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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  • cocoviper - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    *HSUPA not HUPSA :-P Reply
  • robinthakur - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    And naturally, the 'competitor' that you chose, the N95 supports 4G does it? Don't make me laugh. I used to have an N95 and I upgraded to the iPhone after having used one and being uber impressed. The N95 might have a longer spec sheet anda better camera, but for usability the iPhone is so far ahead its almost comical. People seem upset that Apple got something right pretty much first time which all the other manufacturers still can't do. Just look at the mess that is Windows Mobile. Reply
  • Obrut - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    Robin,

    1. I'm talking about N95 8GB and not N95, there is a quite big difference. But nevermind - you can pick N96. It even has built-in TV-tuner.
    2. I never said N95 supports 4G. I was talking about the differences between North America and Europe for example. 4G is for my laptop and stationary phone.

    Besides I never said that iPhone is a bad phone at all.
    Reply
  • Obrut - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    For the clumsiness - I agree.

    4G is available here (Bulgaria), though we're the only country in Europe with 4G coverage (yet). I mean nation-wide WiMAX coverage over 4G equipment.

    As for the install base - compare the number of Symbian applications over iPhone apps...

    A-GPS - I've been using this for long time and I can't even imagine that the first iPhone is lacking this. So A-GPS - no news, welcome to the club.

    Accelerometer - welcome to the club also.

    Photo - 2 MP means no camera at all

    Flash support - this feature is mandatory for decent browsing experience.

    Battery - how usefull is a phone which you should recharge twice a day (in case you're using it for more than talk and that's the big idea with iPhone)

    FM Radio, Java, etc... just read this: http://www.gsmarena.com/compare.php3?idPhone2=2088...">http://www.gsmarena.com/compare.php3?idPhone2=2088...
    Reply
  • rubbahbandman - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Epic review. This phone looked like a steal at $200, but man it really is spendy once you do the math for those 2 year contracts. For now, I think I'll hold off until I can find out what's in store with the Google phone. Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    There will be no "google phone". You'll just get whatever the various manufacturers do with android and last but not least the telcos feed you - no magic google bullet that will make everything glorious.

    And yet, there are already dark clouds on the android horizon. Open source they said? Why is it that only a handful developers under NDA get SDK updates and the rest is forced to use outdated, bugged versions?

    More about it and a petition can be found here:
    http://tinyurl.com/6hn7m7">http://tinyurl.com/6hn7m7

    With that in mind, android could face some major delays... big chance for nokia (and their newly founded, open symbian alliance) and apple to steamroll over googles android parade before it really took off.
    Reply
  • shortylickens - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    With the phone, that is. The article is exactly what I've come to expect from Anand, nothing less.

    I will admit I am normally an Apple hater. I lady I know at work made her husband get her this as soon as it came out. She was showing it off to everybody on Monday. I admit it was pretty darn sweet and had a ton of useful features. When I went to the AT&T site and saw I could get the 8 gig version for 200 bucks I was astonished.
    Of course, AT&T will probably have some way to leech a ridiculous amount of money from me with the service, but the phone itself is great and a really good deal right now.
    Reply
  • Bremen7000 - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Maybe the webpage load times are specific to your area? Ars's findings were significantly more in favor of 3G: http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/iphone3g-r...">http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/iphone3g-r...

    And I agree with the above posters, you should know better than to complain about a specific carrier's reception without heavily qualifying it.
    Reply
  • GTaudiophile - Wednesday, July 16, 2008 - link

    I refuse to buy one until I can use it (legit) with T-Mobile. Reply
  • Arc 0V - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Same iPhone should be on more carriers than AT&T but oh well. On the other hand I love my Verizon service. I travel a lot with family and friends, and my cousin and a friend have T-Mobile and the other has AT&T, and I can not count how many times I have service when they don't (wow lots of ands). By travel I mean like out of state constantly either driving or flying. Reply

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