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Baig: iPhone 3G ‘worth the wait,’ 3.75/4 stars

Contrasting with Wall Street Journal and NY Times reviews published today, USA Today’s Edward Baig offered almost universal praise for the iPhone 3G, awarding it 3.75 out of 4 stars and “an enthusiastic thumbs up.” In his review, Baig cites disappointment over the device’s inability to access AT&T’s 3G network “in parts of my northern New Jersey neighborhood and elsewhere,” but lauds each of its other features, stating that “the list of reasons the device doesn’t make sense for a certain class of users is shrinking fast.”

Singled out for special praise were Apple’s “improved overall audio quality” and addition of GPS to the device, which was accurate “as I drove along in my car, searched for nearby pizza places, and requested directions. Alas, the feature begs for the audible turn-by-turn directions found on Samsung’s Instinct and others.”

Baig also confirmed 3G speed improvements seen by other reviewers. “It generally took 10 to 30 seconds to load popular websites through 3G, a lot zippier than when I accessed the sites on Edge. Oddly, parts of the pages sometimes showed up first on the older iPhone screen. But pages always finished loading on the 3G device first, often by a half minute or more.”

Unlike The Wall Street Journal, which noted that battery life was a major issue, Baig suggested that the two devices were similar in performance. “I started receiving low battery warnings toward the end of a busy work day;” he said. “I found myself charging the device overnight, the same as with the older iPhone.” However, Baig cited battery charging issues, saying that he “couldn’t juice up the latest device using my Bose SoundDock or Belkin car kit. Apple says there will be adapters to permit charging with certain older accessories.” According to Baig, this issue was attributable to iPhone 3G’s lack of compatibility with FireWire charging devices; it remains to be seen whether the new device behaves differently from the original iPhone in this regard.

Mossberg: iPhone 3G ‘much faster,’ with ‘hidden costs,’ battery issues

Reviewing the iPhone 3G for The Wall Street Journal, Walter Mossberg today said that the device “mostly keeps its promises,” but is saddled by “two big hidden costs:” weaker battery performance and AT&T price plans that “effectively negated the iPhone’s up-front price cut.”

On upbeat notes, Mossberg praised iPhone 3G’s data performance, which he said outstripped Apple’s clams of twice the prior model’s speed. “The new iPhone typically was between three and five times as fast as the old one,” Mossberg noted, achieving speeds of 200 to 500kbps in Washington and New York versus 70 to 150kbps on the original iPhone. He also offered generally strong praise for the device’s audio, citing a “much louder” speaker for music and calls, but noted that “the new phone produced an echo when used with the built-in Bluetooth system in my car.” His initial “overall” conclusion was positive: “I found it to be a more capable version of an already excellent device.”

However, the columnist noted previously unreported battery and calling issues that might concern some potential buyers. “n my tests,” said Mossberg, “the iPhone 3G’s battery was drained much more quickly in a typical day of use than the battery on the original iPhone,” a result he attributed to 3G network power drain. “In my test of voice calling, I got 4 hours and 27 minutes, short of Apple’s maximum claim and nearly three hours less than what I recorded in the same test last year on the original iPhone.” Practically, this meant a mid-day loss of power: “I found the battery indicator on the new 3G model slipping below 20% by early afternoon or midafternoon on some days, and it entirely ran out of juice on one day.” While 3G network power requirements aren’t unique to the iPhone 3G, he notes, “some other 3G competitors… have replaceable batteries. The iPhone doesn’t.”

Mossberg also noted mixed performance in real world calling situations, finding certain coverage improvements, but also dropped calls. “In New York City, riding in a taxi along the Hudson, one important call was dropped three times on the new iPhone,” he said. “Finally, I borrowed a cheap Verizon phone and got perfect reception.” The review ended with a less positive conclusion than his overall assessment suggested: “If you’ve been waiting to buy an iPhone until it dropped in price, or ran on faster cell networks, you might want to take the plunge, if you can live with the higher service costs and the weaker battery life. ...But if you already own an iPhone, and can usually use Wi-Fi for data, you probably should hold off and get the free software upgrade before deciding whether it’s worth getting the new hardware.”

