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iPhone 3G First Impressions

Now that we're through with Friday's iPhone 3G feeding frenzy--and the subsequent meltdown of Apple's servers that temporarily turned many newly-purchased iPhones into "iBricks" usable only for calls to 911, it's time for an initial assessment of the second generation of this smartphone.

My own $.02 worth: The new iPhone 2.0 software--itself a free upgrade to owners of first-generation models--makes more of a difference than the new hardware.

That software opens the iPhone up to the talents of programmers outside Apple. It brings access to the App Store, an Apple-tended collection of free and not-free third-party programs (payments go through your iTunes account). You can download a program directly to the iPhone or through Apple's iTunes software with a few clicks or taps--a simpler procedure than adding extra software to a Windows Mobile or Palm OS phone.

The selection of some 800 applications covers many of the gaps in the iPhone's own software toolkit; you can choose from numerous to-do lists, Web-radio jukeboxes and games, plus a nifty little program that allows you to pretend your iPhone is a lightsaber. But there's still a vacancy for a good Internet phone-calling program, with no version of Skype available yet. Apple announced this morning that iPhone users have downloaded more than 10 million programs from the App Store so far.

The iPhone 2.0 software also fixes some of the more nagging usability flaws of its first release--you can delete more than one e-mail message at a time and search through your contacts list. But it ignores the biggest one of them all: You still can't copy and paste from one iPhone program to another.

Apple is also talking up the new software's support for Microsoft Exchange, the server system that pushes e-mail messages, calendars and contacts to copies of Microsoft Outlook in countless offices. But for home users, the more significant 2.0 addition is support for Apple's new Mobile Me service, a $99/year option that brings the same basic on-the-go synchronization. (Look for a review next week.)

As for the new hardware on the iPhone 3G model--a million had been sold worldwide by Sunday, Apple says--its most obvious benefit is the ability to connect to AT&T's 3G mobile-broadband network, which offers DSL-grade download speeds instead of the dial-up sluggishness of the first iPhone's EDGE service.

But this 3G service's coverage is relatively small compared to the offerings of other carriers, and AT&T's rate plans for the iPhone 3G also constitute a $15 increase a month over its plans for the old model. These higher fees will easily offset the lower upfront cost of the iPhone 3G for new customers--$199 for a model with 8 gigabytes of storage, $299 for a 16 GB version.

3G service also comes at a cost in battery life--note the lengthy list of battery-conservation tips Apple provides for iPhone 3G users. I will be paying careful attention to this as I continue testing the unit that Apple's loaned for the next two months.

The iPhone 3G also includes a GPS receiver, which allows it to locate itself much more accurately than older models that could only rely on cellular-network and WiFi signals to determine their position. Instead of being able to report your location to within half a block or so, the iPhone 3G can nail down your position to within a few dozen feet as long as it can lock on enough GPS satellite signals.

If you've picked up an iPhone 3G model, I'd like to know how that's been working out for you. Are there any other features I should pay particular attention to? Any "gotchas" to watch out for?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 14, 2008; 12:42 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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Next: Well, Duh: Viacom Backs Off On YouTube Records


As an iPod touch user, beyond all else, I just want to be able to synchronize my notes. Is that really so much to ask?!

Posted by: jp | July 14, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I would say that the biggest difference, in terms of hardware, would be the sound quality. It is vastly superior than that of the previous one.

Posted by: Joe | July 14, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

The 3G is noticeably faster than EDGE. I also prefer the styling of iPhone 3G-- smooth back with curved sides. It fits in your hand more comfortably. I have had some issues with the OS crashing and the phone rebooting, but I expect that will be corrected in the next few months.

Posted by: Clark K. | July 14, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

60% applications in the 'app store' are "hello world!" programs. Type up what you want to store, look at it and be happy. No external bluetooth support? Background processing through apple's servers? Keep 30% of sales? Tie with iTunes as usual? I had started believing that apple is coming out of its shell and making software available to mass. But I am wrong once again. They may be super stylish and great hardware. They just can't let go their inferior vision as far as software is concerned.

Posted by: Malay Thakershi | July 14, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Well a friend of mine got one and almost had me hooked on it until I asked if I could use the phone as a "modem" or "router" for my internet, because I don't need two internet providers, and I do alot of online gaming that isn't possible on that tiny screen (not to mention the phone can't hold all that memory). All i need the phone to do is allow my computer to access the internet.

But she said, "No, you can't do that." And I confirmed it with some online research.

