Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On the Road with the iPhone

I was in San Francisco recently. My iPhone made this into a completely different experience than it ever has been before. I love SanFran: One of my favorite cities. I do not get there often enough to be a native son or anything, but I know my way around enough to know I don't need directions from the helpful dude on Powell street who has "memorized all the local clubs: where do you want to go?"

I used the iPhone so much one day that the battery was at 5% and the icon was looking seriously red when I got back to my room. I normally do not run my cell phones down below 90%. Lithium Ion batteries do not like to be deep cycled.

In the process of using the iPhone on this day I decided a couple of things about all the anti-iPhone factions main complaints. Mostly it came down to that all phones are going to have to rise to the level of design and usability of this device before I'm letting go of this little jewel. I may never update the OS level past here in order to keep my applications working (Really Apple: open up the software side of the iPhone!)

During the course of the day the only thing I didn't use the iPhone for was as a phone.

I got up early and headed into the city from where I was staying down in Santa Clara. Picking up BART just south of SFO at the Millbrea station, I started to research with the web browser and google maps where I wanted to go. My plan was to see the Cable Car museum and Power House. I was alone on this trip, and no one else in my family had ever been interested in this, so I wanted to take advantage of my solitary status to do a few things I had always wanted to.

I also had a goal: I had always wanted to "Hike the Hill", I.E., get off at the Powell BART station, and walk the line the cable car travels up the hill, and then back down to where the Cable car museum is, then down to the wharf.

Entering things in the Google maps app like "BART Powell" as my start location, and "Cable Car Museum" as my destination, it drew me a map of exactly what I wanted. First time. Wow.

I exited Powell's BART station with my headphones in my ears. I didn't have any music on. It was an experiment. Sure enough, the panhandlers at Powell left me alone, assuming I could not hear them. I knew where I was going, and I had an iShield.

Half way up the hill, I was stopped by someone asking directions. I guess headphones means you must be a local too. I looked up what they needed on Google maps, gave them directions (we were two blocks from where they wanted to be), and they smiled, thanked me, and took off. This happened four times before the day was over.

I had my Pentax digicam, so the iPhone did not do camera duty at the museum. That is goodness: 2 Mp doesn't really get it done for most things. It's nice as a backup when I forget my real camera, but it isn't great.

I got to talking to an employee of the museum, who was a life long area resident. They told me about some things I needed to see that were off the beaten path over in North Beach. I looked this up in the iPhone, got a map, and headed off through the heart of Chinatown.

I realized on the indicated route that I had never been in this part of Chinatown: it was very cool. Lots of open air markets, very little in the way of tourist stuff. Before I knew it I was wandering into North Beach. I saw a little pub that was interesting called "Rogue Ales Public House". I googled this from across the street, it looked promising, and so I had dinner there. A quick picture of the beer bug was emailed home to let my wife know I was OK. She was deeply worried I might not find a quality beer.... Or not.

Next stop was Ghirardelli Square. I cut over to the Embarcadero, and took a side trip onto Pier 39 to see if there were any new shops. I stopped to do some Google research on the historic Eagle Cafe, which is a historic building built in 1928 that was lifted to the 2nd story of the entrance to Pier 39.

When I got to Ghirardelli, there was an unexpected-by-me crowd for the Chocolate Festival. I was there for Chocolate sauce so that my wife would let me back in the house. The live music was great, and so now I looked up the festival to see what that was about. I listened to a great Santana cover band, then stepped up the hill to the Square to buy my get out of jail sauce. Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce in tow, I headed back to Powell station, reading email on the trolley.

I stopped outside the Apple store to see if I could pick up their free Wifi, and I could. Not sure why: I was just curious. Legs called up to the head and indicated they were ready to have a seat, so I got onto BART to head south, watching a movie on the way back to the car.

I was sorry I didn't go in to the Apple store and get an auxiliary battery. At 5%, the battery was just about dead. If someone had called at that point, I probably would have had no significant talk time.

This was all before the Navizon app came out too: I kept thinking all day that the only thing that I was missing was a GPS chip tied to the map application so that I could map my current location a little easier. It turned out to not be a major issue in a city though. Plenty of street signs and significant locations to enter for my current location.

I know SanFran well enough that the iPhone just added an extra level of confidence to my ability to get around. The ability to look into background information was very very cool, and I have to say that at least in SanFran I had no issues with the Edge network speeds. Given how I was pushing the battery life with my usage, 3G would have really needed the extra battery pack!

What will be interesting is next time I travel to a city I do not know as well: that should be even better, especially now that I have the Navizon application on the iPhone. If you don't know Navizon, it locates you by looking at the various cell phone towers the phone can see, plus any public wifi's, gets their coordinates from a database on the Internet, and triangulates your location. Driving around the swamp, it appears to be pretty accurate. Not as accurate as a GPS, but good enough for me.


Banjo said...

I was just at the Rogue location in Newport Oregon, Brewer's on the Bay. Which beer did you try? I paired a Dead Guy Ale with a bucket of clams cooked in beer. It was a fantastic combination.

Steve Carl said...

I had a Deschutes IPA. Really more of an American Pale Ale, but given the local influence of Sierra Nevada, not too surprising. It was terrific. I decided to put it with a jalepeno cheeseburger, since Pale Ale is great for cooling off the tongue. I only eat Hamburgers 6 or so times a year so it was a real treat.