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 28/11/2008 | mattwood
Member since : 31/12/2002
Reviews : 47
Members who trust : 57
About me :
I'm a 21-year-old student of Modern History and German at Hertford College, Oxford, currently living in Bonn, Germany. I've just rediscovered Ciao after a long absence and would welcome any comments on my latest review!
Super
Pro Wonderful user interface, class-leading internet features, huge range of applications, fun to play with
Cons Expensive, perhaps not too robust, only available on O2, some bewildering limitations
very helpful
Look & Feel
Durability & Robustness
Battery standby time
Battery talktime
Value for money

"Mobile Wonder or Rotten Apple?"

STEVE JOBS, the somewhat polarising alpha-nerd whose Silicon Valley company gave rise to the Mac, the celebrated iPod and now the iPhone, tends to come across as a little intransigent. "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give it to them," technology's most individualistic head honcho is on the record as saying. "By the time you get it built, they'll want something new!" Indeed. Your opinion on the nonchalance of Apple Incorporated as they shamelessly give short shrift to the established rules of market research and product design will probably determine your view of the Apple iPhone. If your current mobile serves as a workhorse and you consider the idea of blowing several hundred quid on a phone which refuses to do something as straightforward as forwarding a text message to be laughable, then you and the iPhone seem to have got off on altogether the wrong foot, and you really might as well stop reading now. On the other hand, if you're willing to take such a staple of modern life as the mobile phone and see its role redefined, for good and for bad, and - even better - if you consider being something of a guinea pig in such a pursuit to be quite exciting, then the iPhone might just sit happily in your front pocket.

** The Exterior **

Even before you've switched it on, the exterior of the device might give you some idea of what to expect. First revelation: the iPhone has fewer physical buttons than you have fingers on each hand. Pretty much the sum of the physical feedback you'll be getting from the iPhone is contained in a small sliver of a button on the top, which you'll use to switch the device on, alongside a volume key on the side of the phone, and the single button on the phone's fascia, which you'll be using to end your current task and return to the phone's home screen. The rest of your interaction with the iPhone will be conducted through its enormous touchscreen. Use of the touchscreen is absolutely central to the use of the iPhone, as well as to the variety of reactions to the device. If you just can't live without the tactile feedback of physical buttons, or if your job is such that you need to use your mobile without looking, then the iPhone is probably not for you. On the other hand, the touchscreen is far more responsive than anything you might have encountered on competing devices, and after a period of acclimatisation it feels like an incredibly natural way to control the phone. It must be said, however, that it also makes the phone a little large and bulky - you'll feel every one of its 135 grams and 115 x 61 x 12mm dimensions - and perhaps also a little fragile in comparison to some of the more robust Nokia handsets. Whilst the build quality is undoubtedly high and the device is in fact pretty resistant to scratching, I reckon that dropping it on a concrete floor could prove an excruciating experience. Butterfingers beware.

Before we move on to the bevy of features which the phone possesses, a little more needs to be said regarding the way you'll be using the iPhone. Apple's philosophy seems to have been that traditional methods of human-machine interaction, like buttons and long lists of options, have been impeding the mobile phone's usability for far too long. And they might just be right - once you've played with the iPhone, going back to a 'normal' mobile just seems like a trial. Usage of the iPhone is very natural and uninhibited, even for the technophobe - opening a text message is simply a matter of pressing on it, and scrolling through your contacts is achieved by flicking your finger upwards or downwards, much as if you were flicking though a physical book. Apple's 'multi-touch' technology takes the idea a step further; when viewing a photo, for example, placing two fingers upon the screen and moving them outwards will make the picture appear larger, whilst pinching them together will gradually reduce its size. It's amazing how five minutes with the iPhone can make usage of a bog-standard mobile feel very tedious and unnatural. Of course, this assumes that you can live with such fundamental changes to how your phone works. There's a definite 'love it or hate it' element here.

** Yes, It Makes Phone Calls! **

Time to look at the phone's functions. With a device so complex, it can be easy to forget that what you have is, in essence, a telephone. Fortunate, then, that the iPhone makes and handles calls very well. From the iPhone's home screen, clicking on the phone icon which lives at the bottom is the first step. From here, you can call up a list of your contacts, which can either be browsed using the aforementioned method or selected quickly by tapping the first letter of either their first name or surname (this is configurable). Another click brings up a well-spaced and easy-to-use virtual keypad, and there's also direct access to your recent calls and voicemail, in addition to the ability to create a list of your 'favourite' contacts. When in a call, the phone's other functions remain at your service, as does a speakerphone of decent volume and the ability to mute your current call or to initiate a second. You can expect to get around five hours of talk time before recharging (assuming that this is your sole use of the phone, which is unlikely to be the case.) Whilst on the subject of calls, the iPhone naturally provides the ability to link with a Bluetooth headset; meanwhile, I feel obliged to say that as with pretty much all recent handsets, the call quality is more than acceptable. Admittedly none of this is revolutionary stuff, but the iPhone's interface manages to make something as mundane as a phone call feel rather new. The selection of ringtones, meanwhile, is less pleasing, and adding new ones from your own music for free will require some trickery with your computer to get the phone to accept them.

