iPhone 3G: The Anti-Review
After waiting in line for what seemed like an eternity, we finally got home with our shiny new iPhones 3G. Meanwhile, we had time to peruse all the other rah-rah, hand-picked reviewers fawning all over Apple’s new baby, and wondered if any device could possibly be so perfect. As we took the bauble through its paces over the weekend, we found lots of tidbits about the iPhone that few others have even noticed. After the Continue jump, read the 10 things you haven’t heard about the iPhone 3G, as observed by DVICE Editor Peter Pachal and me. Fellow 3Gers, add your own rants and raves in the comments below. Onward!
Most Glaring Nickel-and-Dime Omission: A Dock
Charlie White: Opening Apple’s gorgeous packaging, we suddenly wondered, where is the dock for the glorious iPhone 3G? Maybe it’s under this false bottom. Nope, not here. That’s OK, we’ll just use the dock from our old iPhone. Nope, no luck. I guess that’s proof the iPhone 3G is bigger than its predecessor, since it doesn’t fit… at all. Cold comfort, though, so we surf to the Apple Store, and what do you know? There’s the dock, the new one, for a steep $29. Add that to the $18 “upgrade fee,” the extra $10/month for 3G, the extra $5/month for 200 SMS messages, and pretty soon we’re talking about some real money.
Most Unsettling Error Message: “No SIM Card Installed”
Peter Pachal: I finally got my iPhone 3G activated Friday night. Saturday morning it welcomed me with the message “No SIM Card Installed.” Unless someone broke into my apartment, tiptoed to my nightstand, removed the SIM card from my phone, and neatly replaced it (Batman is coming out on Friday), there was no way that message was accurate. A network-settings reset later, it was all good again … for about 3 hours. This time I actually checked to see if the SIM Card was in fact installed (it was), and gave it a good wipedown. Ever since, it’s been working OK, but the “No SIM” message will forever haunt me…
Most Under- and Over-Estimated Spec: Battery Life
CW: What is Apple doing to get these battery times? Some kind of super battery, the mother of all iPhone power sources achieves that “up to 5 hours” number for Internet browsing with 3G (we got a more-realistic 2:54 in our real-world tests), the most wishful thinking yet. But then the testers get all modest on us, saying you only get “up to 7 hours” of video playback, and we get 8:37 on our tests. That’s enough time to watch four Steve Jobs keynote speeches on your pilgrimage to Cupertino, flying from anywhere in the Western hemisphere.
Top Feature That Shows How Useless Technology Can Be: GPS
PP: On Sunday, as I walked to the corner of Vanderbilt Ave. and Prospect Pl. in Brooklyn, I held up my iPhone 3G and cued up the Google Maps application. “Look, we’re almost at the corner!” I said to my girlfriend walking beside me, pointing at the blinking blue dot that was, in fact, simultaneously coming up on the corner Vanderbilt Ave. and Prospect Pl. on the map. “That’s great,” she said. “What would we have done without that phone?” What, indeed?
Biggest Design Flaw: Edge of the Plastic Back
CW: The edge of the iPhone, where the black (or white) plastic back meets the shiny metal bezel, doesn’t quite fit right. On a couple of our phones here, the left side definitely has a plastic edge that sticks out. While black is supposed to be a slimming color, that concept must not apply to iPhones. No word on whether the white model does the same, but we’re told it’s gauche to wear white after Labor Day. And that’s a girlie color anyway. We preferred the aluminum three-quarter back of the old iPhone, which didn’t show fingerprints at all, except on the most important part: that shiny Apple logo.
Maximum Number of Waking Minutes Spent Without Playing Phonesaber Since I Installed It: 47
PP: As of 5:17 p.m. on Monday, there have been no less than five Phonesaber duels here in the SCI FI offices since this morning, all of them awesome. The speakers on the iPhone are just loud enough (at max volume) to turn this free app, which makes lightsaber sounds that correspond to how you swing the phone, into the simplest, funnest time-waster you can download. I can’t wait for the first Phonesaber duel that breaks out between random strangers on public transit.
Most Underreported Aspect of the iPhone 3G’s Performance: It’s Finnicky
CW: Something is strange here. Some Web pages have to reload all over again if you leave them for a few minutes. Then we start getting all interested in a site, and Safari crashes… three times. Then we notice the iPhone is slower to adapt from one position to the next, taking its sweet time to switch the screen orientation from portrait to landscape. Having a little trouble performing, or is it us? What do want us to do, iPhone? Talk dirty to you?
Most Unwelcome Comeback: EDGE
PP: OK, I work in 30 Rockefeller Plaza — pretty much dead center of midtown Manhattan. Can someone explain to me why my 3G connection keeps wussing out on me and reverting to the crappy, slow-ass EDGE network? I didn’t pay $300 for an iPhone I already had, AT&T. The plastic back isn’t that nice to hold. Let’s get on making that 3G network more reliable, at least in the densest part of the Big Apple, shall we?
Quickest Firmware Flip-Flop: Apple Making the Screen Less Yellow
CW: The iPhone’s screen has a decidedly yellow tinge that Apple’s PR machine said was intentional. Not long after that, we find out you can restore your iPhone 3G in iTunes, which automatically installs a later build of the firmware that returns the iPhone’s screen to a hue that looks less like the jaundice of a drunken sailor and more like the blue my kid is going to turn as she holds her breath waiting for me to buy her a white iPhone 3G.
Most Perplexing Thing About the iPhone 3G Launch: AT&T Doesn’t Offer Apps for It
PP: I just spent the afternoon at an AT&T event where the company demo’d a few of the more notable wireless services it offers — everything from viewing of a webcam on your phone to automatic uploads from your phone’s camera — but none of them are offered as iPhone apps. Apple sold a million iPhones 3G over the weekend, and there are many more first-gen iPhones already on the market. Does it strike anyone else as weird that the iPhone’s exclusive U.S. provider isn’t taking advantage of its hottest-selling platform?