So, too bad AT&T. Apple made a cool-looking, well-designed phone for you, but in this economy I cannot justify adding a $120 expense without cutting down somewhere else to make up the difference. You'll get what you get and nothing more. Maybe less, though, when the phone I have is too old to operate correctly and you try to strongarm my family into a new plan.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

One of the available apps that moved me off the dime to buy an iPhone is the free program developed by TypePad, which hosts my blog, which will allow me to post to my blog and manage it from the iPhone.

An app which is in development and which I'm REALLY waiting for is Sling Box for the iPhone, which will allow viewing of my DirecTV content from my home TV and DVR, no matter where I am. Some other phones have this, but now iPhone will, too, before too long. I understand, however, that there may be issues with the App Store over the bandwidth this product would need.

Sling Box is such a popular product that perhaps Rob can obtain current status info from the vendor, which hasn't put out anything official for about a month.

Posted by: David Berman | July 14, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Steve, give us Skype for iphone 3G. we so much need that application!!!

Posted by: Firuz | July 14, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I was one of the ones waiting in line for this phone, good thing I live in a smaller town.

I have been playing endlessly with it, and enjoy it so far with all I has to offer. I am not very impressed however in the battery life/usage. I am not too fond of having to charge my phone everyday or not even make it through the day without having to worry about charging it.

It will be very nice and may make a big differnece if I ever get 3g in the area I live

Posted by: Cory | July 14, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm really enjoying my experience with the iPhone 3G, the faster downloads, better sound and App Store. I don't like the shorter battery life or the fact that you can't have applications run in the background. It would be nice to be able to listen to internet radio while using other functions on the phone.

However, the big question I've been asking is "Was an upgrade necessary?" I had the original iPhone for about four months and sold it about a month before the recent launch, and I'm not sure I have a substantially better phone now. I don't care about GPS, and 3G is nice, but Wi-Fi is more or less readily available in Los Angeles. Maybe I should have waited for iPhone 3.0, but so far so good.

Posted by: Regi | July 14, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I have the phone and it's great. I think the battery sucks but other than that it's good. I'm actually on it right now typing this

Posted by: travis | July 14, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I absolutely love my 3G and find myself shutting off 3G & wireless when I am not using them to conserve battery. The BIGGEST complain I have is that my stereo in my Subaru which used to charge my original Iphone doesn't charge it anymore. I read it has to do with firewire vs USB??? Not sure why but it is a huge bummer. Other than that, the phone is great.

Posted by: Iakona | July 14, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I got the new iPhone Friday morning and once I got it working later that night it has become the best toy I've ever owned. Coming from a Windows Mobile 6 device (AT&T 8525), the user interface kicks major butt and everything, wait for it, just works. Haven't crashed yet (fingers crossed), and the worst thing that has happened is the maps application quits to the home screen when I tell it to do two things at the same time. I would be interested if you have the same problem there. Also, the battery life with 3g is comparable to the 8525 and what I've read about other 3g smart phones so I think it only fair to make note of that in your review. The battery life with edge, even with wifi turned on, was incredibly impressive. Oh, and hopefully you can be the first reviewer to shut this hidden cost increase talk down once and for all. ALL 3G phones on AT&T cost 30 dollars or more for unlimited data. There is no hidden jack going on here, the first gen iPhone users paid less cause of Edge. I will admit the text messages being extra now is a bit of a bummer, but that is the same for other 3G smart phones on AT&T as well. If people really don't want a text plan then can download AOL IM and add buddy's on their home computer as cell numbers who they can then send messages to over their unlimited data plan and their friend will receive as a text. If the friend responds it will come through in AOL IM. Primitive, but it works. Me, I am quite happy to continue paying my five dollars a month for 200 messages, but I look forward to the day when texting is free on all plans (which it totally should be btw). Looking forward to your full review.

Posted by: Malcolm Furgol | July 14, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I continue to have questions about this phone and iTunes itself: eg:

GPS : does that mean our locations can be tracked by any 3rd party?? Can we turn it off?

Bluetooth Audio: Its a crime that a company noted for 'Multi
Media' can't seem to get it
together to allow Wireless Stereo Bluetooth! The technology exists! (Motorola, eg, has it) WHY do we need wires dangling down?? Cuz of the ''voice switch' ?? But
'Voice Control' is also available on many systems!

Video Recording: This is another crime: A developer has already built code that allows HD quality video recording, at 30fps !! til there's no more memory! That's a lot of vid!
Why wont Apple talk to him???

