Just bought an iPhone last night. What should I do first?
December 9, 2008 2:34 PM   Subscribe

Just bought an iPhone last night for use on AT&T in the USA. What should I do first?

What apps do I immediately need to have?

What case should I buy? (if I'm going to keep it)

I have 30 days to return it for nothing more than a $30 restocking fee and I'd like to make this thing do as much as it can in the mean time. I don't want to find something completely aggravating on day 31.

Initial impressions:
1. Battery life isn't that fantastic at all
2. Still need to get used to the keyboard. Letters seem so damn close together.
posted by decrescendo to Technology (38 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Is it upgraded to 2.2? I noticed battery life got better after I did so. Otherwise, I hit the app store on iTunes every so often to see what's bubbled up to the top of the charts. I've added:

- TouchTerm (an ssh client)
- Facebook's app
- a nifty little app that simply turns the screen into an old-school digital clock
- Easy Wi-fi, for one-touch access to the free AT&T wifi hotspots
- Stanza (e-book reader)


- Trace
- TapDefense
- Black and White
- Solebon (solitaire)

I installed Google Earth, but don't use it much and will probably take it off shortly. I use the Maps app a bunch. I go back and forth on jailbreaking it. Still haven't bothered, since I have yet to see a killer app or two that would make it worth my while to do so. The Lifehacker site is another place to learn about other 'must-have' apps. I've had mine for a couple of months now, and agree about the keyboard. I could type pretty well on a BB, but not so much on the iphone. The not cutting-and-pasting thing is also a pain.
posted by jquinby at 2:42 PM on December 9, 2008

Response by poster: And can you install any application that always has you signed on to Google Talk?

It seems that you can only run one app at a time and when you go back to the main screen it closes.

Is this true?
posted by decrescendo at 2:46 PM on December 9, 2008

Response by poster: Does that AIM chat keep you signed on?
I.E. can you go on Facebook and have AIM "minimized" per se?
posted by decrescendo at 2:48 PM on December 9, 2008

Apps I love: Amazon.com, NYTimes, Quickipedia, Yelp, Shovel

I also have several games on mine. I get a lot of use out of the Maps and YouTube apps as well.
posted by smich at 2:50 PM on December 9, 2008

I think that's correct - I don't believe apps can be minimized. This, I think, is by design. It may be different for jailbroken phones.
posted by jquinby at 2:54 PM on December 9, 2008

Response by poster: I'm curious because on Blackberrys I'm pretty sure you can stay connected on Google Talk while doing other things.

Kinda nice to have. Different story with the iPhone apparently. You never know you are being messaged unless you are signed on. And if you move to check the internet while in a conversation you are never alerted to incoming messages.

Oh well.
posted by decrescendo at 2:59 PM on December 9, 2008

Apple doesn't want anything unknown running in the background, so yes, all apps shut down when not in use. Many will remember your info (so you don't have to log in again, but I don't think you'd be "online" on AIM during the time away), or save your place, some don't.

As for apps, Shazam is cool. If you hear a song while you're out in the world, you can have it listen and identify it so you can check it out and download it. I've only used it a few times, but I like it.

PhotoSwap lets you take a picture, and exchange it with a random person online. It can be neat, depends on what you get back. You will see lots of guys grabbing their crotches as a prelude to anonymous show and tell though.

I like WikiPanion as a Wikipedia app, it is superfluous with the browser though.

I have NYT and Google Earth but rarely use them.

For games, I like USA Today Crosswords ($5 for the daily puzzle, it's got all of this year's available too), Scoops (insanely addictive ice cream catching game! Simple yet mesmerizing, and best implementation of tilt control I've encountered), Wordabble (Boggle style daily puzzle), and Trism (pretty colour matching slidey game).

No one better dig up that comment I made about how I would never get an iPhone in the 3G launch thread... My boss bought it for me! It is a wonderful toy though.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:04 PM on December 9, 2008

Zenbe List (free) for general lists. Now Playing for movies. I use Wikipanion to access Wikipedia. Twitterific for Twitter, although there are other good twitter apps out there. INeedStuff for groceries (lets me sync the shopping list with my wife's iPhone—apart from that one must-have feature, it's probably not the best shopping-list app). Simplify Media is wicked-cool, but I admit I don't use it much. Vlingo is promising. i.TV does a nice job with TV listings.

