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Revisiting My iPhone Review

Everybody can stop staring at me on Metro: The iPhone I've been carrying around since the end of June is going home to Apple, so the white headphones jammed in my ears will once again connect to a boring old iPod.

After spending two months toting around the iPhone, I've discovered things that didn't make it into my print review or the blog posts I wrote around that time.

* The iPhone's Safari Web browser continues to be my favorite part of this gadget, making the software on any other phone look pitiably obsolete. But it desperately needs some way to automatically fill in forms and remember user names and passwords--the very things that the iPhone's auto-correction software is least likely to help you type.

* Otherwise, I've been pleased by how well the auto-correct has cleaned up my copy. You can barrel ahead with your clumsy typing and get clean copy most of the time... unless you're typing in another language.

* The screen's clever auto-rotate feature can be an outright annoyance in iPod mode. Carrying the iPhone to work, I usually hold it as I would an iPod--its long axis parallel to the ground, with my fingers on one side and my thumb on the other--which almost always causes the screen to flip into landscape mode. That wouldn't necessarily be a problem, except that this screen orientation drastically shrinks the size of the play/pause button, hides the back and forward buttons and provides no apparent way to assign one-to-five-star rating to a song. (Also, when I hold the iPhone in my left hand, my pinky lands at just the right spot to swipe the pause button by accident.) To flip the screen back into the more useful portrait mode, I have to hold the iPhone upright for a moment.

* One other music-playback annoyance: Having the screen go completely black, instead of just shutting off its backlight, means I'm often forced to press a button to turn the screen back on, just so I can see what's playing.

* The iPhone's headphone cord tangles too easily, since it doesn't have the plastic widget that corrals the cord on a regular iPod. And without the usual foam padding, the earbuds often aren't loud enough (I would push them into my ears when trying to listen to spoken-word podcasts on Metro) and pop out too easily.

* The touchscreen has done an amazing job of responding only to the press of a finger, not anything else--with one exception. This is really gross, but you need to know: When I've carried the iPhone in my shirt pocket on a day hot enough for me to start sweating through my shirt, the iPhone has changed volume on its own.

* With all your data onboard, an iPhone should be set to lock itself automatically. To have it require a four-digit numeric passcode after a period of inactivity, tap the Settings icon, then the General icon and then the Passcode Lock item. You can choose a delay of anywhere from "immediately" to one hour.

* For a while, the iPhone had a different sort of auto-lock issue; It would stop playing a song for no apparent reason, then get cranky about unlocking the screen until I rebooted it. But I haven't seen that problem since the first of two Apple software updates for the iPhone.

* Officially, the only way to add software to an iPhone is by bookmarking a Web site written for it. (Try the RSS reader at or the Metro timetables at That has angered (warning, grown-up language) many Mac developers, but after some tinkering they've found ways to get their own programs onto an iPhone. I found a program called surprisingly non-tricky to use: Download and run this application from a Mac, connect the iPhone and quit out of iTunes when it starts, wait for for the iPhone to restart and then you'll have an "Installer" icon on the iPhone's home screen. Tap its "Sources" button and select "Community Sources" to browse from and download add-on iPhone programs and get rolling. In a few minutes, I had a copy of Lights Off, a Bejeweled-type game that seemed easy before making me look silly in the fifth level.

Now that programmers have showed how easy it is to add new programs to an iPhone, I expect Apple will make this a supported feature in future update. The company ran almost the same playbook with the iPod--let hackers fiddle with the product, then adopt the best of their work. But I don't think Apple will be so supportive of attempts to break the iPhone's bonds to AT&T Wireless.

* As for AT&T, its coverage has some serious issues, compounded at times by the iPhone's occasional habit of not seeing a signal at all until it suddenly reports five bars of coverage in a spot where it registered none moments before. Some friends and I have confirmed a gap centered on Clarendon's Liberty Tavern, and I've also seen bizarre dropouts at nearby intersections and at George Washington University's Ashburn campus. It could be worse: At least I'm not trying to use it in a state where AT&T doesn't offer coverage at all, like Vermont.