Notes: another joke .. on us!
yes we can 'email' a note , but
why have a 'sync' if such an important 'syncable' item cant be included!

iTunes: So i nearly installed 2.0 .. THEN noticed a lil thing about it ERASING my entire phone! Is Steve in some manic psychosocial fit??? And
Why oh why are we limited to backing up ONLY to 'Office' on the Win platform? Other things exist, STEVE!! Even online syncing (Google has it!) isnt there!. And those catchy "do you want to replace your contact list on your phone with the one on your computer?" are sooo helpful! Why do i need to worry that saying yes might cause BLANK items to overwrite my phone's existing contacts???

C'mon, Apple ! stop mucking around with the PUBLIC who DESIGNED your touted Mac-X operating system .. and then the public which watched you shut it off to public management!!! Cool move, Steve! but not one designed to make the most friends!

Posted by: tkjtkj | July 14, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

If you think 3g sucks battery life, try running your GPS.

I have a 3G Smartphone (Samsung BlackjackII) and if you have the GPS on in an area with 3G service and you are using both, you can have a battery zapped in two hours.

Posted by: Silver Spring | July 14, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

OK, NOW they are talking with the lower price tag. They will dominate the market with that phone...well, the AT&T market.


Posted by: Matthew | July 14, 2008 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Sad to see that ATT said it was "half the price" only to learn that loyal ATT customers who had recently upgraded to a non-3G phone with a 2 year contract are not among those that can receive that price. It would cost $200 more for an existing ATT customer to get the iPhone. Too bad, will wait for the price reduction as my smartphone still does 90% of this one.

Posted by: trux | July 14, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Battery life sucks and GPS is sluggish. With a fully charged phone I made a 40 mile trek to test the GPS. It had a hard time keeping up with my current location while driving 65 mph. Every so often it would freeze and than fast fwd to my current location. Several times it froze up so Id press buttons and zoom in and out to try to get it tracking again. After using the GPS for about 1 hour 15 minutes and having it on standby for about 2 hours at the halfway point of my journey while eating lunch, the phone warned me that it had low battery power. The GPS is cool, unless you need to rely on it.

Posted by: Tony | July 14, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

I know I'm going to get flamed for this but these are some of the issues that led me to choose an Instinct over the iPhone.

The GPS isn't just usable in the Instinct, it easily competes with the high end Garmin devices.

A slower processor and a smaller screen make the Instinct's web browser less fun/functional than the iPhone, but give the device decent data battery life. I've pounded the phone quite hard and haven't had it die before the day is out yet. My usage so far today (since 7 AM) was about 1.5 hours of talk, 1 hour of web, quite a lot of of texting and push Email and about 15 minutes of Guitar Hero III. I am now at 60% power.

The real problem with the iPhone is that Apple pushes it as a game/web/business/ipod/voice device but the battery is not able to keep up with that marketing promise. It's a pity Apple didn't allow swappable batteries, I would have loved to pick one of these phones up.

Posted by: kal solar | July 14, 2008 7:48 PM | Report abuse

The curved plastic back is easier handling than the previous model.
I've had speeds approaching Wi-fi on the 3G network. Browsing the web is a lot easier.
However, and this is true with any 3G phone I've used, battery life isn't as good as EDGE if you leave it on 3G all day. It's nice to have a clearly labeled "3G On/Off" switch in the phone's control panel.
The speakerphone, ringer, and earpiece are noticeably louder and probably the clearest sounding of any cell phone I've used.

Posted by: Witch Doctor | July 14, 2008 8:16 PM | Report abuse

tkjtkj: you wrote you were concerned that the gps will enable you location to be tracked. my advise is to get some aluminum foil and make a hat to block the tracking rays.

Posted by: eric REED | July 14, 2008 8:41 PM | Report abuse

tkjtkj: you wrote you were concerned that the gps will enable you location to be tracked. my advise is to get some aluminum foil and make a hat to block the tracking rays.

Posted by: eric | July 14, 2008 8:41 PM | Report abuse

I was one of those who choose the Nokia N95 over the original iPhone based on lack of features and I had doubts over the 3G iPhone for the same reasons. What people like me tend to forget is that the stuff Apple churns out, just works great. After 3 days, I am completely addicted, it's like coming to an iPod after using some piece of sh*t mp3 player. Don't be analytical, go with the flow! The fact it can make phone calls is just a bonus, it's the best portable computing device that ever lived.

