Apple to sell cheaper, 8GB iphone 4 within weeks

August 23, 2011

(Reuters) – Apple Inc will release a cheaper iPhone 4 within weeks, jeopardizing profit margins to win lower-end customers from rivals such as Nokia in China and other emerging markets.

Asian suppliers have begun making a lower-cost version of the hot-selling smartphone with a smaller 8-gigabyte flash drive that will arrive around the same time Apple unveils its much-anticipated iPhone 5, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The world’s most valuable technology company has long stuck to the higher end of a booming mobile device arena, but is now seeking out new markets to sustain the rip-roaring pace of growth that has enthralled Wall Street.

It is in talks with leading Chinese carriers China Mobile Ltd and China Telecom Corp Ltd, both of which are eager to carry the device that defined the smartphone market when Apple launched it in 2007.

“A lower-priced version of iPhone 4 seems to be a necessary evil at this point in the iPhone adoption cycle, especially in emerging markets where the average income of individuals is much lower,” said Channing Smith, co-manager of the Capital Advisors Growth Fund, which owns Apple shares.

Pat Becker, portfolio manager at Becker Capital Management, said Apple is looking to take a chunk of the market that is currently dominated by Finnish rival Nokia Oyj, which is widely expected to release a new phone running on Microsoft Corp’s Windows software as early as end of the year.

Nokia dominates the lower end, while Apple has so far focused only on the premium market.

“Your best defense is sometimes your offense,” he said.

A cheaper phone risks cannibalizing Apple’s premium iPhone model and pressuring margins, but the California company needs one to expand its emerging market share, analysts say.

The flash drive for the 8-GB iPhone 4 is being manufactured by a South Korean company, one of the sources said on Tuesday, declining to name the company. Apple currently sources its flash drives from Japan’s Toshiba Corp and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

Apple, which demands high levels of secrecy and security from suppliers and employees, would not comment. Samsung also declined comment.


The iPhone 4 was launched June 2010 in black 16-GB and 32-GB versions, with white versions added to the lineup in April. The 8-GB version is expected within weeks, the sources said.

“Apple may want to push into the emerging market segment, where customers want to switch to low- to mid-end smartphones from high-end feature phones, which usually cost $150 to $200,” said Yuanta Securities analyst Bonnie Chang.

“But I think for an 8-GB iPhone 4, the price is hard to go below $200, so Apple will still need a completely new phone with low specifications for the emerging markets.” An iPhone 4 without contract commitments now costs over $600.

In addition to the launch of the smaller iPhone 4, Apple is targeting an end-September launch for the next-generation iPhone 5, one source said, confirming earlier reports on Apple follower blogsites and industry websites.

The new iPhone — which some call the iPhone 4S because of its largely identical appearance to the existing iPhone 4 — will have a bigger touch screen, better antenna and an 8-megapixel camera, one source said.

The iPhone 5’s two manufacturers have been told to prepare production capacity for up to 45 million units altogether, the source said. The phone will be made by Hon Hai Precision Industries Co Ltd and Pegatron Corp, the person added.

Apple sold 20.34 million iPhones in the second quarter versus an expected 17 million to 18 million, and is increasingly looking to Asia to boost future results.

Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said in July the company is particularly optimistic about Greater China, in which Apple includes mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“I firmly believe that we are just scratching the surface right now,” Cook said about China. “I think there is an incredible opportunity for China there.”

Asia-Pacific — which accounts for about one-fifth of Apple’s total revenue — and Greater China in particular helped Apple’s revenue surge 82 percent to $28.6 billion in April-June.

Overall, Asia-Pacific revenue more than tripled to $6.3 billion in the quarter.

This article orginally appeared on Reuters.

Is iPhone 4 your best buy?

November 16, 2010

The iphone 4 is being challenged by the HTC Mozart. How do the phones compare?

The iPhone 4 is an elegant handset with stunning technology. It is easy to use (no need to read the manual) and it has a long lasting battery much improved from the iPhone 3GS. However, there is a new smartphone, the HTC 7 Mozart, that appears to be impressing the marketplace and challenging the iPhone’s fanbase. The HTC 7 Mozart is slim, lightweight (130g), with triangular rubberized top and bottom segments, brushed aluminium smartness and a serious feel compared to the slightly heavier (137g)  iPhone 4.

The HTC Mozart is based on the Microsoft Windows phone 7 operating system and it has only just recently been launched in the UK.  This smartphone from HTC has a number of excellent features and specs to its advantage, but can it really match the lure of iPhone 4? This article aims to objectively compare the two handsets in five areas: making a call, sending an email, taking a photo, internet browsing and downloading apps.

Making a call

Your Apple iPhone 4 has an impressive talktime of 372 minutes (much improved from their earlier models) with excellent sound quality, the handset contains a noise-cancelling microphone making it easy to hear your call even during loud background noise. A swipe of the home screen lets you search for contacts, select and tap to choose a landline, mobile or FaceTime video chat. However, when Apple placed the antenna around the edge of the phone it causes reception problems when the phone is held in a certain way. This means we cannot give the iPhone 4 full marks for its basic task of making and receiving calls.

The HTC 7 Mozart processing and performance speeds match the iPhone 4. the screen display of 480 x 800 pixels 3.7-inches S-LCD capacitive touch-screen compares well with the iPhone’s 640 x 960 pixels 3.5-inches LED-backlit IPS TFT capacitive touchscreen. Mozart offers up to 360 h (2G)/ up to 435 h (3G) of stand-by time and iPhone 4 gives up to 300 h (2G)/ up to 300 h (3G) stand-by time – Mozart wins. This number of pixels per inch provides a ‘retinal display’ as it surpasses the point at which the eye can detect individual pixels. But, if we consider talk-time, iPhone 4 is ahead – Mozart giving 6h 40 min (2G)/ up to 5h 30 min (3G); whereas Iphone 4 gives a chatter availability of 14 h (2G)/ up to 7 h (3G). When making a call with Mozart, you find contacts in the People app called ‘hub’. Profiles include a photo and updates from social networks. A plus, you can ‘pin’ favourite contacts to your home screen.

Sending an email

With an iPhone 4 you open the email app and tap an icon to bring up a blank message. A chunky querty keyboard fills half the screen available and leaves limited space to write your message. Some users find the spelling checker over helpful which is a minus. Mozart uses a Windows phones email app which has a clean, business-like interface. The touchscreen keyboard was the best – this new smartphone has obviously learnt from its rival’s failings.

Taking a photo

The iPhone 4 has a 5Mp camera while the Mozart has an impressive 8 Mp. The iPhone 4 camera has an LED flash, a backlit sensor, and an integrated 5x zoom. The lack of a dedicated shutter button makes the phone slow to snap but the photos, once achieved, look terrific. You also have a second front-facing camera. The video calling ‘FaceTime’ feature is an interesting option that only works on wi-fi. One-touch keys will send your photos as emails or picture images but there is no quick way to post them to Facebook or Twitter.

The Mozart 8 megapixel camera with Xenon flash, autofocus, and 720HD video recording should more than satisfy the keen photographer with a resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels. Hit the shutter button and the phone moves swiftly into camera mode. Look at your ‘Pictures hub’ to admire your photos and then share them on Facebook and enjoy automatic uploads to your free online account.

Internet browsing

The iPhone 4’s Safari browser has a Google searchbar built in. Pages load quickly and the phone is wi-fi capable for when you are in a wireless hotspot. There are useful tabs for News and Image searches. The phone runs on Apple’s impressive operating system iOS4 which will ultimately allow a host of new capabilities, not least the ability to multi-task by running several applications at once.

Mozart does not use Google but Microsoft’s Bing search engine – you hit the magnifier icon and the results are similar to Google’s. Hold the Windows button down for voice-activated searches.

Downloading Apps

No-one can beat Apple Store for games and apps – the choice is mind-blowing with about 300,000. After crediting your iTunes account, downloading and installation is really easy – just enter your password. The iPhone 4 is available with either 16GB or 32GB of internal memory, this gives you room to save all your favourite music tracks but it lacks an FM radio.

Windows Phone Marketplace currently only offers about 1,000 apps – they work smoothly and you are able to try out games before buying.The large display is perfect for those of you who like to be entertained (Xbox Live Gaming) especially when coupled with the handset’s Dolby Digital surround sound.


This article has attempted an unbiased review of the merits of Apple iPhone 4 when compared with the latest HTC Mozart handset. Iphone 4 has much to recommend it to seasoned smartphone users and apart from its camera’s capabilities it tips the scales in its favour – no surprise there then! However, the word is spreading among the techie’s that the Mozart is a serious contender with a great fresh new user interface, great camera and fantastic web browser. Perhaps that accounts for the Sunday Times Ingear  Tech & Net journalists Mark Harris and Matt Bingham opting for HTC 7 Mozart in their Xmas stockings?

Let us know what you think?

Apple iPhone 4 PAYG can be bought from Apple for £499.

Visit the three website for iPhone 4 PAYG and reconditioned handsets at competitive prices.

visit the t mobile website to buy PAYG iPhone 4 handsets

Visit the Orange website as the HTC 7 Mozart is available now for £399 PAYG or consider a free handset with monthly deal.

iPhone classic video – will it blend?