I try to avoid games (in many cases, they really kill the battery), but I've gotten kind of hooked on Frenzic.
posted by adamrice at 3:15 PM on December 9, 2008

The ability to stay signed in to Google Talk or AIM or what have you is (supposedly) coming soon when Apple opens up its notification servers to developers. This was supposed to happen in September, but I don't expect it to take too much longer. As soon as this feature is available to developers, they could make a Google Talk app (for example) that will still close when you return to the home screen, but keep a network connection open that can notify you of activity with sounds, vibration, pop-ups, and icon badges.

To answer your question about apps, my must-haves are:

* Tweetie - excellent Twitter browsing and posting
* Google Mobile - quick search results from Google, and you can even search by voice
* Facebook
* Amazon Mobile - has a cool feature where you can snap a picture of a product and they will email you back with the item's price on Amazon
* Wikipanion - adapts Wikipedia to a more suitable reading format for the phone (there is a paid version of this, but the free one works just as well)
* YouVersion Bible - may not apply to you, but it's a great Bible app that lets you search and read basically any major translation
* Classics - a really nice book reader featuring some great public-domain works
* 1Password - password and secure information storage
* Tipulator - tip calculator
* Frenzic - awesome fast-paced puzzle game
* Fieldrunners - easily my favorite iPhone game, maybe the best value I've gotten out of any app so far (I've played this for hours)
* Shazam - listens to a song that's currently playing on the radio or PA or whatever and tells you what it's called
* Pandora
* Last.fm
posted by joshrholloway at 3:20 PM on December 9, 2008

Apps I love:

Social Media

-Evernote: App that will let you sync notes to cloud. You can take photo notes and it has text recognition. So you can snap a pic of a business card, sync, and then a week later search for text on the card.
-iTV: A TV guide that will use your local listings. Also shows movie times and lets you manage yoru netflix queue.
-Palringo: I like this app better than the AIM app because I can use my gtalk account with it as well.
-Grocery IQ: Awesome app to build grocery lists
-Remote: Control iTunes from iPhones

-Blackjack 21
-Galcon Lite (like risk but in realtime)
-Lux Touch: Risk
-Four Free: Connect Four
-Wurdle: Boggle

-Sportacular: Best sports score app
-AOL radio: listen to a ton of FM stations
posted by DrDreidel at 3:23 PM on December 9, 2008

Oh, and I forgot to mention, most people seem to have better results with battery life after a few days. It seems to take it a few charge and discharge cycles for it to stabilize. Mine sucked at first too.
posted by joshrholloway at 3:23 PM on December 9, 2008

Oh yeah, the Google Mobile voice search is pretty cool, so I second getting the Google Mobile app.
posted by smich at 3:29 PM on December 9, 2008

Seconding joshrholloway's battery life comment, mine seems to keep on improving, although it still sucks quite hard. It needs a charge at least every other day. Luckily everyone seems to have an iPod charger if it's running low and i'm out and about.

However, on the keyboard issue, it took me a while to realise that if you hit a wrong key, it doesn't matter... just keep on typing and 9 times out of 10, it will correct it automagically without you having to do anything.

It's a brilliant way of dealing with autocorrection (apart from the odd ducking annoyance), but so different from Nokia's predictive text it takes some getting used to.
posted by derbs at 3:47 PM on December 9, 2008

oh and meant to say, stick with it... you'll never go back to a regular mobile, trust me! I tried a friend's Nokia N96 recently (their latest and greatest). Boy... did it suck
posted by derbs at 3:56 PM on December 9, 2008

Response by poster: Yeah I nuked my battery in 4 hours this morning. Wi-Fi was off. Just downloading apps and browsing the internet.

I was praying that wasn't normal.
posted by decrescendo at 4:04 PM on December 9, 2008

The battery life on the iPhone 3G isn't great, but it will always be terrible your first few days with the device. Why? Because you're going to be playing with it constantly. Once you get back to normal, non-gee-whiz usage, it should be fine. I can get through the day without a charge, maybe a bit into the evening. But frankly, I plug it in at home and at work (anywhere I can), so rarely run it out completely, and I bought an external battery/charger thingie for travel or when I'm know I'm going to be using it constantly.

The other big factor in battery life? The "Push" setting. Unless you really need your e-mail NOW, and not, say, every 15 or 30 minutes, turn that off.

