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.”


Jeremy Horwitz

Jeremy Horwitz was the Editor-in-Chief at iLounge. He has written over 5,000 articles and reviews for the website and is one of the most respected members of the Apple media. Horwitz has been following Apple since the release of the original iPod in 2001. He was one of the first reviewers to receive a pre-release unit of the device, and his review helped put iLounge on the map as a go-to source for Apple news.