Posted by: Jim Ryan | July 14, 2008 9:36 PM | Report abuse

it sucks

Posted by: bob | July 14, 2008 10:02 PM | Report abuse

I have tried to buy the iPhone 3G twice. Although I am not worthy of an upgrade, as an existing customer in good standing, I was ready to pay through the nose. Then, today, they told me that I cannot buy an iPhone at any price. I knew this was wrong (later confirmed by AT&T customer service), but what is the point of arguing with a computer? Have you seen the Sci Fi movie, Brazil? The computer rules all and I give up! One should only take so much abuse.

Posted by: Stanley Feldman | July 15, 2008 1:11 AM | Report abuse




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Posted by: chris | July 15, 2008 2:58 AM | Report abuse

I like my iPhone. The 3G is my first one. I've been using a T-Mobile Sidekick since they first came out in 2002. Things I miss: copy/paste, arrow keys, reformatting text to fit the screen, always-on IM with great notifications, multitasking, typing without looking, shortcut keys for switching programs, auto-complete text (I can type wd and get would, etc, and it was customizable)

Things that I love about the iPhone: multiple browser windows, gorgeous screen, it's a video iPod, all the apps you can get, huge developer community, smaller size, how well the typing correction fixes my typos, IMAP for my gmail account so I don't have to read everything twice.

Killer App on the Sidekick was IM

Killer App on the iPhone is Safari... and all the apps :)

Posted by: sara | July 15, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

"But there's still a vacancy for a good Internet phone-calling program" Not so Much. You should check out they had an app available from moment one.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 15, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I've been to three Apple stores in the Portland, Oregon, metro area each day since the launch and been unable to purchase an iPhone. I was unwilling to wait in a 3+ hour line on Friday. The Apple stores have been out of product since Saturday afternoon, and the Apple website says no iPhones will be available at any of the stores today (July 15th). A salesman in the AT&T store in our largest mall told me that the AT&T store received 50 iPhones before the Friday launch (sold out before noon on Friday) and another 40 units on Saturday (sold out before noon on Saturday. Clearly, the number of iPhones made available through the AT&T stores were inadequate by a factor of 5 to 10, and with the outages at the Apple stores now moving into 3 continues days, is there any expectation that the AT&T stores will receive a meaningful number of iPhones in the near-term? With 50 countries to begin selling iPhones later this year, I'm wondering how and when the supply of the iPhone will catch up with the demand. I have no doubt that I'll get an iPhone, but it may take some time. At this point, it's certainly interesting to speculate as to what total iPhones sales will be for FY 2008 and 2009 (when the iPhone will be selling in 70+ countries), and what the total iStore apps download will be in those years!

Posted by: BillMcD | July 15, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

A big turn-off for me is Apple's insistence on controlling my media and experience. Of course you can't get Skype (or any other VoIP) for the iPhone; that would reduce the number of calling minutes you use. They wouldn't dis AT&T like that.

Sure developers can write software for the iPhone, but they can only sell them through the App Store, which is controlled by Apple.

I own a Nokia N770, and just bought an N800 on eBay. It has a larger screen, 800x480 4.3", than the iPhone, all the Bluetooth you can handle, and the OS is based on Linux Debian. I connect to the Internet through Wi-fi or my phone's (AT&T data plan $20/mo) Bluetooth DUN. It has a VERY active developer community, and the N800 has a Skype client (and Rhapsody). It has two SDHC slots (can you say 32GB of storage?) and it lets me listen to and play almost any audio or video, including Windows Media formats. It can also be a USB host, by which I plug in my 120GB notebook drive (battery-operated enclosure). I have a Bluetooth GPS receiver that works great with the open-source mapping software, that downloads maps from Google.

Yes, it is a separate device from my phone, and it is larger than the iPhone, but I'd rather have bulky pockets than Apple reaching into them at every turn.

What do you think? Is the iPhone worth it to you?

Posted by: Toby | July 15, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

The biggest "gotcha" for my wife and I has been figuring out how to live with two iPhones in a one iMac world. For instance, we purchased an Apple TV and both downloaded the free Remote app on both our phones. For some reason, Apple TV will only let one of the iPhones be the remote (we're not trying this at the same time, mind you). The problem is in the iTunes DRM scheme. When she downloaded the Remote app to her iPhone, I was logged in to iTunes. So for some reason, iTunes thinks I tried using the same app for one user on two phones. Apparently, this is a no-no. We're still trying to figure out how to unlink her iPhone from my iTunes account so that she can use her own iTunes account. Rob, your help is needed here! Thanks!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 15, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Trying the phone today with my WIFI off, (which I cant get working anyways, that is a story in itself) and see how the battery life improves, I hope MUCH better.

