It's been a long time coming but I finally was able to pick up an iPhone 3G. I had to wait out my contract with Verizon, but I wound up terminating early to get my mitts on this baby faster. In this review I'll hit the main highlights of the phone and what I thought about them. This review is based on the white iPhone with 16GB worth of memory.
1. Packaging and Aesthetics
It's really no surprise that the packaging and design of the phone are bothphenomenal. As with all Apple products - merely opening the box is exciting and a small miracle. Inside you'll find the phone its self, iPhone specific headphones, a memory card tool, a cleaning cloth and respective instruction manuals. Since I got the white phone, the box was white. For those who get the black phone, they will get a black box.
The face of the phone is made of scratch-proof glass. Although I purchased screen protectors, I get the sense that it would be tough to really penetrate the vibrant, three inch tall screen. The back of the phone uses the traditional clear plastic over solid plastic method that the old MacBooks used. The result is something that is beautiful, attractive and comfortable to hold in your hand.
2. The Phone Part of the iPhone
The two main things that set the phone aspects of the iPhone apart from its competitors is the visual voice mail and the MobileMe based "push syncing". Visual voice mail is something that seems small but ultimately its one of the iPhone's most useful features. No longer do you have to call your voicemail, type in your pass code and follow the annoying automated instructions. Instead you can just tap "Phone" and then tap "Voicemail".
Here you will see a list of all of your voice mails and when they were added to the list. By tapping one of the names your can listen to the message (or play it through the speaker phone). The message progress will be tracked on a small bar at the bottom of the screen where you can drag the cursor to different parts of the message. To delete the message you can just tap delete.
The MobileMe Push Syncing works like this: If you ever alter something on your contacts list, calender, or mail on your phone, those changes will instantly be applied on your PC or Mac. Likewise if you alter anything on your computer those changes will appear on your iPhone. Again, this is something that may appear like a small, insignificant feature, but it winds up being something special.
3. Safari, Mail and iPod
Apple has always advertised the internet features of the iPhone as the "the best internet on a mobile phone". While that high-claim is mostly true, that's not to say that its perfect. While it is the speediest connection I have ever seen on a phone, it still struggles with high bandwith pages. Some sites (Fandango, NYT, etc.) have iPhone specific web designs where the load times are sped up significantly.
The mail features of the phone are pretty much flawless. A small chime will sound upon receiving a new email. By tapping the Mail icon you can check your inbox, your deleted messages, sent, trash, drafts and a to-do list. Its lightning quick to read and respond to messages. Is a wonderful convenience to be able to write emails while your cooking dinner or laying in bed. My only problem with the mail feature is the lack of ability to create custom mail files from the phone.
If you have had the pleasure of using an iPod Touch then you already know what to expect of the iPod features. You can make custom playlists from the iPod, use cover flow to browse albums and watch music videos and movies purchased off the iTunes music store. It's basically the most feature-heavy iPod out there, so who can complain?
4. SMS Texting and Camera
The texting on the iPhone works differently then it does on other phones. First you'll see a list of all of the people you have ever texted. By tapping the name of the person you want, you will see a complete back and forth tally displaying your conversation. It's a neat little set-up that is identical to Apple's AIM service: iChat.
I'll be honest: at first, the touch keyboard is downright annoying. You will make all kinds of horrible mistakes and constantly be tapping the wrong letters and make spelling errors left and right. However, as you continue to use this feature by texting and writing emails, it becomes a breeze. The T9 is the best I have seen on a phone. It will detect the words you use the most and always knows just what word your trying to type. Now, I actually love the keyboard.
The biggest disappointment is the lack of ability to send pictures of videos over the SMS service. Yes, it is possible, but you have to go through all kinds of flaming hoops and nail beds to do so. Ultimately, you won't even want to.
The camera is kind of a mixed bag in terms of quality. It's a 2.0 megapixel camera the produces high quality pictures with little to no graininess. I would have been nice to see something with a higher pixel count then that, though. The real downfall of the camera is the lack of flash. Say goodbye to any night time shots or pictures in a darkened room - the iPhone just won't pick any of that up. Good to note is that it does pick up on light sources very well.
5. The App Store and iTunes Music Store
Shockingly enough, the app store is one of the iPhone's best features. Now you can just tap "App Store" from the main menu and instantly you have access to thousands of different apps. These range from addicting games and time fillers to more useful tools, to downright odd ones. You can quickly download any of these apps in a matter of seconds and let the fun begin. Wonderful feature.
The iTunes music store is also really great. You will be able to listen to 30-second clips of songs and download singular songs and entire albums right to the phone. Once you sync the phone to your computer the apps and music you purchased will be instantly added. Super cool.
6. Touch Functionality
Wonderful, spectacular, perfect. All of the little touch tricks you can preform work seamlessly and feel really nice to preform. When you are tapping and sliding through menus with your finger all you can really think is "Wow, this really is the next generation of the cell phone".
Final Score: 9.7/10. Best. Phone. Ever. The design, functionality, and interface of the phone make for one of the finest devices I have ever used. There are some small quibbles I have with the interface and camera. Also, the small speaker located on the bottom of the phone is fairly weak and tinny.
All of these things pale in comparison to the overall scope of what the iPhone can do Not only are the core functions of the phone very strong, the App Store guarantees that the iPhone will be an ever-evolving device that goes beyond just making calls. Instinct, BlackBerry Storm, take a hike. The iPhone is where its at.