April 14, 2010

Yes it is an shiny, expense iPhone… but will it blend?

Cnet – video review of iPhone

April 14, 2010

Video review of the iPhone by Cnet

The Gadget Show – video review of the iPad

April 14, 2010

Review of the new Apple iPad by the team at “The Gadget Show”

The Gadget Show – video review of iPhone 3GS

April 14, 2010

Video review of the iPhone 3GS from the UK TV show, “The Gadget Show”

Video length = 4 mins 40 secs

Engadget iPhone review

April 14, 2010

by Ryan Block of engadget (the article was written in 2007 and is about the original iPhone 3G)

The first solid info anyone heard about the iPhone was in December of 2004, when news started to trickle out that Apple had been working on a phone device with Motorola as its manufacturing partner. About ten months later, under the shadow of the best-selling iPod nano, that ballyhooed device debuted — the ROKR E1 — a bastard product that Apple never put any weight behind, and that Motorola was quick to forget. The relationship between Apple and Motorola soon dissolved, in turn feeding the tech rumor mill with visions of a “true iPhone” being built by Apple behind the scenes. After years of rumor and speculation, last January that device was finally announced at Macworld 2007 — and here we are, just over six months later — the iPhone, perhaps the most hyped consumer electronics device ever created, has finally landed. And this is the only review of it you’re going to need.

We’ve gone into serious detail here, so here’s the review split into multiple parts. Trust us, it’s a quick read. Enjoy!

The last six months have held a whirlwind of hype surrounding the iPhone the likes of which we’ve rarely seen; an unbelievable amount of mainstream consumer electronics users — not just Engadget-reading technology enthusiasts — instantly glommed onto the idea of a do-it-all smartphone that’s as easy to use as it is powerful. The fact is, there’s only a very short list of properly groundbreaking technologies in the iPhone (multi-touch input), and a very long list of things users are already upset about not having in a $600 cellphone (3G, GPS, A2DP, MMS, physical keyboard, etc.). If you’re prepared to buy into the hype, and thusly, the device, it’s important that purchase (and its subsequent two year commitment to AT&T) not be made for features, but for the device’s paradigm-shifting interface.

The hardware

Industrial design

We’re just going to come out and say it: the iPhone has the most beautiful industrial design of any cellphone we’ve ever seen. Yes, it’s a matter of taste, and while we imagine some won’t agree, we find it hard to resist the handset’s thoughtful minimalism and attention to detail.

The edges of the beautiful optical-grade glass facade fit seamlessly with its stainless steel rim; the rear is an incredibly finely milled aluminum, with a hard, black plastic strip at the bottom, covering the device’s antenna array, and providing small, unsightly grids of holes for speaker and mic audio. On the rear is the slightly recessed 2 megapixel camera lens, a reflective Apple logo, and some information about the device (IMEI, serial, etc.) in nearly microscopic print. (Sorry, iPhone engravings don’t seem to be available yet for online customers.)

The iPhone’s curves and geometry make it incredibly comfortable to hold. It fits well in the hand horizontally and vertically (completely one-handed operation is a snap in portrait mode), and its slim profile lets it slip into even a tight pocket with little effort. The device feels incredibly sturdy and well balanced — no end seems any heavier than another. Every edge blends perfectly with the next (which will probably help fight gunk buildup over time), and holding the device to one’s ear is comfortable enough, although not as comfortable as, say, the HTC Touch.

Our only real complaint with the device’s design isn’t one we take lightly: Apple went to the trouble of giving the iPhone a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, but the plug is far too recessed to use most headphones with — we tested a variety, and were highly unimpressed with how many fit. What’s the point of a standard port if it’s implemented in a non-standard way? Apple might have at least included an extender / adapter for this, but didn’t. Luckily, the iPhone earbuds sound very decent, and also include a minuscule, clicky in-line remote / mic — but that’s not going to alleviate the annoyance for the myriad users with expensive Etys or Shures who have to pay another $10 for yet another small part to lose.

The display

The iPhone features the most attractive display we’ve ever seen on a portable device of this size, by far and bar none. While its 160ppi resolution isn’t quite photorealistic, the extremely bright 3.5-inch display does run at 480 x 320, making it one of the highest pixel-density devices around today (save the Toshiba G900’s mind-popping 3-inch 800 x 480 display). But pixel density doesn’t necessarily matter, it’s how your device uses the screen real estate it’s got. Instead of printing microscopic text, as Windows Mobile often does with high resolution displays (see: HTC’s Universal and Advantage), iPhone text looks smooth and natural in every application — everything on-screen is eminently readable.

The screen also provides an excellent outdoor viewing experience. With optical properties reminiscent of transflective displays, the iPhone remains completely readable (if a only bit washed out) even in direct sunlight. Unfortunately, the display’s viewing angle left a little something to be desired, and the rumors about the glass face being an absolute fingerprint magnet are totally true: this thing picks up more smudges than almost any touchscreen device we’ve ever used. Honestly though, we’d attribute this to the fact that unlike most other smartphones, you are exempt from using a stylus on the iPhone’s capacitive display, meaning you must touch it with your bare finger to do almost anything.

Thankfully, like the rest of the phone, the glass face feels extremely sturdy, and one should have absolutely no hesitation in wiping it off on their jeans or sleeve — we’ve yet to produce a single scratch on the thing, and we understand others testing under more rigorous circumstances (like deliberately trying to key its face up) have also been unable to mar its armor.

The sensors

One of the more unique features in the iPhone is its trio of sensors (orientation, light, and proximity — the latter two are behind the glass right above the earpiece) which help the device interact with its user and the world at large. Some of these sensors are more useful than others. The light sensor (for dimming the backlight) is great for saving power, but its use doesn’t compare to the the other two sensors, which worked like champs. The proximity sensor, which prevents you from accidentally interacting with the screen while the iPhone is pressed against your ear, switches off the display at about 0.75-inches away; the screen switches back on after you pull away about an inch. This very useful automatic process took a little getting used to from us oldschool touchscreen users, who have long since grown accustomed to diligently turning off the screen while on a call, or holding our smartphones to our ear ever so gently.

The orientation sensor also worked well enough. Although you can’t turn the phone on its head, when browsing in Safari you can do a 180, jumping quickly from landscape left to landscape right. The iPhone would occasionally find itself confused by the odd angles one sometimes carries and holds devices at, but in general we didn’t expect the orientation sensor to work as well as it did.

Button layout

Despite the iPhone’s entirely touchscreen-driven interface, all of its external buttons are mechanical and have a distinct, clicky tactility. There is, of course, the home button on the face, which takes you back to the main menu; along the left side of the unit is the volume up / down rocker (which is clearly identifiable by touch), and a ringer on / off switch — something we wish all cellphones had, but that far too few actually do. Turning off the ringer briefly vibrates the device to let the user know rings are off; it’s worth noting that turning the ringer off doesn’t turn off all device audio, so if you hit play on a song in iPod mode, audio will still come out the speaker if you don’t have headphones inserted.

On the top of the unit is the SIM tray (each unit comes pre-packaged with an AT&T SIM already inserted), which pops out by depressing an internal switch with a paperclip. Finally, the largest perimeter button is the sleep / wake switch, which does as you’d imagine. Press it (and swipe the screen) to wake up the device, or press it to put it to sleep; hold it (and swipe the screen) down to shut it off completely. (You can also use it turn off the ringer – -one click — or shunt a call to voicemail — two clicks — if someone rings you.)

The headphones

The iPhone comes bundled with a standard set of iPod earbuds, but there are two differences from the kind that comes with your regular old iPod. First, these earbuds don’t have the small plastic cable separator slide that helps keep your cables from getting tangled. Second, on the right channel cable about halfway up you’ll find a very slim, discreet mic / music toggle. When listening to music, click it once to pause, or twice to skip tracks; when a call comes through, click it once to pick up, and again to hang up.

That same in-line piece also picks up your voice for the call, and it sounds pretty good — some people on the other end of the line said it sounds even better than the iPhone’s integrated mic. For those worried that there would be issues with interference, put your mind at ease. We heard absolutely no cell radio interference over the headset, even when we wrapped it four times around the iPhone antenna, and sandwiched it between a second cellphone making a call. The headphones are an essential and amazing accessory that makes the seamless media and phone experiences of the device possible. We only wish Apple managed to integrate an inline volume switch in there too, since that’s really the only essential control it lacks.

Unfortunately for us, iPod headphones just don’t fit our ears, so no matter how good they may sound, they’re unusable since we can’t seem keep them in longer than 30 seconds. (We typically prefer canalphones, they can’t really go anywhere.) Since the included headphones are the only ones on the market right now that can interact with the iPod function, have an inline mic, and, of course, listen to audio, you’re kind of stuck with Apple’s buds if you want to get the most out of your iPhone. The same also applies to the expensive phones you invested in, which probably won’t fit in the recessed jack anyway: even if you get an adapter, you still won’t get the full experience.

Apple’s included headphones are about 42-inches long (3.5 feet), just about the perfect length to reach from your pocket to your head with a little extra slack. You’d be surprised how many cellphone manufacturers screw this up with bundled headphones that are way too long, or way too short.

