Aug 102010

After plundering the fund I’d been building for next year’s iPad model, and adding the birthday check from my in-laws, I finally replaced my iPhone 3G (which was running dog-slow under iOS 4, previous post to the contrary) with a shiny new 32 GB JesusPhone 4.

There was much rejoicing, and I saw that it was good. Yay.

And on the 6th day, Aaron did look upon the iPhone and spake unto me, saying, “Why the hell is your camera lens all scratched up?!”

Oh shit.

Sure enough, the lens was nearly covered with scratches, yet the surrounding glass was unmarked. My heart sunk as I realized my shiny new toy was marred after less than a week, especially considering that the new camera was a big draw for me. I wracked my brain trying to figure out how it had gotten so scratched in so short a time. I never put it in a pocket with anything else. I hadn’t dropped it. I hadn’t rubbed the lens with anything other than soft cloth. While I had put it on flat surfaces with the lens down, I never scraped it across a desktop, and I’m pretty sure those desktops were clean. Regardless, the lens was still a mess.

I started taking a bunch of test pictures to see what effect it had had, and compared them to the couple of pics I had taken immediately after unboxing. Nearly every picture with any kind of direct lighting showed a hazy glow, and all of them were noticeably less sharp. I scoured the web looking for anyone else who had encountered the same problem, but there was very little reported so far. I sent a message to a friend who worked for AppleCare and asked what to do, but I didn’t get anything concrete back from him before we left for Pittsburgh. I was mildly depressed about it all weekend, because I was sure Apple would claim that because I had somehow damaged it, they wouldn’t cover it under AppleCare. I also didn’t want to lie and claim it was damaged out of the box.

The problem is the oh-so-sexy design Apple so proudly touted. On the 3G and 3GS, there is a very slight lip around the camera lens, and the backplate curves up at the corners, so the lens never rests directly against anything when placed on a flat surface. On the 4, the back is perfectly flat, with no lip to prevent lens contact.

Yesterday, after talking more to my Apple friend, I decided to just make an appointment at the store, take it in, and see what happened. I put on my sad panda face, marshaled my arguments as to why it wasn’t really my fault, and anxiously expected to be disappointed.

The tech, Justin, listened to my tale of woe, looked at the pictures, and examined the lens. He was also a bit shocked that it was so scratched up, agreed that the pictures didn’t look right, and declared that he would set me up with a new phone immediately. I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped open as all my prepared arguments evaporated.

While he set up the phone, I checked out his sweet tattoo. He had a band around his upper left forearm made entirely of Rebel Alliance logos in various sizes, resembling a chain of bubbles. I wish I had asked to take a pic of it. To test the camera of course.

When everything was done, he apologized that I had had an issue. I know Apple is probably being extra cuddly with iPhone 4 customers in the wake of Antennagate but, even before this, I’ve never had anything but a good experience with Apple’s support, either at the store or on the phone. Whether you love or hate their products or culture, they sure know how to make their customers happy.

The moral of this story? Get a damn case! This is one phone that absolutely needs one. The free case offered by Apple is all well and good, but they’re all on back order for weeks, depending on the model you choose. I also won a free StealthArmor case (tungsten) from that shipped today, so I’m holding out for that.

Until then, some tips:

  • Don’t put the phone in a pocket with any other object.
  • Set the phone down with the lens up. The front glass is much tougher than the lens cover.
  • Set the phone down on something softer than wood or metal. I’ve been using a blank sticky-note pad.
  • Don’t wipe the lens with rough cloth or paper towels.
Jun 212010

First of all, as many users are reporting, the pre-upgrade backup moved at a glacial pace; FAR slower than the non-upgrade backup I did just minutes before. After doing some research I hit upon a workaround: do a normal backup first (very important!), download the update, then cancel the installation. Go back and click Restore instead of Update. This will wipe the iPhone back to factory settings and restore it from your normal backup using the new OS version. Restoring this way is also pretty damn slow, but far faster than waiting for the upgrade backup to complete.

At long last the reboot completed and I was back in business. The phone does seem a bit more responsive than before but, since this is merely a 3G, it’s slight enough that it may just be wishful thinking on my part. Also, being a 3G, it’s lacking the major feature: multitasking. Surprisingly, it’s also lacking a minor feature: custom wallpaper on the home screen. Really, Apple? Is the horsepower of the 3GS and 4 really necessary to display a home screen background image, or was this just oversight?

Regardless, here are some of the first impressions and observations:

1. Folders: Since I wasn’t getting all the bells and whistles the newer hardware gets, this was a big one for me. I’ve managed to consolidate five screens of app icons down to 1 1/4. Now all my most commonly-used apps can all reside on the main screen in custom-named folders. Much rejoicing.

2. Camera: I still don’t have tap-to-focus, being a hardware item, but I was surprised to see that even the 3G gets the digital zoom slider. Considering the crap resolution of the camera, I don’t know how useful this will be but, hey, I can say I have it.

3. Maps: The GPS seems to lock noticeably faster and somewhat more accurately, even indoors.

4. iBooks: The first time I tried opening Winnie-the-Pooh I got an error message to the effect of “The book could not be opened because a required resource could not be located.” After the second attempt the book opened normally, but was very slow to respond for about 30 seconds while everything loaded in the background. Once all of that was completed, it ran very smoothly. The text is easy to read and the controls are intuitive, but I kept trying to pinch-zoom, which does nothing.

Adding PDF files to the phone is as easy as going to the Books tab in iTunes, and dragging the file from the Finder or desktop into that tab, then syncing the phone. Only a copy is created; the original is untouched and unmoved. After syncing, the PDF did not immediately appear on the bookshelf. After I went into the Store section and came back to the bookshelf, I now had a “Books|PDFs” button at the top of the screen. I’m not sure whether the delay was a bug, or if the app was still processing the PDF before displaying it, and I just hadn’t given it enough time.

I tested the PDF viewer with a 74MB color PDF of the Exalted core rulebook, containing two-column text, sidebars, and pictures. This book has been my litmus test for every iPhone PDF reader app I’ve tried. Nearly all of them choke on it, with the exception of GoodReader and now iBooks (sort of). As with “Winnie-the-Pooh”, it took quite awhile to finish processing the book and become responsive again. Eventually it settles down and displays everything correctly. I can pinch to zoom, and double-tapping in a text column zooms in to the width of that column, which was a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, because of the limits of the processor and memory of the 3G, rendering each page takes an unacceptable amount of time, and I can’t imagine trying to read such a large, complex PDF on it. Even as I write this, it continues to get part way through rendering the text column before everything goes out of focus, then repeating. Smaller PDFs should be fine.

CORRECTION: Oddly, after I left iBooks then immediately went back into it and pulled up the PDF, it rendered much faster on every page, no matter how far into the book I went. Flipping pages, both manually and by using the “page scrubber” control at the bottom, still involved some horrible lag, however.

I’m sure as I continue using it I’ll discover more but, hopefully, this will all be moot in about a month when I can get the iPhone 4.

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