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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  • 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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