Apple iPhone 3G

For the past year, Australians have been taunted by images of fresh new phone. Is it the iPhone you’ve been waiting for?

For the past year, Australians have been taunted by images of fresh new phone, a phone that promised to revolutionise the way you thought of a phone. We’ve seen images of it, had it pushed in our faces, and then after all of that told that our very touch would indicate exactly what it would do. A touch phone that would do everything right and leave you wondering “how on earth did they think of that”?

The temptation was, in fact, too much for some people with an approximated number of 60,000 Australians either going overseas and buying one or shipping one in internationally.

The iPhone has seen huge success in America, Europe, and all other markets where people craved the phone ahead of an official release. Early adopters got in before everyone else and pulled their shiny aluminium beauty out for others to feel the twinge of jealousy with.

But now you don’t have to feel jealous over those people because the Apple iPhone has been released in Australia.

Cased in a glossy black or white plastic, the iPhone 3G is a pinnacle in design. Yes, it’s that classic Apple design that everyone is always talking about: simple. Following the principle that “simple is often better,” the iPhone looks like the most basic thing on the planet as you see its simple black front with only a single button for use.

The tactile button, as it is called for it is the only front-facing tactile button on the phone, is used as your primary way to get yourself back to the menu. There are a few other tactile buttons, however, but none do the same thing. For all it’s simple, shiny, and smooth success, the iPhone has just 3 other tactile buttons: a power button on top, a long volume button that can be pressed on either side for more or less volume, and a switch above the volume button that when activated starts up the iPhone’s silent mode (an easier solution than say several button presses on other phones).

You probably already know about the iPhone’s touchscreen interface, a simple menu system that runs on a well built incarnation of Mac OS X. If you’re already a fan of the famed operating system, you’ll fall in love with how easy the iPhone is to use. Simply press your finger over a button and it works or slide your finger to one side to head to another menu screen.

Because the operating system is Mac OS X, it comes complete with applications like Safari for easy web surfing, a fantastic Calendar application, and iTunes in case you’re in WiFi range.

Hardware has you down on specifications too with WiFi 802.11b/g, eight or 16 gigabytes of storage, a 3G HSDPA spectrum antenna for better voice and mobile broadband speeds with support still for GSM’s quad-band technology, Bluetooth, and the oh-so friendly Apple iPod dock.

Aside for the 3G antenna, you also get an assisted GPS to help you find where you are with the help of Maps, an application that will bounce off of the cellular towers and get a fix on your position with the GPS chip and show you where you are as well as how to get where you want to be. One thing to be aware of however is that the iPhone’s Maps is not “navigation”. Instead, Maps won’t speak to you in the same way your TomTom or Garmin will.

The AppStore is an excellent feature too, new with iPhone Firmware 2.0. AppStore allows you to connect to an iTunes store section to buy and download various applications that give you more functionality.

Click to enlarge

Oh and there’s even a phone. 🙂

In fact, making calls works quite well and the buttons are more responsive than you’d actually expect. If you’ve used a touch-based device and have been disappointed with the response of the keypad, your mind will change with the iPhone. I must admit, this was the thing which stopped me from deciding to be an early importer of the first generation iPhone and yet when you try it, it changes your whole perspective.

But not everything will change your view on touch devices. In fact, some things will leave you with a bit of a sour taste in your mouth after forking out so much money on what is essentially “a phone with an iPod in it”.

One such thing is the phone functionality compared to that of a regular phone. Prone to random drop-outs and not having the best antenna, the iPhone doesn’t make the best phone if what you’re after is “a phone”. You also can’t currently forward SMS’s, make MMS’s, or forward contact details from your phone to someone else. As far as messaging goes, you can write to whom you want to but you can’t seem to save drafts of messages.

Heaven forbid you wanting to use wireless Bluetooth stereo headphones or anything else using the A2DP connection because the iPhone lacks A2DP support. Much like how Americans were a little shocked that the first generation iPhone lacked 3G, some people are now a little surprised that the second generation lacks something as pivotal as A2DP.

I also found that my 3G connectivity just wasn’t as good as I had expected. Frequent drop-outs seemed to be found quite often and there wasn’t much I could do to fix it.

None of this even touches upon the possible security flaws that the iPhone might itself have due to the single username & password that people can use to gain access into your phone once you’re connected on a wireless network.

Click to enlarge

But despite all of the things that could go wrong with the iPhone, it’s the little things that Apple has paid attention to that I absolutely adore.

Things like the keyboard, a simple system that while it has that irritating word suggestion feature, still works better than any other PDA on the market because it doesn’t require a stylus and doesn’t want you to think about one. I love the little touches that make parts of the interface seem more tactile when they obviously aren’t: no one is thinking about pulling down on a number wheel, well no one besides Apple anyway. And while Apple still can’t seem to properly patch the problems the iPhone has, I love that their fixes and patches can be applied so easily and are actually done.

When was the last time you put your phone into any sort of a syncing device and patched up the firmware or fixed the plethora of bugs that it shipped with? I will hedge a bet that most people have never even upgraded their phone with a fix, a simple solution that can kill any number of issues your devices can and will ship with.

But I still sit on the fence as to what people should do if they actually want to buy the iPhone. Compared to the older model, the plastic seems far less resistant with micro-cracks already occurring in the newly released model. Coupled with battery issues and 3G drop-outs, you have to question whether the Apple 3G iPhone is still a “phone” in the sense of the word.

If you’re in the market for a device that lets you combine a portable gaming device, music & movie player, and a mobile phone then the Apple 3G iPhone is definitely a device you’ll want to look at immediately. But I think the third generation will be where it’s at and if you can afford to wait and want the crème de la crème, I think Apple will have it all sorted out by the time the next generation comes around.

Product: Apple iPhone 3G

Vendor: Apple

RRP: Check with phone providers

Website: Apple iPhone 3G

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark