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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  • 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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