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iPhone 101: Basic questions, basic answers


This morning I opened my Mail inbox and was greeted with an email from a man who had read my iPhone articles in the premiere issue of iPhone Life magazine. He had a bunch of questions which, on first glance, appeared to be naive. However, I asked my rocket scientist wife (yes, she really is a rocket scientist!) if she knew the answers since she has had an iPhone for over a year, and she could only answer a few.

That's true not only of iPhone users, but of people who use any technology. For most people, just learning the minimal feature set is enough. It's when you decide that you want to learn more about how to use a particular feature that you can run into questions.

I often point people to Apple's excellent iPhone support Web site to get details on the minutiae of operating their iPhones. For those of you who are iPhone newbies or just afraid to ask, I've written up some answers to some common questions taken from the email and my reply to the reader. Click the Read More link below to see the rest of the story.

Thanks to Fred for the inspiration!

Hello Steve!

I recently purchased the iPhone 3G two weeks ago, and am still trying to get used to it. I am fairly tech savvy, but there's still some things on the phone I haven't been able to figure out or decipher, such as, what does it mean to fetch or push data/e-mail?

Fetch email means that your iPhone goes out to the email server every so often to check and see if there is new email available. Push is a bit different (and not really working with MobileMe...yet). With Push email, if someone sends you an email it is immediately sent to your iPhone.The Blackberry is famous for its push email prowess, which is part of the reason why it's so popular with businesses and politicians.

I've already set up my Gmail account to send and receive e-mail, I'm just not familiar w/ that aspect of it. I also don't have the emoticon or text editing options (such as colored text etc.) on the phone.

So far, I think there are a few apps in the app store that will add emoticons to email. That feature isn't part of the standard mail application on the iPhone. :-( One of those apps is the aptly named Email Emoticons (click opens iTunes). There's also a newly-discovered workaround for adding emoji, Japanese graphical emoticons, to any iPhone email -- see Justine's post for the details (hat tip to Chris Pirillo, Zyber & Akira for the tip).

I also saw an article that mentioned that the iPhone could read PDF, Word, and Excel documents, but I've only been able to read a PDF document that was converted to HTML. Is there any special software I need to read them?

Yep! If someone sends you a PDF, Word or Excel document, you can look at them once they have been downloaded to the iPhone. That feature, which is also found on the Mac, is called Quick Look and it allows you to view documents but not edit them.

If you want to carry those documents with you, get an app that will take the documents and store them on the iPhone, then allow you to look at them. Some of the apps that will do this are File Magic, File Magnet, MobileFiles, Files, Briefcase, AirSharing, Readdle Docs and DocViewer Pro (also lets you edit Excel spreadsheets),

There's also a website you can send/forward your attachments to that will convert them to PDF, but I would like to be able to at least read a Word document on my phone. I would also like to know if it's possible to read/send picture attachments from your phone, especially if the pics are saved on the phone.

Absolutely. When someone sends you a picture attachment, start by tapping on the icon that allows all of the file to download. Once the file is downloaded and viewable in the email, you can tap and hold the picture to save it to your iPhone. You can send any photo in the photo library by viewing it, then tapping on the icon in the lower left corner of the screen. One of the choices is "Email Photo." Great way to send photos to your friends and family!

Ok, I just tried saving a pic from the net, but was unable to do so. What's the secret to doing so, and how do I add a pic/image to my Contacts list for each contact?

If you're trying to save a picture on a web page, for example, simply tap on it and hold your finger on the image for a few seconds. A dialog will appear at the bottom of the screen asking if you want to Save Image or Cancel. Choose Cancel, and it will save the photo into your Photo Albums.

To add a picture or image of friends, coworkers and family to each contact in your contacts list, take a picture of them, go into the Photo Albums app again, and tap on that helpful icon in the lower left corner of the screen. When you see the four choices again (see the picture at the top of this post) tap on Assign to Contact. Your list of contacts appears, and you just need to tap on a particular contact to assign an image to that person.

Finally, I had to register and sync my phone on a friend's PC because my laptop is on the fritz. When I tried installing some FREE apps, I was asked for an App Store user name and password, but I don't ever remember setting one up. Would I have to get back on his PC to set up my account, or would I have to start over when I get a new computer? Is the user name and password the same for the App Store and iTunes Store as well?

Answering your last question first, yes, the iTunes account is the same as the App Store account. You can set up a new App Store account by opening iTunes on any PC or Mac. Next, go to the Store menu and choose "Create Account". They'll ask for credit card info, which is used if you decide to purchase apps or music at a later date. If you're just trying to get some free apps, they still want that account information so they can make sure that you're informed when there are updates to any app you've downloaded.

I hope this helps, Fred! Have fun with that iPhone!

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