Apple iPhone 3G 16GB

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Apple iPhone 3G 16GB

Cut, copy, and paste with a tap. Send text, photos, locations, and more. Search across your iPhone. Phone, iPod, and Internet device in one, iPhone 3...

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Review of "Apple iPhone 3G 16GB"

published 29/07/2008 | robert_parnham
Member since : 30/09/2003
Reviews : 46
Members who trust : 24
About me :
Super
Pro Great Unique Product
Cons Ultimately Disappointing
very helpful
Look & Feel
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Battery standby time
Battery talktime
Value for money

"i : PhoneBot"

There's a particular episode of the Simpsons I like very much, it's where Homer [a safety officer in a nuclear power plant] gets head-hunted by another company. Everything seems great, great job, great pay, great benefits and a cuddly "call me Dave" kind of boss. Except lurking below this wonderful corporate culture, the boss is secretly planning to take over the world, James Bond style.

In the back of my mind I've always thought of Apple in this way. They just seem too nicey - nicey, a bit soft and smiley for my liking and I've always had this uneasy feeling that, just like in the Simpsons, they are hatching their evil plans of world domination.

I'd just like to clarify for Apple's lawyers that I'm not suggesting they are busy building secret nuclear weapons, but instead bolstering their dominant position in the world of portable gadgetry, through their infamous iPod brand and now, the iPhone.

Now I have never owned a single Apple product in my life, so I'm not quite sure while I needed to purchase the latest must-have product; the Apple iPhone 3G.

THE BACKGROUND
----------------------------

This is Apple's second attempt at a mobile phone, with the original iPhone being an almost instant success when it was launched a little while back. This latest version is an update on what went before, with new software and the addition of 3G internet and GPS.

For the second phone Apple stuck with its network 'partner' O2 so if you want an iPhone you have the choice of just one network here in the UK and it's pretty much the same story everywhere else in the world. Don't know about you, but that doesn't exactly sound very touchy-feely, does it?

As I've been an O2 customer for a long time (they were called BT Cellnet when I joined) and I've always been amazed by the company's uncanny ability to make a balls-up of pretty much everything you ask them to do; so I didn't really have much faith in them taking part in the simultaneous worldwide launch of this new phone.

I was right. When their website opened for pre-orders a few days before they went on sale it fell over after about a minute and you still can't order a new phone online from them even now, weeks after the launch [review written end of July 2008]. On launch day itself the entire O2 system went down leaving people unable to get their hands on the product via any location other than the handful of handsets that were available via the retails stores.

I tried to order mine via Carphone Warehouse for delivery the day after launch, and after being assured by several different people to wait in and the order had been dispatched, I finally managed to speak to someone who told me the truth that "almost none of the iPhones actually got delivered on time". I then received an email a week later telling me my payment had been declined [actually they only asked my bank for 99p, not £99] and I wasn't going to get one at all.

Then I tried O2 business, who my current mobile account was with, who were very helpful and added my name to the waiting list and told me someone would call "in a few days" with a delivery update. Of course, no one actually did; they'd managed to change me onto an iPhone tariff, but not bothered to order one.

Fortunately the O2 website had been kept up to date with stock information so on Friday 25th July an updated list was published to say which O2 stores could supply one. My local store was listed and (as I need to pay some cheques in at the bank anyway) I decided to pop along.

To my surprise, the store was empty of customers and they had stock (although the "weren't allowed" to tell me how much) and could do my upgrade there and then. As I had already been changed onto the wrong tariff, this did cause confusion, but 3 quarters of an hour later I left with my new phone, in the box, ready to take home and activate. A substantial queue had built up during this time and I got the distinct impression that not everyone would be leaving the store similarly equipped.

COSTS AND CONTRACTS
----------------------------------

I'll come on to the phone in detail shortly, but briefly there's 2 models to choose from the 8GB or 16GB model, both which are the same expect the 16GB can hold more music, videos and photos and costs £49 more.

The 8GB model (the one I went for) costs £99 on a £30 or £35 a month tariff and is free on £45 / month and above. All contracts are for a minimum of 18 months. While I understand that this is a good deal cheaper than the previous generation iPhone, my contract is going to cost £729 over the next year and a half, so it's hardly being given away.

That said it's not a bad deal as far as contract tariffs go. £35 each month buys you 600 minutes to any network, 500 text messages and unlimited data access via Edge, 3G and WiFi access via BT or Cloud.

