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ATPM 14.07
July 2008


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Book Review

by Christopher Turner,

iPhone Superguide


Publisher: Macworld

Price: $13 (PDF); $25 (printed book); $15 (CD-ROM)

Trial: Sample PDF

The iPhone has now seen a year on the market, and Apple continues to sell about a million iPhones each quarter, give or take a few hundred thousand. This means there are more and more folks who may be encountering Apple’s way of doing things for the first time. While I have found the iPhone to be very easy to use and to figure out, Apple has provided minimal documentation of their unique communication device for those who may not feel the same way as I.

Into this void steps the Macworld iPhone Superguide, aimed at iPhone users on the Mac as well as Windows. The contributors have put together an easy-to-read, nicely formatted tome, which covers everything you need to know about your iPhone. From walking you through the basics and the layout of the hardware, to activation, personalizing the settings to suit your tastes, and setting up local wireless networks for speedy non-phone functions, the Superguide has you covered. The writers also take time to offer hints and tips, such as how to conserve battery life, setting up secure e-mail, and finding free wifi hotspots.

Talking, Texting, and Typing

The iPhone, as its name implies, is a communication device first, and after covering all the basics, the Macworld writers delve in to those communication aspects: calls, e-mails, and text messages. A crucial part of all three of those is easy access to the contacts most important to you, and the Superguide devotes a section to importing contacts, whether from Mac OS X’s Address Book or Windows’s Outlook. Readers are walked through managing multiple calls, including the awesome “Merge Calls” function, as well as checking voice mail, which, thanks to Visual Voice-mail, is no longer a chore.

Equal attention is paid to setting up e-mail accounts and preferences, and managing messages. Since this is the one area of iPhone usage where you’re likely to use the virtual keyboard the most, an entire page is devoted to “Typing Tips.” Early adopters of the iPhone know most, if not all, of these, but they’re welcome information for new users. When discussing text messages, the writers take a moment to also discuss instant messaging on the iPhone, which thus far has meant the use of IM Web services.

Surfing, Searching, and…Other Stuff

While the iPhone may be a communication device foremost, it’s also a mobile Web browsing platform, and the Superguide devotes a fair amount of space to this particular function. The authors discuss navigating Web pages, working with multiple Web pages (the maximum Safari allows is eight), sharing URLs, bookmarks, and checking RSS feeds. There are several tip sidebars, including one which gives the neophyte iPhone user an explanation of EDGE versus WiFi.

One key aspect of Internet usage is search, whether that be on Google, or Wikipedia. iPhone users are never more than a few finger taps away from whatever information these two, and many other, sites may provide. Another area of search where the iPhone excels is with regard to location, thanks to the pre-installed Google Maps application. Search for donut shops or seafood restaurants while on the go in a new city, or simply get directions from your residence to another location in your own town; the Superguide dissects it all when it comes to how to go about doing it with your iPhone.

Getting map directions and updating your Twitter account aren’t the only things your iPhone is capable of, and an entire chapter of the Superguide is devoted to all the other applications: Calendar, Notes, Stocks (handy to see how Apple’s stock tanks after announcing its best quarter ever, even though this “doesn’t meet analysts’ expectations”), Weather, Clocks, and, yes, Calculator. (You, too, now have your very own tip calculator at hand when you own an iPhone. Just remember that it does other things!)

Watching, Listening, and Looking

The third table leg of the iPhone is the capabilities of the device it calls brother: the iPod. From watching videos and listening to music on the go, to shopping on the iTunes Store, the writers offer up their tips and how-tos on getting the most of these experiences on your iPhone. Multimedia navigation on the iPhone, and its near-twin, the iPod touch, is very different than on previous iPhones, and readers are offered plenty of data in this regard, with handy screenshots to boot.

The iPhone makes a much better portable movie viewer, in my humble opinion, than the iPod, thanks to the former’s widescreen mode when turned on its side. Just as it does with the music offerings, the Superguide offers tips and tricks to optimize one’s video experience on the iPhone. But the Macworld writers don’t stop at talking about just watching video on the iPhone; they devote an entire section to converting and getting video onto the iPhone. A very handy reference for new users, which happens to mention two applications I find indispensable for getting video into my iPhone, HandBrake and Mac The Ripper. (Windows users aren’t left out in the cold; the Superguide has tips for those running Microsoft’s operating system.)

Like many mobile phones sold, the iPhone has a built-in camera. While the iPhone camera is nothing to write home about, the iPhone’s abilities to deal with photos just might be. For as the Superguide goes in to detail on, one is not constrained to dealing with photos solely shot with the iPhone camera. You can sync albums from iPhoto or Aperture, or from My Pictures in Windows, and carry around your favorites or the entire series from your last family vacation. A photo of your family in your wallet? With your iPhone and the Superguide’s tips, you can do much better than that.

Managing, Syncing, and Accessorizing

With all of the multimedia capabilities of the iPhone, you may be thinking that managing all of that can be a chore, and you wouldn’t be wrong. iTunes is the home base for syncing music, movies, calendars, e-mail, and photos with the iPhone, and a chapter of the Superguide is dutifully devoted to syncing duties.

Finally, the authors devote the latter portion of the Superguide to getting more out of the iPhone experience through accessories. Important things belong in a case. You have a skull for your brain, and you should have a case for your iPhone; thus, the first chapter of this section is devoted to the myriad ways one is able to carry their iPhone around. Next up would be a discussion of what would be just as important an accessory: headphones. Whether those be earbuds of some sort for both ears, or a Bluetooth headset for just one, Macworld’s writers show off some of the more popular offerings.

Many of us use our mobile phones in the car, and the iPhone is no exception to that. The Superguide offers up a trove of hardware, from docks to chargers to transmitters, for one to use in an automobile in conjunction with the iPhone. (I’m still waiting for a DLO TransPod that has integrated speakerphone capabilities.) Then there’s the time when you want to plug your iPhone in to a speaker system at home or the office; Macworld has you covered in this area as well, with a well-rounded selection.

We don’t often think of software as an accessory, but the Superguide offers a nice list of Web applications that may complement your everyday iPhone-using life. For instance, during baseball season, I enjoy using Pickleview to keep up with game scores. I think everyone can use to find the cheapest gas prices around, but some time between the Superguide’s publication and now, that domain became defunct. Nevertheless, there are many different Web applications out there, and the Macworld writers offer a smattering to whet your appetite.

Troubleshooting and Frequent Questioning

The Superguide wraps up with a section on troubleshooting problems with your iPhone, hopefully getting it back up and running without having to make a trip to the nearest Apple Store. There’s also a Frequently Asked Questions section, which many readers may skip to first when they get the Superguide, as it may scratch the iPhone information itch they have.

The Macworld iPhone Superguide is a great way for new iPhone owners to year-long users to get the most out of their iPhone experience. I had an iPhone on the first day they were available, and I’ve learned quite a few tidbits thanks to the; avoiding creating twin e-mail accounts, that is, accounts with the same name (a lot of my personal e-mail addresses are the same, only the @domain changes); and the link preview function—to name a few. With the iPhone 3G, along with the iPhone 2.0 software and the iPhone App Store, just days away from release, you can expect an updated Superguide down the road, and if this initial release is any indication, you won’t be disappointed with its content.

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