The dock, charging

The included dock is up to par for Apple’s typically high standards — it feels very solid and sturdy with no visible mold lines, and is capped on the bottom by a solid rubber base (with a nearly hidden vent for letting sound in and out of the iPhone’s speaker and mic) to keep it in place. On its rear is the usual cable connector and line out. We thought the dock props the iPhone way too vertically — about 80°, significantly more upright than the stock iPod dock we compared it to. If you’re using it on a desk, you’ll probably wish Apple angled it back a little so you’re not leaning over to fumble with your phone like some miniature monolith.

Charging the iPhone is an easy enough affair. Pulling power from its adapter (and not a computer’s USB), we were able to quick-charge it from 0% to 90% in just under two hours, but it took us almost another hour and a half to get that last ten percent. We also twice ran into this weird bug, where charging the iPhone from 0% power would deactivate the screen. The only way to recover was to soft-reset the phone. No big deal, just irritating. It’s probably also worth mentioning that going from totally shut off to fully booted, the iPhone is up and running in under 30 seconds.

Other accessories

Apple also includes a microfiber polishing cloth — a welcome addition, but the device’s sturdy glass will stand up to rubs on most of your clothes, so don’t bother carrying it along if you’re planning to just brush off some dust or residue left by your face / ears / fingers, etc. Also included is an extremely small power brick, and USB connector cable. Worth noting: the iPhone connector cable doesn’t include tensioned clips, like most iPod connectors — just pull it out, nothing messy to get caught and broken, and fewer moving parts in general.

User interface

If there’s anything revolutionary, as Apple claims, about the iPhone, it’s the user interface that would be nominated. Countless phones make calls, play movies and music, have maps, web browsers, etc., but almost none seem able to fully blend the experience — which is part of the reason people flipped out at the idea of an iPhone. The device’s user interface does all this with panache, but it’s not without a number of very irritating issues. Before we get into those issues, however, we should quickly rundown the functions of the iPhone’s primarily gesture-based input system.

iPhone gestures

Drag – controlled scroll up / down through lists
Flick – quickly scrolls up / down through lists
Stop – while scrolling, tap and hold to stop the moving list
Swipe – flick from left to right to change panes (Safari, weather, iPod) and delete items (mail, SMS)
Single tap – select item
Double tap – zooms in and out (all apps), zooms in (maps)
Two-finger single tap – zooms out (maps only)
Pinch / unpinch – zoom in and out of photos, maps, Safari

As you can probably already tell, gestures in the iPhone are by no means consistent. By and large one can count on gestures to work the same way from app to app, but swipes, for example, will only enable the delete button in mail and SMS — if you want to delete selected calls from your call log, a visual voicemail message, world clock, or what have you, you’ve got to find another way. Swiping left to right takes you back one pane only in iPod, and two-finger single tap only zooms out in Google maps — none of the other apps that use zooming, like Safari, and photos.

These kinds of inconsistencies are worked around easily enough, but add that much more to the iPhone learning curve. And yes, there is definitely a learning curve to this device. Although many of its functions are incredibly easy to use and get used to, the iPhone takes radically new (and often extremely simplified and streamlined) approaches to common tasks for mobile devices.

Another rather vexing aspect of the iPhone’s UI is its complete inability to enable user-customizable themes — as well as having inconsistent appearances between applications. Users can set their background (which shows up only during the unlock screen and phone calls), but otherwise they’re stuck with the look Apple gave the iPhone, and nothing more. This is very Apple, and plays right into Steve’s reputation as a benevolent dictator; he’s got better taste than most, but not much of a penchant for individuality.

Even still, Apple’s chosen appearance varies from app to app. Some apps have a slate blue theme (mail, SMS, calendar, maps, Safari, settings), some have a black theme (stocks, weather), some have a combination blue / black theme (phone, iPod, YouTube, clock), some have a straight gray theme (photos, camera), and some have an app-specific theme (calculator, notes). Even the missing-data-background is inconsistent: checkerboard in Safari, line grid in Google maps. There’s little rhyme or reason in how or why these three themes were chosen, but unlike OS X’s legacy pinstripes and brushed metal looks, there’s really no reason why the iPhone should have an inconsistent appearance between applications.


Since its announcement, the iPhone’s single biggest x-factor has been its virtual keyboard — primarily because the quality of its keyboard can make or break a mobile device, and of the numerous touchscreen keyboards released over the years, not one has proven a viable substitute for a proper physical keyboard. We’ve been using the keyboard as much as possible, attempting to “trust” its auto-correction and intelligent input recognition, as Apple urges its users to do in order to make the transition from physical keys. (The iPhone uses a combination of dictionary prediction and keymap prediction to help out typing.)

The whole idea of a touchscreen is a pretty counterintuitive design philosophy, if you ask us. Nothing will ever rid humans of the need to feel physical sensations when interacting with objects (and user interfaces). Having “trust” in the keyboard is a fine concept, and we believe it when people say they’re up to speed and reaching the same input rates as on physical keyboards. But even assuming we get there, we know we’ll always long for proper tactile feedback. That said, we’re working on it, and have found ourselves slowly growing used to tapping away at the device with our stubby thumbs.

As for the actual process of typing, one hindrance we’ve had thus far is that despite being a multi-touch system, the keyboard won’t recognize a second key press before you’ve lifted off the first — it requires single, distinct key presses. But the worst thing about the keyboard is that some of the methods it plies in accelerating your typing actually sacrifice speed in some cases. For example, there is no period key on the main keyboard — you have to access even the most commonly used symbols in a flipped over symbols keyboard. This is almost enough to drive you crazy. (We really, REALLY wish Apple would split the large return button into two buttons: one for return, one for period.)

Caps lock is also disabled in the system by default, but even if you enable it in settings (and then double-tap to turn it on), you still can’t hold down shift for the same effect — it’s either caps on, or you have to hit shift between each letter. Also, whether you’re in upper or lower case, the letters on the keyboard keys always look the same: capitalized. (This makes it difficult to see at a glance what case of text you’re about to input, especially since when using two thumbs your left thumb always hovers over the shift key.) Oh, and don’t hit space when typing out a series of numbers, otherwise you’ll get dropped back into the letter keyboard again.

We also found the in-line dictionary tool to be more cumbersome than helpful. Supposedly, to add a word that’s not in the dictionary, type in your word, then when you get an autocorrect value, just press on that word and the word you typed will be added to the dict file (uhh, ok). But you can also accidentally add words to your dictionary by typing out a word, dismissing the autocorrect dropdown by adding another letter, then backspacing over it. Yeah, for some reason that adds a word to the dictionary file, too. And believe it or not, this confusing little problem caused us to add a number of bum words to the dict file (which you can only keep or clear in its entirety — and no you can’t back it up, either).

On the up side, the horizontal keyboard (which is only enabled when typing into Safari while browsing horizontally) is a much more palatable experience. The keys are far larger, resulting in drastically fewer typing mistakes. (We sincerely hope Apple will enable horizontal input for all its iPhone apps that require keyboard input.) The horizontal web keyboard also has very convenient previous / next buttons for tabbing through fields. The keyboard you’re given when entering URLs is one of the most brilliant bits we’ve seen in the device, and is an incredible time-saver. Since there are almost never spaces in URLs, instead users have shortcuts to “.”, “/”, and “.com”. Finally, the magnification loupe is the best touchscreen cursor positioning method we’ve seen to date in a mobile device. Too bad you can’t highlight and cut / copy / paste text with the iPhone.

So what’s the long and short of the keyboard story? We’re still getting used to it, but for a touchscreen keyboard it could have been a lot worse — and a whole lot better. Some among the Engadget staff have been able to pick it up quickly, others, not so much — your mileage may vary. We have to wonder though, what would it take to get Steve to give us a proper physical keyboard for this mother, anyway? (We already smell the cottage industry brewing.)

The last six months have held a whirlwind of hype surrounding the iPhone the likes of which we’ve rarely seen; an unbelievable amount of mainstream consumer electronics users — not just Engadget-reading technology enthusiasts — instantly glommed onto the idea of a do-it-all smartphone that’s as easy to use as it is powerful. The fact is, there’s only a very short list of properly groundbreaking technologies in the iPhone (multi-touch input), and a very long list of things users are already upset about not having in a $600 cellphone (3G, GPS, A2DP, MMS, physical keyboard, etc.). If you’re prepared to buy into the hype, and thusly, the device, it’s important that purchase (and its subsequent two year commitment to AT&T) not be made for features, but for the device’s paradigm-shifting interface.


Sporting a bubbly, iChat-like interface, the SMS app mercifully threads messages, an idea Palm hatched for its Treo devices many moons ago. Users of the threaded setup became immediately addicted to it, making it difficult to move back to plain old flat SMS (darn you, Palm!) and leaving us wondering why other manufacturers didn’t follow suit. Granted, the inherent 160-character limit and sometimes exorbitant per-text rates have always left traditional SMS with a paper disadvantage against data-based instant messaging, but ultimately the Short Message Service’s worldwide ubiquity has crowned it the “killer app” for mobile textual communication anyway. So why not make it all purty?

