I’ve been an iPod Touch user from day one, and simply love the little devices. With the various updates and the App Store they really have evolved into small pocket computers. The touch interface is fantastic, and although it has been imitated by other vendors, it has yet to be equalled. On Friday I switched from a very old Nokia cell phone and an iPod Touch, to an iPhone. I want to have a look at how the iPhone compares to the iPod Touch, and in particular, how it is as a phone. The iPhone really is an iPod Touch with a phone, so all that’s really new to me is the phone, SMS, and the ability to access the net when away from WiFi.

My old Phone and my iPhone
My iPhone next to my old Nokia Brick

My first impression was that, compared to the iPod Touch, the iPhone is big and heavy. However, I’m shocked at how much better the iPhone’s glass touch screen feels compared to the Touch’s plastic one. It feels much more reassuring, and definitely seems more accurate. I never had a problem with the one on the Touch, but you can definitely feel the increase in quality when you move to the iPhone.

Ergonomically, the rounded back of the iPhone fits in your hand much more comfortably than the thin and flat first generation iPod Touch, but it has two very notable ergonomic drawbacks when compared to the Touch. Firstly, on the Touch the sleep-wake button is very easy to reach when you’re holding it naturally, on the iPhone it’s on the opposite side, and is much harder to reach. Secondly, the headphone jack is at the top on the iPhone where as it’s on the bottom of the Touch. At first I thought it was strange to have it at the bottom, but after using it for a while I soon realised how much sense it makes to have it down there. The headphone cable never gets in the way of the screen on the Touch, the same cannot be said for the iPhone.

As a phone the iPhone is nothing special. If you have no interest in anything beyond making and receiving calls and SMSes then the iPhone is not for you. The phone part is not bad, but it’s absolutely nothing special, and could certainly do with some improvements. What annoys me the most is that when you lock the screen the physical buttons on the side are not locked. If the buttons accidentally get hit while the phone is in your pocket the ringer volume changes. If you’re using the iPod features at the time then it’s not the ringer you’re changing but the iPod volume. This is a great way to miss calls or loose bits of the podcasts your listening to. I’ve never come across a phone that didn’t actually lock the keys when you lock it. I just don’t understand what Apple were thinking here. When you put your phone in your pocket buttons get pressed, when it’s locked that should have NO effect.

The physical ringer switch is a nice idea. So far I have never accidentally changed it in my pocket. Considering how small it is and how flush it is with the body of the phone I don’t think it’s likely to be a problem, though a friend of mine insists it moves in his pocket. What annoys me though is that there’s no indication on the display when the ringer is off. No other phone I’ve ever owned has NOT had an indicator to show that the phone is on silent. You get an icon in the top menu when you have an alarm set, you should get a similar indication when the ringer is off. A bell with a line or an X through it would be perfect.

What did impress me was the quality of the calls. My old phone was ancient, so perhaps the comparison is not fair, but I was shocked by how clear and loud calls were, and by how well the speaker phone works.

The rest of the phone features are all quite normal. The SMS interface is a bit odd, but I’m not a big SMS user so I don’t care. I’m trying to switch completely to email anyway, since SMS is a pure rip off. Like I said, the phone features work well, but they’re not really that special. I used to always have two devices in my pocket, now I only have to carry one. I don’t think I’ve lost anything, but I haven’t gained that much either, just less clutter and data access when I’m out and about.