Well worn: Retiring my original 4GB iPhone

I purchased my iPhone just over three years ago. In fact, I purchased it the day Steve Jobs announced the $200 price cut and I snapped up a 4GB model from my local AT&T store that afternoon.

This was a big change for me. I had never really paid for a phone before. I got whatever Nokia was free with the plan… And I rarely used texting, camera or data.

When I first got the iPhone, it seemed like everywhere I went, I was demoing the phone. Everyone wanted to zoom in on maps and flip through pictures.

Several days after I got my new iPhone, my youngest daughter was born. And from the hospital, I took pictures and emailed them immediately to friends and family. (In fact, when my wife went into labor, I found myself without a watch and used the stopwatch to time contractions. It remains the only time I’ve ever used the stopwatch.)

Initially, I wasn’t interested in the camera. I had a high quality SLR and point and shoot. But I found time after time, when I needed a camera, the iPhone was with me. And the high end equipment wasn’t. I got lots of great candid shots with the iPhone.

I also stopped carrying my iPod. While I couldn’t store all my music on the 4GB iPhone, I was able to sync the stuff I listened too most. And found myself slowly using my iPod less and less.


The first sign that my iPhone was starting to show it’s age was that after about two years, the speaker developed a minor issue where it was hard to hear when there was a lot of background noise. It wasn’t a deal breaker, but occasionally, I was frustrated. I contemplated replacing my iPhone with a shiny new 3G or 3Gs. But I didn’t.

A few months ago, I dropped the iPhone. I had dropped it previously without serious damage, but this time it hit just right… and the face cracked. It still worked. But now, a new phone was going to have to happen soon. At the time, the iPhone 4 was just out and with the reception issues, I decided to wait a little bit. After all, it still functioned fine. Plus the idea of replacing my reliable old iPhone made me a little sad.

A few weeks later, I dropped it again. This time, the screen didn’t crack. But the side bowed out a little bit. The side with the volume was bent so that the volume down button was constantly depressed. So the phone would turn the volume down at random times. My iPhone was no longer functional as a phone. It was time to replace my iPhone.

My new phone

I stopped into an AT&T store and upgraded. A shiny new iPhone 4. Shockingly they had some in stock and the transfer was painless.

The phone is faster. The screen is better. The camera is better. I don’t have to deal with slow data speeds. My reception is better and I haven’t had any of the antenna issues that are so well documented. In every way, the new iPhone is a better device. But, just a little bit, I miss my original iPhone.

How we relate to tech

I’ve had a lot of computers. And iPods. And other gadgets. But the iPhone is the first piece of technology that I’ve had with me constantly. I can take my laptop or my iPad with me, but I don’t always have it. I carried my iPod frequently, but if I forgot it, no big deal. However, my iPhone was indispensable. For 3 years, I carried and used it every day.

As gadgets become more portable, they become more a part of our lives. iPhones - and other smartphones - are becoming an integral part of how we experience, document and remember the world around us. My iPhone was with me for a whole range of monumental events over the last three years - my last year as president of AIGA South Carolina, numerous trips and vacations and the birth of my child. And often it was used to take pictures, make arrangements, get directions and even time contractions. And for that reason, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for my slow, well-worn first generation iPhone. (Even if I love my new phone…)

Photoshop on the iPhone: Version 1.1

In October, I posted a review of Photoshop.com Mobile for iPhone. Adobe has released a 1.1 update and there are a few notable changes and additions so I figured I’d write a quick update to the review.

New features

Sharpen and Contrast - I mentioned in my first review that I’d love to be able to sharpen images. Version 1.1 adds sharpening. And it also adds the ability to adjust the contrast in the image. Both are great additions to the app. (One problem with how the sharpening is implemented… Because you can’t zoom in and look at the detail while sharpening, it’s really easy to over sharpen images.)

Left: Original fuzzy image from iPhone. Middle: Image sharpening (over) applied. Right: Both sharpening and contrast adjusted on original image and then desaturated.