Indeed, if we had to boil the iPhone’s SMS down to a one-word description, “purty” would certainly be a finalist. The app’s simple enough; messages from numbers that don’t already have a “conversation” going get added as a new entry in the main grid. Swiping to the right on a line item here presents an option to delete the conversation entirely, while tapping it opens the bubbly goodness. At the very top, call and contact info buttons appear for contacts already in your address book; contact info is replaced with add to contacts for numbers that aren’t. Below the conversation, a text field and send button do exactly what they imply. Hitting send brings up a progress bar that prevents you from doing anything else in the SMS app until the current message has been successfully sent, although you can still hit the home button and use other apps.

When a message is received, you get a popup with the contact name (or number) and the message text, regardless of whether you’re on a call. If you’re anywhere but the standby screen, you also get ignore and view buttons; ignore will return you to your previously scheduled programming, while view sends you straight to the conversation. Like Mail, SMS shows a red circle near its icon when there are unread texts.

The cutesy, drop dead simple interface doesn’t come without a price, though. First of all, the SMS app is about as configurable as a DynaTAC 8000 (yep, that’s pre-Zack Morris for you young’uns in the audience). Don’t like your messages threaded? Sorry. Want red bubbles instead of green? Tough luck! We guess SMS alerts from our bank warning us that our checking account balance is under $50 are somehow less bothersome when presented in a shiny, rounded bubble, but we’d at least like the option of going old-school if we’re so inclined.

Secondly, there’s no rhyme or reason to when timestamps appear. That’s fine — we get the idea, they appear when there’s been a significant lapse in communication — but we want to be able to hold down on a specific bubble to get that level of detail then. And finally, SMS offers no character counter or multi-message warning, features available on virtually every other handset on the market. The phone seems pretty smart about reassembling multiple messages into a single bubble, but that’s still no reason to lull us into the false sense that this is a true IM service, especially when AT&T’s default package for the iPhone only has 200 messages. And believe it or not, some of us still don’t have devices that can reassemble multi-text messages anyway.


The iPhone’s calendar may possibly be the most usable we’ve ever seen on a cellphone — but most of the credit there may be due to the device’s massive screen. Most cellphone calendars are difficult to use, but not for lack of effort, it’s for lack of screen real estate. The iPhone’s huge, high res display makes it possible to get a month-view while also having enough room to show each day’s events below. Dragging your finger around the days of the month instantly loads those appointments; all in all the calendar is very snappy, far more so than the mail client.

Too bad we still had major problems syncing appointments made on the iPhone back to our our desktop iCal calendar. It just wouldn’t happen. Appointments we created on the iPhone refused to show up on the desktop, and about half the time during sync our iPhone-created appointments would actually get deleted entirely from the device. (This may be something screwy with our phone, so we’ll assume it’s not expected behavior.) Appointments created on the desktop sync over fine, however, and we had no issues there — so just be sure that you never need to make an appointment in your iPhone calendar when you’re on the go. Kidding!

Another issue we had with the calendar is its refusal to inherit color coding from desktop calendars, or in any way display in which calendar an appointment was made. If you’re anything like us, you have a few calendars, like one for personal, work, birthdays, spouse, etc. Well, if that’s the case then it sucks to be you, because all those calendars’ appointments look exactly the same in the iPhone (and unlike desktop iCal, you can’t set a time zone for an appointment). The iPhone calendar also lacks a week-view mode, but supplants a pretty useful appointment list instead. We wish we could take a short appointment list summary and drop it in our unlock screen — the day’s appointments is some incredibly valuable information that you shouldn’t have to start, unlock, and then hit calendar to retrieve.

Photos and camera

So here’s how we’re picturing that this went down inside Apple HQ: there’s like a couple months left before the iPhone’s release, and suddenly the team realizes that they haven’t created the software for the camera. They then proceed to spend five weeks on cute animations and one week on actual functionality. Yes, yes, we’re quite sure that’s a gross exaggeration, but we just can’t remember the last time we’ve used a phone camera with this little functionality. Then again, maybe that’s a good thing for some.

When the Camera app is opened, you get a giant viewfinder and two buttons along the bottom. The large button in the middle snaps the picture and the smaller button to the left moves you to the camera roll, which is simply a special photo album within the Photos app. We understand that packing a larger sensor or a decent flash would’ve sacrificed more thickness and battery life than Apple was willing, but that’s still no excuse to leave us without even a single configurable parameter for the camera. No scene selection, no digital zoom, no destination album, nothing.

Pressing the shutter button causes a shutter animation to collapse momentarily over the viewfinder; a moment later, the just-taken picture becomes translucent and collapses down into the camera roll icon. Both animations are kinda cool but totally unnecessary. The viewfinder’s refresh rate is decent — but not even close to real realtime — and it’s far from the best we’ve seen. We’d estimate it’s humming along at 7 or 10fps.

Enough grousing, though; on to picture quality. For two megapixels, no autofocus, and no flash, we’re about as impressed as we can be. Compared to the Nokia N76 — another 2 megapixel cameraphone we’ve recently spent some time with — the iPhone’s pictures consistently came out clearer and with far less pixel noise. That said, it’s still a lousy sensor by even ultra low-end dedicated camera standards, so we’d recommend this not be used in the field for anything but the occasional candid shot.

As we mentioned, snapped photos hightail themselves over to the Photos app. The iPhone appears as a digital camera to the computer, so it’ll bust open iPhoto on the Mac while PCs can configure it to import to a folder. Photo albums already on your computer (in iPhoto, Aperture, or a particular folder) can be configured to be automatically synced to Photos as well.

When Photos first opens, the user is asked which album to browse; the name of the album is shown along with the number of pictures in the album. Tapping an album brings up a flickable thumbnail view of all photos within it. Here you can either tap a particular picture to bring it full screen or tap the play button at the bottom of the display to kick off a slide show. Slide show options are configured in the iPhone’s settings: duration to show each photo, transition effect, repeat, and shuffle. The transitions are, for lack of better verbiage, freaking awesome (“Ripple” is our favorite).

Calling up an individual photo brings up a view that is navigationally very similar to Notes, an app that we’ll be taking a look at shortly. The photo dominates the screen, while buttons at the bottom allow you to export the photo (to wallpaper, email, but only in VGA, or a contact), move to the previous / next photos, kick off a slide show, or delete the pic you’re looking at. Unlike Notes, however, the interface disappears after a moment to allow you to see the entire picture unobstructed by the user interface; pinching and unpinching here will cause the displayed picture to zoom in and out.

Photos also offers a couple extra goodies here that Notes does not. First, the iPhone can be rotated here as it can in Safari — but interestingly, it can be rotated in all four orientations versus Safari’s three. Second, swiping left and right moves from photo to photo. If you tap and hold, the movement will stop even if you’re halfway between two photos (think of it like a roll of film), but flicking fast will not spin through multiple photos like with textual lists (iPod, Contacts, etc.). Why the left and right swipes weren’t implemented in Notes, we don’t know, but we’re pretty bummed about it.


Having rolled out YouTube support for Apple TV recently and given the service its very own icon on the iPhone’s home screen, it seems Apple has suddenly decided that the mother of all video sites is a key part of its entertainment portfolio. Though it’s a fairly impressive and particularly feature-rich component of the handset, it’s not a perfect reproduction of the desktop YouTube experience (not to suggest we won’t still be capable of wasting hundreds of hours on it, of course).

Opening YouTube presents an interface whose flexibility and searchability is really rivaled by nothing else on the iPhone — not even the iPod app. Along the bottom is a toolbar with five buttons: Featured, Most Viewed, Bookmarks, Search, and More. More is really a catch-all for three other buttons that wouldn’t fit on the toolbar: Most Recent, Top Rated, and History (though the toolbar can be reconfigured using the edit button, like the iPod). Lets walk through these one at a time.

Featured, Most Viewed, Most Recent, and Top Rated all roughly equate to their equivalent lists on the YouTube page, though not exactly one-to-one. We’re guessing the differences are thanks to YouTube’s and Apple’s inability to re-encode every single video into an iPhone-friendly format in a timely fashion. Most Viewed is further divided into All, Today, and This Week with toggle buttons at the top.

The grid view used in both of these views is fabulous, featuring a thumbnail of the video, the name, rating, number of views, length, and the uploading user’s name. Tapping the blue arrow to the right of the video brings up yet more information in a new screen, including the full description, date added, category, tags, and a list of related videos. You also have Bookmark and Share buttons here; the former adds this video to your Bookmarks view, while the latter creates a template email with the video’s URL embedded.

Bookmarks contains a list of all videos that have been bookmarked on the device. Note that this is not the same favorites list found in your YouTube login — in fact, it’s not even possible to log in to one’s YouTube account on the iPhone (unlike the Apple TV). The grid view here is the same one found in Featured and Most Viewed with the addition of an edit button at the top right; tapping it allows videos to be removed from the list. Inexplicably, the wipe gesture used in SMS and email isn’t used here either, but rather the red circle that makes a few appearances throughout the phone.

Search is, well, a search function. Tapping on the field at the top calls up the keyboard and search results appear in the grid underneath. It appears to use essentially the same logic as that on YouTube’s website, though just like Featured and Most Viewed, you’ll get fewer videos here since not everything has been re-encoded to the iPhone’s liking just yet. History simply shows a chronological list of the most recently played videos on the device — and rest easy, it can be cleared with a Clear button in the upper right.