* How durable is the iPhone? Ars Technica did the stress testing that I--being obliged to return the iPhone to Apple in working condition--did not. The short answer is that dropping the iPhone three stories onto concrete will kill the touchscreen, and dropping it into the toilet will kill it outright. But watch the video on that page for yourself; it's worth viewing in its entirety.

Now I'd like to hear from all the iPhonesters in the audience. How's this gizmo been working out for you over the last couple of months?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 29, 2007; 10:59 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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I, ironically, did not discover the full potential until I went into DC on Monday.

I used the phone to get directions into the city, search for parking garages, get directions to said parking garages, search for ATMs (and a lunch café), check pricing of an item in an online store, navigate to the Jefferson Memorial, and the phone served as my camera the entire day (my actual camera is on... sick leave...). I took about 50 shots, and also used the phone to map a course home through Georgetown (for dinner).

All that, and the battery was still at about 40% charged when I got home.

I have to say, I'm impressed.

Posted by: Brendan West | August 29, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I've dropped my a couple of times onto asphalt with fortunately very little damage (scratches on back and bumped-in corner). I agree about the tangling earbuds - very annoying! I'd like to get the Apple bluetooth earphone/mic, but I would also like it to play my (non-stereo) podcasts.....

Posted by: JD | August 29, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I've had my 8GB iPhone since Day One, and in my opinion, it just keeps getting better the more I use it. Google Maps is awesome, and like you, I use Safari constantly. Email is also great. I also use the Stocks and Weather widgets constantly, and have been dabbling with YouTube more and more (especially on Wi-Fi networks, where the YouTube quality is much better and faster. To be honest, I'd guess that my usage is 85% data and 15% voice. At first, the sound volume was not loud enough for my tastes, but after updating it with the first of the two updates, it was much better. I can't wait to see what else is in store down the line.

Posted by: Dave | August 29, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I totally agree that they could get rid of the coverflow feature in iPod mode. They need to allow for bulk deletes in email and an option to search emails. Even with its deficiencies, this is the coolest device that I have ever owned. I eagerly await the software updates that will only improve this revolutionary device.

Posted by: Matt | August 29, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm only 16 so it took me 2 months of work to pay for it. TOTALLY WORTH IT. Amazing. It does so many things and I find new uses every day. A true innovation by apple and I am extremely impressed

Posted by: Scott Gabert | August 29, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Why is it that all of the sudden Tech guys think it is cool to return their iphone. I am sorry... this is by far the best phone/pda I have ever owned. Sure their are some things I would like to have, but that is always the case with every device I have owned.

Why is everyone so down on the ATT coverage. I have had ATT for 12 years and love it. You guys need to crawl down off your pedestal you put yourself on and relax.

Posted by: Darin | August 29, 2007 2:40 PM | Report abuse

BTW, you can buy foam earbud covers at RadioShack (and I'm sure elsewhere) for about $5 for 4 covers. Is it cheap of apple not to include them? Yes. But should you complain loudly with an easy and cheap solution? No.

Posted by: ah | August 29, 2007 2:55 PM | Report abuse

...Why is it that all of the sudden Tech guys think it is cool to return their iphone...

Rob's iPhone was a review unit. I'm sure he'd be happy if Apple told him he could just keep it.

Posted by: Jeff | August 29, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I have had mine since Day 1, and I too love it more every day. I have found Google Maps an invaluable tool, I love the weather widget, and I track my stock portfolio ( kids gotta go to college) daily. I can hardly imagine life with out it now. At a family gathering I put a slide show on for the cousins who couldn't make my daughter's wedding. My 84 year old mother wants one now!

Posted by: Larry M | August 29, 2007 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Darin had a very good point: the perfect phone has yet to be invented. Before the iPhone, my favorite phone was a WM5 device that was lacking my favorite feature, voice dialing, a feature that my cheap flip-phone from seven years ago had. The problem is simple. Pack in too many features and people will complain about size and battery life. Focus on size and battery life and people will complain about lack of features.

