Getting to know the iPhone 3G


Regular readers of this blog know that I love gadgets especially mobile devices.

Over the past few years, I’ve had great enjoyment from a wide range of devices – ones I’ve either purchased myself or which have been given or loaned to me by companies via their PR agencies – which I’ve written posts or produced video reviews about, recently over on Next, my tech blog.

The latest device I have for such a purpose is an iPhone 3G which arrived by courier late on Friday evening, thus giving me much of the weekend to get to know it a bit.

I do plan to write some commentary during the coming weeks, and maybe do a video or two. Meanwhile, here are a few initial immediate impressions as my Twitter comments this weekend remind me:

  • Undoubtedly the iPhone is a beautiful-looking and -feeling device. Apple set the form and function bar very high indeed for competitors to follow (although I think the Googlephone comes pretty close).
  • The icons and touch screen combination are so intuitive, I am certain even a very young child could figure out what to do with the device within a very short time, without opening the manual.
  • Choosing and installing an application from Apple’s App Store is so simple and easy to do I just can’t figure out why only Apple seem to understand that what’s important to  users about their devices is simplicity and ease of use.
  • The particular model I have is the 16Gb capacity one. How would I ever fill that up with content? (Do I hear “640k of memory is enough for anyone.”)
  • The results from using the camera are not bad for a 2.0 megapixel device, although no match at all for cameras like the 5.0 megapixel one sported in the Nokia N95 8GB (which, ironically, is the camera I used for the pic you see above). Even 5 megapixels are looking distinctly entry-level now, though, compared to Samsung’s 10.0 megapixel SCH-B600 cameraphone. And wait for 12+ megapixels coming soon from Sony Ericsson.
  • It’s not all peaches and cream about the iPhone, though. For instance, figuring out how to do things like transferring photos to a PC or uninstalling an app should be a whole lot easier than it is, as should be some of the choices for synchronizing content PC<->iPhone.
  • The biggest negative for me so far is the iPhone’s inability to shoot video, with no native app for that, and no versions of Qik or seesmic (that I use on my N95) for iPhone.

In any event, I have an open mind about the iPhone and intend to keep that open focus as I use it over the coming weeks.

How I got this device might be of interest as much as any review of it, as it didn’t come from Apple, their PR agency or any organization, but from an individual.

That individual is Adrian Melrose, an entrepreneur and investor, someone I’ve known in the blogosphere for quite a few years, and who is probably best know in the online PR community as the man behind The Truth About the Land Rover Discovery 3, a blog with which an individual – call him a passionate citizen journalist – could use as his public platform to take on an automaker over product quality and customer service issues.

The bottom line: Adrian became an ex-customer – and Land Rover lost a passionate brand advocate – and went and bought an Audi Q7 SUV. You can read Adrian’s concise summary as well as the posts I wrote as events unfolded during 2005 and 2006.

So why did Adrian decide to provide me with an iPhone on loan (a pay-as-you go deal with O2 with me doing the paying and going for usage after Adrian’s initial set up) to use and think about? As he said in one of our email exchanges:

[…] after reading you for so long, I cannot believe that you are still on a PC and loyal to Vista! So, as I said to you on the phone, I want to slowly "Applefy" you! Secondary to that, I’d genuinely like to know how the iPhone compares to the G1.

I love a challenge and this is a good one!

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Barb Gibson

    I've been using my iPhone now for a few months, and overall, I love it. You're right about the intuitive interface, I haven't looked at a manual — though I keep thinking I should, in case there's more I should know. As you say, one of the big drawbacks is the lack of video recording capability. I also thing the lack of ability to play Flash is a serious weakness – among other things, it means I can't use from my phone. I haven't had the problem you mentioned with transferring photos, it does that automatically every time I connect. And as far as I know, uninstalling apps is as easy as deleting it from your iTunes library. One major difference of opinion: I have no problem exceeding 16 gig, since I use it to watch downloaded telly programmes from iTunes. So when I travel, I still take both the iPhone and my older video iPod.

  2. Bernie Goldbach

    We kept two iPhones in the house for a fortnight and learned a little about how they think. Please be nice to the iPhone, perhaps by comparing it side-by-side the N95 in rendering web pages. If I could be presumptous, could you not let the two find points of interest on maps by using their onboard technology? And how about documenting the length of time required to write and send an email? Show both of them sharing an audio copy of FIR from one phone to another. Finally, do either of them talk to any of your current technology without wires?

  3. andyp

    Thoughtful post, Neville. I've had an iPhone 3G since the UK launch, but so far I've resisted the temptation to review it or write about it.

    Of course, the iPhone isn't perfect. The camera sucks and the lack of video capture sucks (although you can jailbreak for the latter capability via Qik). I actually started to get a lot happier with the camera once I added the Clarifi case (see my video review of that here ––E) and added a whole bunch of apps like Photogene and CameraBag.

