For the past few days, I’ve been attending both the Interactive and Film Festivals at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas. It’s been an inspiring, educational, and amazingly fun experience. This is the first extended trip I’ve taken with an iPhone 3G. It’s proven to be far more useful than I ever expected, in almost every way.

From getting around town, to keeping up to date with SXSW’s complicated and ever-evolving schedule, to getting locations and reviews of restaurants, to staying on top of business at home, to taking notes, to updating and reading Twitter feeds, the iPhone has hardly left my hand. That became especially true when my digital camera inexplicably stopped working, leaving me with only the iPhone’s built-in (and admittedly mediocre) camera.

In a hyper-connected setting like SXSW, the iPhone (or iPod touch or other brand of powerful smartphone) is practically essential. For example, Twitter has usurped the role of business cards here. Don’t get me wrong, cards are still exchanged at lightning speed and face-to-face time is as important as ever. Yet the ability to use your iPhone-Twitter-application-of-choice to instantly connect and follow other people and businesses has proved (to me) to be extremely useful.

After this intense period of dedicated, on-the-spot use, I only have two complaints about the iPhone (and neither has to do with the lack of cut and paste). One is that the battery could be a lot better. At home it’s easy to keep it charged up, and there have been plenty of open outlets and opportunities for charging here. However, there were two times when the battery was finally exhausted at the end of my day.

We’ll post a top ten tips for maximizing your iPhone’s battery next week.

In the meantime, before my next long trip I am definitely buying the TruePower iV Extended Battery and Portable Charger for iPhone 2G/3G and iPod touch It claims to offer up to 24 hours of talk time, is compact, and is very nicely built (in the USA no less).

Second, I wish the iPhone had a better camera. The iPhone’s camera is mostly “good enough,” but it would be a revelation to have a three (or why not, five or seven) megapixel camera built in. A flash and the ability to capture video would be even better. Imagine being able to truly leave your digital camera at home! I did end up taking many iPhone photos since that was my only option. I enjoyed the option to instantly upload these to my Flickr page. I have to admit, there were a couple late-night instant uploads I deleted first thing the morning after.

Another nice feature of the TruePower iV Extended Battery for iPhone is that it actually has a built in flash. I’m definitely getting one before my next trip!

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