Pogue: First iPhone ‘stunning,’ iPhone 3G ‘nice upgrade’

Reviewing the iPhone 3G for The New York Times, technology columnist David Pogue offered light praise for the device, contrasting the “stunning” first iPhone with the new model. “When the iPhone 3G goes on sale in AT&T and Apple stores, iPhone Mania will be considerably more muted. That’s partly because the mystery is gone, partly because the AT&T service costs more and partly because there aren’t many new features in what Apple is calling the iPhone 3G.”

In his review, Pogue touches on each of the iPhone 3G’s major new features, caveating many because of unexpected limitations. The “much faster” 3G Internet feature, he notes, is not usable in 10 states, with 16 others having three or fewer covered cities, while the device’s GPS functionality is limited—according to Apple—by its antenna. “Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do with the G.P.S.,” Pogue says. “[T]he metal of a car or the buildings of Manhattan are often enough to block the iPhone’s view of the sky, leaving it just as confused as you are.”

Additionally, Apple’s claim of a half-priced phone is “not really” accurate given the heightened expense of its required calling plans. “y the end of your two-year contract, the iPhone 3G will have cost you more than the old iPhone,” says Pogue, “not less.” Still, he describes the device as “a nice upgrade,” and notes that “new buyers will generally be delighted.”

Praised by Pogue are the flush headphone port, the unit’s smaller power adapter, and its audio quality, which he notes “has taken a gigantic step forward. You sound crystal clear to your callers, and they sound crystal clear to you. In fact, few cellphones sound this good.” His favorite feature? “[T]he really big deal is the iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store, neither of which requires buying a new iPhone,” said Pogue, which “may come as a refreshing surprise to planned-obsolescence conspiracy theorists—and everyone who stood in line last year.”

Optimus reveals iPhone 3G plans, pricing for Portugal

Optimus has revealed its plans and pricing for the iPhone 3G in Portugal. The company will offer both pre- and post-paid non-contract service for the iPhone, along with traditional contract plans. With pre- and post-paid plans, the iPhone 3G will sell for €499 (~$786) for the 8GB model and €599.90 (~$943) for the 16GB. iPhone Total is the pre-paid iPhone service option, offering 250 SMS messages to other Optimus lines, 250MB of data, and a voice and non-Optimus SMS charge of €0.17 (~$0.27) for €20 (~$31) a month. Post-paid options include the €15 (~$24) a month iPhone 15 plan, which offers 100 Optimus SMS, 100MB of data, and a voice and non-Optimus SMS charge of €0.15 (~$0.24), the iPhone 30, which brings 300 Optimus texts, 300MB of data, and a voice and SMS rate of €0.13 (~$0.20) for €30 (~$47) a month, and the iPhone 50 plan, which offers a voice and SMS charge of €0.10 (~$0.16), 500 Optimus texts, and 500MB of data with a monthly charge of €50 (~$79).

In addition, Optimus will offer three contract plans for the iPhone 3G. The €30 plan will offer 100 Optimus texts, 100MB of data, and a voice and non-Optimus rate of €0.15, the €45 plan will offer 300 Optimus SMS, 300MB of data, and a voice and SMS rate of €0.13, and the €65 plan will offer a voice and call charge of €0.10, 500 Optimus texts, and 500MB of data. With the €30 plan, the 8GB iPhone 3G will cost €250 (~$393) and the 16GB model €350 (~$550), while selection of the €45 plan brings the prices down to €200 (~$315) and €300 ($472), respectively. Finally, with the €65 plan, the 8GB model will sell for €150 (~$236), while the 16GB model will run €250 (~$393). Optimus will begin sales of the iPhone 3G on July 11.

