Your New iPhone: Things To Know, Get and Do

by Daniel P. Dern - I got an iPhone 4 in mid-August that displaced a years-old Nokia cell phone that I don't think ever had a text message sent from it. Based on my own experiences to date with the iPhone 4, here are some suggestions for using your iPhone to its best advantage. Ignore them at your peril (unless you think you know better, which, quite possibly, you do).

Things To Know -- including some that Apple and/or AT&T didn't tell you, or did when you weren't paying attention

1. If you take longer than thirty days to decide you won't want to keep your iPhone, while you're past the point where you can simply return it, if you stick with AT&T as your carrier, using some other phone, you don't have to pay that nasty service termination fee. And your iPhone still works as a WiFi device.

2. Be sure you take all the plastic protective wrappings off before you try making a phone call, the front sheet muffles the sound. Yeah, yeah, beginner's stupid mistake.

3. Those over-stylish Apple earbuds are also your wired phone headset -- they're the Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic -- there's a microphone below one of the earbuds, along with the volume control. And Apple's MSRP for them is $79.00. So don't lose them.

4. Your Bluetooth headset(s) may not work with the iPhone 4. I've tried three or four so far -- all of which have worked fine with my old non-smart Nokia 6230 -- including an Aliph Jawbone. I need to try again, but so far, very annoying.

Things To Get -- useful accessories.

The iPhone, along with the iPod and now also the iPad, have spawned incomprehensibly vast empires of third-party cases and geegaws. Some of dubious merit, but many do make immediate sense. Here are some starter suggestions for productivity and protection.

[ See also: 8 unusual iPad cases ]

1. Get a protective case immediately, especially if you think you may want to return the iPhone. This is a $600 device that's being carried around in pockets and bags, dumped on tables near food, etc., it deserves some protection from bumps and gunk.

I've been using an OtterBox Defender (MSRP $49.95), which is a tad bulky, but seems to have protected my iPhone -- and, interestingly, the touchscreen features still, with one possible occasional exception work perfectly through the screen cover. (I haven't determined whether this is what keeps my "close this app" taps from working. The holster clip -- which, for the most part, I don't use -- adds additional protection and can double as a "media stand."

2. Get spare data/charger cables.

The iPhone 4 charges, and also does data syncing and other communications with a computer, using a special cable which is USB on one end -- but a proprietary Apple connector on the other. Lose it, and while you can communicate via Bluetooth, you've got no other way to recharge the battery -- since the battery is not user-removable. I recommend getting several more, ASAP -- one to leave at your computer, one in your car (with a cigarette lighter USB adapter), one with your laptop, and one for your iPhone travel gear pouch.

Apple wants $19.95 for an additional Apple Dock Connector to USB Cable ... or $29.00 for an Apple iPhone 4 Dock

At Micro Center, I found some third-party cables, a box of two for $15.

3. Get a book. And read it.

Apple includes a "finger tips" mini-leaflet about the iPhone. Read it... but don't stop there. I'm working my way through New York Times columnist David Pogue's Buying Options iPhone: The Missing Manual, Fourth Edition (MSRP $24.99; $27.49 for print + ebook), which "Covers iPhone 4 & All Other Models with iOS 4 Software."

Things To Do

1. Take the time to master the user interface, including the physical buttons and what the various taps and touches do. (For example, pressing "Home" and "Power" together snaps a picture of the current screen, which you can view like any camera photo -- useful for saving maps, restaurant info or other web searches.

2. If you had contacts on a previous phone, you can transfer them over. See if wherever you bought your iPhone from will do this for you; it's quicker and easier with the machine that sucks them from your previous phone's SIM card.

3. Install iTunes on your computer, if you haven't already, and create an iTunes account. At least for Windows, iTunes is how your computer and the iPhone "synch," including backing up phone numbers, settings and pictures from your iPhone.

4. Create an account in Apple's Apps Store.

The iPhone comes with a starter set of applications ("apps")... but there are over 130,000 apps available through Apple's App Store. Many are free, many cost only a buck or so.

Annoyingly enough, even for the free apps, you have to create an Apps Store account -- which isn't identical to having an iTunes account. And you can't create an Apps Store account without some money.

If you don't feel like giving a credit card, you can prime the pump with an Apps Store gift card, which you can get from just about any convenience store, drug store, grocery store, etc. Even a $10 gift card will suffice.

Once you've created your account, you probably want to make sure that you've initialized it on both your computer and your iPhone. (Using gift cards rather than a credit card minimizes problems in case you misplace or lose your iPhone and haven't password-protected it.

Now go on and download a bunch of free apps, like for NPR radio stations, some ebook stuff. Some of "what's free" changes every few days or week, so check back every so often.

Daniel P. Dern is a freelance technology writer based in Newton Center, MA. His web site is and his technology blog is

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