offers Treos with unlimited data here in Portland, and the montly service is around $50. You can “tether” the Treo (it’s a non-crippled CDMA 650). If it’s anything close to 1xEVDO speeds Verizon offers, it’ll probably be more usable than an iPhone out of the gate, and a hell of a lot cheaper to boot.

  2. This article claims to have answers to at least some of your questions.

    http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/apple/what-the-iphone-doesnt-have-272571.php

    I was all set to get one, but finding out that BASIC features that I have gotten used to on cell phones for years such as mp3 ringtones (you’d think that’d be a no brainer on a combo ipod-phone device), voicedialing, etc. PLUS no copy and paste and no java or flash… I am suddenly leaning more towards waiting for version 2.

  3. @feedle:
    I can deal with EDGE. My current phone is EDGE/GPRS (EDGE is a superset of GPRS, right?) and gets about 128k on a good day (admittedly, with T-Mobile, not AT&T, so I don’t know if there’s a carrier difference between the two.) I’d mainly use the cell data connection for mapping–something that the Treo Google Maps app does surprisingly well–as I’m near a WiFi connection most everyone else. Ideally, I’d like to use it as a laptop modem, too, for getting around firewalls and for traveling. We’ll see if that’ll be hackable in the upcoming weeks. I remember that dialup networking was disabled on the (non-unlocked) Treo for a while, but by installing a certain hex-edited library, you could get the feature. I’m hoping for a similar thing on the iPhone.

    @caspian:
    I’m actually thanking the gods that it only allows precanned audio for the ringtones. If I have to hear another Brittney, Backstreet Boys, or whoever’s-popular-now song from a cellphone, I’ll have to kill someone. And for me: even when I had a phone with voice dialing, I never used it, no Java is *yawn*, although no Flash is an interesting choice and could be a little annoying. I may not be the typical cellphone user, though. Mine’s always on vibrate and I use it primarily as a data (SMS, maps, web, modem) and entertainment (games, podcasts) device than a phone to talk on. My phone calls are usually no more than 3 minutes and are variations upon a “let’s meet at the pub” theme. 🙂

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