The iPhone is by far the best phone I've ever had, but it's not perfect. By biggest complaint is the fact that applications are all web-based (I'm not willing to hack it...yet). My favorite feature is the auto-correction. With every other phone I've owned, if I type a word incorrectly I have to select the correct word. With the iPhone, if I type a word incorrectly it automatically selects the correct word, unless I tell it not to. It's just so smart! I can type twice as fast on the iPhone as I could on my WM5 phone.

Posted by: Eryk | August 29, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I use TVersity (Google it) to stream all my home and ripped movies to the iPhone. I also have a TV Tuner on my media center so I can stream recorded TV as well. It's nice to watch the simpsons while laying in bed without having to wake up the wife with the TV or get up and sync with iTunes. A few things though... Why can't I search my contacts? My camera freezes on me all the time. The iPod just shuts off in the middle of use about twice a day. And please Apple, please make Safari remember my login-Ids and passwords.

Posted by: Mawkus | August 29, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Rob, You need to wear a cotton vest under your shirt. This will prevent your iPhone volume from changing volume on its own. Also, if you wear nice shirts, you don't want to stain them with sweat. Try a vest.

Posted by: M | August 29, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

please put in a bulk delete from the mail app. I find my self taking up too much time deleting e-mails, one by one. it is tiring.

Posted by: antonio | August 29, 2007 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I've had the 8GB iPhone since day 2 (since the last 8GB model was sold to the guy in front of me in line on day 1 at the local AT&T store), and have really pleasantly been impressed with it. I didn't go into the purchase with extraordinarily high or unrealistic expectations, but what Apple has done with that phone is rightly impressive.

I've dropped the phone a few times, off of desks, counters, and even out of my car a few times now, without any damage or scratches (knock on wood). There is still a few "crash-bugs" in the software I've found (like for some reason, when reading email, it occasionally will shut off the iPod application and then crash out of the mail app), but the amount of crashes has decreased considerably.

There is a few features I'd like to see surface in updates, or even as purchasable software made for the iPhone by Apple. Things like an IM client would really be nice (especially one that supports the major network protocols like AIM/ICQ, Yahoo, MSN, and Jabber/GTalk) but that's just a nicety. I'd like a real ActiveSync kind of access into Exchange servers, so then I could set up my office email on my phone rather than routing email into my persona email account just to see when emergencies crop up at work.

There's a few other little niggling details I can't think of exactly offhand, but once again, it is just things that would be "nice to see" in the phone. Overall though, I am very, very happy and satisfied with my phone.

Of course, it would be better if apple released an iTunes version for Linux so I don't have to keep stealing my roommate's Windows machine (the only non-Linux box in our apartment) in order to use iTunes to update my music.

Posted by: Xlorep DarkHelm | August 29, 2007 5:03 PM | Report abuse

My iPhone was, until last SATURDAY, a perfect complement to my life and the best PDA I've owned. Then, on SATURDAY afternoon and without warning, it inexplicably began rebooting itself over and over and over - this happened spontaneously, in the middle of a call, dropping the call, and continued until the battery died. I spent all day SUNDAY trying to revive it with no success, including a call to iPhone tech support (yes, they are open SUNDAYS!) The phone would display a 1602 error when trying the "Restore" feature in iTunes, and an error 6 when booting in "Recovery Mode". All efforts to fix it failed, so APPLE set up an RMA and FedExed me a loaner phone (kindly waiving the $29 fee since it was apparent this was a software issue) and my phone is on its way to iPhone Repair. Bottom line: while this failure is disappointing, APPLE's tech support and warranty service is EXCELLENT, and I plan to purchase the $69 extended warranty from APPLE once I get my iPhone back - or get a new one from APPLE, whichever happens...

Posted by: Steve M., Melbourne FL | August 29, 2007 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Well....that was quite a review; as a matter of fact, quite odd. I can certainly understand that having a black screen is alsmost as major an issue as toggling the screen. How did you handle these problems for two months? The pain must have been too great to bear. But now you are once again made whole.

I'm just a common senior adult, but I have never experienced any tech gadget that's so compelling, useful and fun as the iPhone, unless it's my Mac.