Borders - The 1.1 update adds a new set of borders. A few of the borders are nice and a few are cheesy… I don’t really use borders, but they are there if you want to use them. I’ve also uploaded a gallery over at Photoshop.com demonstrating some of the borders and new features.

Refinements - Adobe seems to have cleaned up the app. The interface feels a little more responsive and more polished. There are still a few behaviors that don’t feel quite right, but I imagine Adobe will continue to refine the interface.

Watch out for text messages

Twice, I got a text message while using Photoshop.com Mobile. If you click “Reply,” the iPhone switches right over to the Messages app and loses any changes you had made. To be fair, this is a problem with the iPhone and its lack of multitasking for non-Apple apps, and there is nothing Adobe can do about it. But it is something you should be aware of.


I’ve also played around some more with the Photoshop.com online service. Adobe continues to refine the online app and it’s improving.

The team at Adobe seems to be trying to position the service as being a hub for all of your other services. They offer a wide range of export and sharing options. I was able to successfully post galleries to Facebook and Flickr. I was also able to generate a Flash-based slideshow viewer. This could be useful if you want to post photos to several blogs and services simultaneously.

Download or update Photoshop.com Mobile for the iPhone version 1.1 for free from the App Store (iTunes link). Learn more about Adobe’s online editing and storage app at Photoshop.com.

Photoshop on the iPhone and in the “cloud”

Adobe has released Photoshop.com Mobile (iTunes Link), an iPhone app. While I was checking out the new app, I also took a look at the Photoshop.com web-based, cloud-hosted service.

Photoshop.com Mobile: The iPhone App

Photoshop.com Mobile is a free app for your iPhone. You can use it to make some basic adjustments and apply preset filters. Some of the adjustments are useful (for example, exposure changes, cropping and black and white conversion). 

Photoshop.com iPhone App screenshots

While there are a few decent filters, there are also some terrifyingly bad filters (see “pop” and “rainbow.”) I’ve posted a gallery with some examples of these filters and effects. I would love to see some form of sharpening added and the ability to view a histogram.

Examples of selected filters in use. Top left, original image. Top right, vignette blur + black and white. Bottom left, vibrant + vignette blur. Bottom right, rainbow

When you are done, you can save the image to “Photos” on your iPhone. Or you can choose to upload them to Photoshop.com. More on that in a second…

In general, it works pretty well. And while I did have a few crashes, it is pretty stable and I’m sure it will get more stable as it’s updated. For a free app, it’s solid and worth a download.

Photoshop.com: The Photo-Hosting Service

But you can’t talk about the Photoshop.com iPhone app without talking about Photoshop.com, Adobe’s web-based application for hosting and editing photos. The service is free and includes 2 GB of storage. It can host both images and videos.

You can upload images, edit them and then share galleries and slide shows. The editing is relatively powerful, allowing you to make lots of alterations including modifying the white balance or performing sharpening. Photoshop.com even provides import opinions for Flickr and Facebook galleries.

The application is Flash-based and is relatively attractive. It mirrors the look and feel of an Adobe app, so if you are familiar with the Creative Suite (especially Bridge), you should be comfortable in the interface. Performance is generally very good, but I experienced some slow down with animations. I’m sure your mileage will vary depending on your computer, browser or internet connection.

But there are some oddities. Sometimes, the interface doesn’t behave consistently – requiring a single click for some functions and a double click for others without apparent pattern or cause.

One of the strangest things is that there is no real social networking features. Sure, you can share albums with friends, but there is no way to browse people who have Photoshop.com accounts. And you can’t search for tags or keywords like you can on Flickr. So if you, like me, don’t know anyone with a Photoshop.com account, this feature is useless.

I’m not really sure what the target market is for the service. Some of the features are powerful. But people who would use the powerful features aren’t going to want to edit images with a web-based service. Some features are useless or tacky (like the “Decorate” feature that lets you add thought bubbles, post-it-notes and clip art to your images).