For the textaholic more than for anybody else, the iPhone is a case of try-before-you-buy. Text messaging, as with any other text input on the iPhone, is conducted via an on-screen QWERTY keyboard, which also changes to show numbers and symbols at the tap of a finger. The challenge of cramming three dozen virtual keys onto the phone's screen means that each letter is necessarily rather small, an issue which is compounded by the baffling inability to orient the keyboard horizontally and thus make the best use of the phone's screen. With that said, you may be surprised to discover that after a little practice, my typing speed on the iPhone has come to exceed greatly that on a standard keypad, even in comparison to the full physical QWERTY keyboard which my previous phone boasted. A lot of this, as strange as it may sound, comes in putting your trust in the phone. Not only does the screen recognise your presses with uncanny accuracy, but the phone also features a clever auto-correction system which puts your mistakes right based upon a dictionary and the location of the keys on the keyboard; in this fashion, 'miataje' becomes 'mistake', and 'nivenver' becomes 'November'. This is a lot easier to use than it is to explain, and has allowed my typing speed on the iPhone to come reasonably close to that on a computer keyboard. If you're the kind of person who can't abide predictive (T9) text messaging, though, you'll probably despise the iPhone's approach. Other than this, the iPhone's principal innovation concerning texting comes in the fashion in which an exchange of messages with one contact are not displayed individually, but rather in sequence upon the phone's screen, as if you were using an instant messenger. Like the touchscreen, this is so breathtakingly simple and uninhibited that you're left to marvel at why it's taken this long for someone to do it. A couple of frustrations remain, however. As mentioned above, the phone simply cannot forward a text message; an even more bewildering issue is the complete lack of any MMS (picture messaging) functionality, a staple feature of mobile phones for at least five years. Receiving an MMS is nevertheless possible, if odious - you'll be sent a link to a web page from which you can view the message through the iPhone's web browser. Sending an MMS, on the other hand, is completely out of the question - Mr. Jobs, in his infinite wisdom, reckons that if you desire to send somebody a picture, you can always email it. Many would disagree.

** Surfing the Web **

The main motivation to buy the iPhone over any number of competing handsets, however, is its internet capability. Phones that can surf the web are nothing new - but again, what sets the iPhone apart is the manner of implementation. Taking centre stage for general web browsing is the Mobile Safari browser, accessible through an icon near to the 'phone' icon. If you use a Mac, this is the mobile version of the highly competent web browser which comes as default; if you don't, let it suffice to say that Mobile Safari offers easily the best internet experience found on a mobile phone. Unlike many competing products, the browser renders web pages quickly, and the results are almost always identical to what you'd see on your PC. It even supports tabbed browsing, in addition to more basic features such as bookmarking. The advanced touch controls also work here, allowing you not just to scroll the page but also to zoom in and out; what's more, rotating the phone whilst browsing the web will automatically rotate the view accordingly, allowing you to get a better view of many web pages. The only substantial drawback is that content which relies on Adobe's Flash plugin isn't supported - not a major headache, but something to consider if you commonly browse such interactive websites.

Of course, it must be said that the speed of the web browser, in common with all the iPhone's internet-enabled functions, depends heavily on the speed of the internet connection which is available to the phone. iPhone offers two means of connecting to the internet. The first, and by far the fastest, is by connecting to a local Wi-Fi network, as you may well have in your home or otherwise have used in hotels or other public areas. The iPhone fully supports the popular wireless security systems used by your wireless router - just type in your password and you're set. Naturally, connecting to your own wireless network or another free network means that you can access the internet without incurring any charges imposed by your mobile provider and regardless of whether your phone has a signal.

When away from Wi-Fi, the iPhone will automatically revert to your mobile network in order to connect you to the internet. Depending on the type and quality of mobile coverage in your area, the speed of this will range from pretty fast to excruciatingly slow. The new iPhone's '3G' designation refers to its ability to connect to the internet at the fastest speed currently possible via a mobile network; 3G coverage is available in almost all larger towns and cities and is spreading to less sparsely populated areas as the mobile providers expand their networks. For the techies, the other types of data connection supported by the iPhone are EDGE and basic GPRS; here coverage is almost universal, but usage of some of the iPhone's more impressive features such as the ability to download applications and music becomes rather frustrating. It's best to check local coverage on the network's website before committing to a flashy phone like this. (In the UK, the network can only be O2; more on this later.)

