Apple iPhone

October 10th, 2007

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Many consumers have just fallen in love with their iPods and have been anxiously waiting for Apple to release a phone. Here’s my iPhone review.

Make sure you check out the gallery for some pictures.

Before I continue you’re probably wondering how pro or anti-Apple I am. I’d say I’m fairly neutral; I don’t own an iPod. I had an iPod photo a while back but really disliked it. I do have a couple of Mac’s at home. One of them runs OSX exclusively, one runs Windows and OSX 50/50 and the other runs Windows all the time. I don’t dislike OSX but I wouldn’t say I’m crazy about Windows either. I also have a machine that’s dedicated to Linux plus a few computers that run Windows only.

Now there has been some controversy over the unlocking of iPhones and Apple’s stance on them. When the iPhone was released it didn’t take long for people to figure out how to unlock them. When Apple released the iPhone’s first software update, they basically said they don’t like how people are unlocking them and that the software update might break their iPhones. Now unlocking is pretty common in the phone industry so it’s kind of strange that Apple is so annoyed by this. I guess you can really tell which company is a newb to the phone industry. Anyways, not liking people unlocking their phone is one thing, threatening to break people’s phones is another. As far as public perception goes, Apple tries to present itself as this cool, hip company but I guess we know better.

Still, it’s not all bad; I’m impressed Apple released a new software that fixed bugs, improved some things and actually added some new functionality.

Physical Impressions:

If you’ve owned other Apple products you can see the family resemblances. The Apple logo on the back (found on most of their computers); the speaker holes on the bottom (which look just like the ones on the newest iMac); the colour scheme match the newest iMacs plus the iPhone looks very similar to the iPod Touch. You even need a paper clip to eject the SIM card holder which brings back memories of the first gen iMacs which needed a paper clip to reset them.

While the iPhone isn’t a small phone, it’s pretty thin. I was impressed with how solid the iPhone feels though a lot of this is due to the fact that the battery is not removable.

The iPhone has a touch screen. While the touch screen on most devices are usually recessed, the iPhone’s is flush with the rest of the front of the phone. Although it looks very cool, there are downsides (more on that later).

Instead of using a stylus to navigate, you just use your sweaty, oily finger. I don’t miss having a stylus at all and have been using Pocket PC’s and Palm devices with just my finger anyways for years. It’s nice that Apple has designed the UI with fingers in mind.

Like Apple’s notebook computer touchpads, you can use two fingers simultaneously on the iPhone’s touchscreen. If you’ve never used an Apple touchpad before, it’s a brilliant idea – most of the time. Here’s how you use it; when you want to click something you use one finger. When you want to zoom in or out, you keep one finger on the iPhone and drag the other finger towards or away from the stationary one.

Unfortunately, you can’t select text which means you can’t copy and paste it.

If you’re editing some text and need to position yourself between some letters, just press and hold your finger on the screen, a small magnifying glass will pop up to make positioning easier.

The screen looks great. Apple has done a fantastic job creating an attractive user interface. As far as looks goes, my opinion is that it’s miles ahead of the competition. While it measures 3.5″ diagonally and has a resolution that makes it feel bigger and the res higher than it really is – I’d attribute that to the slick UI.

Text entry is accomplished via an on screen keyboard. I’m not crazy about the keyboard because you can’t feel the keys with your fingers.

Anyways, the on screen keyboard is different from most others in that it was programmed with fingers in mind (as opposed to a stylus). If you type and make a mistake, the iPhone will correct it for you. In practice it works okay so you can actually go pretty quickly.

Button wise there are hardly any; you get a home button on the front, volume buttons plus a vibrate mode switch on the left and a screen off/power button on top.

The large touch screen and minimal amount of buttons makes for a pretty slick look. Large touch screen and minimal amount of buttons also make the iPhone a finger print and face oil magnet.

There’s a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack on top. The jack is recessed so you probably won’t be able to use your own headphones without an adapter.

Hands-free usage:

There is support for Bluetooth headsets, stereo headphones and a speakerphone.

The speakerphone’s maximum volume isn’t that great.

You don’t get any sort of voice command features with the iPhone.

Miscellaneous:

Charging and computer connectivity is handled by the iPod connector on the bottom of the iPhone.

There’s no memory card slot, though with 4Gb (soon to be discontinued) or 8Gb space, this isn’t that big of an issue.

Menus:

The menu is similar to other devices in that there’s a launcher type program where you can see all the programs located on the iPhone. Where the iPhone differs from other devices are it’s sweet menu transitions and the overall speed and responsiveness.

Normally I dislike transitions because I want to get where I’m going as fast as possible but they’re so seamless on the iPhone I don’t mind them at all. Even tasks which are normally a little slower such as opening a browser or checking your email happens as quickly as something simple like changing menu settings.

The time and date, battery life, WiFi status and network info are shown at the top of the screen. The iPhone differs from most other phones in that there are no softkeys so the bottom of the display doesn’t always have menu options. I find that not having softkeys means that when there are options at the bottom of the screen, they blend in more with the rest of the UI which is great from an aesthetic standpoint.

