Those who know me know that I’ve become quite the Apple fanboy over the past couple years. Once Apple went Intel I purchased a Macbook, and now I’m even typing this blog from my new 24″ iMac, which might be the greatest computer I’ve ever owned. The only next logic step in my Apple loving ways was to get an iPhone 3G. I’ve been a Blackberry user for a long time and have owned various models including both the Pearl and the Curve, both are fantastic mobile devices. I’ve even used a couple of the Windows Mobile devices like the Motorola Q. I was concerned what the transition from an old faithful device like the Curve would be like and I’m pleased so far.
For starters, Apple released it’s newest iPhone on July 11th. I waited on line at the AT&T store at 6:45am only to get denied but was able to do direct fulfillment and got my 16GB Black iPhone 4 days later. I won’t get into detailed specs of what the phone can do because there are a thousand other reviews so here is my review thus far of the iPhone 3G.
As a phone:
The iPhone as a cell phone works pretty well. The voice clarity of the calls is very good on both ends. I’ve always had really good reception with AT&T so dropped calls haven’t been a problem. What I don’t like about it – No MMS messaging (picture messages) Every now and then I see something funny that I’ll take a picture of and send it to a friend who just has a regular cell phone, or my daughter will be doing something cute and I’ll take a picture and send it off to a family member. With the iPhone, your only option is to snap a photo and e-mail it. However I’ve read that the next update for the iPhone’s 2.0 software will include MMS messaging. Another feature missing – voice dialing. Because of the iPhone’s touch-screen, I think not having voice dialing is a 10 car pile up waiting to happen. The device is not very “one-handed” friendly at all and I find myself taking my eyes off the road while drive quite often to operate the device.
Phone Grade – B-
As an e-mail device:
Getting my iPhone connected to my Exchange server was a piece of cake as well as setting up Internet accounts like GMail. I will admit that getting use to the touch-screen from being use to a Blackberry took a few days, but I’m happy so far. I think the main issue Blackberry users have with typing on the iPhone has to do with not having buttons. “Yeah obviously”…what I mean is when you have buttons, there is an action and a response, you press a button and a letter appears. Since the iPhone is a touch screen I see Blackberry users really mashing the touchscreen to type…once you soften up that gorilla grip, I find that I can type just as fast on my iPhone as I could on my Blackberry. Apple’s auto-correcting feature while typing works pretty good too. One feature I’d like to see is the ability to mark messages as read, but because it uses ActiveSync, I don’t think that feature is coming. However the “push” messaging of ActiveSync works very well, e-mails show up on my iPhone the second they arrive in my inbox.
E-Mail Grade – B+
As an Internet Device:
Hands down, the best web surfing mobile device. On a WiFi connection web pages are very snappy. 3G coverage at my house is non existent but where I do get a solid 3G signal web pages open up at near WiFi speeds. The Cisco VPN client integrated into the device works flawless and I can connect to my corporate EAP wireless network in the office with no issues. However there is no Flash player so watching web video beyond YouTube isn’t possible…yet. The pinch and squeeze zoom is great and double tapping an area to zoom (a feature I just discovered) makes surfing real websites, not some mobile formated site a breeze.
Internet Grade – A+
As a GPS Device
In my opinion the GPS on the iPhone is just a “nice to have”. It doesn’t do turn by turn directions and getting a fix takes a while. It does give you directions to a destination as text only and it streams your location from Google maps. I did use it this past weekend on my way home from the Jersey Shore to get traffic updates on the Garden State Parkway and was rather surprised on its accuracy. You can also view satellite images from Google Earth. The real benefit of the iPhone’s GPS is being able to locate points of interest based on your locations. For example, you search for “pizza” and it will show you all the pizza joints near you. A single tap gets you a phone number and if the POI has a website, a link to their site. The iPhone won’t be replacing my Garmin Nuvi anytime soon. I’ve seen some navigation apps on the App Store but haven’t investigated them yet.