I hope you feel better now that you have shipped your iPhone out West.

Posted by: John Graham | August 29, 2007 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Some of y'all have picked up on this, but it seems that some haven't, so I'll clarify here: The iPhone I've reviewed--like almost all of the gadgets that I and my competitors try out--is a loaner. It's Apple's property, not mine. My returning it has nothing to do with my own like or dislike for it.

(Though, as I think I've mentioned before, I won't be getting an iPhone. The no-access-in-the-subway thing is a deal breaker for me. And as somebody who takes notes for a living, I need a smartphone that not only lets me jot down my thoughts on the go, but also puts a readable, editable copy of them on my computer.)

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | August 29, 2007 6:34 PM | Report abuse

i love my iPhone!

Posted by: Dean | August 29, 2007 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Rob - I can just imagine the videos you may have just inspired regarding people controlling iphone with their nipples... wowsers.

Posted by: Slightly Grossed Out | August 29, 2007 7:41 PM | Report abuse

I've read most of the iPhone reviews from tech writers like Rob, and mostly have valid gripes about the iPhone. But for the most part, it's like getting a computer and being upset that it won't get the mail for you. It can't do everything.

What it does, it does really well. I LOVE MY IPHONE. I never owned a cell phone -- I'm 30, by the way -- before I got my iPhone (on day one). I use it all day long, and I use every bit of it. I have to charge it every night because I use it so much.

Being a Mac owner, the one thing I absolutely LOVE is the syncing with Address Book, iCal, and Mail. I used GMail with it for a while, but it's a pain, because while you can use GMail POP access with Apple Mail, it does not sync. That is, if I access a message with GMail or Apple Mail, the message won't archive/delete from the other application. That's why I love having a .Mac email account. If you have the .Mac service, it's worth using the email with it, because it syncs on the desktop, .Mac mail on the web, and on the iPhone. No more having to delete a bunch of emails that I already responded to in GMail.

The iPhone could use all of the improvements that have been mentioned above (although I enjoy Cover Flow), but I'm willing to bet that at least 90% of iPhone owners are as happy with their device as I am.

Posted by: Matt Schoss | August 29, 2007 11:12 PM | Report abuse

I didn't plan to get one until 2nd or 3nd generation, but ended up getting one because my BlackBerry went on the blink. While I mailed off my BB to get it repaired, I started using the iPhone and really have enjoyed it. It's a very good phone--all common features are as good or better than my BB 8700, including clarity and volume (I'm slightly deaf, so that's important to me). It's a great email client, though I'd like the keyboard to toggle to landscape, just like coverflow. I've gotten used to the autocorrect feature but after two weeks I'm still less confident typing away on the iPhone than I am on my BB. I love Safari--perhaps too much becaues it's addictive. And it's absolutely the best iPod I've ever used. Overall, I'm extremely pleased with it. Now that my BB is back, I don't really want to use it--I'll probably give it to one of my colleagues. My only gripe is that whenever I use my iPhone in public, people keep coming up to me and asking me about it, which was kind of fun at first, but it's starting to get annoying.

Posted by: D Chen | August 30, 2007 1:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm returning mine. The headphones got tangled up a few times and when I'm sweating like a pig it sometimes changes volume. I'll wait for the 5lb Microsoft Version that doesn't work.

Posted by: Osisbs | August 30, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I would love to get an iPhone, but for now the dealbreaker is not being able to run aps on the device itself. In my case, the aps are medical software I use on a Palm. Some is available by web access, but that is too slow and, of course, not available if you aren't getting a signal. I can only wait for now and hope Apple changes its mind about third party on-board aps.

