I feel naked. I go someplace and all I have with me is my iPhone.
My laptop is at home or in the backpack in my car. The Moleskine I used to carry to take quick notes is probably in the backpack, or left on the desk. When I get takeout for the wife and the kid, I leave the paperback or magazine on the coffee table because I know I have something with me to occupy idle time.
This past weekend I realized I do most of what I want on the Web with my iPhone. I don’t mean editing web pages, updating blog posts, downloading photos and such, but for the basics of checking email, updating Facebook and Twitter accounts, sending instant messages, reading RSS feeds, making a list, taking a quick picture and emailing it to my flickr account, and listening to music or a book, I’m covered.
I never felt this way with my Blackberry.
The iPhone, of course, is not perfect, and it’s not meant to be a replacement for a laptop or a substitute for a Moleskine in class. But application development — and by this I mean Web applications, since Apple has not opened up the iPhone for third party development — is already good enough that I feel comfortable leaving home with just the iPhone.
Here’s what I’m doing on both the iPhone and my laptop during the day:
Big smiles for the Facebook interface. It’s way, way better than the one I use in my desktop browser. In fact, unless I need to do something more “complex” than read news feeds, change my status line, and generally see what’s going on out there, I use the iPhone Facebook interface.
Yes, it sucks that Apple did not include an instant message client on the iPhone. Inexcusable, really. But there are some workarounds which, I expect, will improve over time.
My favorites are (1) Meebo, (2) BeeJive, and (3) mundu IM. All three let me check multiple IM accounts on different services. Meebo’s interface is clean, simple, soothing, but BeeJive’s JiveTalk is a close second.
One thing that drives me crazy about these three iPhone IM Web apps: Unless you are in the program, notification is dismal. I often write an IM, switch to another Web app or iPhone app, then return for the reply. Maybe I see one, or maybe I’m logged out and have to log in again. Can’t some smart developer fix this? Please?
One cool thing about any phone — it doesn’t have to be an iPhone — is that you’re mobile and you can read email or update social networks anytime, anywhere. The iPhone sports two excellent Web apps — Pocket Tweets and iTweet — that make my content-developing life so much easier and enjoyable (a third, Twitterific, is expected to go mobile soon). I promise never to tell you what movie I’m just about to see.
Mobile RSS feeds are nirvana. Oftentimes, when I am in front of the computer, I’ve got stuff to do and I hate to take time to plow through 200 feeds. Reading RSS feeds isn’t unlike paging through the newspaper: You should be able to do it anywhere, anytime, be it at the doctor’s office, in line, in bed, or in the bathroom.
There are many RSS readers for the iPhone, but the brand names are hard to beat. Google Reader and Bloglines are a bit more advanced than NewsGator, but I prefer NewsGator because it better meets my overall desktop/web/mobile needs.
Another frustrating missing feature of the iPhone is the lack of a to do or list application. I figure this will show up when the new Mac OS, Leopard, is released in October. Until then, there are plenty of Web app lists to choose from: One Trip, Listingly, iPhoneditin, Remember the Milk, and Ta Da are a few. iPhoneditin and Remember the Milk get points just for their names, but ultimately, for me, the lists are listless and mostly a pain to use.
Creating Word and Excel documents on the fly is so 2000. Who needs them anymore when you’ve got Web-based apps iZoho and gOffice (not to be confused with Google Docs)? When I need to whip off a Word doc or spreadsheet, I can it do it via iZoho or gOffice, although I don’t make a habit of creating long documents on the iPhone because of the smaller screen and keyboard limitations. Even so, use these to create basic text documents — who needs the complexity of Word on a phone anyway?
Other Web apps
If I want to read the news, I can always peruse individual RSS feeds or I can quickly skim the top headlines of The New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Sun-Times in iActu. Another excellent source of news and information is the mobile version of Newsvine. I can’t remember the last time I actually sat down with the newspaper in hand — and I spent nearly 20 years in the industry.
What’s great about these Web apps is that I can move comfortably between sitting behind a laptop and being completely mobile, “free” from the feeling that I need my laptop with me all the time.