Review of the Apple iPhone 3G

I’ve had the iPhone for about 6 months now and I’m extremely happy with it. My previous phone was a Sony Ericsson W880 – that really flat one with the fiddly buttons. It had all the features I [thought] I needed and I was pretty pleased with it. I’d just got myself the Jabra BT500 Bluetooth headset and was getting used to the voice dialling. For me, the main thing was the size of it. This dinky little gem would be totally forgotten about in my sky rocket, and provide a handful of music which was just enough for commuting. I’d also installed the Java app which gave me good access to Gmail.

I’d seen the 1st iPhone in the stores and not really thought much of it. Thought the touch-screen might be a bit of a pain and the applications gimmicky. Little did I know…

Turns out 10m people weren’t wrong. The iPhone 3G is great! I’ve got [almost] everything I could think I need and more. And if it’s not already on there, I can add it, at any time. It’s just like in The Matrix when they load all the guns; swoooosh!

Like most things Apple, the general interface looks beautiful, is very well thought out and is very intuitive – my mother-in-law who has never liked using mobile phones, was able to pick the iPhone up and instantly explore the device without any instruction.

After using that tiny W880, the iPhone felt like a brick. But that soon surpassed, in fact I think the size of the iPhone is just right, the rounded edges on the back mean it slides into my pocket nicely. The build quality is of a high quality. I don’t use a cover of any sort and after 6 months the only real sign of wear is a slightly wobbly mute switch. The screen is the perfect size. I wouldn’t want it any bigger, and any smaller would be too small for a touch-screen.

I’m really pleased with the additional hardware buttons not usually found on phones: Lock and Mute. I think they’re some of it’s best features. I’ve always wanted to easily switch between muted and audible easily when arriving or leaving work. At the flick of a switch I can do it. Although, a friend who works in television has told me that it’s a little troublesome as it accidentally gets turned on in his pocket. Not good when recording and your phone goes off during a scene. I’ve not had this problem, at least it’s not been so much of a problem for me due to the nature of my job.

The lock button is fantastic. So many years have I been doing Menu > Star to lock a phone. Not only is it a simple button that I can find with ease, but the software works seemlessly. For example, on all previous phones saving a draft text message was a pain: exit to home screen, wait for SMS to save, menu > star to lock, unlock, find messages in menu, find draft messages, open the message, continue message. Compared to the iPhone: lock, unlock, type.

Set-up was seamless. All contacts, calendars and email accounts were automatically added to my iPhone. I’m not sure it it asked me first, but it’s what I wanted so I’m not complaining. The phone now synchronises all of these and I’m always up to date.

The iPhone software can be a little slow when opening apps. Opening SMS when I’m showing it to someone feels like an age, but when you get there it’s impressive. The text message system is very good. All messages between the same contact are logged as a conversation. Very handy when a friend replies to a message 3 days later with “Yes” when you’d otherwise have forgotten what you asked them in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s not smart enough to include messages to multiple contacts. If this happens you end up with a one way message just like on other phones. But it’s not a big deal. In a conversation flow, any message within about 5 minutes does not get its own time stamp. Again, not a big deal but it would be nice if you could tap and hold a message to view the exact sent time. Not constantly having to find the recipient makes texting a lot less of a hassle, and the iPhone is clever enough to attach a new message to and existing conversation if you start a new one directed to the same person.

I have no quibbles with the telephone quality at all. The interface of this is particularly good too. I’ve set the double-click of my home button to take me straight to phone when unlocked. Finding contacts is a breeze and there’s a favourites page. The visual voice mail really shines. Each new voice mail appears to download to the handset. I don’t have to call the network providers voice mail number and use the keypad to navigate – something which always irritated me as I could never remember the keys. Instead I get a nice list of messages which I can play, pause, rewind and delete with a tap. This is very handy when someone reads out a number or password that you need to hear again and again.

Safari (Web browser) works great as you’d probably expect. If you’re reading a Web page and double-tap a segment of the page Safari will zoom in and perfectly frame it. Then double-tap again to zoom back out. You can also stretch or pinch to zoom in/out respectively, but I find the double tap a lot simpler. You can save images from the web with a tap and hold. Bookmarks work as you’d expect, but another nice feature is being able to save the bookmark one of your home screens so you can load a  Web page directly later. This will save a mini picture of the Web page as the icon, unless the website has taken the time to add a specific iPhone one. Safari supports the landscape view if you rotate the phone, which is nice. But personally I’d prefer to have this as an option as this is a pain if you’re lying down.

Mail (the email application) works great. Like many of the other built-in Apple apps you can slide messages to reveal the quick ‘Delete’ button. Of course, the iPhone supports Push email, but otherwise you can ask it to check periodically or manually.

The full QWERTY virtual keypad doesn’t take long to get used to. It comes with corrective text rather than predictive. This has caught me out a couple of times when sending text messages; if a suggestion from the dictionary appears next to your last word and you don’t cancel it, it will automatically be corrected when you tap send. This feature can be switched off. Accents are cleverly hidden in expanded button that appear when you tap and hold. Useful when typing web addresses and adding “” etc.

Other features worth a quick mention…

iPod is obviously great. Personally, when at work I use my iPod because I can easily pause/play and it contains my whole collection. But if I want to be more light weight about it, the iPhone iPod is fantastic. Another really nice touch was the quick access to simple iPod controls when the phone handset is locked via double-click of the home button.

The iPhone is a mobile phone where the games are actually worth playing.

You can take a screen shot of any screen by holding the home button and pressing lock.

When on a home screen that is not the first, the home key will take you to the first.

Of course, the most prominent feature is the possible expansion in the way of apps. I haven’t mentioned it as I thought it was obvious. It’s possible to have 9 home screens all of which can hold up to 16 apps. Minus the space required for the standard built-in apps, that leaves room for 130 custom applications – that’s plenty.

Some various improvements that I think could be made…

The file system is locked down. Meaning that there’s no way to browse the folder structure like you might with Explorer in Windows or Finder on a Mac. Maybe not a problem, but this also means that you cannot store files on the iPhone. As a developer, I’d like to be able to edit HTML files. There may be an app for this.

There seems to be a bug with the voice mail. If I listen to one, then the next day a fresh one arrives, it sometimes marks the previous as unread.

There’s no video recorder feature or MMS. Now I’m really not too bothered about either of these features. If I receive an MMS (I’ve had about 3), I can get it from the O2 site. If I want to send a pic I can email it for free. Video I haven’t missed. I’m sure Apple are saving this feature and probably a flash/light for the next model.

It would be great to be able to Bluetooth to and from the iPhone to update contacts and exchange photos.

The battery life if pretty poor. Maybe could be improved if you we able to turn off animations?

The only other feature I have missed was the voice dialler. But this is remedied by th
e fee app ‘Say Who’. But I’ll write a separate “Fav app blog” at a later date. It’s getting late and we’re all getting a little tired.

In summary then: The iPhone is the best phone I’ve ever had. Anything that’s missing can be added in the form of apps. My free data tariff on O2 means emails and Web are never a worry. I only wish the battery would last longer.