As for backgrounding, correct, the iPhone doesn't support it natively. Ive been playing with Beejive, which is a popular IM client for Blackberry, which does support offline notifications via a workaround: they keep you logged into IM on their own servers, and if you get a message when Beejive isn't running on your iPhone, it sends an e-mail or SMS (via email-to-SMS).
posted by pzarquon at 4:13 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

With regards to the keyboard: trust the spellchecker/autofix. I can type pretty goddamn fast on the iPhone if I trust it, and 98% of the time I end up fine.
posted by nitsuj at 4:29 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Download my application, Graffitio!
posted by AaRdVarK at 4:39 PM on December 9, 2008

I love Instapaper for serving up things to read for my commute. I use the browser bookmarklet to queue up articles while at work and then polish them off on the ride to and from home.
posted by junesix at 4:44 PM on December 9, 2008

BeejiveIM is awesome (though not free, and still has some bugs to work out). You can set it so that your session doesn't time out when you exit the app back to the home screen (up to 24 hours) so you can stay signed in to gchat.
posted by cosmic osmo at 5:41 PM on December 9, 2008

BestSkinsEver. Doesn't provide any extra shock absorption if you drop it, but it will protect you from just about any scratch-type damage you could do. The first thing I do when I get a new toy is order the skin for it from these guys. My iPhone, my old mp3 player, my old cell, my DS, my bf's cell, my bf's mp3 player -- they've all got one on. They barely add any weight or size; picture a plastic layer only slightly thicker than saran wrap. A bit of a pain to put on, but well worth it. The skin on my Creative mp3 player skin outlasted the player. That being said, i have the 2 piece version of the 3G iphone skin on my new iPhone, and it was tricky to get it on straight -- i wouldn't try the one piece version, unless you're brave and really don't want the crease in the middle.

As for apps:
* WunderRadio, for listening to all those online stations that use flash players that would otherwise be inaccessible via the iPhone ($4.99)
* WeatherEye: a much, much better weather app (free)
* i.TV: tv schedules (free)
* Evernote: for all your note taking needs (free, but you need to sign up)
* Tap Defence: a pretty decent tower defence game in its own right, and the price is right (free)
* Shazam: identifies songs playing on the radio or wherever. Very cool kitch factor, althought not used a whole lot. But it's free.
posted by cgg at 6:54 PM on December 9, 2008

I don't have one (I'm still in do-I-want-one-or-not research stage), but one resource I've found that seems like it would be VERY valuable for a new iPhone owner is the "fixed" list at pleasefixtheiphone.com, which gives solutions for many issues that people are having.
posted by kalapierson at 7:41 PM on December 9, 2008

Most everything that's been said is spot on. The best thing you can do for battery life is kill the push email (really, do you need updates more than every 15 minutes?). Also, turn off Bluetooth unless you are using it.

My favorite apps, most which have already been mentioned:

Evernote (A-mazing app)
OmniFocus if you are a huge GTD geek
Last.fm and Pandora
Tap Defense

Really, I've used the iPhone, Blackberry, Palm...nothing comes close to the iphone as far as actual daily use. Mine is the third lobe of my brain at this point.
posted by griffey at 7:42 PM on December 9, 2008

A couple of things here.

Wifi on or 3g. Don't have them both on. Both on = battery drain. One off= day of pretty constant on/off again usage. Just forget using bluetooth if you want any real battery life. If you manage it aggressively, you can get a day plus from the phone.

ANd that's the thing - you'll use the phone more frequently then previously electronic communication devices, because it hits the sweet spot so well.

The iphone is never going to run multiple apps. Apple won't let it. It can handle some 'cloud' applications; things like AIM and other IM services...but apple is holding back giving third parties from the cloud. Probably won't happen till Macworld in early January. It will allow background cloud data to occur

Killer apps that haven't really ben mentioned

Grand Central if you have/use the service
Google's web app (and it's voice capabilities are just totally cool - search with your voice.
I'm a GTD sorta guy - so the paid app Omnifocus was a no brainer for me.

Netnewswire syncs with newsgator (and the mac client, netnewswire or feeddemon.) Either way, easy RSS feeds.
Instapaper - if you use delicious, instapaper is the same thing, but just for things you want to read. (Bookmark pages from your browser and read them later on your phone)

Yelp is the portable (and location based) method of finding community recommendations on restaurants and other services.
Urbanspoon for the Apple commercial - shake it up and find a restaurant.

