Two iPhone Books Reviewed

How to Do Everything with Your iPhone
Jason Chen and Adam Pash

McGraw Hill Osborne
$24.99 US $28.95 CDN
ISBN 978-0-07-149790-9
296 pages


Take Control of Your iPhone v 1.01 ebook
Ted Landau
TidBITS Electronic Publishing
US $15.00 online purchases only
195 pages

Steve Jobs envisioned the Macintosh as a consumer device along the lines of a toaster; a computer that’s so easy to use it would require virtually no complex instructions. You don’t read the manual when you buy a toaster, right? Since 1984, the Mac has evolved to become a powerful and complex computing environment, and most people have to read the manual. A little bit, anyways.

In contrast, landline telephones made more than ten or fifteen years ago are perhaps the ultimate consumer devices; you pick up the handset, hear a dial tone, and dial. Using a phone was easier than using a toaster, because you don’t have to adjust the heat to get the desired brownness for the toast.

Nowadays, cell phones do far more than your (or your father’s, or your grandfather’s) black Western Electric telephone ever did. Cell phone manuals need to be read so you can (try to) master the thousand-and-one features most phones come with.

Now comes the iPhone. Apple says it’s “the Internet in your pocket.” Does it need a manual? Absolutely. Apple’s documentation is too skimpy.

The problem is that most (not Apple’s) cell phone user guides are:

1) Printed on tiny pieces of paper, in even tinier type.

2) Written for English readers by Japanese engineers in Japanese, then translated from Japanese into English by native Kazakh speakers who learned English as a second language.

Both How to Do Everything with Your iPhone and Take Control of Your iPhone v 1.01 attempt to provide useful and readable instruction manuals for the iPhone. They go into far more detail than Apple does, yet do it in a manner far superior to any other cell phone manual.

Why does the iPhone need a manual? Even though its arguably the simplest to use yet most capable and powerful smartphone ever, most people will need some help learning how to use it. Users will certainly need help to figure out what to do if the darned thing doesn’t work as advertised. Since it’s more than half computer, and computers by nature misbehave, a good well-written manual is worth more than it’s weight in gold.

How to Do Everything with Your iPhone, written by Jason Chen and Adam Pash, is an easy to read book that’s targeted at a mass audience. To be sure, virtually everyone who owns an iPhone has a computer, so owners have some familiarity with how to run iTunes. Even so, many new iPhone owners are relative novices who need to start and end with the basics.

Chapter One, “Get Your iPhone Up and Running,” starts with the basics of turning on and activating the phone. If you don’t know what a USB cable is, the authors tell you. They don’t dwell on technical details like the difference between USB 2.0 and 1.1, but simply tell readers to check their computer’s manual, and that USB 2 is faster.

That’s the tone of the book. Pash and Chen have written a book that covers all the iPhone features without bogging down the reader with a level of detail that many will not need or desire. The book doesn’t skimp on coverage; important tidbits like battery conditioning are mentioned, as are numerous good customization tips.

The bulk of How to Do Everything with Your iPhone relates to using the normal, standard features of the iPhone. If you’re looking for neat hacks, or how to jailbreak the phone, or exotic “I didn’t know the iPhone could do that” techniques, this is not the book for you.

How to Do Everything with Your iPhone is a good book for the non-techie user who just wants to learn how to get their money’s worth from the iPhone, and not have to wade through pages of useless (to them) technical detail. My only caveat is that even for Mom and Pop, some of the information could be more detailed.

The book does have a troubleshooting section, but it’s basic, as you’d expect. This is not the book’s strong point. If you need an industrial-strength solution to iPhone operation, read on.

Ted Landau is a Macintosh writer who made his reputation by creating the MacFixit web site. He’s also written the popular Peachpit title Sad Macs, Bombs and Other Disasters.

Given his preferred subject matter, I have to admit I wonder from time to time if Ted’s Macs ever work properly.

Landau’s Take Control of Your iPhone is at the opposite end of the spectrum from How to Do Everything with Your iPhone. That’s not to say it is better. It’s written to address high-end troubleshooting and usage of the iPhone. It’s not directed at those who want to learn how to surf with their iPhone. It’s written more for those who want to know what to do if they can’t surf with their iPhone!

If you don’t have a good working familiarity with normal iPhone operation, Take Control of Your iPhone is not going to teach you. It does include in-depth discussion of more advanced techniques such as Master the Onscreen Keyboard, Manage Syncing with Multiple Computers, Use a VPN Network, and more.

But the focus of the ebook is on troubleshooting. Hardly a page is turned without seeing the word “problem,” as the word appears 214 times in 195 pages! Personally, I’ve not experienced the great majority of the problems Landau describes, but I’m comforted to know that solutions exist if I am so unlucky as to need to learn to use iPhone Recovery Mode.

One section I found especially informative was iPhone Networking. Landau goes into useful detail on understanding Edge versus Wi-Fi. It’s full of useful hints and tips about networking settings I did not know existed.

Do you need a copy of Take Control of Your iPhone? My iPhone has been bullet-proof, never acting up when I needed it. Apart from AppleTV, iPhone is the most toaster-like product to come out of Cupertino in quite a while. But while it’s a phone, it’s more than half a computer. As the ancient Chinese philosopher said; “Computers are like dogs. They’re generally friendly, but if they smell fear, they’ll turn on you.”

Take Control of Your iPhone costs only $15.00. That’s cheap insurance if you do have problem the night before you take your iPhone on a long trip out of town.

Both How to Do Everything with Your iPhone and Take Control of Your iPhone are well-written books. If you’re looking for a comprehensive book geared towards Mom and Pop, I can recommend How to Do Everything with Your iPhone.

MyMac rating 4.5 out of 5

If you’re more of a power-user who pushes your iPhone right to the brink (or beyond), you’ll want Take Control of Your iPhone.

MyMac rating 4.5 out of 5.

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