Archive for July, 2008

Apple iPhone 3G Review

While the iPhone 3G has been covered to death, here’s my review of the iPhone 3G.

First Impressions:

The iPhone 3G comes in 2 sizes and 2 back colours. The 8GB comes with a black back while the 16GB comes in white or black.

When you glance at the 3G, you can easily mistake it for the original one. Once or twice I grabbed the wrong iPhone when I put them side by side.

Like the original iPhone, the 3G feels very solid in your hand. While I miss the original’s metal back, the 3G’s plastics are still very high quality.

As you can see, the front is dominated by the large 3.5″ touch screen. It’s a multi-touch screen so you use it with your fingers. If you try using a stylus it won’t respond.

At the bottom there is a speaker and a microphone (hidden behind the mesh) plus the data connector. The speaker isn’t very loud but it does sound pretty good when used for music.

There is a power button, headphone jack plus a SIM card slot at the top. To remove the SIM you need to use a paper clip (Apple includes a paper clip like SIM ejector). In the original iPhone, the headphone jack was recessed so you couldn’t plug most 3.5mm headphones in without using an adapter. The headphone jack can now be used without an adapter.

On the left side, there’s a silent mode on/off switch and a volume button.

Interface:

As far as menu goes, the iPhone 3G is virtually identical to the original one.

There’s a button on the front that you press to return to the main menu.

It’s pretty intuitive to use – as long as you’re using 2 hands. It works with 1 hand too but not as well.

One thing about the iPhone’s touch screen is that it doesn’t respond to stylus taps.

The gestures feel familiar and the sounds really help. I’m not crazy about touch screens but the iPhone’s is really good.

I handed my iPhone to my wife but she can’t seem to enter text properly because she has longer nails than me.

Now, while the gestures are quite intuitive to use, there has been some sacrifices to make them possible. You can’t select/copy/paste text since you can’t really use a stylus. Also, positioning the cursor when entering text is a little slower.

Are the iPhone’s touch features worth sacrificing copy/pasting and the text positioning awkwardness? It’s hard to say. Most of the time I don’t care. When I do care it’s excruciating.

Speaking of text… text entry is accomplished via the on screen keyboard. If you’re using Safari, the keyboard will change orientation. One thing I dislike about on screen keyboards is that they’re not very precise.

While I am pretty good at entering text on the iPhone keyboard, I still hate using it. There is this nifty feature which corrects your spelling mistakes as you go – that’s alright. It does a really good job of hiding the iPhone’s keyboard’s shortcomings. What really sucks is when you’re entering names because there’s no auto correct.

Features:

Really, out of the box, the iPhone is about two things: Safari and iPod. While far from perfect, if you have two hands available, Safari probably provides the smoothest browsing experience out there. It can handle multiple windows relatively easily. You can zoom out of the website by moving two fingers closer together. Moving them further apart zooms in. It’s pretty intuitive to use.

If you have a lot of browser windows opened in Safari and switch to a different application Safari will silent close in the background (to free up RAM I presume). When you switch back it will automatically open all the pages you were last looking at though it won’t preserve your browsing history. I found Safari would crash from time to time. When it does crash it will automatically relaunch and load the last pages you were looking at – neat.

The only problems I spotted with the browser were that there’s no Flash support so some websites won’t work (most phones don’t have Flash support). I also noticed that with the new HSDPA support, the iPhone sometimes has trouble keeping up when it comes to rendering pages. It’s still better than most phones in this regard.

The iPhone has a built-in iPod feature which is exactly like the iPod Touch’s. You use iTunes to load music from your library onto the iPhone. You can browse your music by Artist, Song, etc.

When listening to music, the iPhone will display the album cover. If you rotate the iPhone, the screen will also rotate and display the album cover from the next/last couple of songs to the left and right.

Music will still play while you’re using other applications. You can quickly access the music controls by pressing the menu button twice.

Sound quality from the headphone jack is good. Sound quality from the built-in speaker isn’t very loud but it does sound pretty good (if you can hear it).

iTunes let’s you download songs to your iPhone. It only works over WiFi.

The phonebook syncs with your computer. When you’re browsing it, you can quickly jump to the first letter of a name by pressing and holding your finger on the screen – an alphabet will appear on the right side which lets you jump.

If you’ve missed a call, have a new email, new SMS, etc., the icon on the menu screen will display the number of calls, emails, messages, etc. which is a nice touch.

SMS is handled by the SMS application. It automatically sorts your messages so you can see previous messages that have been sent to/received from the same sender making them easier to read. There is no MMS support.

The Calendar can sync with your computer. It has a list, day and month view.

The Photos program is pretty simple. You use it to view your messages plus it lets you send messages (via email, not MMS). It can rotate so that your photos fill the entire screen. There’s a slide show application or you can move between pictures manually. It’s simple but slick.

The Camera app is very basic. It takes pictures using the single 2 megapixel camera on the back. That is all – there’s no video recording. Picture quality looks okay on the screen (like most phones) but it’s nothing special if you download it to your computer (like most phones).

Since the iPhone doesn’t support flash there’s a built-in YouTube program. It works well, especially since the iPhone 3G has 3G support.