To switch between programs, you have to press the home button which brings you back to the launcher.

Like I mentioned before, the iPhone has a touch screen. One thing it doesn’t have is the ability to select text which can get annoying.

When you’re viewing sites, there are no persistent scroll bars on the sides. Scroll bars might show up if you scroll.

To scroll, place your finger on the screen, leave it there and move it up or down. If you flick your finger really fast then you’ll scroll really fast. What’s sweet is that the iPhone is really fast so that the display scrolls very smoothly even when you do it really fast.

Phone Related Features:

The phone part of the iPhone can be accessed by launching the phone app which is at the bottom of the program screen.

There’s a phonebook, dial pad and call list. You can add phonebook entries to a favorites menu (it’s like a speed dial but not as speedy). You also get one button access to your voicemail.

The phonebook is fairly easy to use. If you press and hold while scrolling, an alphabet pops up on the right side so you can quickly scroll to the letter you want. The letters are kind of small but the scroll speed is fast enough that this isn’t a big deal.

Connected Features:

To get on the web you have WiFi, Bluetooth and EDGE.

Before I continue, let me talk about how my iPhone experience went. I got the iPhone, opened it, bypassed the activation and then played with it for a while using WiFi. Later I unlocked it, popped a SIM card and went out (where there was no WiFi).

If you’re surfing the web, checking email or using You Tube, going from an area where there’s WiFi to an area with none is like blasting along an open highway and then hitting rush hour traffic – it sucks. You will get where you want to go – eventually.

I wouldn’t say that EDGE on the iPhone makes me want to scratch my eyes out when I use it but it’s clearly one of the worst things about the iPhone.

While you get Bluetooth, you can’t use the iPhone as a Bluetooth modem. To me this isn’t as bad since you’d only get EDGE speeds anyways.

Without a doubt I think the the Safari web browser is the iPhone’s best feature. The iPhone’s clean UI means you see more of the webpage you’re looking at and less of the UI.

When you load a page, Safari resizes the page so that it fits width wise. You scroll around using your finger and when you see something you’re interested in, you can double tap it or zoom in using two fingers. It sounds a little complicated but it works really well because the iPhone is so fast.

When you want to enter an address, tap near the top of the display. There’s a built-in Google quick search. You can create bookmarks, and view your browsing history.

The iPhone has a built-in orientation sensor. Safari will switch between portrait and landscape mode depending on how you’re holding it. It works really well and switches between orientations very quickly.

There’s a built-in email client that supports some popular web mail clients; Yahoo, Gmail, .mac and AOL (there’s no option for Hotmail). You also get IMAP, POP3 and exchange support. I tested the mail client with my Imap account. Aside from the fact that you have to enter text via the onscreen keyboard, the email client looks great and works well. You can even open PDF attachments.

You also get separate Stocks and Weather programs along with Google Maps. I didn’t try the Stocks program.

Weather is a very simple and stream lined program. It’s similar to the weather you get in OSX when you press F12.

Google Maps works well and is really fast provided you’re using WiFi.

Multimedia Features:

As you probably guessed, the iPhone’s music player is lifted from an iPod. Specifically it’s the same as the one you’d find in the iPod Touch.

It’s quite different from the music player found on previous iPods. It can arrange your music by artist, genre, album, etc.

It has a very slick interface. When you’re listening to music you can browse your albums by covers.

The headphone jack is recessed so you can’t plug your own headphones unless they have a skinny connector or unless you use an adapter. The included headphones aren’t terrible but they’re also not that good. They have a microphone built into them. You don’t get earbud foam covers so they don’t fit very well.

You can also listen to music through the built-in speakers. They sound pretty good but aren’t very loud.

You can’t control the music player by using the side buttons (like you can on a Sony Ericsson walkman phone) but you can adjust the volume.

There’s a built-in 2 megapixel camera. You don’t get a flash, digital zoom, video recorder or any other features for that matter. Still, it takes decent photos provided you have enough light.

You get a separate YouTube application which works well. If you click a YouTube link in the browser, it will open up in the YouTube application.

Organizer Features:

As far as organization goes, you get a Calendar, Alarm Clock, Calculator and Notes. The Calendar and Notes can synchronize with your computer using iTunes.

Impressions:

The iPhone’s flat front makes it uncomfortable to talk on for long periods of time. If you’re going to use it for a while, use the headphones. The earpiece volume on the iPhone’s initial software release wasn’t loud enough; apparently this problem has been fixed.

RF performance is pretty good which is quite impressive given that most of the iPhone’s case is made from metal.

Sound quality is average. Voice quality is quite good but there is a bit of hiss.

Conclusion:

Considering that the iPhone is Apple’s first try at a phone I’m very impressed. While the iPhone is missing some pretty standard features they’re not deal breakers for me.