iPhone 3G Apple retail sales limited to U.S. stores

Based on information found on Apple’s international websites, it appears that sales of the iPhone 3G in Apple’s company-operated retail outlets will be limited to stores in the United States. Apple previously sold the first-generation iPhone at its stores in the United Kingdom, but those stores are conspicuously absent from the “Where to Buy” page on the company’s U.K. website, and are also absent from similar pages for ItalyAustralia and Japan. Currently circulating reports claim that Apple’s decision to not sell the iPhone 3G in its Canadian stores was a response to consumer outrage at Rogers Wireless’ service plans for the device, however, confirmation of Apple’s decision was received alongside Rogers’ announcement, making this scenario highly unlikely. A more likely reason for the decision would be that Apple’s international retail stores may lack the ability to handle in-store activation, and the company may also want to avoid potential confusion in countries where the iPhone is being offered by multiple carriers.

Vodafone lists iPhone 3G pricing for Italy, Portugal, New Zealand

Vodafone has announced its plans and pricing for the iPhone 3G in Italy, Portugal, and New Zealand. In Italy (Translated link), Vodafone will offer three main plans - Facile Large, Special Edition, and Facile Medium. Facile Large offers 900 minutes and 900 SMS for €99 (~$156) a month, Special Edition offers a maximum of 7,000 minutes and 7,000 SMS to Vodafone numbers in addition to 250 all-purpose minutes and texts for €79 (~$124) a month, while Facile Medium includes 400 minutes and 400 texts for €59 (~$93) a month. All three plans offer 600MB of data. With the Large plan on a two-year contract, the 8GB iPhone 3G will sell for €49 (~$77) and the 16GB model for €119 (~$187), while selection of the Special Edition plan brings the prices to €99 and €169 (~$265), respectively. A two-year agreement on the Medium plan sets the prices at €199 (~$313) for the 8GB model and €269 (~$423) for the 16GB version. None of the plans include free Wi-Fi.

In Portugal, Vodafone will offer three iPhone plans — Best iPhone 100, Best iPhone 230, and Best iPhone 500, each including 250MB of data, and either 100, 230, or 500 minutes and texts, respectively. Monthly pricing is €29.90 (~$47) for the 100 plan, €44.90 (~$71) for the 230, and €64.90 (~$102) for the 500; an iPhone data add-on will be offered for customers who want to use the iPhone 3G with an existing plan, it will include 250MB of data for €19.90 (~$31) a month. iPhone 3G handset pricing will range between €129.90 (~$204) and €389.90 (~$613) depending on the model and which plan the customer chooses for their 24-month contract; the phone will also be offered without a contract for €499.90 (~$786) for the 8GB model and €599.90 (~$943) for the 16GB.

Finally, in New Zealand, Vodafone will again offer three plans for the iPhone 3G: iPhone 250, iPhone 500, and iPhone 1GB. The 250 plans offers 120 minutes and 250MB of data for NZD80 (~$60) a month, the 500 plans steps up to 250 minutes and 500MB of data for NZD130 (~$98) a month, and the 1GB plan offers 600 minutes and 1GB of data for NZD250 (~$188) a month. All three plans include 600 SMS texts, and data add-ons will be offered for current customers for NZD29.95 (~$23) a month for 200MB and NZD49.95 (~$38) for 1GB. Pricing on the iPhone 3G handset will vary depending on what 24-month plan the customer chooses: it will cost NZD549 (~$413) for the 8GB and NZD699 (~$526) for the 16GB with the 250 plan, NZD449 (~$338) and NZD599 (~$451) with the 500 plan, and NZD199 (~$150) and NZD349 (~$262) with the 1GB plan; both models will also be offered without a contract for NZD979 (~$736) and NZD1129 (~$849), respectively.