I know that's more than I'm ever going to need, so I'm pretty safe my monthly bill will be £35.00 each time, which is just a few pounds more than it was previously. You can also use your inclusive text messages from abroad (charged at 4 texts, per 1 sent) and you get reduced roaming rates too.

GETTING STARTED
---------------------------

The phone comes in a very posh case, just like a nice watch, and inside you get the phone, a brief manual (just a few pages), a booklet of government issued safety warnings & disclaimers, a set of headphones, a cleaning cloth, a charger and a data cable.

The first job to do is insert the sim card through an invisible slot at the top using a special tool which is also in the box. There are no real instructions in the box about how to go about this, so I ended up having to look on 02's website to see how to do it. Not a great start, really.

Next you have to download and install iTunes on your computer, which also involved creating an iTunes account as well as giving them a credit card number for my "future purchases". When that is all done, you are then allowed to connect the phone up to your computer and activate it. It was all fairly straight forward and quite easy to use, but it need feel a tad long-winded to enable what's essentially a gadget.

THE PHONE
-------------------

The first thing that strikes you about the phone is its minimal design. There's just 1 button on the front and 4 on the side and that's it. Size wise, it's about 20% longer than a credit card (sideways on) and just a tiny bit wider. It's actually thicker than the previous model but the rounded back makes it difficult to measure, but my non scientific measuring reckons it's the same as 11 credit cards stacked flat on top of each other.

The whole thing is touch screen and you simply tap your finger on what you want it to do. Unlike other PDA type devices there's no stylus, you have to use your fingers to work it.

The main menu is pretty much like a computer, the main parts of the phone are displayed as icons (calendar, maps, photos etc), plus 4 buttons along the bottom to access the more common functions.

Whenever you finish doing something, pressing the one button on the front of the phone takes you make to the menu (there's no close or cancel option you might expect if you've always been used to windows based computers).

It's also possible to move the icons around and add new programmes (some free) via iTunes. Although annoyingly it's not possible to delete the icons which are factory installed, although you can drag them to another menu, out of view.

For saying I've never used a iPod or anything similar before it was remarkably easy to use and intuitive to learn and I haven't got the time to go through every feature in detail; but here are the 3 best ones:

Safari:

This is Apple's web browser and I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that it the best web browser I've ever used on mobile, bar none. Actually it's pretty difficult to say how they could improve it. The navigation is very simple just click with your finger and away you go. You can see pages in windscreen too my simply turning the phone on its side.

The cleverest bit is the zoom. Say you were looking at this page on the iPhone, to zoom into this text of the review, just double tap. It will then automatically zoom in so just this section fills the screen. You can then scroll up and down using your fingers or make a funny gesture with 2 fingers (not the one you are thinking of) to zoom in or out. It's incredibly well thought out and brilliant to use.

***

Maps:

We've all probably had a go at looking in our neighbours back gardens by playing with maps.google.co.uk and the iPhone has got this too. Not only can you look at a map of anywhere in the world, but with a simple tap in the bottom left hand corner it will show you where you are. It does this by looking at the mobile phone signal you are receiving, and (if you are outside) by using it's built in GPS receiver to establish EXACTLY where you are (to with a few feet anyway).

It's quite spooky really and just with Google maps you can switch between a map and aerial photography plus use the same gestures to zoom in and out and scroll around. It will also give you directions too, but this don't confuse it with fledged "turn by turn" navigation system, as it's not designed to be that.

***

Mobile Me:

For an additional cost of £60 per year (or via a 3 month trial) you can install mobile me. This is basically a way of getting all your contacts, calendar and emails direct to your mobile phone.

While it works with email brilliantly (I got a new email address too, which my old one automatically forwards to), contacts and calendars both seem to be full of bugs. I have set up contacts and appointments on my phone only to have some of them vanish altogether. It seems that if Outlook is open [my email software on my main computer] rather than keep them in sync by updating stuff, it just deletes anything which doesn't match up. You can also access this over the internet too, but again this didn't seem to work properly either with lots of "server errors".

Apparently Apple are aware of the bugs are fixing them. When it works, it's great, but it makes a very poor imitation of a Blackberry.

You can also achieve this same by using the "Exchange Sever" feature or set up other email providers (noticeably not hotmail) but as I don't have that I can't review it.

***

It also has to be said that as a general theme running through the phone it really is excellent. There's a lot of thought gone in to how it works and even something that seems obviously like scrolling around a screen feels special.

If you can image the contents of the screen as being on some unseen, but incredibly smooth, wheels which you can just flick in any direction you like, you are about there. They seemed to have captured the essence of inertia perfectly and even the most mundane of tasks feel special.

NOT A BED OF ROSES
------------------------------

That's not to be said the phone is perfect. In fact I would say it's a very long way from that.

My first problem is network coverage. While 3G is great if you live in the middle of a very built up area, out here 3G coverage is rubbish (contrary to O2's website) so at home the phone offers nothing much over the previous model.

It does connect to my wireless network, but it stays connected all the time, which drains the battery. In an attempt to stop it constantly trying to find the weak 3G signal, I had to disabled it, which means that if I want to use the 3G internet out and about I have to manually turn it back on. I can't believe it would have been so hard just to have the phone "ask" whether I wanted to turn 3G (or the wireless) whenever I needed it.

As a result the useful map programme I talked about earlier simply doesn't work (at a speed which is acceptable) away from my WiFi connection. Again makes this other great feature pretty much redundant.

The net result is battery life, with even modest use, is about a day and a half between charges.

There's also basic stuff it can't do either. You can't for example just download a load of songs on to it and then pick one as a ring tone or message alert (as you can with almost any other phone), but only choose from a very limited selection on the phone or buy more from iTunes.

And then there's the camera, while it takes a decent enough photo, there's no zoom and you can't send picture messages either. Nor does there seem to be away of taking video clips. I'm not into 'happy slapping' or sending pictures to every man and his dog, but I occasionally used to do so and it just seems mad not to have these features included.

Then there's what I see as the basic flaw in the touch-screen only concept. While I love the way I can flick through the covers of my music selections, but it appears that you have to faff about with the touch screen every time I want to change tracks. I say 'it appears', as after I first published the review it was pointed out that you could stop / play and skip forward a track by squeezing the microphone that comes attached to the headphones. This is a really neat feature, but I doubt I would have found it myself - which begs the question; what's the point of having something really great, but making it so well hidden that many customers won't ever find?

My final gripe is reserved for the general bugs in the phone. I know it's new to the market, but this is the second generation of the same products and it should have been better sorted than this.

I've already said that it likes to delete my appointments or contacts, it also enjoys freezing occasionally (especially when clicking on "contacts") and sometimes takes it upon itself to rotate the screen without being asked.

When I had finished moaning about everything I didn't like my partner said "so you don't like it then?"

To which I replied "No this is a great piece of technology. Here we are in 2008 using something that looks like it came off the set of Star Trek. It's just I'm a bit disappointed they spent such a long time making a really smart product, with fantastic attention to details in some areas, but then spectacularly missed the point in others".

It's just disappointing. When buying something, you know - with almost certainty - if choose a Microsoft product, it will be good, but it won't work 100% properly until it's had a few software patches.

I though Apple were supposed to be different. I thought the big boss was there in comfy trousers having team-building-and-hugging-sessions with a team of dedicated geeks who were eager to revolutionise the mobile phone market. I though this phone would be both very different and be brilliant.

But this isn't brilliant. When you look past all the tinsel and hype, it's a bit of a let down. Maybe it's me just setting my expectations to high, but I doubt it.

Indeed, perhaps they should have spent less time on focusing on world domination (and restrictive marketing) and more time on the product.

The iPhone is a paradox, while it's a really great product; it just misses the point, on a very basic level, of what actually a mobile phone should be. And for all the money that it costs - that's just not good enough.

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Comments on this review

  • blackmagicstar4 published 20/04/2009
    Excellent review- E x
  • Eazy_Rider published 08/02/2009
    Great review, thanks :)
  • patriciat published 22/09/2008
    Not one I would consider as I just know I'd never fathom out how to work it. I know a few people who have one and haven't been over impressed. It does look very lovely though. Pat.t x
  • Did you find this review interesting? Do you have any questions? Sign into your Ciao account to leave the author a comment. Log in

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Product Information : Apple iPhone 3G 16GB