The iPhone's internet capability goes far beyond browsing traditional web sites, and is central to most of the handset's advanced functions. Firstly, the iPhone boasts a fully featured e-mail client, which can be configured to work with the Microsoft Exchange mail system favoured by many businesses, in addition to many web-based services such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail, and almost any mail account which you normally access using an email application such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird. Reading and replying to email is generally swift, including the ability to attach photos taken with the phone's camera, and the phone can display most of the attachments which you'll receive, including Microsoft Word and Excel documents and Adobe PDF files. My only major bugbear is the phone's inability to cut and paste text. (Don't expect Apple to do anything about this soon; people have been moaning about it since the launch of the phone, and with every passing software update Apple have done precisely nothing to remedy the situation!) Also, if you're planning to use the iPhone for your business email, it might be work checking with your company as to their level of support for the iPhone, since the Blackberry is much more established within many organisations as a mobile e-mail device.

** Maps and Music **

Many of the iPhone's other internet-enabled features are equally suited to pleasure as to business. Particularly impressive is the mapping feature. If you've ever used Google Maps or any of the similar web sites, this will be familiar to you; the phone can download very detailed worldwide mapping data, both in the form of traditional road maps and Google Earth-style satellite mapping. Locating a destination and displaying a route between two locations is as easy as pie. The novelty is that the iPhone 3G contains a GPS receiver, or what lots of us would call a sat-nav; this allows the phone to track your location in real time and calculate personalised route directions, as well as showing you local amenities. For such a compact device, this is astonishingly accurate and very useful, although it must be added that unlike your sat-nav, the handset doesn't store any maps itself, instead downloading these from the internet, in what is technically called Assisted GPS; also, true turn-by-turn voice-guided navigation is sadly not available. Despite these shortcomings, this is a marvellous and well-implemented feature, albeit one which drains the battery very quickly.

Apple's signature product is the iPod, and it should be of little surprise to you that the iPhone includes a fully functional one. At this point it's probably time to mention that the iPhone 3G comes in 8GB and 16GB flavours - enough room for about 2000 or 4000 average-sized songs, respectively. If you've ever used an iPod Touch, then the iPhone's music player will be familiar to you, since the two are identical. Whether you have or not, the iPhone's music functionality amounts to the best iPod yet. Songs and artists can be selected using the same simple touch navigation which the phone employs for contacts, with the addition of the 'Cover Flow' mode which is activated by holding the phone horizontally and allows you to flick through your album covers visually in the same fashion as the iTunes computer program. Uploading songs to the iPhone is achieved very simply through iTunes, either automatically or according to your exact wishes, and playlists can either be copied from the computer or created on the phone itself. The iPhone also features video playback, meaning that you can watch music videos, TV shows or any other form of video which you have on your PC on the iPhone. Most videos will need to be converted to the iPhone's format, but software to do this is freely available and the iPhone's video playback is of very good quality. It's also possible to listen to music whilst using the iPhone's other features; if a call comes in, your music will simply fade out. The phone is supplied with a set of earphones which include a handy microphone which doubles as a button that can be used to pause your music or to skip songs, though for such an expensive device the audio quality of the earphones leaves something to be desired, and you'll probably want to invest in a better pair if you're serious about your music. Otherwise, the iPod functionality works very well and is as easy as pie to use, as you'd expect from Apple.

** Pretty as a Picture **

The iPhone's camera, on the other hand, is mediocre and might well be a step down for you, particularly if you currently own one of the better Nokia or Sony Ericsson handsets. It's only 2-megapixel and has no autofocus or flash, meaning that the picture quality, whilst not terrible, compares unfavourably to almost all the other handsets in the iPhone's price bracket. What's more, video recording is glaringly absent, as are any form of camera options such as brightness and white balance. The number of photos you can store is limited only by the phone's huge memory, though I wouldn't recommend relying on the camera for anything other than casual snaps.

The camera may be a let-down, but the iPhone's system for viewing photos is leagues ahead of competing phones. This is more useful than you'd think, as the iPhone makes it easy to transfer photos from your computer onto the phone. The iTunes software automatically resizes photos before copying them to the phone and will preserve any folders which you might have used to organise your photos, making it very simple to carry your entire photo collection on the phone without using too much of its memory. 1000 of my photos are using far less than 1GB of the phone's 16GB memory, and thanks to the iPhone's impressive photo gallery features, flicking through my pictures of holidays and social events rarely fails to impress my friends. Photos are navigated simply by swiping your finger backward and forwards, and can be zoomed in and out using a pinching motion; in addition, the phone can display a slideshow, as well as use a photo as your wallpaper or associate it with a particular contact. Depending on your view, you'll either love the photo gallery feature or see it as pretty gimmicky; what can't be denied is that the user-friendly technology behind it is very impressive and a joy to use.

