FAQ: From 'iPhonies' to iFacts, we answer your iPhone questions

When it comes to Apple's popular phone, people ask the darnedest things

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How do I prolong my battery life? By using the phone as a phone — or surfing with it over Wi-Fi — as little as possible. Also, tap the Settings button and go into the Wi-Fi preferences. Turn off "Ask to Join Networks." Leaving this on means the iPhone is continuously scanning for new Wi-Fi hot spots. While useful if you're actually looking for wireless, it cuts into battery life. If you've logged into a Wi-Fi hot spot before, the iPhone will remember it the next time you're in range and automatically connect you, as long as it doesn't require Safari-based authentication. Changing the time between e-mail checks under the Mail settings can also help battery life. I've noticed real-world battery life increases just by changing Auto-Check from 15 minutes to 30.

Another way to make sure you're iPhone lasts is by purchasing external power add-ons like this one. This could easily help alleviate battery issues if you're away from a power source for a while.

How is typing on the keyboard? Here's the thing about the iPhone's software keyboard. Once you become accustomed to the way it works, it's difficult to go back to tactile keys. (Wait, do I hear the BlackBerry fanboys howling?) First, you must get used to the touch screen. While the iPhone does its best to ignore unintentional touches, there is a bit of a learning curve concerning the actual handling of touch screens. With button-based phones, if another finger or part of the hand rested on the phone's surface, nothing would happen. On the iPhone, sometimes grazing the screen with a part of your hand may be enough to launch an app, so it's best to hold the iPhone with one hand and use the other to type. The more deliberate the touch or gesture, the better the response from the screen.

Deliberate doesn't necessarily mean hard or excessive or slow. It just means deliberate. Since the iPhone is trying to determine whether the touches are intentional, a firm touch is best. Within days you'll pick up speed.

The iPhone's keyboard has a bunch of tricks it uses to stay on top of your text entry. If you press down on the keyboard and find that you've landed on the wrong letter, don't lift your finger. Just slide it to the letter you want. Once that letter is selected, lift your finger. With each successive letter, the iPhone narrows its guesses at the word you're trying to spell, and even assists by invisibly shifting the tappable area of each letter. The next most likely letter gets the bigger tappable area, dynamically. In concert with that, the iPhone analyzes key presses and figures out what you're trying to write, even if you never actually hit a single letter accurately!

For instance, I just typed the well-known pangram, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" into my phone as fast as I could, using two thumbs while I timed myself. In less than 10 seconds -- 9.7 to be exact -- I had that exact phrase typed out, even though what I actually typed was jibberish. As part of its predictive texting, the iPhone offers suggestions based on its calculations of your button presses, and it makes that the default the moment you press the space key. Once you realize you don't have to be accurate with your touch strokes and learn to trust the keyboard, typing becomes a breeze.

Who will win out: the BlackBerry or iPhone? The market is big enough for both. While the BlackBerry has had a place in IT shops for a long time, the iPhone puts the fun in functional, and it's about to get a serious productivity boost with the upcoming software update. Once the iPhone is updated, it will be able to do a lot more BlackBerry stuff than the BlackBerry can do iPhone stuff. RIM's response is the Bold and a newer touch-screen model, which implies Apple chose wisely when it skipped physical buttons for a touch screen.

With direct syncing eliminating the need for extra hardware and software, and with the iPhone's continued popularity, I'd be a little worried if I were RIM.

Got a nagging question or want to weigh in on the iPhone yourself? Leave a message in the comments area below.

Next: Opinion: When will iPhone have its own moment in history? 

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Michael DeAgonia is a computer consultant and technologist who has been using Macintoshes and working on them professionally since 1993. His tech-support background includes tenures at Computerworld, colleges, the biopharmaceutical industry, the graphics industry and Apple. Currently, he is working as a Macintosh administrator at a large media company.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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