iPhone 3G unboxing photos appear

The first iPhone 3G unboxing photos have appeared on an forum. The iPhone 3G box appears quite similar to that of the original iPhone, made from hard, black cardboard with a top that lifts off to offer access to the phone, manual, and included accessories. The iPhone itself is presented in a black tray, as opposed to the clear plastic tray that came with the original, and both the new SIM card removal tool and slim new charger are pictured, as well. In addition to the unboxing photos, a brief gallery of an iPhone 3G in-store display and demo unit have been posted by Swiss site Gadget O’ Mac. The iPhone 3G will go on sale this Friday, June 11. [via Engadget]

SoftBank to launch iPhone 3G in Japan at 7 am Friday

Japanese iPhone carrier SoftBank has announced that it will begin selling the iPhone 3G at 7 a.m. on Friday at its store in the Harajuku district of Tokyo. Other SoftBank stores and major retailers will begin offering the phone at noon. The carrier recently announced its service plans and pricing for the iPhone 3G; plans will start at 7,280 yen (around $68), including unlimited data-transmission usage, while the phone itself will run 23,040 yen (around $215) over 24-months for the 8GB model, and 34,560 yen (around $322) for the 16GB version.

Telcel announces iPhone 3G pricing, plans for Mexico

Telcel has announced (Translated link) its service plans and pricing for the iPhone 3G in Mexico. Telcel is offering three different plans for the iPhone in Mexico, and as with other international carriers, it is pricing the iPhone 3G hardware based on which plan the customer chooses for his/her 24-month agreement. Plan iPhone I will cost 459MXN (~$44) per month, and will include 200 minutes, 100MB of data, and 100 SMS texts, while Plan iPhone II will run 599MXN (~$58) monthly, and will include 300 minutes, 150MB of data, and 150 texts. The Plan iPhone III will cost 799MXN (~$77) a month, and will offer 400 minutes, 200MB of data, and 200 SMS texts. Additional minutes will be charged at a rate of 1.15MXN (~$0.11) per to Telcel and land phones, or 3.45MXN (~$0.33) per minute to other operators’ phones, while additional data will cost 0.04MXN per KB, and each additional text will run 0.85MXN (~$0.08).

With the Plan I, the 8GB iPhone 3G costs 3,419MXN (~$331) and the 16GB model 4,689MXN (~$454), while with the Plan II the two run 2,159MXN (~$209) and 3,419MXN, respectively. Finally, with the Plan III, the 8GB iPhone 3G sells for 889MXN (~$86), while the 16GB model sells for 2,159MXN. All prices include 15% VAT. Telcel will launch the iPhone in Mexico on July 11. [Thanks, Bernardo]

Apple confirms 8 am iPhone 3G launch, posts ‘Where to Buy’ guide

One week after AT&T announced it would be opening its retail stores at 8 a.m. local time on July 11 for the launch of the iPhone 3G, Apple has confirmed that its own retail stores will do the same. A new message on Apple’s retail website reads “iPhone 3G Coming July 11 at 8 a.m.” In addition, the company has set up a “Where to Buy” page for the iPhone, featuring links to find the nearest Apple retail store or AT&T location, a list of what customers should bring with them to purchase and activate the phone, and a brief overview of how to get their data ready to make syncing to the iPhone 3G easier.

