iPhone 3G Review

I know I told many of my friends that I would never own an iPhone, but opinions change. It just happened that I was looking to upgrade to a 3G phone in conjunction with switching jobs. I went through a vetting process with the Android G1, Blackberry storm, and the iPhone 3G. Basically, I wanted to get away from the blackberry platform. I didn’t want to have access to my corporate email anymore and I wanted to get off RIM’s buggy platform. I’ll save that analysis for another post, but I did try out all of the above mentioned devices. Here’s what it came down to me:

G1:

Great phone, TMobile customer service is excellent, but dammit Tmobile’s 3G band is on a completely different MHz than the rest of the country. Handset manufacturers are slowly releasing devices that support tmobile’s 3G network, however, the handsets are more expensive. The G1 had some cool things like being able scan barcodes and find where you could get that item the cheapest, but the coverage issue and special 3G band was a huge determining factor in not going with the G1.

Blackberry Storm:

This was probably the most hyped release of a blackberry I had read about in a long time…after all it was the first touch screen blackberry. I followed the release of this device both online and tried the device out on launch day. The reviews online were not that stellar citing problems with overall response time both typing and navigating different applications. I must admit I didn’t want to believe the reviews, however, when I tried the device out, the response time was unbareable! Shame on verizon for launching this device without user acceptance testing. Now to verizon’s credit, most of the response time issues have been fixed through software updates. I recently tried the storm again and saw it was mostly responsive. I am still glad that I didn’t go with the storm afterall. The deal breaker for me is that verizon included no wifi functionality on the storm. This is the year 2009. Customers who buy the storm are pushed back to the year 1998 with this device. Shame on verizon for not including wifi functionality.

iPhone 3G:

I am over the fact that I have paid the Apple tax and have another Apple device. I accept the reality that I will probably be “upgrading” (read: throwing away my iPhone 3G) after 3 years because the battery no long will hold a charge. I’ve accepted these facts for the simple fact that the iPhone is probably the best 3G consumer device out right now with a few problems. After using the device for a little under a week here are my initial thoughts –

What Apple got Wrong:

I want to say that not everything is perfect on the iPhone. I want to cover these specific items first because I think its important to get them out in the open and pressuring Apple to fix these items as soon as possible.

1) Apple’s support of bluetooth is horrendous. Apple for some reason has decided to have the bluetooth hardware support bluetooth 2.0+EDR features. What this means is that the hardware supports the latest bluetooth features like bluetooth stereo, file transfer, headset calling, etc. For some reason, Apple decided to not implement the appropriate software called profiles to make use of the hardware. For example, I can not stream my music over bluetooth. Who the heck canned this feature? Apple is supposed to be a digital media company. One would think this feature would not be overlooked. Another bluetooth feature missing is file transfers. I guess Apple doesn’t want anyone “easily” sharing photos or music off their iPhone’s.

2) Apple’s support of voice activated dialing is crap! Coming from using the blackberry voice activated dialing, I have been spolied rotten. The voice dialing on the blackberry is hands down the best I’ve ever seen on any handset. Not only did Apple leave this functionality off the iPhone meaning I can’t even do it from the phone itself, it won’t work over bluetooth either! What’s the point of going hands free and making calls in the car if I have to physically access the phone to start a call. This seems to me to be a safety issue more than anything else. Now there are apps out there that support voice dialing, but you still have start the app and touch a button. Apple has yet to allow access to the functions that would allow non-interactive voice dialing to occur. Apple shame on you for not having this feature and shame on AT&T for trying to charge $5 a month for their “voice dialing” feature which requires dialing a number and then saying the voice of the person you are trying to call.

3) No copy / paste functionality and no multi-person SMS text messaging support out of the box. Are you kidding me? Who does the user acceptance testing for Apple? I’d sure like to know. I can maybe see the copy/paste functionality being missed in UAT, but multi-person SMS texting, that was a big mistake in my opinion. Who doesn’t on occassion want to send a couple of their friends a text message saying “Meet me here at 6pm” etc. Ridiculous that Apple left that out. As for the copy / paste functionality, its a toss up for me, and I might have been willing to give a pass on leaving it out if they had addressed items 1 and 2. Have no fear though, these functions have been added in by unofficial apps….you just have to jailbreak your iPhone to be able to install them (More on jailbreaking further down)

I think these are the main things that Apple got wrong with the iPhone. Hopefully these can be addressed in future software updates to the iPhone platform. I’d definitely like to see Apple add voice dialing at a minimum with the other features coming shortly after.

What Apple got right:

Apple got a lot of things right with the iPhone. In fact the things they got right with iPhone allow me to grudgingly accept the short comings of the device and patiently endure the wait to add those features either by jailbreaking or Apple updating the software.

1) The interface. The interface is amazing. It’s simple, makes sense, and is easy to navigate and use. The touch screen doesn’t require alot of learning or much pressure. Once I tried the device, I knew it would be hard to not get it.

2) Apple included wireless! That for me is huge. Assuming I am connected to a wireless router, wireless can let me make phone calls from overseas using VOIP and browse the internet while avoiding huge voice/data roaming charges. Also wireless is still a bit faster than 3G, so its nice to be able to use wireless at home to download apps.

3) The app store. The app store is a genius idea by Apple. I like the fact there are many awesome free apps. In fact I have not downloaded a paid app yet. I am debating on whether or not to do this as I am probably going to jailbreak my iPhone. I guess it will depend on if I can find the apps that I need through the cool unofficial apps.

Will I Jailbreak the iPhone 3G?

I will probably jailbreak the iPhone 3G. Simply put, there’s too many cool unofficial free apps especially ones that add the copy/paste functionality and the multi-person SMS text messaging capability to ignore. Additionally, there are teams working on getting all of the bluetooth 2.0 capabilities working on the iPhone 3G. I’m interested to see all of the unofficial apps that I will download. For those who are concerned about voiding warranties, you can make a backup of your current iPhone and always restore to that image if you need to have it serviced.

Even with the iPhone 3G’s somewhat significant short comings which I think will be sorted out eventually, I am absolutely impressed with the device. Also I must add that AT&T’s coverage of the area around my house has significantly improved. It used to be I would have to step outside to make and receive voice calls. I have full 3G coverage in all areas of the house now. I would encourage any one looking for a 3G device to give the iPhone 3G a look and see how simple it is to use. I think you’ll fall in love with the phone just like I did.

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