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First-Generation iPhone Review

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User Rating 4 Star Rating (2 Reviews)

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Apple's iPhone

The iPhone

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The Good
Beautiful interface
Terrific integration on phone and with computer
Excellent Internet and iPod features
Near-revolutionary device

The Bad
Battery life needs improvement
EDGE network is slowish
Some program crashes
Incompatible with many headphones
AT&T customer service is lacking
High price

Models
8 GB

The Price
US$399

From its announcement in January to its release in June, Apple's iPhone has been a constant source of conversation, speculation, and writing. So, by the time June 29 – the iPhone’s release date – came, the expectations were practically crushing.

 

The iPhone Does Many Things - And Does Them Well

 

It says a lot about how good the iPhone is that the device isn’t a disappointment. In fact, more than just not disappointing, the iPhone is, more or less, a joy to use.

By now, you probably know the basics of the iPhone: it combines a cell phone with very good call quality, an iPod with some lovely new interface options, a well-integrated PDA, and Internet device that offers web browsing, email, and web application support.

And it does these things remarkably well. Each feature of the iPhone – from phone to iPod, from email to calendar — is, at worst, very good. Some of the features are excellent. Still, it’s not perfect. Battery life and network speed need improvement, among other things. Still, the good far outweighs the bad.

 

The iPhone's Beauty is in its Details

 

The iPhone is packed with the small, smart touches that creates raving fans.

  • When listening to music and a call comes in, the music fades out and the ringer fades in. A simple click of the headphones’ attached mic answers the call. End the call by clicking the mic again and the music fades back in from where it left off.
  • The multitouch interface in the web browser allows users to zoom in on items by tapping the screen with two fingers and then pulling in opposite directions. This is spectacular and well implemented. I believe the iPhone is the first major consumer application of multitouch; we should see a lot more of it in the future.
  • The SMS text messaging feature shows your conversation in the form of an instant messaging session, making it easy to keep track of what’s being said.
  • The iPhone automatically switches screen orientation from portrait to landscape when you rotate the device.
  • When you put the phone up to your head to make a call, the screen shuts off. When you take it away to end the call, the screen lights up again.
  • Three-way calls can be initiated with just a few button clicks, offering the simplest three-way calling feature I’ve seen.

But it’s more than the nice touches that make the iPhone so good. The ability to sync with your calendar, address book, and bookmarks, as well as music and videos, comes close to making the iPhone a laptop replacement — all that’s needed is a full-sized external keyboard (the onscreen keyboard is good and only takes a few days of practice to achieve proficiency) and better battery life.

 

The iPhone's Shortcomings: Battery Life and A Slow Network

 

Battery life is one of the chief areas that needs improvement in future versions of the iPhone. Because its uses battery-draining technologies like WiFi and Bluetooth pretty heavily, battery life takes a big hit when those features are enabled. You can conserve battery by turning them off, though that removes some connectivity options.

If you do turn WiFi off, the phone can still connect to the Internet, but this reveals another area in which the iPhone could be improved. This version of the iPhone uses AT&T’s EDGE network, which is slower than competing cellphone data networks (if a WiFi network is available, the iPhone defaults to the faster option. EDGE is used when there is no available WiFi). Though AT&T has boosted the speed of EDGE to speeds approximating a fast dial-up connection, future versions of the phone are likely to use the much faster 3G network.

There are only two other flaws that I found with the iPhone that bear mentioning. First, programs crash more often than they should, especially the Safari web browser. This is annoying, but also shows the intelligence built into the device. Program crashes don’t crash the phone – you’re just returned to the home screen and can go right back to what you were doing. Also, since program stability can be improved with software updates, this issue figures to be addressed soon.

 

Difficult Headphone Jacks and High Prices

 

The more annoying issue is that of the iPhone’s headphone jack. The jack is recessed deeply into the device, making it inaccessible to most headphones, despite the headphone jack being standard. This means that headphones you’ve been using with your iPod won’t work with the iPhone without an adaptor. Apple’s included earbuds don’t have this issue, of course, but the decision to make third-party headphones not work without adaptors is frustrating.

As it is to be expected with any first-generation Apple product, the iPhone’s price is high enough to put it out of reach for some consumers. Those will prices will come down eventually (but probably not substantially – the top-of-the-line iPod has only come down about $150 in five years; its feature set and capacity have increased substantially instead). Wider adoption of the iPhone is likely to be determined, at least in part, by price.

Despite these flaws, the iPhone has pushed the mobile phone/wireless Internet device space forward by leaps and bounds. From the first encounter with the iPhone’s beautiful, high-resolution display (which frequently leaves people speechless – it looks that good) to in-depth use over many days, the iPhone is a great advance. And though it has issues that need to be fixed in future models, we may well look back at the iPhone someday as a major milestone in the history of technology.

 

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