Apple Renews, But Doesn't Reinvent, the iPhone
If you look at the review I wrote of the first iPhone, you'll see that my biggest complaint about it was its closed nature--that you were stuck running only the programs Apple shipped with it.
It's now a year later, and the new iPhone 3G can run hundreds of third-party programs. It also includes a faster Internet connection, GPS navigation and many other smaller fixes--but the software is the big deal here. That, in turn, explains why I write in today's review that the new iPhone doesn't represent a huge advance over the old model that runs the same software.
I have been enormously impressed by the craftmanship of these add-on programs--the clever, elegant interfaces I've seen make a lot of Palm, Windows Mobile or BlackBerry applications look positively hideous. Consider, for instance, the free restaurant-finding application Urbanspoon, which first uses the iPhone's navigation hardware to establish your position, then lets you request a random pick in your city by shaking the phone as if it were a Magic 8-Ball (a crafty use of the iPhone's accelerometer). Or audition Pandora's free Web-radio client, which brings personalized music to anywhere you've got a 3G or WiFi signal.
People seem to be extraordinarily excited about developing for the iPhone--something I can't say about any other wireless platform except Google's still-in-development Android.
I find myself much more tempted to get an iPhone than a year ago. And yet I most likely will not. Why? Because I don't want to be the guy waiting to use a pay phone in a Metro station. As long as the only phones that work in my morning and evening commutes (assuming I'm not taking the bus or biking) are CDMA models that run on Verizon's signals in the subway, not GSM units like the iPhone, my hands are largely tied.
Those of you living far from any subway stop may have your own reasons to shun the iPhone--AT&T Wireless's thin, scattered 3G coverage nationwide. A look at its map shows that while major cities and most of their suburbs fall under the 3G umbrella, the farther 'burbs, smaller cities and almost all rural areas are still awaiting upgrades to AT&T's network. To stereotype a bit: The more time you spend in -villes, -burgs and -boros (for example, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg and Boonsboro), the less you're going to like AT&T's data service. And yet users in these areas pay the same as satisfied 3G users who never leave city centers.
If you've got other questions about the iPhone--or any other personal-tech topics--I'll be online from 2 to 3 this afternoon for my usual Web chat. (You're welcome to throw in a question ahead of time if you'll be busy then.) You can also post your questions and comments here; in particular, I'd like to hear about what other iPhone applications I should try out before I have to return the review unit back to Apple.
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