Moving on to playback, this is where we’re struggling a bit. We want to like this app over EDGE, we really do, but as we mentioned before, it’s just a little too flaky to be much fun. Load times are long — 15 seconds or longer, with an occasional spike as high as one minute in our testing — and we’d sometimes get mysterious error messages saying that videos can’t be played. Add in the fact that the playback resolution and bitrate is automatically “optimized” (read: scaled way down) for EDGE, and frankly, it’s just more trouble than it’s worth.

Over WiFi, though, it’s a different story altogether. Videos load quickly and the resolution seems perfectly suited for the iPhone’s glorious display. During playback, controls include a scrubber, done button for returning to the video list, and a toggle switch for moving between a letterbox and stretched view (this bearing in mind that the iPhone’s aspect ratio is wider than YouTube’s) all along the top. At the bottom you get a volume control, bookmark button, previous and next buttons for moving to different videos in the grid, play / pause, and an envelope icon that fires up a template email the same as the share button found when viewing a video’s details. For some reason, the YouTube app forces video lists to be shown in portrait and playback to be landscape — the rotation sensor has no bearing here whatsoever, same as in iPod playing video.


Stocks bears some striking resemblances to its cousin, the Dashboard widget of the same name. The main displays are virtually indistinguishable, though the iPhone version trades its Mac equivalent’s blue background for black. Like Weather, Stocks loses its Dashboard data provider ( in this case) and adds a “Y!” logo in the lower left that, when tapped, takes the user to a Yahoo! Mobile page with a variety of information for the highlighted stock. The performance graphs at the bottom take several seconds to load, and like everything else, take longer over EDGE — a little more than twice as long in our informal testing. Interestingly, the longer time spans took longer to load, which means they seem to actually be loading more data in the background instead of aggregating it at a lower resolution on the back end. Over EDGE, 2-year stock graphs took on average around 7 seconds to load, while on the other end of the spectrum, 1-day graphs took about 2.5 seconds. Averages — DJIA, for example — seem to take marginally longer. Data never appears to be cached here, so every time you tap on a different time span, you’ve got to wait for the data to load again.

Configuring Stocks is a simple affair; the only options are adding / removing stocks and selecting whether price changes should be displayed by value or percentage.In both cases, positive changes are shown as a green box and negative are in red. Companies can be added by symbol, full, or partial name; a results grid shows symbols that match your entered term. Annoyingly, there’s no way to change the order in which stocks are listed, except but to re-enter them in the desired order.

Google maps

Using Google maps on most smartphones is an absolute pleasure. The Windows Mobile and Palm OS Gmaps apps are just fantastic — and the iPhone ranks among them. Apple supposedly spent a lot of time working on this one (Google has historically released all its own mobile apps), and it shows. Map loads are reasonable even over EDGE (and expectedly snappy on WiFi), and being able to easily search Google local, pull up a number and address in a contact card, then call that location and route directions to it, that is an amazing mobile maps experience. Too bad the iPhone can’t make use of a Bluetooth GPS receiver (wink, wink Apple!).

We wish the maps app recognized a search for “home” so we could return to a default location at or near our residence (without typing it in), but users can set map bookmarks for repeat use. The traffic alerts system is also pretty impressive, but it doesn’t work for all roads and freeways, so your mileage may vary (har) on that. Pulling up the satellite view on the iPhone is a thing to behold — the crisp display shows an extraordinary amount of detail for such a small device.

Our biggest complaint about the maps app, though, is something we mentioned earlier: inconsistent gesture input. Gmaps is the only app in the iPhone where two-finger single tap zooms out. This is something one can get used to, but it’s still pretty disorienting, and we’ve found ourselves inadvertently trying the Gmaps two-finger zoom out in other apps, obviously with little result.


Anyone familiar with Mac OS X’s preinstalled weather widget will feel right at home here (right down to the static Sunny / 73° icon, which we would’ve much preferred be updated regularly for our home city). Naturally, the layout is more vertical on the iPhone to accommodate the taller screen (and coincidentally, it seems you can’t hold the phone sideways to get a landscape version of the widget). While the Dashboard widget uses AccuWeather as its data provider, the iPhone has made the jump to Yahoo! with a new “Y!” logo appearing in the lower left — an homage to Apple’s newfound relationship with the company to launch that push-IMAP email, perhaps. Pressing the logo pulls up Safari and directs you to a Yahoo! Mobile page with weather, news, events, and Flickr photos for the selected city.

Configuration for the widget is about as basic as it could possibly get: hit the ubiquitous “i” icon in the lower right, select your cities and your preferred unit of temperature, and you’re done. In light of the simplicity and overall lack of configurability of the phone, we’re a little surprised they even bothered to offer a unit selection since the device is currently only offered in the US, but we know not everyone grew up here, and we’re certainly not complaining. After you’ve selected your cities and hit done, you’re returned to the widget’s primary display. Multiple cities are indicated as small dots at the bottom of the screen, while flicking left and right changes cities. Notably, the order you enter cities is the order they’ll appear — there’s no way to change that without deleting and reentering, like stocks.


Jet setters and chefs should appreciate the Clock widget, one of the better implementations of a world clock and timer (among other things) we’ve seen on a phone. Clock bears little resemblance to its Dashboard cousin (but that’s not a bad thing). It also shares a rather unfortunate trait with Weather in that its icon doesn’t reflect reality — the time is permanently fixed at 10:15. We suppose the decision to keep it static was made because you can clearly see the time at the top of the home screen anyway, but it would’ve been a nice touch anyway considering that the Calendar icon reflects the actual date.

At the bottom of Clock there are four buttons: World Clock, Alarm, Stopwatch, and Timer. All four function pretty much the way you’d expect. The World Clock function is great in that each selected city shows its name and an analog clock followed by a digital clock and an indication of whether the locale is yesterday, today, or tomorrow (crazy International Date Line antics!). Unlike Weather and Stocks, cities can be reordered here by dragging on the “ribbed” area at the right while in Edit mode.

The Alarm page lets you add pretty much as many alarms as you like (we had ten going). The functionality here is great; for each alarm you can select what days it’s active, what sound should be played, whether Snooze is available, and the alarm’s name when viewed in the grid of all alarms. The time is selected with a slot machine-style series of rollers, one each for hour, minute, and AM / PM. Once options are set up and you return to the grid, each alarm can individually be turned on and off with a switch. Having any of them set to active causes a clock icon to appear in the status bar at the top of the screen.

Stopwatch and Timer are both extraordinarily simple goodies, but even so, it’s still possible to make them extraordinarily unintuitive. Thankfully, the iPhone’s aren’t. Stopwatch simply gives the time broken down in minutes, seconds, and tenths (plus hours on the far left when you get that far) with a start and reset button; when the time is all zeroes, Reset is grayed out. Hitting start turns the left button to stop and the right button to lap. Pressing lap will add the split time to the grid directly below the buttons along with an indicator of the lap number. Hit stop, and the start and reset buttons return. Hitting Rreset will clear split times as well. The sleep behavior of the phone seems a little indeterminate while the stopwatch is running — sometimes the screen dims, sometimes it sleeps, sometimes it stays wide awake. We couldn’t nail down what (if anything) determined the phone’s behavior here. Happily, you can leave the Clock app and go about your business and the stopwatch will continue running — you can even use other parts of the Clock app itself.

As for Timer, you’re presented with two slot machine-style dials, one for hour and one for minute. Below, a button asks you which sound should play when the timer expires, followed by the start button (which changes to cancel once the timer has been kicked off). Unfortunately, you cannot run multiple timers simultaneously.


There’s very little to be said about the Calculator widget — and let’s be honest, that’s exactly how a simple calculator should be. You enter your digits, you do your arithmetic, and you get on with life. This particular widget has undergone a full redesign from the calculator found in Mac OS, taking on darker colors for the buttons and the background and a blue, 3D-look display. Gone are the segmented digits, replaced by a traditional smooth font (in other words, Apple wasn’t too concerned about making this thing look exactly like a physical four-function calculator).

Missing from the iPhone, though, are dedicated scientific / graphing calculators, or, perhaps more usefully, a tip calculator. We think any would be nice to have, and this device definitely has the necessary screen real estate to make them functional and visually appealing. In fact, the iPhone’s screen is so big that a simple four-function calculator looks just a little too sparse, although it certainly makes the buttons easy to press.


Font look familiar? It should — the iPhone Notes app ganks the Marker Felt font, perhaps best known as the default font in Stickies. Frankly, we could do without it, or at the very least we’d like an option to change it to something a little simpler and less Comic Sans-like (the iPhone’s systemwide font would’ve been just fine, thanks). Adding a note is accomplished by clicking the “+” button found in several iPhone apps; the new note is automatically timestamped and titled based on the first line of text that you write. While editing, two buttons appear in the title bar directly above the yellow pad — both save the note, but the Notes button kicks you back out to the list of all notes, while the done button keeps you in a read-only view of the current note. We really would’ve liked a cancel button here, too.

In the read-only view, four icons appear at the bottom of the screen in the same casual, fun style as the font. The far left and right icons move from note to note (seems like there should be a swipe gesture here that’ll accomplish the same function), the envelope creates an email with the note as the body and the first line as the subject, and the trash can predictably deletes the note. Strangely, there is no other way we can find to delete a note — you must be looking at it to trash it. Also, we found ourselves instinctively rotating the phone from time to time in Notes, but sadly, you won’t find any landscape mode here. And why no drawing capability? We’re not asking for handwriting recognition or anything fancy like that, just the ability to doodle would’ve been a fabulous feature.


