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Problem with iPhone after 2.0 firmware update

My wife tried to upgrade her iPhone to the 2.0 firmware this morning. Everything went fine until the phone got to the stage where it has icons telling you to lug into iTunes and the message “slide for emergency.”

Plugging in to iTunes gives us this message: “We could not complete your iTunes Store request. The network connection was reset.”

I finally found a thread on Apple’s discussion board with a workaround – keep the phone plugged in, and in iTunes, keep switching between the iPhone and another function like Music. You’ll keep getting the same error over and over, but supposedly it will work after a few minutes of trying.

After about 20 minutes of this ridiculousness (you can use the ‘m’ key and ‘i’ key to switch if you get tired of clicking), it finally looked like it was going through…

Only to tell me “iPhone activations are unavailable at this time.”

Clearly Apple underestimated demand, and their serves can’t handle the number of incoming requests. That isn’t much solace for my wife, who can’t use her phone today.

In the usability world, the technical term for this is “epic fail.”  We switched from Palm devices to the iPhone to avoid this sort of craziness.

I have to go to work. Guess I’ll try again later… anyone have any other workarounds?

48 Hours with an iPhone

Okay, so I’ve had my iPhone for a while now, but back when I got it I took a few notes about my first impressions.  I thought I’d clean them up a bit and post my thoughts for anyone who still on the fence about buying one.

I, like a lot of you, have been following the iPhone since it was just a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye.  Hundreds of bloggers and journalists have written about the device.  Now that I’ve had one for two days, does it meet the hype?

Before I write down a few thoughts, I have to say that my wife got me the iPhone as an anniversary present.  My Treo 650 has become increasingly frustrating, freezing up silently and making it impossible to get in touch with me.  I’ve also been informed that this counts as Christmas 2007 as well, which is fine by me.

My first experience with the iPhone was a bit frustrating.  My main desktop is still on Windows 2000.  Unfortunately, even though I had the latest version of iTunes, I needed Windows XP, Vista, or OSX to sync with the iPhone.  I had to activate the phone using my wife’s iBook.  Activation was very quick and painless – as a current AT&T customer who already has a data plan and iTunes account I would imagine I’m the ideal case.

The iPhone does a lot of things very well.  Safari is a great web browser, with one caveat I’ll talk more about below.  The large, high resolution screen makes web surfing a much better experience than my Treo.  The screen is amazingly bright – I have it set at the default, halfway setting and could still read everything easily in the bright sun.  I love the way it picks up nearby wifi networks and then remembers once you’ve okayed a particular one – at home, web surfing is very fast.  Surfing on the AT&T network is noticeably slower but usable.  At least once or twice it seemed to stall completely.

I put a few mp3s and photos on it and the process is pretty painless.  So far iTunes seems a lot easier to use than the Palm Desktop software for my Treo which always seemed a little odd to me.

How does it work as a phone?  Very well.  The speakerphone is loud and clear and everyone on the other end has told me I sound great.  I even took a work call on a Sunday night, and it seemed everyone else on the bridge had background noise problems but me.

The biggest frustration for me so far (other than the incompatibility issues) has been that Safari is so much like a real browser that it tricked me into thinking it was a real browser.  I’ll explain.  I have some photos up on Flickr and my wife was using her iBook so I thought I would just grab photos online instead of syncing them.  No dice.  There’s no way to actually save pictures, or anything for that matter, from the web.  Now I know Safari can save things, that’s how web browsers work, they download and cache files to display them to you.  So why is it impossible to save a photo to my photos?  I wonder if this is Apple trying to make it simpler for novice users or AT&T trying to keep people from skipping services somehow.

Either way it’s disappointing.  It shows you why so many people are rushing to hack the iPhone – there’s a lot of untapped potential there.

I mentioned that iTunes was easy to use, but the syncing process does have one fatal flaw: I can’t seem to figure out how to do a real backup, other than syncing again to a recent version of Outlook.  I really just want a file system I can copy to a CD (or better yet, let Mozy automatically back up).

Anyone else have an iPhone?  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Here come the iPhone killers…

DSCN1935-1Nokia has announced a new phone, the N81, which looks suspiciously similar to a certain Apple phone.  What’s more, Nokia is launching a music download service which will allow people to download songs directly to the phone, instead of going through iTunes on their Mac or PC as iPhone users must.

Is this a bad sign for Apple?  Does it mean Apple had merely a fleeting lead over the competition?

I wouldn’t worry too much.  Nokia is a successful company that makes some great phones, but  Apple is playing a completely different game, the game that Motorola played with the Razr.  When it first came out, people heard about the Razr, they knew what it was, and they knew it was very thin and stylish.  After the success of the Razr other manufacturers came out with thin phones, but apparently copying the form factor and giving the device a serialnumberesque name is not enough.

My guess is it will be the same with the iPhone – every time Nokia tells the press and customers “The N81 is just as great as the iPhone” people will hear “Mumble mumble great mumble iPhone.”  I’m not a marketing expert, but it seems like a branding mistake to me.

The real way to steal the iPhone’s thunder is to figure out what people would like to do with a mobile device and an internet connection and better support that user experience.  From the review on Gigaom, I’m not sure that’s the case here.