The iPhone Recap

From a software standpoint, the iPhone 3G is actually no different from last year’s iPhone - they run virtually identical OSes and both ship with the same applications. Once updated to the 2.0 firmware, you can’t tell the difference between using the OS on the iPhone 3G vs. on the original iPhone.

There are some physical changes between the devices, which I’ll get to shortly but I thought I’d go down a quick list of the things that made the original iPhone the phone I stuck with for the past year. If you already know this stuff, feel free to skip ahead:

The Interface

The iPhone interface remains the best combination of simplicity, functionality and speed I have seen in any smartphone. Animations are smooth and fast, and the interface is just plain responsive. Since the physical interface is done mostly via the touchscreen, Apple needed something that responded very naturally, and honestly it’s nearly perfect.

Much like Microsoft did with the advent of its Media Center interface, Apple took a step back and created a new UI that was suited for the task at hand with the iPhone, rather than attempting to adopt a foreign UI to a smartphone. As we’ve seen numerous times in the tech industry, there are limits to how far down you can scale something before it’s better to start from scratch.

The Buttons

The iPhone has four physical buttons on it: home, power, volume and a ringer switch. And that’s all you honestly need. The home button takes you home, the power button will turn your phone on/off, put it to sleep or silence an incoming call depending on how you use it, the volume rocker does what you think it would and the ringer switch lets you turn the ringer on/off.

Of all of the complaints I’ve had about the iPhone over the past year, I’ve never felt the need for more buttons. Apple got it perfect from the start.

The Screen

The iPhone’s screen is a high dpi 480 x 320 screen with a large surface area, measuring 3.5” on the diagonal. It’s a multi-touch display that allows you to use gestures to navigate around. Zooming is done by placing your two fingers together on the screen and pulling them apart or the opposite by pinching them together. Flipping through photos is done by swiping your finger across the screen. You type and dial by tapping virtual keys, and the entire device responds as you would expect it to. This isn’t the sluggish touchscreen you may be used to, it’s the touchscreen from the starship Enterprise, it just works.

An Incredible Web Browser

Minus support for Flash (which the iPhone still lacks), Safari for the iPhone is honestly the best web browsing experience you can get on a smartphone. If you’ve seen the videos of it in action, it works just like that. You can actually browse real, non-mobile websites just fine using Safari on the iPhone. Although the arrival of iPhone-optimized websites doesn’t hurt either.

Visual Voicemail

This just plain makes sense. You don’t dial in to hear your voicemail, it gets listed like emails in your Visual Voicemail tab. Listen to them out of order, delete them out of order, it’s one of the simplest but most useful features of the iPhone. It’s voicemail done right.

An Awesome SMS Interface

I was never a big texter until the iPhone. While typing on QWERTY smartphones wasn’t bad, the SMS interface was generally terrible. SMSes should have worked like conversations and in most phone OSes they were sent as individual messages, with no common log of history.

The iPhone changed that for me, the SMS interface was, and you may be noticing a trend here, just done right. Have a look:

It does Email and Plays Music Too

Like the rest of the features, the iPhone’s mail client is very fast and makes checking/responding to emails ridiculously easy - even easier than on my old Blackberry. The interface’s simplicity and quickness are key here. There were limitations for corporate email users with Exchange servers, but many of those issues have since been addressed as you’ll soon see.

Oh and it’s an iPod. Two devices in your pocket just became one.

There’s more to the iPhone but those were the key features from the first round with what many called the JesusPhone. So how is it even remotely possible that there hasn’t been a real iPhone competitor in the year since the original’s release? It would appear that Apple truly caught the incumbent mobile phone manufacturers by surprise with the iPhone.

Index Look and Feel
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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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