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Best phone I have owned, with some room for improvement

A Review On: Apple iPhone 3G

Apple iPhone 3G

Rated # 2 in Phones
See all 12 reviews
Review Details:
Call/Sound Quality
Battery Life
Ease of Use
Purchased on:
Price paid: $450.00
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Pros: Full computing platform, beautiful screen, great iPod/PMP, App Store, GPS

Cons: Unrealized potential, no select/copy/paste, no Bluetooth keyboards, crashes



I have owned over the past 15 years a new PDA or cellphone every year. The best have been: Psion Series 5mx (portability, OS stability, portable Office document creation and editing, battery life, keyboard), Palm 750p-Sprint (keyboard, OS stability, battery life (with extended battery)). The worst have been: anything with Windows Mobile -HP 4705, Treo 700wx-Sprint, UTStarcom 4700-Sprint -all having to do with OS instability, horrible internet experience, and dreadful user interface. iPhone 3G trumps them all in: user interface, screen quality, multimedia play and iTunes, phone quality and functionality, interface with Outlook Exchange, and Apps - App Store. It falls short in: OS stability, text entry, Apple-centrism, and battery life. 



User interface - This is Apple's calling card. It unclutters, almost to an extreme. Where other phones have maximized the number of buttons that one can put on a device, the iPhone only has a handful. Windows Mobile basically takes the position that everything can fit on a menu and while it works okay on a computer, it fails on a phone screen. Palm's UI and OS works okay but that's like saying Mac OS 9.2 works okay -it's been stretched and kludged to make it work in 2008, but is still the same OS that was around in 2001. The UI on iPhone is simple, but not dumbed down. 


Screen Quality - The screen makes you feel like you are holding some artifact from the far future. It is deep and rich, the blacks are truly black, and the colors are vivid. My HP 4705 has a larger, higher resolution screen, but it is handicapped by the Windows Mobile and now ancient processor so that photo viewing was a chore and not a pleasure. The other half of the deal - the camera on the iPhone, has been criticized for being merely 2 megapixel. This is a misunderstanding by these critics - the camera and lens are perfectly tuned for the iphone's screen and for printing 4x6 snapshots. Anything bigger, and you really should take a dedicated camera. 


Multimedia Play - iPod works. It just does for everything that you channel via iTunes. It'll play Youtube via the Youtube App. The sound quality is great - not discernibly different from my other iPods. The 16 gigabytes of memory are adequate, but don't think it will replace a large hard -drive iPod (yet). 


Phone Quality and Functionality - All of my smartphones up to now have been very poor telephones. The dialing, the voicemailing, the sound quality of the call, have all been barely acceptable on both Verizon and Sprint. This has to do with the fact that I live in a suburb of Des Moines. I noticed on both Verizon and Sprint that the signals are at around two bars at my house, but if I choose Roaming only, I would get 4 bars. I think iPhone does a better job at handoffs with roaming towers, although not perfectly. The great thing is even at 1 bar, the sound is clear on my iPhone. I have not had a chance to check 3G functionality as it is unavailable in Des Moines until next year. 


Outlook Exchange - I live on Exchange -my secretary plots out my day via the calendar, and I can see updates rapidly. It works fine, although it does not zip as fast as it did on the 750p. Windows Mobile should be the best, but it fails by instability and keyboard lag that occurs which can only be ameliorated by periodic and scheduled soft resets (happened with every Win Mob phone I have had). Emails are beautiful and readable. No To-Do's -can't fathom why.


Apps -Apps Store - Apple has created an addictive candy store for iPhone owners. You have to consider ALL the programs in there to be advanced beta's. They crash and stall, but no harm done to the phone or data. The reasTon why I go back is there are wonderful apps that are a dream to install  - this can be a miserable experience on Win Mob with cabinet files and un-uninstallable apps that crap up the onboard RAM. There are new Apps everyday. The App Store is the killer app for the iPhone, and you realize the hermetically sealed eco-system of Apple's gadget's allow App Store to succeed where web stores like Handango with their crappy Palm and Windows store front apps fail horribly. 



OS stability - The phone does freeze up on some apps. I think it has to do with multitasking background 'net related items - email pickup, facebook refreshes, app store upgrade refreshes -anything with push that makes the phone look up stuff via Edge or Wireless. If you try to bring up some other app, it freezes, and you have to do an occasional soft reset - This happens about once or twice a week which is much better than the every day that occurred with my Win Mob phones. Palm would do it too, but I never tried to run too many apps on these phones -not many are good enough to have a must have. 


Text Entry

The popup screen based keyboard is a huge initial turnoff -the accuracy is disturbingly poor -at first, until you realize that it does a predictive suggestion trick. You have to trust that it will predict what you are trying to type and then if it is correct, you press the space key to accept the suggestion. It becomes fast, but the whole proces is useless for extended document creation. Which leads to my next point -Apple does not want you to sit and create documents with a phone. That is what a laptop is for. That is why there are no bluetooth keyboards and there is no copy/paste. This is a shame. With a snapon keyboard or a bluetooth keyboard, there is really no need to bring a laptop anywhere with iPhone, which is NOT what Apple wants. 


Apple Centrism

The iPhone, it goes without saying, is part of the Apple universe. This includes a vision of how people use their technology. It is flexible within the parameters that they set. For example, the Apps are wonderful, but can only be sold via App Store, which is great in streamlining the purchasing process, but keeps out programs that would allow things that stray from Apple's vision or business plan (Skype and VOIP is a glaring example). iPhone is meant to be a reader of data, and an occasional generator of data, but the laptop is what Steve wants you to use to create documents. It should be capable of multitasking and heavy data lifting, but this would cause iPhone to slow down doing things that it was not designed for. It has a niche in the Apple universe, and it is designed to avoid competing with its fellow Apple devices. This may be a deal breaker for some.


Battery Life

The battery life is "ehh-ehh." With heavy use, I start hitting red at the end of my day (10-12 hours). It is simple enough to carry a USB cable, and use it to charge off any available computer or USB socket -there are multiple docks and power supply solutions. With Bluetooth and WiFi on, the batter drain is annoying. I recently purchased a Kensington battery for backup, but it is something else to carry. Again, for heavy work, Apple wants you to buy a Mac to do work on. 



iPhone is a beautiful device. It works better than any modern smartphone I have owned, but doesn't multitask, it has no keyboard options, it has no real good document creation options. That being said, it is the best device out there because it does so many things well, including being an excellent telephone. Everyone has to realize that buying now means buying during the beta period. Still, no gadget has made me this happy except perhaps my first Mac, circa 1985. 


Addendum: 9-19-2008

With 2.1 update, I have noticed a stepwise improvement in Contacts loading, a 20-30% improvement in battery life, and better behavior on the part of some third party apps. I haven't had to reset as often. This increases the battery life score to 4. 


Addendum: 10-4-2008

Safari crashes are frequent and annoying cutting into my love for the iPhone. I don't know if 2.1 is to blame or if it is a third party app or something in the backup/load process for upgrading to 2.1. The crashes result while loading image heavy pages, or scrolling fast. Also the keyboard's suggestions are wrong enough you have to be very careful to read what you end up with -sort of a return to Newton version 1.0. 


Apple needs to fix Safari, but good, give us Copy/Paste/Select Text with a clipboard between programs (for pete's sake, i'm writing down numbers with a paper and pen and retyping them on other pages/programs), and let bluetooth keyboards into the sandbox. 


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