This is not going to be a post about how cool the new iPhone 3G is. In some ways it is an amazing product but I don’t think another post like that is going to contribute anything further in this discussion. I wouldn’t say that the honeymoon is over, but I’m starting to feel a little more ambivalent towards the iPhone, at least how it is sold in Australia.
I think that the iPhone experience in Australia is going to be a little different than it's been in many other countries. The reason for this that the Australian mobile networks have fundamentally misunderstood the iPhone. They think it's a phone first and an internet device second, and have priced their plans accordingly with data limits laughably low.
There is no denying that the iPhone is a data hog. Some people are going to receive a very big shock when they receive their first bill for the iPhone, mainly because of excess data charges. The ACCC is sufficiently worried that it’s just issued a warning about this.
In this post I'm going to look at ways of reducing iPhone data consumption.
- Be careful of what you view in Safari. Safari is one of the iPhone's best applications, it is very nice to use with the ability to turn the phone for landscape browsing as well as zooming in and out when browsing web pages. But if you're anywhere near your bandwidth limits, using Safari for an extended browsing session on the iPhone is not a good idea.
- In particular be wary of newspaper websites and other bandwidth heavy sites. If you want to stay on top of the news, it's more data efficient to subscribe to that news source's RSS feeds rather than refreshing Safari on the website.
- If your carrier has any free unmetered web content, don't forget to make use of that if it's at all helpful (I know, often it's mediocre, but maybe it's better than nothing).
- If you want to read blogs on your iPhone, you really must use an RSS reader, unless you like the idea of paying more to your mobile phone company. Using an RSS reader strips out a lot of the junk which can increase your data usage. Don't click on outbound links if you can help it. If a post has some links you'd like to follow, mark the post (star in the Google Reader, “add to clippings” with NetNewsWire) and follow that up later on your home or work computer.
- Change the fetch new data settings to manual, so the iPhone only updates when you tell it to update and not on a regular schedule.
- Think about turning off email accounts at times when you’re not interested in reading or checking your email.
- MobileMe users: you may want to disable the push updating, unless you really need it
- Think about having a separate email account to use on the iPhone. You can set up automatic forwarding rules on your main email account, so that you only see the more important email on your iPhone and hopefully avoid the lolcats pictures and other large files being forwarded around
- Telstra and Optus users: make the most of any free wifi you may have access to in your plans.
- I love watching things on YouTube, but there's no way I'm ever going to look at YouTube on my iPhone unless I'm using "free" wifi. It's just not worth it.
- The iPhone supposedly has a way of tracking data consumption in Settings / General / Usage. I have found these figures to be wildly inaccurate, significantly less than the data consumption records kept by my carrier. Do not rely on that to track your data usage.
I write all of this with very mixed feelings, because right now it seems that occasionally or regularly crippling the iPhone is the only economically sustainable way of using it. I hope this will eventually change, but in the mean time, it’s not so helpful to dwell on all the cool things the iPhone can do, focus on what you can afford.