I find that the problem with the iPhone is that it’s an amazing device when you’re stationary. When you pick it up it has a big ‘wow’ factor. The two finger navigation is brilliant, however, when I’m walking around I found the iPhone to be difficult to use with one hand. The fact that the iPhone’s front is flat (as opposed to having a recessed touch screen) is a real hindrance to one handed usage. It’s also hard to use if you’re wearing gloves so if you plan on using the iPhone somewhere cold, watch out.

Just remember you have to put up with; EDGE speeds, lack of MMS, voice dialing, voice recording and camera flash.

For a first try, Apple’s really done a great job. It’s a breath of fresh air in a field that was starting to get a little boring. Other manufacturers should take notice.

Ratings (out of 5)
Build Quality 4.5
Battery Life 3
Phone Related Features 4
Ease of Use 3
RF Performance 4
Degree of Customizability 3
Overall (not an average) 4
*Please note these ratings are temporal and are really only valid for the date they were assigned. A phone which receives a rating of 5 a year ago will probably get a lower rating today.

Pros:

  • Terrific looking UI
  • Screen is large and looks great
  • Fast when using WiFi
  • Very solid

Cons:

  • Only supports EDGE
  • Hard to use with one hand
  • Hard to use with gloves
  • No camera flash
  • No MMS
  • No voice commands or recording

Discuss this review at HowardForums.com | See the gallery here
Written by Howard Chui 10.10.2007
This article may not be reproduced without the the author’s permission.

Entry Filed under: Phones

10 Comments Add your own

    John Levine  |  October 11th, 2007 at 2:15 am

    At the bottom of the phone there is only one speaker, and one microphone, not two speakers.

    Steven Lee  |  October 11th, 2007 at 11:26 am

    it wasn’t the iPhones first software update that said ‘you having 3rd party software on your iPhone will possibly make it inoperable.’ it was about the 3rd update, I think.

    NS  |  October 12th, 2007 at 9:26 am

    Was using one for a while, then like 9/10 of the people I know who have one, switched back to my regular mobile. It’s a great gadget with an incredible innovative interface but the phone is terrible. Poor quality, poor features – no search function for phonebook, no sending SMS’s to multiple people, no forwarding SMS’s, no compatibility with sending biz cards by SMS (vCard format even), unable to copy numbers or text from SMS’s for any kind of use, no MMS (not such a big deal), no 3G, touchscreen means impossible to use without looking at screen, limited available software (unlike series 60 phones), inability to use VOIP, can’t be used when traveling in Japan, average speakerphone… and much more… even the most basic Nokia is a better phone than this. Having said that, still carry it around as a glorified iPod… for only 100 bucks more than a ‘touch’ you get speakers, dedicated volume controls, email, a camera (also pretty poor quality)… Although this comment doesn’t sound too positive, for 399 bucks, this is a lot of gadget for the money, even if you never use the phone…

    Apple Otaku  |  October 14th, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    I’ve used a Series 60 in the past but I’ll stick with my iPhone. I prefer the UI over the 60 and hopefully Apple will eventually release a public SDK. I’m looking forward to seeing some iPhone apps on the iTunes store.

    The Big Website » C&hellip  |  October 14th, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    [...] thenewbadoneforyou wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI’ve used a Series 60 in the past but I’ll stick with my iPhone. I prefer the UI over the 60 and hopefully Apple will eventually release a public SDK. I’m looking forward to seeing some iPhone apps on the iTunes store. [...]

    The Big Website » C&hellip  |  October 15th, 2007 at 12:50 am

    [...] thenewbadoneforyou wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptthenewbadoneforyou wrote an interesting post today onHere’sa quick excerptI’ve used a Series 60 in the past but I’ll stick with my iPhone. I prefer the UI over the 60 and hopefully Apple will eventually release a public SDK. … [...]

    E.S.P  |  October 28th, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    Come on Howard, that review was not as descriptive and detailed as you’ve been in the past. Why no comments on the locked down restricted to headset only bluetooth, and the no zoom on the camera even.

    E.S.P  |  October 28th, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Sorry, you did mention the zoom bit.

    Bad Penny » iPhone &hellip  |  October 28th, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    [...] isn’t worth anywhere near $400 for a 8 gig ipod that answers phone calls. Howard Chui’s review is pretty on. Even though Nokia shafted me on my e61, I’ll likely get an n95 next week. If [...]

    john  |  November 12th, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    I think that with all the things that the iPhone can do (and perhaps technology that will be already built into the phone but not used until later) the phone is priced well. Even just the technology that the iPhone is using makes it worth the money when Apple’s production, research and development costs are factored in: they’ve done a good job pricing it accordingly (and they’re praying to sell millions so that they can recoup their costs and then make a profit – 4g and 8′s).

    It’s a cellphone, MP3 player, camera and a smart phone so adding them all up separately would cost alot more. Plus, being that it is a Mac product smacks of high quality and probably not one to be released with a ton of bugs.

    Out of reach for most? Definitely, especially when you factor in a data plan that HAS to go with it; no way out of that one. And then there’s the little accessories here and there like docking station, leather/hard shell case and screen protectors, to name a few.

    Either way, can’t deny that it is one very cool device.

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