October 11, 2008
The iPhone 3G and Mobile Safari
I have been using an iPhone 3G for just about a month and a half. It's been a decidedly up-and-down relationship with the device. On the one hand, it's the most amazing piece of consumer electronics I've ever used. On the other hand, it's the most frustrating one as well.
The bulk of my issues with the device (I hesitate to call it a "phone" because it is clearly much more than a phone) is that Mobile Safari is just too buggy. Firmware 2.1 did not improve on the stability, at least for me.
Sure, I browse the web on the iPhone when I'm out and about whenever I have some free time, but it turns out even more than a device to access the web when I'm not near a computer, the iPhone has become a go-to web access device even at home. It has taken the place of my laptop in bed right before I go to sleep, for example, and, yes, on the toilet if I'm having a... particularly big "download" queue.
But Mobile Safari crashes literally every few minutes for me. I haven't heard much of this issue being talked about online so I'm not sure if it's something with my particular iPhone. Bad memory perhaps? But nothing else on the phone appears to crash so it's limited to the Mobile Safari app (well, that and the NYTimes app, but I'm assuming that's using WebKit to render the pages so it's basically the same thing) which leads me to believe it's a software bug as opposed to a hardware one. It has crashed on basically every site I regularly visit (Google Reader, NY Times, Engadget, ESPN, to name a few). It crashes in the middle of doing nothing. For example, a page on NYTimes.com would finish loading and I would be in the middle of the article when Mobile Safari just quits to the home screen for no apparent reason.
Reading on a small screen in the palm of my hand turns out to be so satisfying for browsing the latest news that for the time being I'm putting up with the constant crashing, but it is extremely frustrating.
Phones and/or consumer electronics should not crash!
Putting aside the extreme bugginess (I've never used a web browser that crashed this much, literally every few minutes if I'm reading a lot of pages), Mobile Safari is s-l-o-w. The iPhone in general is no speed demon, but it really shows in Mobile Safari. I have a 10mbit connection at home, but you'd never know it if you judged it by the rendering speed on the iPhone.
But when it works, it's beautiful. It's like once you've used it, you can't go back to other phones, so you live with the slowness and crashiness just to experience the occasional high you get when it does work. It's like a bad drug.