Google Maps is built-in. Google maps is a nice program but it’s not that great if you’re using it for navigation. The iPhone 3G now has apps so Google maps is much more accurate than it used to be.

You can set multiple alarms with the Clock program.

The calculator now adds some scientific functions if you rotate it.

You also get a Stocks program (it’s delayed by 15 mins.), Weather app and notes.

While there have been a couple of physical changes to the iPhone, the most notable new feature (besides the 3G support) is probably the App Store program. With App Store, you can download programs straight to your iPhone. It’s tied with your iTunes account so you can pay for programs too.

App Store transforms the iPhone from a fairly closed device to a fledgling smartphone.

The problem with the App Store is that all apps have to be approved by Apple. While there’s nothing wrong with this, I find the idea conflicts slightly with the image Apple tries to project of itself. It’s akin to the idea that they want you to “think differently” but really they want you to tell you what to think.

Anyways this isn’t that big a deal plus if you’re trying to get people to download apps to their iPhones, this is probably the best way to do it.

There are a number of features missing from the iPhone that other phones often have. Features like MMS, Bluetooth A2DP, Bluetooth OBEX, the ability to use it as a mass storage device, voice commands, etc.

Voice commands would have been really nice because the iPhone is tricky to use when you’re driving.

Usage:

Battery life is horrendous. For a device with such a great web browsing experience, it’s important that the battery can keep up and in this regard the iPhone can’t keep up.

Sound quality is alright for both incoming and out.

Maximum earpiece volume is acceptable.

The speaker phone isn’t that loud so it’s only useful in quiet environments.

I found the iPhone 3G worked very poorly with my car’s Bluetooth – other phones I’ve tried such as the Nokia n95, Motorola RAZR2, etc. have worked okay. I found I had to use the iPhone to take the call because people on the other end couldn’t hear me.

Conclusion:

In the end I liked the iPhone 3G – mostly because I’m an internet junkie. If I wasn’t hooked on the net, I’d probably still think the iPhone 3G is pretty nice. The UI is pleasant to use and the device feels nice in your hands. If you enter a lot of text or email a lot you probably won’t like the 3G (or any other touch screen only device).

One thing about the iPhone is that it’s still a fairly new device so while it has a lot of features, it’s not overloaded with them. So while the camera app doesn’t have any additional features, it’s sort of refreshing in a way because it’s simple.

The sound quality is alright so it makes an adequate phone. If you talk a lot you might grow to hate the touch screen only aspect.

Missing features aside, the worst thing about the iPhone 3G is it’s horrible battery life. Part of the blame of this goes to the terrific browser which encourages you to use it more.

In the end, either you love or you hate the iPhone 3G – some things it does well and some things it doesn’t do at all.

Discuss this review at HowardForums.com
Written by Howard Chui 07.31.2008
This article may not be reproduced without the the author’s permission.

9 comments July 31st, 2008

Virgin Mobile Email

With the launch of Virgin Mobile Canada’s newest mobile (the LG Rumour) can the release of a new service-Virgin Mobile Email. The service allows you to access your email accounts from you mobile device.  Configure the program (free download from Virgin Mobile Live) to access your webmail, POP, or IMPA accounts.  Virgin Mobile Email only costs $3/month (Prepaid and Postpaid) but unlimited mobile browsing is required at an additional $7/month.

Currently the only supported device is the LG Rumor but more compatible devices should be coming soon.  Head over to Virgin Mobile to learn more about Virgin Mobile E-mail.

live_strong

1 comment July 19th, 2008

LG Rumor Comes to Virgin Canada

Well the LG Rumor has finally made its way to Virgin Mobile Canada after Solo Mobile released it in May.  The Rumor look like a standard bar phone until you slide it open to reveal the full keyboard.  The Rumor sports a 1.3 MP camera on the rear.

Current pricing for the Virgin Mobile Rumor:
3 year term: $79.99
2 year term: $99.99
1 year term: $149.99
30 day term: $199.99
no term: $199.99

Head over to the Virgin Mobile website to learn more.

live_strong

7 comments July 17th, 2008

BlackBerry Coming to Virgin Mobile Canada

That right-the BlackBerry Pearl may be making its way to Virgin Mobile Canada.  Rumor has it that the BlackBerry Pearl is coming to Virgin Canada in August.  According to our source employee training is already underway.  No word on device pricing or rate plans.

Bell Mobility currently sells the BackBerry Pearl 8130 so it is likely that model that will be the model lauching on Virgin Mobile.  Current pricing for Bell’s Pearl is a follows:

3 year term: $0.00*
2 year term: $299.95
1 year term: $399.95
No Contract: $449.95

live_strong

8 comments July 16th, 2008

Text Messaging Changes-Internal Bell Document

HowardForums user MacD and Bell employee has leaked an Internal Training Document regarding Bell’s decision to start charging for incoming text messages.

According to the document the following text plans have been launched with unlimited incoming included.