GPS Grade – C+
As an iPod:
The iPhone is just a glorified version of the iPod Touch. Actually if you upgrade your Touch to the 2.0 software you essentially have an iPhone that can’t make phone calls. I personally was never a big fan of the iPod Touch because I’ve had a classic iPod with a click-wheel forever. The iPhone works exactly like an iPod Touch, it plays music, can show off album art and play movies and videos at some really nice resolution. I just find navigation a hair tedious compared to an iPod classic and if you have it connected to your car stereo, it mutes the iPod when you get a phone call or text message. It’s just nice to carry a single device. Most new mobile devices have some kind of media player in them, but being able to use iTunes is kinda nice. I’ll probably abandon the iPod classic for business trips, flights, etc, but the iPod classic will stay connected to my car stereo.
iPod Grade: B+ (only because I like the iPod Classic better as a straight up media player)
Apple introduced the App Store with the 2.0 software update. Right from iTunes or the App Store on the phone, you can download applications to your iPhone. There are a number of decent free apps available as well as paid apps. For the most part, I haven’t found any “killer must have” applications. What is really interesting is the iPhone SDK which allows just about anyone to create apps for the iPhone. I’m sure as time goes on the application library will get better. I’ve also already “jailbreaked” my iPhone using PWNAGE and installed Cyadia. Jailbreaking allows you to run third party apps that haven’t been approved by Apple. Again, there aren’t many jailbreaked apps because they all need to be re-written by the developers to support 2.0. Chances are they’ll re-write them with the SDK and have them on the App Store. However, I’ve installed OpenSSH and a neat NES emulator thru Cyadia as well as an application that lets me use a terminal window. Right now the apps that would appeal most to me are a Remote Desktop Client, a Citrix Client and a multi-service Instant Messenger client (only AIM is available) like Trillian. The one thing that bothers me about the App Store is you can’t try any apps before you buy them.
UPDATE – Aug 3rd, 2008 – I just noticed in the AppStore there is now a WordPress application that lets me manage this blog directly from my iPhone…pretty sweet!
Applications Grade – B-
Honestly I can’t really comment on battery life. I’m constantly playing with the iPhone which takes a toll on the battery. I’ve also disabled 3G to increase battery life because I don’t have coverage where I live. However I’ve noticed when I don’t play with the iPhone (which is rare) I can get a solid day of battery usage.
Battery Life Grade – N/A
Every accessory I have for my iPod doesn’t work with the iPhone. Let me rephrase that…every accessory I have for my iPod won’t charge my iPhone. The Monster FM Transmitter I have will play the iPhone thru an FM station…no charging. My iHome alarm clock, play but no charge. My kick ass Pioneer stereo that I just got 4 months ago…play but no charge. I found this to be very annoying.
Camera – For some reason I’ve read a lot of reviews about the iPhone’s camera only being 2 mega-pixels and the fact that there is no flash…my response – Who care’s?!?! That’s what I have a DIGITAL CAMERA for!!! The iPhone takes pictures just fine. The other gripe I read about is that it can’t take video…have you seen the video a cell phone can take??? It looks like crap and thats why I own a MINI-DV VIDEO CAMERA…I dunno there are definitely Apple bashers out there and that’s there opening statements I guess.
Overall Grade – A
Ok so your wondering how I added that up huh? 🙂 Well in conclusion I’ll just say that that in my opinion the Apple iPhone 3G can do a lot of different things either average or above average at best. However the combination of all these features into a device with the kind of footprint the iPhone has is just too darn impressive to give it anything less then an A. The other real winner is that its OSX. The hardware is all right there, we just need some more software for it and I know its coming. What surprised me when I was waiting online is how many people had the first generation iPhone and were willing to pay over $500 to upgrade. Now if I was one of those people, I’d be writing a bad review. I don’t think 3G and GPS on the new iPhone is worth the price of the upgrade, especially when you can get the 2.0 update for free and get Assisted GPS (GPS based on cell and wireless signals)