Trace is one of the better free games (you trace a path for your player to run across).
Don't forget lightsaber if you're a star wars fan.
Or ESPN cameraman for the 'two matching picturs' sort of game

Amazon just came out with an app/client.
SnapTell will let you shoot a picture of a book/dvd/CD and will do an internet search.
Remote allows you to control itunes...remotely
posted by filmgeek at 8:08 PM on December 9, 2008

Two other things. First, Apple was supposed to open the 'cloud' in October, not september.

Also, the secret with typing isn't where you press, but instead where you release. Slide your finger until you reach the correct letter.
And don't stress so much if you screw up one letter in a word - keep typing, and you'll often find that it 'picks' the right word. If you've typed the right word, and the wrong word shows, tap the right word on screen (rather than it's replacement.)
posted by filmgeek at 8:12 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're into GTD before jumping on the 70 buck omnifocus bandwagon you might want to check out Things by Culturedcode. A lot of people are fans of it, I much prefer it to omnifocus. They're different enough it won't take long to figure out which one is to your liking.

And god I hate evernote, but it has its advantages.
posted by justgary at 9:42 PM on December 9, 2008

I have had one for almost a year (so it is the 1st model, not the 3G) but my battery has been awesome! It lasts almost 4 or 5 days. Secret to that? Don't keep the auto-email check on, and keep the brightness WAY down. Yesterday I had it down all the way and it went almost 24 hours still completely charged.
You'll get used to the keyboard, too. Just trust the autofixing!
And don't return it, there really isn't a better phone out there.
posted by Andrea2880 at 9:50 PM on December 9, 2008

AS a follow on question, how do folks port their iphone around? i just got one today and it feels to big for my pocket, and too heavy..any good options for belt clip etc?
I bought the plastic leather cover at att but it really isnt that nice
posted by dougiedd at 12:09 AM on December 10, 2008

I used to just carry mine in a front pocket, but some of my pants don't have proper, deep-enough ones, so got this, to attach to the strap of my purse. I recently decided to try the slightly larger one and gave my old one to my husband to carry on his belt. It's a little bulkier than what he used to have, but much, much sturdier. His original case was this one, from DLO, and while beautiful to look at and pretty easy to use, ended up being too fragile for his work environment. It still looks nice from the front, but he got it caught on something and ripped the heck out of it on the back side - tore the belt clip from the body of the thing.

I should note however, regarding the cases from County Comm, that while there are holes in the top to accomdate the earphone jack, they are not placed correctly. They are centered and not off to the side. In the larger case though, there is enough room at the top to let you plug in and route the cord through the hole with no problem.

Evernote, Pandora, Sol Free.
posted by jvilter at 5:27 AM on December 10, 2008

I can't believe that no one has mentioned Melodis Voice Dialer. Everyone I have shown this to has adopted it immediately.
posted by procrastination at 6:21 AM on December 10, 2008

Jailbreak it. It takes five minutes with QuickPwn, and is well worth doing just to get the following applications:

PDANet - lets you tether the iPhone so your laptop can get online
NetaTalk - automatically mounts the iPhone as if it were an external drive (on a Mac, anyway)
OpenSSH - useful even if you don't need to do geeky command-line stuff, as it enables SFTP
Cycorder - shoot surprisingly good quality video
Winterboard - set a background image and get rid of unused built in app icons (also lets you skin the UI in various crazy ways, but I haven't felt the need)
Backgrounder - lets you run apps in the background (I don't do instant messaging, so don't know whether it would meet your Google Talk needs)
Bossprefs - extra preferences, easier toggling of Bluetooth, Wifi, OpenSSH, Netatalk, &c.

I really regret not jailbreaking the day I got my iPhone - it really does transform it into a much more useful device. (And if you do decide to return yours, a restore from iTunes will wipe out any trace of naughtiness.)

