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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  • DeesTroy - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    My younger brother works for Garmin. You almost certainly won't get voice directions, at least not for free. The licensing agreements with the few companies that make the maps used in mapping software (e.g. Navteq) are very specific about what you can and can't do with the maps they provide. The mapping companies currently charge significantly more if you want to do voice directions. Nokia's purchase of Navteq makes a huge lot of sense given what one can do with maps, a GPS, and Internet all in one package. All of this is probably part of the reason that Garmin is getting into the phone business with the nuvifone. Reply
  • cocoviper - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Well I think it depends on how we define free. Since you're paying so much for the iPhone's plan one would think they could (or should) include it at some point.

    The Instinct does turn-by-turn voice GPS and it's included in the phone's plan.
    Reply
  • jcal710 - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Anand,

    You talked about the problems with contact syncing on Exchange. How configurable is it? Does it automatically default to your top level 'Contacts' folder in your Exchange mailbox, or can your point it somewhere else? Do you have the option of choosing whether or not to sync subfolders?
    Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    I'm glad I didnt go for the first iphone, that way I can appreciate my 3G more(besides the fact that it wasnt sold until the 11th of july in this country and I would have been forced to import one and jailbreak it).

    Anand, your friend with the huge lips doesnt listen to the name of S.Tyler by chance? :P
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Anand, do you know if Apple's A-GPS implementation requires cellular network access? Some do, others can revert to traditional GPS operation if there's no cellular network to offer location assistance. I'm curious which of this it is Reply
  • Obrut - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    So how is it even remotely possible that there hasn’t been a real iPhone competitor in the year since the original’s release?

    Nokia N95 8GB is far superior to iPhone and it was released even before the first iPhone.
    It's right to say there's no competition here. Apple need at least 3-4 more years to be truly competitive to Nokia. I think iPhone is better solution for americans. In Europe you need 3.5G or 4G phone to be truly connected.
    Reply
  • michael2k - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    You're serious aren't you?

    Let us count the ways then:
    iPhone screen resolution is 2x the Nokia screen resolution
    iPhone is nearly half as thick as the Nokia
    CPU of nearly twice the speed

    The Nokia's one physical advantage is the 5MP cammera (which is only possible because the Nokia is twice as thick).
    Reply
  • Obrut - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    OK, let's count, Michael...

    1. Screen resolution is bigger and it should be simply because the display is much bigger. The display is much bigger because it's a touchscreen, though not big enough for my fingers.
    2. iPhone is thin and that's because it has merely 4 buttons and a low profile, low-end camera. By the way how do you play games without buttons?
    3. Speaking of games how do you play OpenGL games? I play Quake 2 with full lighting effects and FSAA at 40 FPS. What about the JAVA games?
    4. N95 8GB is a dual CPU solution (2 x ARM 11 @ 332MHz) hence no lower performance here.
    5. The 5MP camera of N95 8GB is more that just megapixels - it has Carl Zeiss optics, decent flashlight and can capture movies at 640x480@30FPS. In addition - correct me if I'm wrong but I don't see the front camera which every decent 3G phone has. How can I make a video call with iPhone? After all this is one of the best 3G features.

    I can continue counting the battery, office productivity and so on, but this is not the place. I don't want to engage in a Nokia vs. Apple or N9x vs. iPhone battle here. I just don't like statements like "there's no competition", "best phone ever" etc. The most accurate thing to say is that iPhone is the best touchphone to date.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Why talk if you dont know what you're talking about? 3.5G is called HSDPA (an extension to UMTS) in europe, which is supported by the iphone 3G. 4G isnt even available yet, think 2010 for commercial use, so why mention it?

    Why is there no competition? Because none of the competition has a smartphone that comes with this usability. All the other phones can do the same or more, yes. But all of them feel clumsy like a brick when using them. That is why there is no competition. And this comes from somebody who truly doesnt like apple and its godfather jobs...

    Reply
  • cocoviper - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Speaking of not knowing what you're talking about...

    HSDPA isn't 3.5G, it's definitely AT&T's 3G and that is what the iPhone 3G supports. That's the 3G that Anand complained is not really that much faster.

    If there were a "3.5G" in AT&T's portfolio it would be HUPSA (the one that they just upped the offered speeds on.) However AT&T currently doesn't offer any phones that are HUPSA capable. They only have a couple of Aircards for laptops.

    And yes, 4G is available in many parts of the world besides the US my friend. WiMax alone is deployed 119 countries currently. LTE is the only 4G that's "not even available yet," and that's because it's yet to be developed. (LTE isn't even into the whitepaper stage yet.)

    So don't slam other people especially since there's always someone that will know more than you.

    sources -> http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/RDM.Tech.Q1.07/93...">http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/RDM.Te...A0BF6-62...
    http://www.ctia.org/consumer_info/wow/index.cfm/20...">http://www.ctia.org/consumer_info/wow/index.cfm/20...
    Reply

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