Manufacturer's product description

Cut, copy, and paste with a tap. Send text, photos, locations, and more. Search across your iPhone. Phone, iPod, and Internet device in one, iPhone 3G offers desktop-class email, an amazing maps application, and Safari - mobile web browser. With fast 3G wireless technology, GPS mapping, support for enterprise features like Microsoft Exchange, and the App Store, iPhone 3G puts even more features at your fingertips. And like the original iPhone, it combines three products in one - a revolutionary phone, a widescreen iPod, and a breakthrough Internet device with rich HTML email and a desktop-class web browser. iPhone 3G. It redefines what a mobile phone can do - again. Find your location, get directions, and see traffic - all from your phone. Maps on iPhone 3G combines GPS, Wi-Fi, and cell tower location technology with the Multi-Touch interface to create the best mobile map application ever. Get directions to wherever from wherever. View a list of turn-by-turn directions or follow a highlighted map route and track your progress with live GPS tracking. Just like Google Maps on your computer, Maps on iPhone lets you switch between views of Google Map data, satellite images, and a hybrid of both. Multi-Touch makes the difference. Tap to Zoom, pan, and change your view on the move. Maps on iPhone shows you live traffic information, indicating traffic speed along your route in easy-to-read green, red, and yellow highlights.

Product Details

Product Description: Apple iPhone 3G - black - 3G 16 GB - GSM - smartphone, Apple iPhone 3G - white - 3G 16 GB - GSM - smartphone

Product Type: Smartphone

Mobile Broadband Generation: 3G

Smartphone Memory: 16 GB

Service Provider: O2, Not specified

Form Factor: Touch

Dimensions (WxDxH): 62 mm x 12 mm x 116 mm

Weight: 133 g

Colour: Black, White

Technology: WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM

Band: WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900

Integrated Components: Digital camera, digital player, GPS receiver, voice recorder

Rear-facing Camera Resolution: 2 Megapixel

Wireless Interface: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

Display: LCD display - colour - 3.5" - TFT

Input Device(s): Touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)

Operating System: OS X

Playback Digital Standards: WAV, AAC, AIFF, MP3, Apple Lossless

Talk Time: Up to 600 minutes

Standby Time: Up to 300 hours

Cellular / Operating System: iOS

Long Name: iPhone 3G

Cellular / Phone Design: Candybar

Display Type: TFT; 16M colours; 320 x 480 pixels

Communications / Wireless Interface: Wifi; Bluetooth

Cellular / Technology: UMTS; HSDPA; GSM; EDGE

Cellular / Band: Quad Band

Phone Design: Classic

Cellular / Combined with: 2 MP digital camera; digital player

Battery / Standby Time: 300

Cellular / Integrated Components: Digital camera; Digital player

Length: 114 mm

Width: 61 mm

Height: 12 mm

Cellular / Phone Form Factor: Classic

Cellular / Mobile Broadband Generation: 3G

Cellular / Type: Smartphone

Manufacturer: Apple

General

MPN: MB496B/A, MB500B/A, MB496T/A

Product Type: Smartphone

Form Factor: Touch

Integrated Components: Digital camera, digital player, GPS receiver, voice recorder

Aerial: Internal

Width: 62 mm

Depth: 12 mm

Height: 116 mm

Weight: 133 g

Body Colour: Black, White

Cellular

Technology: WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM

Band: WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900

Mobile Broadband Generation: 3G

Service Provider: O2, Not specified

Operating System: OS X

SIM Card Type: Mini SIM

Input Device(s): Multi-touch

Messaging & Internet

Cellular Messaging Services: MMS, SMS

Supported Email Protocols: POP3, IMAP4

Messaging & Data Features: PDF support, Microsoft Word support, Microsoft Excel support

Communications

Data Transmission: GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA

Wireless Interface: IEEE 802.11b/g, Bluetooth 2.0 EDR

Communication Features: Mobile Email client, Internet browser

Phone Features

Phone Functions: Speakerphone, call timer, conference call

Polyphonic Ringer: Yes

Organiser

Personal Information Management: Calculator

Media Player

Supported Digital Audio Standards: WAV, AAC, AIFF, MP3, Apple Lossless

Memory

User Memory: 16 GB

Digital Camera

Rear-facing Camera Resolution: 2 Megapixel

Navigation System

Navigation: A-GPS receiver

Display

Type: LCD display - colour

Technology: TFT

Diagonal Size: 3.5"

Display Resolution: 320 x 480 pixels

Display Illumination Colour: White

Connections

Connector Type: 1 x headset jack - mini-phone 3.5mm ¦ 1 x dock connector - 30 pin dock connector

Battery

Run Time Details: Talk - up to 600 min ¦ Standby - up to 300 hrs

Miscellaneous

Included Accessories: Hands-free headset, cleaning cloth, USB cable, power adapter

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