TIM reveals iPhone 3G rates, pricing for Italy

Telecom Italia Mobile has revealed (Translated link) its subscription plans and pricing for the iPhone 3G in Italy. Like many other international iPhone carriers, TIM will price the iPhone 3G based on which monthly plan the customer chooses. Macity reports the company will offer five different plans, ranging in price from €30 (~$47) to €200 (~$315) a month. The iPhone starter plan (€30) will offer 1GB of data, and no built-in voice minutes or texts — they will run €15 cents each. For €50 (~$79) a month, the iPhone 250 plan will offer the same 1GB of data, 250 minutes, 100 SMS messages, while the iPhone 600 plan, which runs €80 (~$126) a month, will offer 600 minutes, 200 SMS, and 1GB of data. The iPhone 900 plan is priced at €110 (~$173) a month and includes 900 minutes, 900 texts, and 1GB of data, while the iPhone unlimited plan will run €200 (~$315) a month and will include 5000 minutes, 1500 SMS, and 5GB of data. The iPhone 3G hardware will be priced at €199 (~$313) for the 8GB model and €269 (~$423) for the 16GB with the starter plan, €189 (~$298) and €259 (~$408) with the 250 plan, €149 (~$235) and €219 (~$345) with the 600 plan, and €99 (~$156) and €169 (~$266) with the 900 plan. The 8GB model will be free with the unlimited plan, while the 16GB model will cost €69 (~$109). It is unclear how long the associated contract will last. TIM previously announced that it will sell non-subsidized iPhone 3G units to pre-paid customers for €499 (~$786) for the 8GB model and €569 (~$896) for the 16GB model.

In a separate report, Macity claims (Translated link) that early Italian iPhone sales will require at-home activation through iTunes, as the carriers’ retail stores are not currently equipped to handle in-store activation. Both TIM and Vodafone will reportedly offer in-store activation on the iPhone 3G at the customer’s request as soon as their retail outlets are capable of doing so.

Canadian iPhone 3G displays revealed

Two in-store iPhone 3G displays for Canadian stores have been revealed in pictures from the displays’ installation manuals. The iPhone 3G will be displayed in Rogers Wireless and Fido retail outlets either on a white, iPhone 3G-specific pedestal display, or in a more traditional tabletop circular white base. The manuals also feature the first real-world pictures of the iPhone 3G Dock, which was previously spotted on Apple’s website. The new Dock features less plastic on the sides and front of the recessed docking well than the original iPhone Dock, and also features slightly different speaker and microphone holes to correspond with the new bottom design of the iPhone 3G.

iPhone 3G queue forms in NYC, display details emerge

The first iPhone 3G line formed over the weekend outside Apple’s flagship retail store on 5th Avenue in New York City. This same store, known for its glass cube entryway, was the location of the first line for the original iPhone last June. The first five people in line are part of an environmental activist group and are hoping to use their places in line to gain publicity for their cause.

In addition, large, full-window iPhone 3G displays have begun arriving at Apple retail stores. Similar to the in-store displays for the first-generation iPhone, the new fixtures consist of a display which resembles a giant iPhone 3G, running a demo of the phone’s software in front of a cardboard backdrop.

O2 briefly opens, closes iPhone 3G pre-orders [updated]

O2 in the United Kingdom briefly began taking pre-orders for the iPhone 3G on its website this morning, before stopping the sales minutes after they began. Customers who pre-registered their interest in the new handset through O2’s website were told this morning that the iPhone 3G was available for pre-order online, only to be referred to a customer service line after filling out a form. The Register reports that reader Carol Dew called the number, “only to be advised that they couldn’t take telephone orders until Friday, and they were very sorry for the inconvenience, but they had 2000 other people just like me calling them this morning, and their managers had advised them that the site was overwhelmed. Because they didn’t anticipate the demand. But when I asked how many iPhones were in stock, since I was afraid they’d run out before I could order mine, I was told that they’d asked customers to ‘register their interest’ on the website (did that; hence getting the text this morning). And that every time someone registered their interest, they ordered in an iPhone for them. Yet they didn’t anticipate today’s demand.” Interestingly, O2’s pre-order announcement indicated that orders would be delivered by courier on July 11, raising questions as to whether the handsets would have arrived unbricked and activated, or whether Apple has plans to allow at-home unbricking and activation in some countries.