It’s no secret, our favorite part of any cellphone and device is the settings area. We often find ourselves running to the settings before even making a call on a new phone or playing back some video on a new media device. When it comes to settings, by and large the iPhone doesn’t disappoint. We won’t go over every nook and cranny (we could do a feature on just the menus and submenus and subsubmenus… in this thing), but here are some highlights:

Airplane mode – Super easy toggle, works instantaneously.
Usage – Doesn’t show percentage of battery remaining (lame), but does show all of your current usage stats, like standby time since last charge, etc.
Sound – Comprehensive yet simple sound behavior settings, lots of toggles.
Date & Time – Has a setting for time zone support on / off in calendar, convenient if you do / don’t travel a lot.
Network – VPN settings (supports L2TP and PPTP); WiFi settings allow you to select DHCP, BootP, or static IP address, as well as no, manual, or auto HTTP proxy.

Bluetooth – Extremely straightforward and usable interface for Bluetooth; discoverable is switched off by default, but turned on only for the duration of time you’re in the Bluetooth menu. Pairing is very simple, although we kind of hoped it would use the Sidekick system of attempting common Bluetooth PINs so you don’t have to remember which your headset uses, 1111, 0000, etc. Oh, and you can pair your iPhone with most anything, but don’t expect it to actually do something once paired — almost all Bluetooth profiles are disabled.
Keyboard – Allows you to enable / disable auto-capitalization and caps lock.
Mail – Add, delete accounts (types include POP3, IMAP, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, .mac, and Exchange IMAP, but not Exchange EAS), auto-check messages (manual, 15, 30, or 60 minutes), message preview (0 – 5 lines), CC myself on / off, signature, etc.
Phone – Contact sort / display order, call fwding, call waiting, caller ID (no option to only show ID to known contacts), and way at the bottom, the awesome AT&T services menu that remembers the codes for things like checking bill balance, viewing minutes, etc.
Safari – Set your search engine (Google, Yahoo), on / off switches for JavaScript, plug-ins (what plug ins?), pop-ups. There’s also a cookies menu, and clear history / cookies / cache buttons.
iPod – Audiobook speed, EQ, volume limiter, etc.

iTunes, activation, and sync

As with the iPod, setting up and syncing the iPhone in iTunes is meant to be an incredibly easy experience, and for the most part it is. You’re (obviously) required to have iTunes 7.3 to get it going, bet starting the guided activation setup is as easy as plugging in your phone. Although a huge number of people had understandably maddening issues during launch that caused them to be unable to use their new phones for up to a couple of days, we were able to burn through a number of different types of activations (new AT&T customer, existing AT&T customer, non-ported number, ported number, etc.) on about a half dozen phones, each in under 10 minutes — none had any issues. It stands to reason that as the initial sales glut for the iPhone fades, this process will only become more stable.

Once your device is recognized by iTunes, you can select which contacts groups, calendars, music, movies, podcasts, etc. you want to drop onto the iPhone. It took us under a minute to sync a couple hundred contacts, and not much more to do a few hundred calendar appointments. We moved about 1.5GB of music and movies over to the device in about 10 minutes — that’s a little more than 2.5MB per second. Not unbelievably fast, but if you wanted to completely refresh the entire capacity of your iPhone, that process would take under 50 minutes, which is reasonable enough. Syncing photos with your desktop is less automated than we would have liked. On a Mac, users are expected to pop open iPhoto and import manually. iTunes also backs up your iPhone’s non-synced settings, such as SMS conversations, notes, call history, contact faves, sound settings, and so on. We tried it out, and sure enough, it worked well enough — even saved our browser history. WiFi passwords? Naw, not so much.

Not surprisingly, syncing to a PC is a different experience than syncing to a Mac. PC users shouldn’t expect to have the iPhone take advantage of all of Vista’s new iLife-like lifestyle software suite (Windows Mail, Calendar, Address Book, etc.), users can only use Outlook (not Outlook Express) to sync content. On a PC sync worked perfectly, strangely enough (considering it worked less than perfectly on a Mac). Outlook was kind enough to copy contacts and calendar appointments back and forth with ease. It was almost eerie watching an iPhone interact better with a PC and Microsoft software than with a Mac and Apple software, but kudos to Cupertino for not leaving Windows users out in the cold on this one.

Data performance

Apple and AT&T are banking that a two-line attack of WiFi plus a recently-enhanced EDGE network is going to quell the call for 3G in the iPhone — in its first iteration, anyway. We see at least three problems with that approach. First, UMTS employs a more advanced vocoder than 2G does, so we’re losing out on the opportunity for moderately improved voice quality. Second, on its best day, EDGE is sill an order of magnitude slower than HSDPA on its worst day (we’re talking about both throughput and latency here, with the latter often being a better indicator of perceived speed). Third — and perhaps most importantly — AT&T’s EDGE network can’t support simultaneous voice and data. Read: if you’re moving data to or from your iPhone, calls will go straight to voicemail. Big time bummer. The thought of browsing with Safari on the iPhone’s magnificent display while chatting on Bluetooth is a seductive one, but it ain’t gonna happen.

That being said, is EDGE bearable for the iPhone’s core services? We’d sorta expected that Apple would’ve fine-tuned all of the iPhone’s first-party apps to behave reasonably well regardless of what kind of data network you were feeding on, but we found that wasn’t necessarily the case. Browsing in Safari was a generally satisfying experience (thanks partly to the fact that typically-large embedded Flash objects don’t load), ditto for Mail, Weather, and Stocks, but YouTube really tried our patience.

For a couple hours after activating the phone, we couldn’t play videos period — possibly because YouTube’s and Apple’s servers were being hit so hard by new owners putting their handsets through their paces — but once we could finally get things going, we were left disappointed by load times, buffering issues, and errors. To put things in perspective, videos consistently started playing within four seconds on WiFi, whereas YouTube frequently ran over fifteen seconds. Our high was a staggering 58.1 seconds!

We guess we could live with an average of fifteen seconds, though, if they always ended up playing. They didn’t. When on EDGE, we’d estimate that 10 to 15 percent of the videos we try to play churn for a few seconds then bring up a message simply (and unhelpfully) informing us that the movie can’t be played. Maybe the oddest bit of all this YouTube drama is that the videos run at a much lower resolution on EDGE than they do on WiFi, obviously in an attempt to make load times reasonable and streaming possible. Perhaps that sitch will improve over time with better encoding, better EDGE, and firmware upgrades — but for now, we’re declaring YouTube a WiFi-only app.

On that note, WiFi is a breath of fresh air that turns the iPhone into a data-munching powerhouse. Annoyances like slow load times in YouTube and Maps melt away, generally giving the device a very different feel. The iPhone’s WiFi implementation is seamless but moderately annoying out of the box; by default, the phone regularly prompts you if you want to connect to the strongest available network, which gets old really fast, especially when walking down the street. This can be turned off from the WiFi settings, which is prominently placed near the top of the settings app — second item, in fact, right after the Airplane Mode toggle.

Other WiFi settings include a switch for the WiFi radio (not to be confused with Airplane Mode, which’ll also disable the cell radio and Bluetooth) and a list of nearby SSIDs which is automatically populated when you enter the screen and refreshed about every eight seconds. Next to each network’s SSID is an icon indicating whether encryption is being used, a three-bar signal strength indicator, and a blue arrow that you tap for advanced configuration (more on that in a moment). Simply tapping the SSID will connect you to the network, or if a WEP key or WPA password is necessary, you’ll be prompted.

After the connection is successful, the “E” icon in the status bar is replaced with a signal strength indicator — not the most obvious way of showing that you’re connected to WiFi, but sure, we get the point. If a particular network requires advanced configuration, you can tap the blue arrow at the far right which displays the IP address, subnet mask, gateway, and so on (if you’re already connected), allows you to choose a method of IP address acquisition (DHCP, BootIP, or static), and set an HTTP proxy if necessary. If the network is already “remembered” for the phone, a “Forget this Network” button appears at the top to kill it from your preferred list.


We’re not huge fans of “conclusions” in reviews — or number systems, or one liner pros / cons / bottom-lines for that matter. Devices have become so feature-rich over the years that potential buyers’ decisions can be made or broken on the support, quality, or integration of just one or two features. For us that’s exactly the case with the iPhone — although the list of things it doesn’t do is as long as the list of things it does, it’s only a few small, but severe, issues about the device that truly galvanizes our opinion of it.

It’s easy to see the device is extraordinarily simple to use for such a full-featured phone and media player. Apple makes creating the spartan, simplified UI look oh so easy — but we know it’s not, and the devil’s always in the details when it comes to portables. To date no one’s made a phone that does so much with so little, and despite the numerous foibles of the iPhone’s gesture-based touchscreen interface, the learning curve is surprisingly low. It’s totally clear that with the iPhone, Apple raised the bar not only for the cellphone, but for portable media players and multifunction convergence devices in general.