Completing the iPhone's standard functions are the calendar, clock and note-making functions. The latter three are pretty standard fare; like most modern handsets, the iPhone will allow you to synchronise your calendar with Microsoft Outlook and other popular calendar programs and can remind you of events in advance. As ever, the iPhone's implementation of the calendar is a joy to use thanks to the responsive interface and clever touch functionality. The 'notes' function is essentially what you'd expect, giving you a convenient way to make and review quick notes which are typed using the phone's on-screen keyboard. 'Clock' provides not just a clock but also a world clock, an alarm function, stopwatch and countdown timer, whilst the phone's calculator transforms from a basic calculator into a fully-fledged scientific version, depending upon whether the phone is held vertically or horizontally. All of these features, naturally, are very simple to work with.

** The App Store **

So far I've limited myself to talking about the features of the iPhone as it comes 'out-of-the-box'. The true beauty of the device, however, is the ability to choose from a vast range of new applications which extend the device's capability in almost any direction you can imagine. Applications have to be downloaded from Apple's 'App Store', either through your computer or the phone itself; lots of these are free, whilst some have a cost ranging from 30p to £10, chargeable to your iTunes account. The variety of applications available is impossible to capture in a review, but the highlights range from applications providing easy access to popular social networks like Facebook, Myspace or Last.fm, through a wide range of addictive games such as Checkers or Labyrinth (many of which use the phone's clever tilt functionality), to such wonders as Shazam, a clever service which instantly recognises a song which is playing in a shop, club or anywhere else and informs you of the title and artist, in addition to Google Earth, instant messengers and a handy currency converter. Whatever you want your iPhone to do, it's likely that someone has written an application to make it possible, making the App Store one of the main draws of the iPhone and truly setting it apart from competing phones. There's even an official 'Remote' app to control the music that's playing on your computer over your wireless network.

** Practicalities **

Now I've whet your appetite for the iPhone, I sadly have to finish with a few nasty practicalities. Possibly the biggest problem is that in almost every country, the iPhone is exclusive to one mobile provider, normally that which gives Apple the most money. In the UK, this means that it's only possible to use the iPhone on the O2 network - nobody's managed to unlock the iPhone 3G to work on another network, and even a successful attempt will probably break some of the phone's functionality. Whether this is a problem for you depends on your view of O2 and their network coverage in your area.

What's more, the iPhone, it has to be said, isn't cheap. The contract flavours of the iPhone can only be used on special iPhone tariffs, which will see you paying a minimum of £30 a month for 18 months, inclusive of just 75 free minutes and 125 texts, although unlimited web browsing is also included. With the cheaper contracts, O2 will also charge you £99 to purchase the 8GB iPhone and £169 for the 16GB version; getting the handset for nothing will require you to sign a £45-per-month contract for the 8GB and £75 per month for the 16GB. The iPhone is also available as a pay-as-you-go phone; in this way you're not tied into a contract, but you'll pay a wallet-busting £349 or £399 for the 8GB and 16GB iPhones, respectively. O2 will kindly give you a year's free internet browsing on the pay-as-you-go iPhone, but subsequent unlimited browsing will require a £10 per month subscription. Whichever way you look at it, then, the privilege of owning the iPhone will take its toll on your wallet.

Last but not least, a word on battery life. As you may know, the iPhone's battery isn't removable, which rules out the possibility of carrying a spare battery with you. Battery life is advertised as up to 10 hours talk time and a hefty 300 hours standby time, but what you'll get in reality depends on your usage of the phone. If you use the handset fairly lightly for calls and texts, you'll probably get between three and five days of usage before you need to recharge. On the other hand, if you make heavy use of the phone's internet capabilities, and in particular if you use the GPS mapping heavily, expect to be charging your iPhone every day. Fortunately, the phone charges quickly either from the mains or from your PC. A mains charge from flat to about 80% charged will take an hour or so; charging to full capacity or from a PC can take substantially longer.

In conclusion, I love my Apple iPhone. In spite of this, an unequivocal recommendation isn't possible and might just be misleading, because your view of the iPhone will depend so much on the role your mobile phone plays in your life. If you want to be at the forefront of mobile phone technology, enjoying a wonderful user interface, a massive range of applications and intuitive and almost universally available internet connectivity, in addition to the best music player on the market, then the iPhone 3G might well be for you, especially if you don't mind paying for the privilege. Yet if you see your phone primarily as a phone, and iPods, sat-navs and online games of Texas Hold 'Em as distracting gimmicks, then the iPhone is likely to be a phenomenal and frustrating waste of your money. The Apple iPhone, then, is ultimately as polarising and idiosyncratic as Steve Jobs himself.

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Comments on this review

  • bermudaviper published 24/03/2010
    Great review, sums it up perfectly.
  • catsholiday published 16/04/2009
    A lot of very useful information - clear and well written - sue
  • jeaniecz published 04/03/2009
    Great detail and experiece share, thanks!!
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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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