AT&T: The first-generation phone is locked, and apparently aggressively, to AT&T (formerly Cingular Wireless) – as the sole U.S. phone services provider, a deal that will apparently run through 2009. Customers must to agree to a new two-year cell phone contract in order to use the phone, which is different from standard phones that can be purchased with one-year (+$50) or no contracts (+$100) at higher prices. Unless Apple chooses to reach different deals with overseas partners, you will not be able to use competitors’ SIM cards in an iPhone. Also, the device is electronically incompatible with the Verizon and Sprint/Nextel networks, so even if an iPhone was hacked, it would not work on these networks.
Battery: iPhone includes a Lithium-Ion battery that is not user-replaceable. Apple today states that iPhone will deliver 24 hours of iPod-style audio playback, 6 hours of Internet use, 7 hours of video playback, and 8 hours of phone talk time before requiring a recharge. The phone also has a standby time of 250 hours, or over 10 days. Originally, the company stated that iPhone’s battery would run for 16 hours of audio playback, or 5 hours of video, phone, or Internet usage before requiring a recharge.
As the battery is not user-replaceable, it will apparently require you to send the phone back to Apple when it fails to properly hold a charge. This is widely considered to be a potentially major problem with the iPhone, as an extended interruption in phone service could be fatal for some customers. However, supplemental battery pack accessories will most likely be offered as somewhat of an offset.
Bluetooth: iPhone supports the Bluetooth 2.0+EDR standard. In addition to its practicality for monaural wireless headsets, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR is capable of supporting advanced stereo wireless broadcasting, and potentially data synchronization as well. Unfortunately, no support for stereo Bluetooth music playback has yet been announced by Apple, and early accessories only appear to deliver monaural phone call making and receiving. A Bluetooth icon now appears to be nearly ever-present on the iPhone’s screen when in vertical orientation, alongside the battery icon in the upper right corner.
Cellular Signal Strength: When iPhone isn’t on a Wi-Fi network, it relies upon AT&T’s slower EDGE network for its data services. Consequently, web browsing, photo e-mailing, and Google Map navigating is not as fast when you’re on the road. You will see blocks on the screen as Google Maps waits to load additional data.
With Wi-Fi, demonstration web pages such as The New York Times and Google Maps load quickly—not lightning fast, but more than acceptably for a handheld device.
Chips: Reports on iPhone’s key components have varied. An Italian Intel executive has said that the CPU is partially based on Intel’s XScale technology, which was sold to the Marvell Technology Group in mid-2006. Processors from the XScale family are used in Blackberry, Motorola Q, Treo, and other smartphones, and can be read about here; other reports suggest that Marvell’s part enables iPhone’s Wi-Fi (802.11) functionality. Similarly, Broadcom’s Chairman has confirmed that Broadcom provides at least one chip inside the iPhone, which is believed to be its video decoding processor, but could also include other features, such as Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi. Samsung is believed to be providing an audio processor and memory for iPhone, while ARM Holdings has reportedly indicated that three ARM-licensed chips from other companies (possibly Marvell, Broadcom, and Samsung) will be found in the device. The accuracy of these reports will not be known until after the device’s release.
GSM/EDGE/Standards: With rare exceptions, the iPhone is designed to work all over the world. It’s a Quad-Band GSM phone, relying on the older EDGE standard for its data communications, which makes it compatible with AT&T’s partner networks found in most parts of North America and Europe, and certain parts of Asia. iPhone will not work on Japan’s popular DoCoMo network, but it will work on the Softbank GSM network. All international phone use of a U.S.-purchased iPhone will require payment of additional service fees.
(Mac) OS X: Invisible to the user but critical to iPhone is a specially customized version of Apple’s OS X operating system, which runs all of iPhone’s applications. It is not the Mac version of OS X, so developers cannot write Mac applications and have then run without modification. Apple has said that this is because of the user interface and needs to match the iPhone’s unique screen features.
Pricing: After initially offering a 4GB version of iPhone for $499, and an 8GB version for $599, Apple abruptly discontinued the 4GB model and slashed the price of the 8GB model to $399; the remaining stocks of 4GB models were sold off at $299 each. Customers are required to sign up for two-year AT&T wireless service plans in order to activate and use the iPhone, including its iPod features. A one-time $36 activation fee is assessed for a new iPhone account with AT&T, and users pay monthly service plan fees of $60 and up, depending on the number of cell phone minutes and text messages they plan to use each month. Individual and family plans are available. You can cancel the AT&T contract at any time for an additional fee of $175.
Standard iPhone data plans include unlimited use of data services, except for SMS text messaging, which will be limited to 200 messages under all iPhone plans. Only the most basic individual service plan includes 5000 night and weekend minutes rather than unlimited minutes, as in all other iPhone individual and family plans. AT&T notes that family plans include only one phone line; extras are available for $30 per month per line.
The true costs of iPhone over its two-year lifespan are discusssed fully in this iLounge article, Total iPhone 2-Year Costs: Charts & Details. We provide the charts below for your reference.
The tables show that the minimum amount you can expect to pay for two years of individual plan iPhone service is $2,075 with an 8GB iPhone—a number that is decreased to $1,875 with the $200 price drop. This price goes higher if you want to add SMS messages or minutes to the basic 450-minute plan. We noted in a prior article that AT&T’s most basic plan offers substantially fewer voice minutes than a comparably priced T-Mobile plan for a Danger Sidekick 3 phone, however, iPhone’s substantially superior data functionality, video features, and Wi-Fi may compensate for the price difference in some users’ minds.
Release Date: Apple released iPhone on June 29, 2007 in the United States. Other regions will see iPhone later, depending on deals reached with other countries’ cellular providers, and updates to the iPhone’s technology. Target dates listed by Apple are the fourth calendar quarter 2007 in Europe and Asia in 2008. The United Kingdom will receive iPhone on November 9, 2007.
Security: According to Apple, iPhone “supports industry-standard Wi-Fi security and virtual private networking (VPN),” and has a 4-digit password feature that can be used to protect iPhone against unwanted users. The 4-digit password will be required whenever iPhone is turned on or woken from sleep.
Storage Space: iPhone is sold in an 8GB version. Since some of the storage capacity is consumed by iPhone’s OS X operating system, and some is cut down by disk formatting, users actually have 7.25GB of space for music, videos, photos, and other data.
Wi-Fi: Unlike most (but not all) cell phones, iPhone has the ability to connect to a 802.11b or 802.11g wireless network if one is available, which enables you to access the device’s Maps, Safari web browser, Mail, YouTube, and other applications at very high speeds relative to the device’s cell phone EDGE data services. Pictures, multimedia content, and text will all appear faster on screen when you’re on Wi-Fi than when you’re on the EDGE network. As with a computer, you’ll need to have the password to access any specific closed Wi-Fi network, and shouldn’t expect free access from paid Wi-Fi locations such as the ones at Starbucks.