Wait, wait, I know this trick. Steve Jobs gets on stage, announces a new phone, and all of the sudden I’ve got to wait in line for hours to spend money. It’s like World of Warcraft, but less convenient.


Grumble...

We all knew it was coming and once the specs were announced I honestly wasn’t that excited about the iPhone 3G; it seemed like a fairly minor set of updates to the original iPhone.

At the same time, part of what I needed was a reality check. Despite selling very well, most smartphone users still don’t have an iPhone and many haven’t ever used one. Many are scared of the virtual keyboard while others haven’t been able to jump the Windows Mobile ship without better Exchange support from Apple. To the uninitiated, 2008’s iPhone 3G release would be no different than last year’s. Those I was in line with who had never owned an iPhone were just as excited about the 3G model as the people I was in line with last year for the first iPhone.

I also couldn’t help but remember what happened with the first update to the iPod after its release. While the original iPod was amazing, its second generation successor was hardly as impressive. Apple made some much asked-for changes, but moving away from a physical wheel and buttons to touch sensitive controls really hurt the experience for me. I wondered if the second iPhone out of Apple would suffer from a similar repeat of history. The first one was so good that the second one would inevitably be a letdown.


How far we've come

Apple further complicated things by, out of the goodness of its own heart, giving all existing iPhone users free access to the software updates contained within the iPhone 3G. The long awaited 2.0 firmware upgrade, enabling the ability to run 3rd party applications and search contacts among other things. What would’ve otherwise been good reasons alone to upgrade to the iPhone 3G were now given to all iPhone users.

When the iPhone launched we all knew that Apple would have to get the price down to below $200, but the how was what perplexed us. Rumors of smaller versions without a touchscreen were aplenty and despite none of them making any sense, we assumed that it would have to be the route that Apple would take - since that’s how the rest of the cellphone industry works.

It turns out that the cheaper iPhone is nothing more than the iPhone itself, simply subsidized by AT&T. At $499 the iPhone was a must have for any serious smartphone user, at $199 it would seem to be a no-brainer. That is before you take into account increases in the recurring monthly costs that AT&T has snuck into the iPhone 3G launch, but I’ll talk about those later.

There are concerns about size and battery life, users want to know if the new phone is slower, buggier or if the new GPS is actually useful. Then there are the third party applications that launched with the App store, do they enhance the platform or simply make it more amateur? I started this review thinking that it would be short but, much like last year’s iPhone review, the further down the rabbit’s hole I got, the more I realized there was to talk about.

I’m going to take you through much of the new firmware and the new phone. I’m going to talk about battery life, reception and how the Apple/AT&T relationship has changed.

I’m going to talk a lot, it’s what I do, and the subject this year, just as it was last year around this time, is the iPhone.

The iPhone Recap
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  • cleviticus - Saturday, July 19, 2008 - link

    A basic one-line plan with Cingular (I know they go by AT&T now)without ANY extra features runs you $45/month and that is with just enough minutes to tell people that you'll call them back after nine. Unlimited internet and data runs $45, last I checked, and that somehow doesn't cover much texting, something I do a lot of. Texting is another $10. So to get service and data BEFORE tax you spend $90. My provider offers unlimited voice/data/text/GPS/e-mail for $100 with coverage that exceeds AT&T's.
    That fact alone is enough to keep me away from the iphone for good. I admit that the interface is unbeatable but the functionality of the phone is not. That being said I don't think it deserves as much attention as it receives. Also coverage varies drastically from city to city. In NY my phone works great but in Vegas it blows. In Chicago I'm golden but anywhere between Arkansas and Virginia- forget about it. I used cingular for two years and their coverage was only good in large metropolitan areas. As soon as I got out of the inner city my reception was weak and I couldn't even text. I think they are a horrible company but since they bought up most of the old bell empire- they're here to stay.
    Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    Wow I wish I had first comment here so I could get a response.