In the end, I’m not sure why I would use this for sharing pictures over Flickr, Facebook or even .Mac’s Web Gallery. It’s not that it’s bad, but it just doesn’t offer me enough features to make the switch… I’m sure they will be continuously adding features, but for now, I don’t see a compelling reason to change services.

What’s next? Photoshop: The Flame Thrower

So I like the iPhone app, and I don’t love the Photoshop.com web-based service. The bigger issue for me, though, is what Adobe is doing to the Photoshop brand. To me, Photoshop is a professional image editing application. But now, you have Photoshop CS4, Photoshop Extended CS4, Photoshop Elements, Photoshop Lightroom, Photoshop.com and the Photoshop.com iPhone app. Photoshop even has it’s own logo.

This type of brand extension is problematic, because now, anything that Adobe offers that is used with photos – from beginner to professional – has “Photoshop” in the name. Is the ability to put a cheesy speech bubble on a picture using Photoshop.com really a “Photoshop” feature? Does tacky clip art belong in any app bearing the “Photoshop” name?

And while photographers and designers will continue to use Photoshop, the loss of brand equity is, in my opinion, an unwise brand management decision. 

iPhone App Proposal: Mobile Proofing

I don’t use remote proofing much. As a print designer, checking a proof online really is a poor substitute for having the hard copy in your hands. But when there is a time crunch, or you are on the road, there really is no other option.

Remote proofing is usually offered by a printer. The designer downloads a client application, like Rampage Remote, that interfaces with the printer’s proofing system. PDF’s are then posted for review and approval.

I’ve actually approved a proof on my iPhone before. A printer emailed me a PDF and I was able to review it on the phone. The zooming and scrolling functions on the iPhone actually made it relatively easy to review the file.

And while the “email a PDF” works in a pinch, I think it would be reasonably easy to add some functionality to make the process easier. The app could either work with PDF files. Or it could we integrated with a system like Rampage.

The Mobile Proofing app could essentially function like the PDF reading function already on the phone. Scroll around. Zoom in. But it would need to add three additional functions.

Separations. The app would need to let you see the separations. For four color work, I’d want to see the cyan, magenta, yellow and black plates that make up the image. 

Notes. A way to add notes and comments and send them back to the printer.

Approval/Rejection. A way to provide a simple approve/reject notification to the printer.

The modern equivalent of Polaroid?

Kodak Instant Print of a future art director on his Big Wheel. (Taken with an iPhone.)

Everyone loves Polaroid prints. The shape and format is iconic. The quality wasn’t that great. You couldn’t really enlarge or frame the prints. And the camera itself didn’t offer anything that even remotely resembled bells and whistles. But the great thing about Polaroids was that the moment you took a picture you were ready to share it.

The iPhone and other camera phones are becoming the modern equivalent of the Polaroid instant camera.

The photographer in me hates my camera phone. The iPhone camera has 2 megapixel image quality, no flash, no zoom, no control over exposure. My digital SLR is far superior as a camera. And yet, I still take pictures with my iPhone all the time. Why?

It’s because I want to share what I’m shooting. Right then. I take a shot of something and I’m able to email it to someone, post it to an online gallery or Facebook. I’m not planning on making prints or enlargements. I’m not expecting great lighting.

I am capturing a moment and sharing that emotion immediately. Just like with the Polaroid.

iPhone App Proposal: Font Identification

A few weeks ago, a truck was parked at a gas station near my work. The graphics on the side of the trailer were very well done and used a typeface I couldn’t identify. So I took a few shots with the iPhone with the hope of later identifying the font…

I’d love to see an iPhone app that would allow you to take a series of pictures of a typeface and then automatically compare them to a database to determine the typeface. Kind of an advanced, mobile version of What the Font?

What the Font? is a web site that allows you to upload scans of type. If the automatic identification doesn’t work, then the image is transferred to a forum where users share their typographic knowledge.

The app would let you take a series of pictures. Those pictures and a brief description would be uploaded and compared to a database. If the software can identify the typeface, it sends back the answer. If it can’t, then the images and description would be posted to a forum for other users to review. The app could also allow users to view “unsolved cases” and identify the type.