Official apps I like:

Twitterfon - simple, stripped down Twitter client
EasyWriter - write emails in landscape mode
Mobile Fotos - excellent Flickr Client
CameraBag - a fun little app that applies filters to your iPhone snaps
posted by jack_mo at 7:41 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Simplifymedia, which lets you stream your itunes/winamp/general music folder from your home machine to the phone over any of the networks. It's a paid app, but worth it.
Fring, a free app that lets you do VOIP (wifi only) to Skype, Google Talk, and others. I used this to talk to a friend in China two nights ago. It was great.
VoiceNotes, a free voice recorder. It's got good sound quality and is simple. There are other good voice apps, too.
VNC, which is, you know, VNC. For when you are lazy and you need your computer to do something but don't want to get out of bed and really enjoy the novelty of it.
AirSharing, which is another paid app that lets you transfer files back and forth to the phone. When it's on and connected to a network, it runs a little server you can access via browser or fileshares.
OpenTable, if you want to make reservations at restaurants.

They are all great. Simplifymedia and AirSharing are the two of a very very few apps I've paid for, and I have zero regrets about buying them.
posted by averyoldworld at 7:49 AM on December 10, 2008

I'm on wifi most of the time so I generally keep 3G off. I also have Fetch turned off since I sit at a computer most of the day and don't need to be notified of an email on my phone too. Set your brightness at about half of what you think it looks good at. You will adjust to it almost immediately and it makes a big difference. Following these steps my battery life is really not bad at all.

Seconding Melodis Voice Dialer. I'm not generally a fan of voice dialing and trying an app called Say Who? confirmed this, but I love Melodis. It's really slick.

I did a lot of research on cases and ended up getting an Incase Slider from the Apple Store. I wanted something smooth enough that it could slide in and out of my pocket easily but not be as slippery as the phone itself. I was also worried that the iPhone would be bulky in my pocket. My previous phone was a much smaller Sony Ericsson w580i and, suprisingly, the iPhone actually feels better in my pocket. It's not much thicker and the increased surface area makes the phone less noticeable in my pocket. Go figure. Anyway, the case doesn't add much bulk and I can't recommend it highly enough.

I also really wanted a car charger/FM transmitter but did NOT want to pay $70+ for one from the Apple Store. I did some research and found that while the Griffin iTrip Auto (model 4045) did not officially work with the iPhone 3G, it actually works just fine. When you plug it in you get a popup saying that this accessory does not support the 3G and it asks you if you want to switch to Airplane Mode. Just say no and everything works fine. This is directly from Griffin, by the way. Models 4046 and 4056 are the official 3G models, but you'll pay for it. I got the 4045 here for $25! Found it with the Save Benjis app.

As of now, my "must have" apps are:

- Very (VERY!) cool app. Allows me to stream my entire iTunes library (including playlists) on my home computer to my phone no matter where I am (Wifi or 3G recommended, though).
Melodis Voice Dialer
- surprise!
- manages online banking passwords, etc.
RDP Lite
- to log on to the Windows XP Pro machines on my home network.
Apple Remote
- high cool factor and I actually use it a lot.
- As previously mentioned. I've actually used this more than I thought I would.
- For internet radio.
- For managing my Netflix queue. Use it all the time.
WhiteNoise Lite
- A lifesaver when traveling. I HAVE to have a fan on to sleep. This has a few cool ambient noises, including an oscillating fan! How cool is that?!
posted by jluce50 at 8:03 AM on December 10, 2008

for a case, i would recommend the invisible shield

guaranteed not to scratch for life. free replacement if the shield gets scratched.
need your iphone replaced? pull off the shield before you exchange the phone and theyll send you a new shield
30 day money back if you dont like it
it makes the phone less slippery, gives it a slight rubber feeling
there is very slight orange peel when the light hits it wrong, but not enough to bother my analness
touchscreen works flawless with shield installed
obviously doesnt not provide protection against dropping.
posted by phritosan at 8:50 AM on December 10, 2008

You could get it a waterproof coating.
posted by Demogorgon at 6:51 PM on December 10, 2008

What is the best way to view and use bookmarks: my igoogle marks just dont work well somehow?
posted by dougiedd at 8:38 PM on December 11, 2008

This is the best case for your phone. I've tried a few before I settled on that one. It's similar to the slider case jluce50 linked to, but cheaper, more grippy, and made from eco-friendly materials.
posted by mkultra at 3:59 PM on December 12, 2008

dougiedd wrote: What is the best way to view and use bookmarks: my igoogle marks just dont work well somehow?

del.icio.us launched a very nice iPhone-friendly mobile interface the other day (but that's only any use if you already use del.icio.us for your bookmarking already, I suppose).
posted by jack_mo at 3:08 AM on December 13, 2008

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