But getting things done with the iPhone isn’t easy, and anyone looking for a productivity device will probably need to look on. Its browser falls pretty short of the “internet in your pocket” claims Apple’s made, and even though it’s still easily the most advanced mobile browser on the market, its constant crashing doesn’t exactly seal the deal. The iPhone’s Mail app — from its myriad missing features to its un-integrated POP mail experience to its obsolete method of accessing your Gmail — makes email on the iPhone a huge chore at best.

For us, the most interesting thing about the iPhone is its genesis and position in the market. Apple somehow managed to convince one of the most conservative wireless carriers in the world, AT&T (then Cingular), not only to buy into its device sight-unseen, but to readjust its whole philosophy of how a device and carrier should work together (as evidenced by the radically modernized and personalized activation process). Only a few days after launch it’s easy to see June 29th as a watershed moment that crystalized the fact that consumers will pay more for a device that does more — and treats them like a human being, not a cellphone engineer. Imagine that.

But is the iPhone worth the two year contract with the oft-maligned AT&T and its steep price of admission? Hopefully we gave you enough information about the iPhone’s every detail to make an informed decision — despite the iPhone’s many shortcomings, we suspect the answer for countless consumers will be a resounding yes.

Cnet iPhone review, 3GS, 32GB

April 14, 2010

by Kent German of Cnet (the article was written in 2009 and focuses on the US market)


The good: The iPhone 3GS finally adds common cell phone features like multimedia messaging, video recording, and voice dialing. It runs faster; its promised battery life is longer; and the multimedia quality continues to shine.

The bad: The iPhone 3GS’ call quality shows no improvements and the 3G signal reception remains uneven. We still don’t get Flash Lite, USB transfer and storage, or multitasking.

The bottom line: The iPhone 3GS doesn’t make the same grand leap that the iPhone 3G made from the first-generation model, but the latest Apple handset is still a compelling upgrade for some users. The iPhone 3GS is faster and we appreciate the new features and extended battery life, but call quality and 3G reception still need improvement.


Three years after the first rumors of an Apple cell phone began to make the rounds, the iPhone continues to garner huge buzz, long lines, and a growing share of the cell phone market. And as we approach the second anniversary of the first model’s frenzied launch day, Apple drops the newest model in our laps. The iPhone 3GS, which will hit stores June 19, promises faster processing and network speeds, extended battery life, more memory, and additional features. It’s enough to get our attention, but not enough to get us completely excited.

In many ways, the iPhone 3GS delivers on its promises. The battery, which could sometimes deplete in less than a day on the iPhone 3G, lasted longer in our preliminary tests, and the phone’s software ran noticeably faster. Yet, we still have some concerns. A faster AT&T 3G network isn’t going to happen overnight, and some features, like tethering and multimedia messaging, aren’t scheduled until later in summer 2009. We also struggled to see any change in call quality, which, as any iPhone owner can tell you, remains far from perfect.

So should you buy it? That will depend on how much you’ll have to pay for the privilege. If you don’t own an iPhone yet, and you’ve been waiting for the right model, now is the time to go for it. The same goes for iPhone Classic owners who never made the jump to the iPhone 3G. But, if you’re a current iPhone 3G owner, the answer isn’t so clear. If you’re eligible to upgrade at the cheapest prices ($199 for the 16GB model and $299 for the 32GB model), we suggest doing so, as long as you don’t mind the required two-year contract. If you own an iPhone 3G, but are not yet eligible for the upgrade, we recommend upgrading to the new iPhone OS 3.0 operating system, and then waiting. As much as the iPhone 3GS brings, it’s not worth the extra $200 that the 16GB and 32GB models cost.

Design and interface

The iPhone 3GS looks exactly like the previous model. It shares the shape and the same external controls, but the iPhone 3GS is unique in a handful of ways. You can get both memory sizes in white or black, and the iPhone 3GS display sports a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating that is supposed to attract fewer fingerprints and smudges. The new model shares the same dimensions as its predecessor, but it’s slightly heavier (4.76 ounces versus 4.7 ounces), a virtually unnoticeable difference.

The menu interface is also the same, but in the past year, as we’ve added apps to the Home screen, something new has begun to bother us. As intuitive and simple as the interface is, it becomes unwieldy after you get above four menu pages. Swiping through multiple pages is tedious; and it’s rather painful to drag applications from page to page if you’re an organizational freak. We hate that there’s no way to categorize related apps into folders, such as one for news, another for social networking, and so on. Not only would this cut down on menu pages, but you’d also be able to find your app faster. And while we’re at it, how about letting us delete some of the native apps we never use?


Since the iPhone 3GS inherits many of the features from the previous model, we’ll concentrate on what’s different on this device. If you need a refresher on such elements as the clock, YouTube, weather, iPod player, calculator, and e-mail, please see our iPhone 3G review. We’ll start off with the new features that only the iPhone 3GS will offer.


Until now, the iPhone’s camera has been good, but far from great, with decent photo quality, but no editing features. Apple didn’t include options such as white balance, a digital zoom, or a self-timer that come standard on many basic VGA camera phones. The minimalist shooter bothered us so much that we began to worry if Apple was leading a new trend of “dumbing down” cell phone cameras.

The iPhone 3GS puts some of those fears to rest. Apple boosted the camera’s resolution to 3 megapixels and added a new “Tap to Focus” feature. As you point the lens toward your subject, a small box appears on the center of the display. Tapping that square focuses the camera automatically on that point and adjusts the white balance, color, contrast, and exposure accordingly. If you’d rather focus on the edge of your shot, just tap the display at your chosen point and the square moves with you. If you don’t tap anywhere, the camera will focus the entire frame.

Tap to Focus performs well. For example, if we photographed a book cover sitting on a desk, we were able to get a clear reading on the book’s title. If we shifted the focus away from the book, the title became somewhat blurry. Alternatively, if we focused on the brightest part of an image, the entire picture would appear brighter. But if we focused on the darkest part of any image, the photo would darken accordingly. The iPhone still doesn’t come with a flash, though, so don’t expect miracles.

On the other hand, the new automatic macro setting didn’t appear to make much of a difference. Close-up shots looked slightly better on the iPhone 3GS than they did on the iPhone 3G, but we couldn’t tell when the macro focus was working and when it wasn’t. As with the autofocus feature, the macro setting is a welcome addition, but we’d prefer to have more control over it. In other words, the iPhone 3GS’ camera is smarter than those on the earlier iPhones, but the camera, rather than the user, still runs the show.

On the whole, the iPhone 3GS’ photo quality looks better than the 3G camera’s quality, but it depends on the shot. Outdoor shots and photos taken in natural light looked less blurry in our tests, with brighter colors. Photos taken during cloudy days were less likely to be blown out, and photos in low-light conditions looked brighter and had less of an orange tint. Indoor shots without natural light showed little change, however. The iPhone’s camera is not optimized for fluorescent light. For a full gallery of shots taken with the camera, see our iPhone 3GS camera slideshow.

Video recording

The iPhone 3GS is the first iPhone to offer video recording, another feature other phones have offered for years. Apple makes up for some lost time by offering an easy-to-use video-editing option right on the phone.

Controls for video shooting work just like the still camera’s controls, and you can use the Tap to Focus feature here, as well. The quality is just VGA, but the camera shoots at 30 frames per second, so while colors look muted and some videos appear washed out, the iPhone 3GS did better at handling movement than most cell phone cameras. After you’re done recording, you can send your clip in an e-mail or upload it directly to your YouTube account. We were able to upload to YouTube and send a video from our synced IMAP4 Exchange account, but when we tried to send a video from a synced Yahoo POP3 account, an error occurred. We’re checking with Apple on the discrepancy and will report back.

The phone’s video-editing tool is utterly intuitive and fun to use. After loading a previously shot video, you’ll see it displayed frame by frame in a linear format along the top of the touch screen. Using your finger, you can slide the cursor to any point in the video and start playing from there. If you care to edit, just touch either end of the border that surrounds your video. When the border turns yellow, you can shorten the clip by dragging either end toward your desired cutoff point (the image on the display will conveniently change as you move along). Once you’ve made your edits, just hit the “Trim” control.

We liked the video-editing feature a lot, but it’s worth noting a couple of small complaints. First off, when you trim a clip, the edited version replaces your original video, rather than saves it as a new file. Also, you can trim only in a linear format–meaning you can’t cut out something in the middle and stitch the remaining two ends of the video together.

We also like a new feature that allows you to quickly open a photo or video that you just shot. After taking your snap or video, a small thumbnail will appear on the bottom of the viewfinder next to the shutter control. Tapping that thumbnail takes you to the photo gallery page, from where you can view your work or send it on to a friend.

Voice Control

We’ve long berated Apple for not including voice dialing on previous iPhones, particularly in this age of hands-free driving laws. Overdue as it is, the new Voice Control feature goes far beyond just making calls. To activate it, hold down the home button until the Voice Control feature appears.

As with hundreds of other cell phones, Voice Control lets you make calls by speaking the contact’s name or phone number into the receiver. After you say your command, you’ll get audio confirmation and the name or number will show on the display. If the iPhone makes a mistake, you can press an “undo” touch control at the bottom of the screen. The feature is speaker-independent, so you won’t need to train it to recognize your voice; you’ll be ready to go the first time you turn on the phone.