$5/month
-250 outgoing text messages
-unlimited incoming text messages

$10/month
-2500 outgoing text messages
-unlimited incoming text messages

$15/month
-unlimited outgoing text messages
-unlimited incoming text messages

If you want to read the document yourself-here’s the link.  Bell’s Internal Document (Warning PDF)

Links
HowardForums

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2 comments July 11th, 2008

Press Release from Telus

We now have official word from Telus that they will be charging for incoming text messages starting August 24th unless the customer subscribes to a texting plan.

From a press released issued today (July 11th) by Telus Mobility:

Beginning August 24, the $0.15 per charge will also apply to text messages that originate from other cell phones. Charging for incoming text messages is a standard practice in North America with most of the ma

jor U.S. carriers charging $0.20. That is a 33% premium compared to TELUS.TELUS customers who subscribe to any text messaging plans will continue to receive unlimited incoming text messages free of charge. Customers can choose to subscribe to a text messaging plan from prices starting as low as $3 per month which includes 30 outgoing text messages and unlimited incoming messages.

Telus also mentioned in the press release a new method of reporting spam messages.  If a client receives a spam text they can forward the message to 7726 with the word SPAM in the body of the message and be credited the “cost” of the message to their account.  This feature will launch August 24th.

Links

Press Release

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1 comment July 11th, 2008

MTS Allstream Launches LG Vantage

MTS Allstream has officially launched the LG Vantage today, July 11. Although the Vantage is not yet listed on the MTS website you can pick it up at your local dealer.  Current pricing follow.

2 year term: $189.99

The Vantage features as full touch screen interface, a 2MP camera, EVDO data, expandable memory slot.  Slidding up the touch screen will reveal the keypad and makes it look very similar to the LG Shine (slider).

Links
HowardForums

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2 comments July 11th, 2008

Koodo Mobile Price Increases

Well that did not take long. Telu…I mean…Koodo has already started making changes after their launch in March. As reported by KoodoMobile on first HowardForums the following changes have been made.

Canceled
Unlimited Texting ($5/month)
Caller ID/Voicemail/Unlimited Texting Bundle ($10/month)
Five Essentials Plan

Changes
Talk and Text Plan now includes picture and video messaging ($25/month-no price increase)

New
Unlimited Texting now includes picture and video messaging ($10/month)
Caller ID/Voicemail/Unlimited Texting now includes picture and video messaging ($15/month)
Nationwide Talk and Text Plan ($45/month)

  • no long distance charges for all calls made anywhere in Canada
  • 250 anytime minutes
  • Evening & Weekends starting at 7pm
  • Unlimited Messaging (includes picture and video messaging)

live_strong

7 comments July 10th, 2008

Rogers/Fido Data users rejoice! – actually, never mind – update 2, now I’m not sure

http://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php?t=1395592

According to this you can now get 6GB of data for $30. This 6GB is not IMEI restricted so you can use it on your unlocked gray market phones. You can do whatever you want with it – WAP, tethering, YouTube, etc. Hurray!

The post says it’s for Fido but apparently it will be on Rogers too. Just remember you have to sign a 3 year contract.

*update – it’s only for phones from Rogers or Fido. If you prefer to use unlocked and grey market phones forget it. (booo!)

*update 2 – Now i’m not sure if it will or will not work on unlocked and grey market phones. Stay tuned.

6 comments July 9th, 2008

iPhone 3G Pics + First Impressions

Here’s the iPhone 3G. It’s shares about the same footprint as the original iPhone but the 3G is more tapered.

In case you didn’t know, the 3G has the same features as the original except you get: HSDPA support (the original had EDGE which is pretty slow) and GPS. The software is updated too but the original one will probably get the update too.

The front looks about the same. The original one has a slightly thicker chrome bezel.

The 3G has a plastic cover that comes in white or black. The original one has a metal one. As far as squeezing goes, the original covers feel slightly more solid but really, the 3G is also pretty solid because it has no removable battery cover.

The speaker and microphone cover have a little bit of metal mesh over them on the 3G.

The 3G does NOT have a recessed headphone jack so you don’t need an adapter to use your own headphones with the 3G (thank God).

Here’s the side view.

As far as screen brightness goes, the 3G is slightly brighter than the original one I have in these pictures. I’m not sure if this is because the original iPhone I have is from last year so the screen may have dimmed over time.

Speed wise both are similar if you’re on WiFi. Over HSDPA/EDGE there’s no comparison – the 3G is way faster.

Again notice the 3G is slightly brighter.

App store will be available for the original iPhone too as will the Contacts icon (I think).

In the new software, the calculator becomes scientific if you rotate it.

You also get different keyboards for different languages. Here’s the Chinese one (I failed Chinese school).

I didn’t play with the 3G for long but it feels good in your hand. The call sound quality is good – both incoming and outgoing. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to gauge the RF performance or check out the battery life either.

I forgot to bring headphones so I didn’t get a chance to listen to the iPod part either (it’s probably like the orignal iPod which was fine).

While there appears to be two speakers at the bottom, one of the ‘speaker holes’ is actually for the mic. Maximum speaker volume is only good enough for indoors. The 3G’s speaker sounded slightly better, however, it could be because my original one is old and the speakers may have been slightly damaged.

Anyways that’s all for now. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review in the future.

9 comments July 8th, 2008

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