Review: Apple iPhone (4GB/8GB/16GB)
Pros: A truly next-generation mobile phone with world-class industrial design, iPod-caliber audio and video playback, and great telephone performance in handset, speakerphone, or Bluetooth modes. Novel, nice approach to “visual” voicemail. Strong web and photo browsing features are augmented by a gorgeous, high-resolution 3.5” widescreen display and novel multi-point touchscreen controls; iPod functionality benefits significantly from good built-in speaker. Acceptable full-day battery life for typical users, and good e-mail client with initial signs of enough features (some Exchange server support, Word, PDF, and Excel document display) to satisfy more demanding business users. Surprisingly strong EDGE performance for web and even YouTube video use, boosted to sub-laptop speeds when switched to Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) network.
Cons: Two-year AT&T contract required for purchase; not usable with other wireless carriers, forcing users to rely upon AT&T’s less than superb customer service and inconsistent network coverage regardless of their regional or personal needs. No true instant messaging support; overpriced SMS feature. Size, price, limited storage, and lack of user-replaceable battery restrict appeal to a smaller-than-iPod market niche—for now. Significant TDMA noise and other physical and electronic incompatibilities make use of iPod accessories, as well as docking to your computer, somewhat unpleasant. Long-term durability and warranty/out-of-warranty replacement questions remain unclear and potentially significant for all buyers.
If you’re familiar with full-sized iPods, you’ll generally understand the design of iPhone: at 4.5” tall, it’s only a little taller than the 5G (video) iPod, with a .46” thickness similar to the 30GB model, and a 2.4” width that’s actually a hint narrower. Besides the 3.5” screen and a single physical button on the front, the back half is still substantially metal, the top has a headphone port and Hold-like switch, and the bottom has an iPod-styled Dock Connector. Because of its Apple family design similarities, and despite its many new features, there’s nothing intimidating about its looks. You’d have to be profoundly fearful of technology, or Meredith Vieira, to have a problem figuring it out after two minutes of use.
In fact, iPhone oozes class. Rather than a scratchable all-plastic front like the iPod, it features anti-scratch glass ringed by chrome-polished metal, and the mostly metal back matches Apple’s aluminum Cinema Displays, MacBook Pros, and components in Mac minis, Apple TVs, and iPod nanos. There’s a chromed Apple logo and a black plastic bottom piece that holds its wireless antennas; similar black parts are used on the left side for a ringer/silent switch and two volume buttons, and on the top for the Hold switch-like Sleep/Wake button. A chrome-ringed camera’s on the top left of the back, and a metal and plastic SIM card tray is on the top between the now recessed headphone port and the Sleep/Wake button.
By contemporary standards, Apple could not have done better with iPhone’s cosmetic design. Thanks to the screen, which boasts a 480x320 resolution that’s twice as detailed as the current iPod’s, and Apple’s choices of materials, even those who think iPhone is too expensive will concede that it’s gorgeously equipped. Like most phones, it includes two built-in speakers, one for the ear and one for speakerphone and iPod modes, and one microphone, which is solely for use with the phone. Apple didn’t skimp; for what they are, the speakers and mic sound great for calls, and add a great new feature for music and movie playback, besides.
Like Apple’s previous premium-priced color iPods -— the way they used to be packaged before price drops and smaller packages prevailed —- the iPhone comes in a sharp-looking black box with more than the necessary pack-ins: you get a charging, audio, and synchronization Dock and a USB Power Adapter in addition to a Stereo Headset (earphones with microphone), a Dock Connector to USB Cable, and printed documentation. New to the package is a cleaning cloth, provided to help keep the screen shining, and still absent is iTunes, which you must download from the Apple.com web site, rather than installing off a CD in the box.