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As most of you will already be aware, the iPhone is Apple's Smart Phone and is considered to be the market leader in this area. This phone is not the newest incarnation of the phone but is the second generation. When the iPhone works it makes tasks much easier than it's competitors but it's flaws also make it incredibly frustrating to use. It's almost as though it sets the bar so high for the things it succeeds at it also acts to highlights it's flaws more obviously.
What does the iPhone 4 have over other telephones? First and foremost, it is very simple to operate. Installation is incredibly straight forward but does require a computer. Apple operate on a plug and play mantra and this applies to the iPhone which you can have up and running in no time. The phone itself is lightweight and a decent size for a pocket or bag (4.5 inches tall/ 2.3 inches wide/ 137g in weight)). The screen size itself is ample at 3.5 inches and the clarity of picture exceptional (but I believe outclassed by the newer 4s which is HD).
The general operational hub of the phone is easy to access through a desktop icon 'settings' and from here you can access, adapt and change all of your phones functions from ring tones through to setting up email accounts. The latter is alot more straightforward than other smart phones and requires the simple input of data such as email address, password, etc... and it does the rest. I know some have experienced problems with email on the iPhone but I haven't. I've had it a year and a half now and it's not gone wrong once in that time. This is compared to previously owned Nokia's or PDA's where re-installation was required on a few occasions due to not being able to retrieve email.
Navigation around the iPhone's functions is straightforward and by and large intuitive. Each display is made of a map of icons you can click on to give you options. To go back a screen you either use the breadcrumbs in the top left of the screen directing you back to the previous page. If you want to skip straight back to the home page simply press the large 'home' button at the bottom on the front of the phone. It's self explanatory and works very well rarely making navigation frustrating.
The iPhone uses a touch screen rather than key pad and on the whole it functions excellently. It does have the very occasional freeze but not as often as you would have thought. On the whole it is very responsive. My only slight grumble would be that the keypad can sometimes be a bit tricky to use with big, clumsy man hands where you hit more than one letter at a time. That said, the same issues arise with small keypads on other phones too.
The key issue with the iPhone is that it doesn't seem to actually work terribly well as a telephone. It's great for internet, apps, etc... But when it comes to the simple art of making and receiving calls, it let's itself down. Often you will inexplicably not receive a call despite having full reception. The caller will be sent straight to voice mail without you even knowing. The phone also has a mind of it's own. It will sometimes randomly call back the last number dialed even if you didn't ask it to, leading some embarrassing situations. Given this is essentially it's main function, it's very frustrating that it doesn't work properly. The sound can also bit a bit distant if not held in the right way - if you get a little further from the mouthpiece you struggle to be heard on the other end. I find these faults fairly fundamental. I appreciate the not receiving calls is a common issue with smartphones but feel it happens more frequently with the iPhone than other models.
Writing texts and other messages is straightforward and other than the size of the keypad, i have one other complaint. Predictive writing on it - how do you switch it off? It's a pain. You type a word and press the space button but if there is a word the iPhone likes more it will replace it leading to countless typos. As you type, the iPhone chosen word appears in a box above it and the only way to prevent it replacing your chosen word is through an incredibly fiddly cross beside it which is so small you miss it more often than not.
Back to positives - many of the phones other functions are very good. The iPhone camera is excellent as is the management of photos. The camera itself is 5 mp and the clarity of images it can produce is very high and with great depth and definition. Managing photos can be done in 2 ways - you can either scroll through your pictures in an album way where you can click through using back/ forward buttons or to find a specific image quickly you can use the camera roll which gives you a scrolling screen of small thumbnails.
Sending images is also easy by using the icon on the bottom left side if the screen. From here with one click you can attach the relevant image to an email or text message. If you connect to iTunes you are also able to back up your images so you don't lose everything if your phone goes missing. Again, this is easy to do and straight forward. My only complaint here is with mp3's and the fact you can't get them off your phone once they are on but this is common with iPods too and just seems the way Apple do things.
With that said, the mp3 player is great and sound quality very good. It offers a full and not too tin-y sound. The layout for song selection offers good variety in how you can navigate your music. You can browse by playlist, artist, song or video. In each subsection there is a handy alphabet running Down the right hand side of the screen meaning skipping through to what you want is easy. I have found on Previous iPods that the scroll wheel was clumsy,slow to use and didn't work half the time so this is a welcome addition.
The battery life leaves something to be desired compared to other products on the market. If you use it constantly, particularly online use, then it's likely it will only last 4-5 hours. Internet seems to be the biggest battery killer so it might be ok for you if you don't intend to do much online. I'm told other products are far superior in this department.
The iPhone uses Internet Explorer as it's web browser and on the whole it works very quickly. One bonus I find is that you can also view full websites, not just mobile only sites on it. When I had my old Nokia it was very frustrating that I could only view mobile sites and not the full ones.
Apps can become an obsession with countless being available for download free or at a cost and I think one of the main draws is the App store. I think competitors are still a way behind and most manufacturers will still make Apple Apps before other type of App in my experience. It's a great way to get you hooked into the Apple product because you can't transfer them to any other device... so if you've spent a fortune on Apps you may be reluctant to switch from the iPod. In order to get Apps you also need an account with iTunes (another Apple hook-up) and you can end up spending a fortune on games and other gimmick. Usually you'll need Wi-Fi connected to download larger files.
Picking up Wi-Fi works effectively on the iPhone. Once you have established a connection to a network it will remember it every time you revisit and automatically log you in. This can be annoying too as it will also continuously try to connect you to subscription Wi-Fi sites such as btopen. The 3G is pretty fast as well but like the telephone signal also inexplicably drops out too. For an entire mile radius in Covent Garden, London I had no signal whatsoever so you need to be wary of the unexplained black spots.
In conclusion, this is a good product but you do get the sense that the hype and stigma attached to an Apple product outweighs it effectiveness and you are buying into the name and design. Yes, it is easy to use and has some great functions but the simple things it can't do properly make it overtly frustrating. When it comes to renewing my contract I am strongly considering looking elsewhere