    There are a whole bunch of additional drawbacks:

    – no cut and paste

    – preferences for enabling network, 3G etc are buried

    – syncing doesn't automatically bring photos in

    – it crashes (although it's always the 3rd party apps that crash it… and sometimes Safari closes itself)

    – no MMS

    The killer aspects of the device for me are the ease-of-use and intuitiveness. To be honest, I'm bored with it now – in a good way! It's so easy to use, there's such a rich array of applications that I can do anything I need, more or less… if they sort out the camera capabilities in the next generation then I'll be completely happy.

  4. Ellee

    I tried this out at my Apple store and can't wait to buy one when my present phone contract expires. What I particularly like is that you can increase the size of the text on the screen with your fingers, so if I haven't got my specs at hand, I can easily read the screen. I also like its easy to use sat nav and large screen.

  5. neville

    Thanks for that tip, Katie. I've installed a number of apps so far direct to the phone from the App Store: Twitterfon, Google search, Netnewswire, Night Stand (clock), WordPress and Sol Free (solitaire game). The only one that's giving me any trouble is WordPress although I think it's the app rather than how it was installed.

  6. neville

    Hmm, having to do everything via iTunes doesn't appeal to me too much. I don't use iTunes, until now. I'd rather be able to uninstall apps directly on the phone than having to do it in iTunes.

  7. neville

    What phone is perfect really? Each offers a trade off for each user. For me, creating video and a wide range of choices for still photos (like I have on the Nokia N95 8GB) are far more important than, say, doing email or playing music or even watching video.

    I like your point about ease of use and intuitiveness. I think that is a killer aspect of this device, although other things must be equal too (eg, video).

    The ideal device for me right now would be a combination of the very best attributes of the iPhone, the Googlephone and the N95 8GB.

    I wish :)

  8. Danny Whatmough

    I don't think I'll ever go back, it is a great great phone! Sure, there are niggles – every phone has some, but it is so much more reliable (and pretty) than my previous N95 and unlimited roaming on O2 coupled with free wifi through The Cloud and BT really does make it so easy to get online anywhere. And the maps/GPS function is very very impressive, especially compared to the N95 which took ages to get a signal. Add copy and paste and video next time and it'll trounce the opposition.

    Uninstalling apps is easy – just press one of the apps for about 3 secs and they'll all start to wobble with a little 'x' in the corner. Tap the 'x' and the app is gone! Easy!

  9. Alex Manchester

    You can delete apps straight from the phone by just holding your finger on the icon. When they start wobbling, installed apps have an "X" in the corner. You can delete them by pressing it. You can also rearrange the icons that way.

  10. Alex Manchester

    @ Micheal I have an unlocked iPhone and it's running 2.2 with no app problems whatsoever. Using the Pwnage tool there's not much to keeping them unlocked and up to date. :-)

  11. Michael Blowers

    Hi Neville, It's funny to think you are being tempted by the 'dark side'! I'v had one for a few months and are massive fan but at the same time are put-off by the 'ownership' apple think they still have over the thing. Being reluctant to move from a very generous contract with another network I have an unlocked version and continually worry that the thing will stop working. I have to avoid updates and certain apps are a no-go. I am sure if Apple opened up their offering it would have positive revenue implications (as well as user experiences). All the best, Michael

  12. Frank Woolf

    Every phone has different features and strong points so you choose what is best for your needs. The 2 megapixel camera and no video is not a problem for me as I use a separate digital camera for that (better lens, zoom, etc). I had various Nokia phones and got fed up with the constant crashes that often wiped out my contacts. I had two Sony/Ericksons that both fell apart. My seimens backlight went dud quickly but otherwise it lasted a long time. I have a Treo 650 which I like very much but my iPhone is truly one of the best gadgets I have ever had. I am a lifelong techie so I am not fooled by BS. I agree with no copy and paste being a pain but other than that I believe it is way beyond anything else on the market – and excellent value. I live in Hong Kong and the Philippines. I bought my iPhone in Hong Kong and when I switch to my Philippines SIM card to use it in the Philippines everything works perfectly except there are no GPS maps for the Philippines (not for any GPS). The thousands of applications at very low prices or free are great. Web Browsing and email are excellent. There are so many good points that I could go on and on.

  13. Frank Woolf

    P.S. The colors in the picture above taken by the Nokia N95 are really strange and the quality does not look good at all to me although it may be caused by the lighting or the screen pixels rather than the camera.

  14. sebastian keil

    Hi Neville, what a great idea to turn you over. I wonder if it'll work…
    I have had my iPhone 3G for 3 months now and it's almost always where I am. It's by using it you'll experience how far they have thought it through. When you are listening to iPod and a call comes in. When you are in calculator and turn the phone sideways. When you have scrolled down a page to read all the comments and then you tip the small grey top bar…
    Let us know what you think.

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