Posted by: Greg Smith, MD | August 30, 2007 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I am in love with the phone. It's great watching a movie at home and surfing to IMDB to check information on what we are watching.
Wi-Fi is a little spotty up here. Especially bummed at a Starbucks with Wi-Fi that makes you log into their Verizon network.
Just staring to get into all it can do.
I would say about 5% phone usage and 95% everything else

Posted by: Dover NH | August 30, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I hadn't intended on buying a first gen iPhone. But then my Treo 650 bit the dust and there I was in the AT&T store, ponying up for an 8GB version. After about a month, I have the following observations/wants:
- batch email deletes is a must. In general, using Mail is a very click intensive process.
- better navigation for managing multiple email accounts is a must. Going back and forth between more than one email account is a huge pain.
- Exchange ActiveSync is a must. Right now, I can access my corporate email account (via IMAP) but I don't see or receive meeting notifications
- Better display orientation controls, including an aspect control lock (i.e. to stay in portrait or landscape if you choose) and the addition of landscape mode to other apps besides photos and Safari
- Video capture
- Voice dialing

Overall though, this is far and away the best phone I've ever used. By a wide margin.

Posted by: KevinP | August 30, 2007 7:04 PM | Report abuse

>Why is everyone so down on the ATT coverage.

In my region, AT&T is dead last in J.D. Power Call Quality Satisfaction.

In my city, AT&T is rated dead last by Consumer Reports.

Posted by: TomT | August 30, 2007 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Why do people get so excited about a device that excludes many people with disabilities from using it, and in particular people who are blind? From what I can tell, and it's not on sale in Australia, Apple should be sued for selling a device that is in inaccessible. It's abhorrent in this day and age that they're allowed to get away with it.

Posted by: DavidG, Sydney | August 30, 2007 10:22 PM | Report abuse

In NYC, at least, the iPhone gets an A-plus. AT&T's coverage is impeccable (in 4 years of having AT&T/Cingular I have never had a dropped call here), and I don't think I am gushing unduly in saying that the iPhone just makes life in NYC more FUN. Google maps alone is worth the price of admission for finding anything you want quickly in the big city, and that plus Safari can honestly change your life. It's not so much that it let's you do anything you couldn't do before, it's more that it makes so many things so effortless that you are more LIKELY to happen upon things you might not have done before.

I think rural customers are right to hesitate. But if you live in a large city and are on the fence, I say buy.

Posted by: Matthew | August 30, 2007 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Don't be put off by John Graham. Not all of us senior adults are so cranky and nit-picky. Most, maybe, but not all. I thought it was a very interesting review, and I'm hard on reviews... wait - maybe we really are all cranky, but some of us are just outright 'holes.

Posted by: Richard Waddell | August 31, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

"Why do people get so excited about a device that excludes many people with disabilities from using it, and in particular people who are blind?"

Perhaps I am callous, but Apple is about ease of use. Since most of use our eyes a lot, it is normal that a device be geared to those with sight.

Posted by: John Worthy | September 1, 2007 5:11 AM | Report abuse

Ahh, so it's OK to discriminate against someone because of a disability. I guess John Worthy would also be happy for Apple, and others, to discriminate against people (in this case to not sell their products) because of their race, sex, sexual preferences, age... "Ease of use" - garbage. It's discrimination.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 4, 2007 10:10 PM | Report abuse

That comment that began with "Ahh, so it's OK to discriminate against someone because of a disability. ..." was from me!

Posted by: DavidG, Sydney | September 5, 2007 4:40 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, I sympathize, but you're being unreasonable. We'd have to devolve to living in caves if that standard was enforced on every product. And, you're forgetting an add-on market that competes to be the best solution.

In my opinion, unless you know the difference between being a Zealot and an Advocate, you'll hurt your cause more than you help. it.

Posted by: RichW | September 7, 2007 1:57 PM | Report abuse

The comment that began "Sorry, I sympathize", was intended for DaveG.

Posted by: RichW | September 7, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

has anyone with a software hacked iPhone - to allow use with other carriers - upgraded their software to 1.1.1? If so, what happened?

Debra, Noosa, Australia

Posted by: Anonymous | October 6, 2007 2:20 AM | Report abuse

I am 13, so the programs like the stock updates are completly un-usefull! But as far as the internet, calls, and i-pod goes it's amazing! The music setting works better than their best ipods, the internet is amazing and with magnification I can actually read it! I know that here in Colorado I have not dropped a call once! Truly a mush-have for all ages!

Posted by: Babygurl | December 21, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

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