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Review - iPhone
Thursday, July 5th, 2007 at 12:00 AM - by
I got my iPhone last Saturday, which means I've only had it for four days as I sit down to write this piece. And while I'd like to spend a lot more time with it before I write it up, fearless leader Bryan Chaffin says that's not an option. So here it is...
Let me start by saying I'm not going to offer you the laundry list of features and specifications. If that's what you're looking for, there are dozens of pages on the Web including Apple's iPhone pages that have it all. I hope, instead, to provide you with real life observations and opinions drawn from four days of life using an iPhone exclusively.
My testing methodology: As soon as the iPhone was activated (which, by the way, went flawlessly for me) and charged up, I forwarded both of my phones to it. So since Saturday afternoon any and all phone calls I've made or received have been made or received on the iPhone. Furthermore, I put all three iPods -- my iPod video, iPod nano, and iPod shuffle -- in a drawer to better simulate the iPhone being my main/only iPod.
Ready for my thoughts?
OK, first and foremost, it is amazing piece of technology. With all the hype, promises, and expectations I felt certain I'd find something lacking or some significant shortcoming. But that just isn't the case so far. I have a few bones to pick (more on that shortly), but I've yet to find anything that even comes close to being a deal-breaker for me. I've been around this business for a long, long time and I can't remember ever being this blown away by a new product, even a new product from Apple.
iPhone is just brilliant. I keep looking at the way it does things and thinking, "it couldn't be much easier." For example, I love using a Bluetooth headset with my cell phone but I've never been able to figure out how to tell my previous cell phones that I wanted to direct a call to the phone rather than the Bluetooth headset. If the Bluetooth headset powered up and within 30 feet of the phone, the call went to the Bluetooth headset. Period. I know I could press some buttons on the phone or headset to switch the call from headset to phone, but I never remembered how to do it and the few times I tried I accidentally disconnected the caller.
With iPhone there are buttons on the screen that let me choose to use the Bluetooth headset (Jawbone in the picture below), the phone, or the speaker phone. I click the one I want and that's that. At any time during the call I can click the appropriate button and switch from headset to phone to speakerphone.
Isn't that the way it should be? I think so...
Here's another example. My old phone had Internet access but I never, ever used it because it was so awful. I know it could find nearby restaurants and such but after trying it once I never tried it again. Between the tiny screen, typing on a 12-key numeric keypad, the multiple menus, and the confusing user interface, it was too much trouble for even a geek like yours truly.
The iPhone, on the other hand, makes it so easy I know I will actually use it and not just for the sake of this review. Here's all it takes to find pizza near my home: I tap the Map button, type my zip code and the word "Pizza," then tap the Search button. In a few seconds a list of pizza joints near my house appears. Another tap and that list is displayed as push pins on a street map.
One more tap and I see directions from my house to the restaurant. How can you not love that?
In addition to lots of things my old phone might have been able to do but I never did, iPhone does some things I didn't expect. Take a gander at the picture below. I'm using the Safari application and am tapping a phone number on a Web page. When I do, iPhone does something really smart -- it pops up a little box asking me if I want to dial that phone number now.
That's just so cool; Safari doesn't even do that on my Macs!
Another thing I didn't expect -- iPhone is a better iPod video than my iPod video. The screen is much bigger, offers the option of a widescreen aspect ratio without big black bars, and displays far richer, deeply saturated colors. This picture doesn't even come close to doing it justice but check it out anyway:
It rocks having a screen that's only slightly smaller than my whole video iPod.
OK. Now for those bones...
First and probably most annoying to me is that iPhone does not (yet) support voice dialing. As I mentioned earlier, I love using a wireless Bluetooth headset with my mobile phone, mostly so I can drop my phone in my pocket, click a button on the headset, and reach my wife at home by saying, "Lisa at home," or call my daughter's cell phone with, "Allison mobile." While iPhone works great with both of the Bluetooth headsets I've tried with it so far (and the Bluetooth hands-free system in my friend Dan's new BMW), the iPhone doesn't support voice dialing. Bummer.
Actually, I'm not as bummed about it as I could be, mostly because I suspect Apple can add this feature with nothing more than a software update to the phone. And I hope they do so sooner rather than later. We'll have to wait and see.
Bone #2 is that the earphone/headset jack is recessed in such a way that none of my third-party earphones -- Shure, Future Sonics/Atrio, or Able Planet so far -- work with my iPhone. I asked my contact at Apple why the jack was designed in such a manner and he explained that iPhone would have been somewhat thicker if the jack wasn't recessed the way it is.
Fair enough. As it turns out I have received two press releases so far from RadTech and Belkin, which both offer an adapter cable for under $10. And, in fact, the RadTech one (aka ProCable - Audio Extension Cable 3.5mm Male - Female) as shown below just arrived. It works great and will set you back a whopping $6.95.
So, much as I don't like the recessed headphone jack or having to use an adapter cable, I can live with it if that's the price we pay for a slimmer iPhone.
Finally, and this isn't much of a bone, but I wish iPod games worked on the iPhone. I've grown fond of both iQuiz and MiniGolf and would like to play them on my phone.
I would also like to mention that while cellular wireless Internet access (e.g. AT&T's EDGE data network, not 802.11 Wi-Fi) can be slower than Internet access on other hand-held devices, I didn't find this terribly bothersome. For one thing, I seem to do much of my Internet-related iPhone stuff when I'm within range of a Wi-Fi network, which is noticeably faster than using the cellular (EDGE) network. Even so, the EDGE connection speed didn't bother me much for the things I used it for such as finding a pizza joint, sending and receiving a few e-mail messages, getting driving directions, and so on.
So while the Internet speed issue isn't really an issue for me, if you expect to do a lot of Web surfing and e-mailing over the cellular (EDGE) network, it may be an issue for you.
One last thing: There is no way I can tell you how well the iPhone resists scratching and other cosmetic issues after just four days. For what it's worth, I haven't put it in a case yet and I've carried it around in my pocket, unprotected, the whole time and it still looks brand new. PC World Senior Associate Editor Eric Butterfield went several steps further -- he scrapes, scratches, and drops an iPhone onto a variety of hard surfaces (including a sidewalk) in this video.
NOTE: I know the photos in this review aren't very good. In fact, they pretty much suck. I'm sorry. I did what I could but the front of the iPhone is so shiny and reflective that it's difficult to get a decent picture.
The Bottom Line
iPhone succeeds in almost every way. It's easily the best mobile phone I've ever used. It's a better iPod video than my iPod video. And it's an awesome hand-held Internet device. If I were allowed to use half stars I'd rate it four and a half. But since I am limited to whole numbers I'm going to have to rate it a 4.
Just The Facts
Pros: Great phone, excellent iPod, beautiful screen, easy and fun to use, highly usable Internet applications, slick design.
Cons: Expensive, no voice dialing, recessed earphone/headset jack doesn't work with many third-party earphones, occasional slow Internet access, no games.
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