The size of the screen is vitally important on the iPhone, since there’s no slide-out keyboard or even a keypad. This was one of my main concerns with this device, since I far prefer having a hardware QWERTY keyboard, than a virtual keyboard. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll be well aware of my love for the HTC TyTN II (Kaiser), especially in its T-Mobile MDA Vario III guise, with its slide out QWERTY keyboard and angling screen. However, Apple has managed to totally convert me to the concept of a virtual keyboard. The soft-keyboard embedded in the iPhone is so good, that I can actually type faster on it than I can on my Vario III – it really is ”that” good! This is a phone that you can seriously use for taking notes in real time – it takes a bit of getting used to, but once you’re fingers are used to the spacing, you’ll be cracking out sentences at an impressive rate. The auto-correct feature is also very good, so even if you do mistype the odd letter, by the time you’ve hit Space, the iPhone has usually corrected it for you.
Another absolute triumph for the iPhone is the mobile Safari web browser. Jon touched (excuse the pun) on this in his iPod touch review, but he really didn’t rave about it anywhere near enough. In my opinion, mobile Safari is the single best mobile application ever! I know that’s a strong statement, but I am 100 per cent sure of its validity, and once you start using mobile Safari, you’ll probably agree with me.
If you’re a Windows Mobile user, you probably spend a bit of time browsing sites that are designed for view on a mobile device. The BBC mobile site was one that I regularly view on a mobile device, because it’s beautifully formatted and works just perfectly with mobile Internet Explorer. However, if I try to view a site like TrustedReviews on mobile IE, it just turns out to be a complete mess, as IE will try to squeeze a page that’s designed to be 1,024 pixels wide, into a 240 pixel wide screen.
Mobile Safari has no such problems, and doesn’t find itself limited to specific mobile pages. If I point mobile Safari at TrustedReviews it doesn’t miss a beat, it just renders the page perfectly, complete with all the embedded images. Of course squeezing a page that’s meant to be 1,024 pixels wide into the iPhone screen isn’t easy, but Apple has this problem covered. First up, you can just flip the iPhone onto its side and the display will automatically flip into landscape mode – no looking for an orientation button here, take note Windows Mobile.
But the real jewel in mobile Safari’s crown is its ability to dynamically scale web pages. Yes, you can render a TR page beautifully in its entirety, but unless you have the eyes of a hawk, you’re not going to be able to read it. So, you simply zoom in a little, until the text is large enough for you to read. Now, while most interface designers would be happy to resort to the standard magnifying glass button for zooming in and out, that’s far too rudimentary for Apple. With the iPhone – and the iPod touch for that matter – you zoom in by placing your fingers on the screen and either drawing them apart or pinching them together. Words simply can’t describe how impressive this is – it really is usability at its highest level of evolution.