    In Anand's otherwise near-perfect review, he talked about Exchange support but didn't cover my #1 iPhone question: does Exchange support work without the $45 Enterprise Data plan? I can't for the life of my get a conclusive answer if the Enterprise plan is required for exchange, or just required if the iPhone is going to be purchased or paid for through a business.
    Reply
  • araczynski - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    i'm still holding out for the day the iphone comes with some real screen resolution.

    if the N810 can do much better than this, why can't the almighty apple?
    Reply
  • sleepr0 - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    Lets see:

    - The 3G doesn't fit the old cradle and the cradle is not included - $15.
    - Old cover doesn't fit - $20.
    - Unlimited data up $10/month.
    - Text up $5/month.
    - Cellular triangulation works nearly as well as GPS.
    - 3G not significantly faster than Edge and all the new users will take a load off of the Edge network, freeing up bandwidth and making Edge a bit faster.
    - Battery life worse.

    I'll wait for Version 3, thanks.
    Reply
  • wvh - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Why do you buy a new phone when you are happy with your old one – it has pretty much the same functionality anyway? What is wrong with all those people who buy something just because Apple (or whoever) releases it? All these morons queueing up, did they all accidentally happen to break their phone the day before?

    It's a nice in-depth article, no remarks there, I've just heard enough already about this consumer hype. It's just talking people into fake needs.

    Blast me for being negative, but you know I'm right.
    Reply
  • michael2k - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    The problem is that people aren't happy with their old one, and it doesn't have the same functionality, so that is why they queue for the iPhone. So essentially all your base assumptions are wrong.

    There is nothing wrong with these people; there is something wrong with the RZRS et al they already own, because they were broken the minute they bought them. No accident, they were just made that way.
    Reply
  • Giacomo - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    No, actually you aren't right. You could be, if we were here to make free-philosophy, but that's not the case, we're here to talk about hardware (and related).

    So then, you are accusing the mass of an excess of "hype" around the iPhone, and well, while it's definitely true that many of those people will buy it for "trendy" purposes, there are surely others (like me) who are about to buy it because they just like it and could benefit from it. In my particular case, I have lost my iPod Mini (...) and my cellphone is at its 4th year of life, with the keyboard almost died (intense 20.000+ sms usage in these years). The iPhone, by simply being, to me, an iPod which calls and writes sms, is great to have both the devices in the "main" pocket.

    Full comfort over the whole year (no matter what clothes I'm wearing, the front/right pocket does ALWAYS have my cellphone inside, and thanks to the iPhone, the iPod as well), a brilliant keyboard for my heavy SMS usage, and I could be happy without anything else. Plus, there's something else actually, and I'll surely enjoy.

    If we had to think like you in your post, we should all tell you: Why do you read Anandtech? You can live with a 5 years old PC without problems nor upgrades, if you just use some Office, browse the web and check your mail. If you game, well, that's energy consuming, money-wasting, time-wasting, and you should quit. But, of course, none in here would say that to you, neither would I.

    Regards

    Giacomo
    Reply
  • scottwilkins - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    First, I've had AT&T for years. Never stepped in a store, and never talked with them about a purchase. They were very helpful and darn quick about replacing my wife's phone when it died. AT&T is the easiest to work with (and I work with most of them because I support a lot of folks on different networks) Plus, the AT&T signal in the places I go beats out all others hands down. So for you to say their signal is bad is very objective and quite stupid, since you did it only probably in one room and not overall.

    Also, your indications that other phones can't do what the iPhone can do are all false. One thing the iPhone CAN'T do that many many other phones can do is change. It can't change it's interface to suit other purposes, it can't change it's battery, and it can't change carriers. The 3G's only add over the old iPhone is 3G and GPS. All other features are software, and now available on the original iPhone. So an upgrade is useless until you contract is up.

    Apple is a closed box. I prefer freedom.
    Reply
  • michael2k - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Uh, with a soft interface and touchscreen, the iPhone is just about the only device where it's interface can change as needed; you get two buttons when in Camera mode, 20+ in Calculator mode, 26+ in note-taking mode, etc. Reply
  • Ryl3x - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    I will buy at lunch. I read alot of reviews over the web including sites that dedicate themselves to phones. I found this to be one that i could relate to. Thanks. Reply

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