So you’re thinking about an iPhone?

I am a heavy user of iGoogle (e-mail, calendar, RSS reader, bookmarks, movies, weather, shared documents, stock market, etc.).  I went out and bought an iPhone to replace my old Nokia plain-jane model.  Since then, I have gone through the motions to make it more and more useful.

While I expected a life-changing transformation, I had no idea of how amazing it would be.

It is possible to truly “synch” your contacts, e-mail and calendar with Gmail, essentially in real-time. So, now if you lose your phone, you will not “lose” any data.

My old BlackBerry had it’s own little inbox/outbox, so stuff sent on the phone was only on the phone. The truly integrated iGoogle solution actually creates a sent item in your Gmail.

I have a few tips for people that I would have found helpful before I got my iPhone and had to try to figure it all out.

Step I – Gmail Cleanup

Before you get your iPhone, go clean up the contacts in Gmail.  Until very recently Google added every person you e-mailed to your contact list.  Thankfully they stopped doing so, making this a reasonable place to store real contacts now.

I had about 1000 contacts in my list.  I started by merging a whole bunch of contacts (people’s work and home e-mails), and deleting junk entries.  I got this down to about 350 contacts.

Next, I created some categories and started categorizing people.  While this is useful in Gmail, it is not so useful on your iPhone.  However, it has the effect of also adding people to your “My Contacts” folder, which are the ones that appear on the iPhone.  (So why not kill two birds with one stone – categorize them for Gmail AND add them to your iPhone.)

LASTLY I took my old phone and added phone numbers to existing Gmail contacts (and created entries for the few people I know who have no e-mail address).

Don’t get discouraged, this is all very worthwhile!  Don’t create two contact lists!  Merge it, simplify your life!

Serious Twitter users should also add a contact for TwitPic to e-mail photos directly from their iPhone with a scarily simple process (if you get drunk a lot, skip this option).

Step II – Go Buy Your iPhone

Do this second, only because Step I took me about 6 hours.  I crunched mine into one all-nighter, but reasonable folks like you might need to spread this out over a few days.

Step III – Update Firmware

Do this by plugging your phone into your computer and using iTunes on your computer.  Don’t mess with iTunes on the phone – at least not at this point.

While you’re in there, download some applications.  For Twitter, TwitterFon is the best.  FaceBook and LinkedIn have applications.  Serial Instant Messengers might try IM+ Lite (it’s not awesome, but it’s the best I’ve found so far).  Don’t go too crazy yet.

Step IV – Connect to Home Wi-Fi

I remember reading about these phones of the future in The Economist a few years ago that would let you do everything through your home Wi-Fi.  Well, we are half way there – you can do all the data functions through your LAN (in fact, you can do this stuff with the Touch).  But the cellphone companies wouldn’t want to sell you a phone that doesn’t rely on their towers, so voice is not on Wi-Fi.

Go into settings and turn your Wi-Fi on.  See if it works.

Hopefully it doesn’t work.  If you have a protected network (which you should), you may need to add the IP to your whitelist in its configuration, or you may need to do a password, or minimally type the name of your network into your phone (because it doesn’t broadcast), depending on what security options you have enabled for Wi-Fi.

For whitelisting the MAC address on your router, go to Settings, General, About, then scroll down.  They call it Wi-Fi Address.

Step V – Synch Calendar and Contacts

Google has a step-by-step example of how this is done that works perfectly, and takes about 60 seconds.

Step VI – Synch Email

See documentation here.  Also takes about 60 seconds.

Step VII – Embrace Your Inner Geek

Applause.

Complaints

My two complaints are less about my iPhone and more about getting the world to conform to my iPhone.

Wi-Fi that requires a login like at Starbucks, is just a royal pain on your iPhone.

I get a nasty blue screen of death on my PC whenever I have any photos on my camera roll, so I have to e-mail photos to myself and delete them.  Next computer will be a Mac!