Update: O2 has updated its iPhone 3G page with a message that says, “Due to huge demand for the iPhone 3G, we’re currently out of stock online. Come back on 10 July for more information.” [via MDN]

Apple posts original iPhone to iPhone 3G upgrade how-to

Apple has posted a new support article explaining how users can replace their original first-generation iPhone with an iPhone 3G using the same carrier. The article, titled “How to replace an original iPhone with an iPhone 3G,” says, “If you follow these steps to backup your original iPhone first, and then restore the backup to your iPhone 3G, your saved SMS messages, email accounts, photos, notes, and other personal settings will be present on your iPhone 3G.” According to the six-step process, US-based iPhone customers will not need to swap the SIM cards from the original to the iPhone 3G, while users in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and France can use their original SIM with the new handset. Apple will launch the iPhone 3G in multiple countries worldwide on July 11.

German iPhone early adopters angered by upgrade penalty

A new German T-Mobile iPhone upgrade policy has angered some first-generation iPhone owners, according to a new report. The company has announced that first-gen iPhone users looking to upgrade to the iPhone 3G will be forced to pay a €15 ($24) penalty for each month left on the prior iPhone’s contract, despite the fact that many paid the full €399 ($626) amount for the phone last year. In addition, reports German site (Translated link), there may also be a “port charge” added on to the penalty. AT&T in the United States has announced that it will allow current iPhone users to upgrade to the iPhone 3G at subsidized $199-$299 pricing, partially because the original iPhone was not sold with a subsidy. In Germany, however, T-Mobile began offering first-generation iPhones in April for as little as €99 with a 24-month contract, creating a situation where some iPhone users paid full price for the handset, while some did in fact receive the phone at a subsidized price. [via MacNN]

DoCoMo still interested in offering iPhone

Ryuji Yamada, president of Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo, recently suggested that the company is still interested in making a deal with Apple to offer the iPhone in Japan alongside previously announced Japanese carrier SoftBank. “It’s common sense that Apple wants to sell as many iPhones worldwide as possible and to customize it would be difficult,” Yamada, said in an interview. “Our stance on the iPhone remains flexible.” DoCoMo, which has been in negotiations with Apple to carry the iPhone, “hasn’t given up yet,” according to a statement made by Yamada on June 23. SoftBank will launch the iPhone 3G in Japan on July 11.

Telia revises iPhone service plans for Sweden

Following complaints from potential customers regarding the voice, text, and data limits on its previously announced iPhone 3G service plans, Swedish iPhone carrier Telia has revised its service offerings for the soon to be released handset. Instead of modifying the plans for the iPhone 3G, the carrier has chosen to allow users to pick from its existing plans for other mobile phones, then add a 199 SEK (roughly $33) unlimited data option. It remains to be seen whether other international iPhone carriers facing public scrutiny over their service plan pricing, such as Rogers in Canada, will follow suit and modify their plans to meet customer demand.

Optus reveals iPhone 3G plans, pricing

Optus, one of three Australian iPhone carriers, has revealed its plans and pricing for the iPhone 3G. Unlike most other carriers, Optus is offering the iPhone 3G to subscribers on a monthly payment basis, in lieu of taking one large upfront payment for the handset. The company will offer the iPhone 3G with two different lines of contract service plans. The company’s ‘yes’ Cap Plans offer a set amount of data, a credit amount used towards calls and texts which is much higher than the minimum monthly payment, and a national Call Rate of A$0.47 to A$0.35, depending on which Cap Plan the customer selects. Likewise, the monthly payment the customer must pay towards the cost of the iPhone 3G hardware varies based on the plan selected. All texts up to 160 characters cost A$0.25, which is taken out of the credit amount included with the plan. In addition, all ‘yes’ Cap Plans include voicemail, free 20 minutes calls to other Optus GSM mobiles in Australia from 8pm to midnight 7 nights a week, and free 5 minute calls to numbers on the same account.

Google launches Google Talk for iPhone

Google has released a new web-based version of Google Talk designed specifically for the iPhone and iPod touch. Google Talk for iPhone requires the application to be open in the Safari browser in order to receive instant messages. When a user navigates away to another browser window or application, his/her status is automatically changed to “unavailable,” and the session will be restarted when the page is reopened. To access Google Talk for iPhone and iPod touch, simply navigate to from the device.

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