I must agree with the IM features greatly lacking and to take an hour to try to find a login that sint taken with AIM is insane, was worse then trying to get a MSN login.

iTunes, man iTunes, not impressed AT ALL with the damn iTunes. Would have to say is the worst part of having an iPhone

Overall I am still fairly impressed and still cant wait for the 3G service.

Posted by: Cory | July 15, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

has anyone trying back ordering the iphone?

Does anyone know how long is the ait time?

Posted by: ALTREC | July 15, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Fingernails do not work on iPhone! I have nice nails 1/4" at longest. Cannot use iPhone - it works from the touch of your finger (heat?). When I went to buy one at the iphone store and discovered this the salesMAN stated, "Lots of ladies walk out of here without a phone - it has to be your fingertips". I tried a stylus - doesn't work either. No iPhone for me

Posted by: D2125 | July 15, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I have the old Iphone. When my PC took the Itunes 7.7 update, then my IPHONE took the 2.o update, my life ended up in hell. The old phones do NOT work well with 2.0 and I've lost use of my phone since the update.

2.0 has eaten up ALL of my contacts in Outlook, totally trashed the contacts then deleted them ALL.

Then 2.0 dumped my songs and added 38 junk songs which I can't remove.

Still cant copy / cut and paste.

They APPLE needs to ask the end users what the phone needs.

It took three days to reach a tech but, I was shocked that the tech was so calm and VERY helpful, got me back on my feet, so far, less my contacts.

Posted by: R Jones | July 15, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I have the 3g and didn't have the first gen. Battery life is an issue, but for everything else, the iPhone blows away the BlackBerry that it replaced.
The applications alone make this the platform of choice.
This device does things no other "smartphone" can do. And not just toy or gadgety things, but things that I'll actually use in everyday life.

Posted by: Turk182 | July 15, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I ordered an iPhone at the AT&T store on Friday since I was the 63rd person in line (store only had 60 phones!). I was told it would arrive at the store in 7 - 10 business days.

Posted by: Rebecca | July 15, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

The iPhone 3G is my first smart phone so it's definitely a whole new world.

The 3G network seems to be a little overblown - in fact, I find that I'm more often tapping into local free wifi hotspots than I am actually using the 3G network.

I ended up buying a white iPhone because the store ran out of black ones...and it's definitely grown on me!

The keyboard still takes getting some used to; sound quality/clarity is a BIG improvement from my previous Verizon phone; App Store is endless, haven't had a chance to even browse through it all yet; the GPS is a little slow at times, but its real-time tracking is pretty cool once it gets cranking; web-browsing is still one-of-a-kind, just waiting for App Store developers to enable Java/Adobe Flash!

A nice, neat, and sleek machine. And it all fits nicely in your pocket.

Posted by: David | July 15, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Someone here mentioned this earlier and it bears repeating - if you are already with AT&T but you have not yet reached your "upgrade eligibility" date, then you will be charged an add'l $200 if you want to get the 3G iPhone. You are being penalized even though you'll probably be spending more per month with your iPhone plan than you are now. This makes absolutely no sense to me, but it's definitely made me truly regret going to AT&T in the first place (I was already regretting the move because of their crappy service - this is just icing on the cake.) Unbelievable idiots, those AT&T execs down in Texas.

Posted by: Terri | July 15, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

AT&T is based in TX? That is a reason not tot to sign up.

Posted by: texas? | July 15, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Ok here is a question and a challenge.
Everything for me works, EXPECT WiFi. All my apps and online stuff is fine when I am on the edge network, but as soon as I connect successfully to a WiFi cant do anything. tried it on both a secure and nonsecure connection and nothing. Have already wiped the phone and anything else you can imagine to try to fix it, nothing.

Anyone else having ANy issues like this at all? Ofcourse Apple stands by we only have a 2% product fault so to get a phone replaced is next to impossible with your wirless carrier

Posted by: Cory | July 15, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

I'd be glad to give you some impressions, but I can't find an iPhone 3G to buy.

Posted by: Carl | July 15, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

I've got an Iphone on order and I'm committed. I'm curious as to how long does AT&T think it will take to get their entire 3G network operational? Another question I have is I was in CA and bought a 3g card for my laptop because my brother has AT&T. He has 5 bars of signal in his house. My 3G card only had 2 bars at max. any body have a clue as to why that could have happened. It was like that the whole time I was in CA. However, here in PA, MD, VA, and Hawaii, the 3G always has good signal and fairly good speed.

Posted by: Greg | July 15, 2008 8:12 PM | Report abuse

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