In our tests, the voice dialing performed well. When using names, it understood us accurately most of the time. It made occasional mistakes–for example, it wanted to call “Siemens” instead of “Stephen”–but that’s hardly unusual for a voice dialer. Voice Control performed better when using only numbers. We didn’t have to speak loudly, except in noisy environments, but it was capable of filtering out most background noise.

If you call a contact with multiple numbers, but don’t specify which number you prefer, it will prompt you with “home,” “work,” etc. If you ask for a name that has multiple listings in your phone book (we know multiple people named Tim, for instance), it will prompt you for your choice, while showing the options on the screen. Alternatively, you can call a contact using his or her company’s name, but that company must be in the contact’s electronic business card.

Voice Control also interacts with the iPhone’s iPod player and the iTunes Genius list. You can ask it to play a song by artist name and album, and you can request an entire playlist. Once music is playing, you can pause, skip to the next song, and go back to the previous track, using your voice. Say “shuffle” and the player skips to a random song. The feature was accurate most of the time, but it occasionally confused some artist names.

Unsure which song is playing? You can find out by asking, “What song is this?” You’ll then get audio confirmation of the track name and artist. Like what you’re hearing? Say, “Play more songs like this,” and the player will use your iTunes Genius list to play a related song. In either case, the music will dim while you speak. They’re nifty features, to be sure, and we can’t think of another MP3 player or cell phone that offers such capability.

On the other hand, we can’t imagine that many people would use it outside of a car. And the iPod Voice Control isn’t perfect. It read Pink’s name as “P N K” in our tests (Pink spells her name as “P!nk” on her album covers), and it twice tried to call “Annette” when we asked what song was playing. Also, we’re not sure how Gwen Stefani would feel about being related to Britney Spears in the Genius list, but there you have it.


You’ll find the iPhone 3GS’ digital compass option directly on the Home screen; just tap to open. The attractive interface shows a large compass with your bearing and your latitude and longitude. Similar to any other compass, it continues to point true or magnetic north as you turn around. Reception was spotty inside, so you’ll need to stay clear of any interference. If it can’t get a bearing, you’ll be advised to move away from the interference and re-establish the compass’ orientation by moving the iPhone in a figure-eight motion.

The compass also interacts with Google Maps to point you in the right direction. To switch to the maps, just press the familiar bull’s-eye icon in the bottom-left corner. You’ll see your position on the map, and if you tap the bull’s-eye again, the map will rotate to show the direction you are facing. It’s a nice touch, and we like how the standard Google Maps view now shows the 3D outlines of buildings.

Accessibility features

The iPhone 3GS is the first iPhone to offer a full set of accessibility features. Visually impaired people can use Apple’s Voice Over to navigate the handset’s menus and type messages and e-mails. As you drag your finger around the display and tap a button, the iPhone will read a description of that button. The phone will also read the text of dialog boxes, the time of day, the status and orientation of the display (locked or unlocked, portrait or landscape), and detail information, such as the battery level, Wi-Fi, and cellular network signals. What’s more, it speaks each character as you type a message, and it will suggest autocorrection choices. Voice Over can read text messages, e-mails, and even Web pages.

To use Voice Over, you will need to learn a different set of gestures–for example, you’ll have to double-tap to open an item–but the feature provides audible instruction. You can set the speaking rate and choose from 21 supported languages. Voice Over works with all of the phone’s native applications, but support for third-party apps varies. Though we’re sighted and our Voice Over user experience can’t compare with someone who is visually impaired, we were impressed by the feature’s capabilities. The iPhone 3GS also adds multitouch zoom support for the Home, Unlock, and Spotlight screens for all applications, both native and third-party. Previously, zoom only worked in the photo gallery, e-mail in-boxes, and the Safari browser. You can activate the enhanced zoom in the Settings menu, but you can’t use it and Voice Over simultaneously.

You also can reverse the display’s contrast to white on black. Menus will show white text on a black background, while the Home screen will change to a white background. Just be aware that the contrast change alters the appearance of photos in the gallery so that they look like negatives. It has a similar effect for app icons on the Home screen.

What else is new?

The iPhone 3GS includes support for Nike + iPod, which integrates your iPod with a sensor that fits inside Nike running shoes. You use it as a pedometer to track your distance traveled and your pace. When you turn on the app in the settings menu, an icon will appear on the Home screen. The headphones included with the iPhone 3GS also show changes. You’ll find controls for using the Voice Control feature, adjusting the volume, answering calls, and controlling music and video playback.

iPhone OS 3.0

The iPhone 3GS will support the new iPhone OS 3.0 update from day one. The OS 3.0 is a significant update that promises 100 new features, including such long-awaited gems as multimedia messaging, stereo Bluetooth, a voice recorder, and cut, copy, and paste. Apple has yet to release a fully detailed list–and we’ve barely scratched the surface in our testing–but we’ll continue to report improvements as we find them. First announced in March 2009, it was released June 17, 2009, for the iPhone Classic and the iPhone 3G.

Multimedia messaging

We’ve ranted endlessly about why it took so long for Apple to achieve multimedia messaging (MMS), so we’re glad that it’s finally on its way. Besides photos, you’ll also be able to send videos, audio files, and map locations. At long last, the iPhone can do something that almost every other cell phone can do, and has done for ages.

But, and this is a big “but,” AT&T doesn’t have things ready on its end. We don’t know the real reason for the annoying delay, nor do we have a timetable for deployment; we just know that AT&T will support MMS “later this summer.” (Also, because it wasn’t integrated with the proper radio, the iPhone Classic will not support MMS.)

When we first tested the beta version of iPhone OS 3.0, we were able to compose, but not send, a multimedia message in a few quick steps on our iPhone 3G. In subsequent OS 3.0 updates, Apple removed the process for doing this; presumably you’ll get it back when MMS goes live.

On the upside, the messaging process was intuitive. When using the text-messaging app, a small camera icon appeared next to the writing area. After tapping it, we had the choice to take a new photo or send an existing shot. If we decided to shoot a new photo, we had the option of retaking it if we wished. Alternatively, we could initiate a picture message from the photo gallery. In either case, the photo appears in the typing area of the message application, and you can delete it if you change your mind.

Cut, copy, and paste

The cut, copy, and paste feature is long overdue. The interface is simple and easy to use, and it works across all applications, including notes, e-mails, messages, and text on Web pages. Developers will even get access to it in applications.

To get started, just double-tap a selection of text and the cut, copy, and paste commands will appear. You then can change the highlighted area by dragging the blue grab points around the page. Once you get to your pasting area, just tap the screen again and select the paste button. If you make a mistake and paste in the incorrect place, you can shake the iPhone to undo your command. When in Notes and e-mail, you also can highlight with a long press (aka holding your finger down). You’ll see two options: Select and Select All. The former command highlights just the word that you’re touching, while the latter highlights the entire block of text.

Using the feature in the Safari browser takes some acclimation, but even then we needed only a few minutes to get the hang of the process. Because the double-tap motion is also used to zoom in on a Web page, you must use a long press to select text that you want to copy or cut. You then can drag the blue points as normal. Depending on how closely you’re zoomed in, you can highlight just one word or an entire block of text.

Landscape keyboard

Formerly–and inexplicably–available only in the Safari browser, the landscape keyboard now works in e-mail, text messaging, and notes. After haranguing Apple over the past two years to get it, we have to admit that it took a second to get accustomed to it. Though the landscape keyboard is much wider, with larger buttons, it’s also a lot shorter. It did take us a couple of days to get the hang of it. Don’t think that we’re complaining, though, as it’s quite the opposite. We love being able to use two hands, but we had grown accustomed to the one-finger tap dance on the vertical keyboard.

You can also now view your e-mail in-box, contacts, and text messages in landscape mode. The calendar remains in a portrait orientation, but the changes we received are welcome.


Until now, it’s been rather painful to sift through the data to find e-mail or calendar entries on the iPhone. Luckily, iPhone OS 3.0 adds a Spotlight feature that makes the search process vastly easier. Similar to many of the OS 3.0 additions, it took way too long to get here, but we have few complaints about the final product. To get to the Spotlight feature, swipe your finger to the right from the first menu page. You’ll then see a keyboard with a typing field above it (this keyboard only works in portrait mode). As you type in a search term, the results appear below the search bar, with results grouped together by category for easy navigation. You can search calendar entries, music, notes, apps, contacts, and e-mail, and you can search within an individual e-mail in-box. For IMAP4 and Exchange accounts, you’ll also be able to search messages saved only on the server.


In March, we heard that tethering would be possible with the OS 3.0, but that it would be completely carrier-dependent. Here again, AT&T isn’t on the ball. While other iPhone carriers around the world will be ready when the iPhone goes live, AT&T is saying that the carrier will support tethering later this summer. Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact reason for the delay, when tethering will actually arrive, or whether AT&T will charge extra for it.

Text messaging

Deleting and forwarding individual messages in a texting thread works just like the e-mail app. When you select the edit button, small dots appear next to each message. Hit the dots for your desired messages before pressing the delete or forward options. Thanks, Apple, but this should have been on the first iPhone.

Stereo Bluetooth

We were very glad to see a stereo Bluetooth profile arrive with iPhone OS 3.0. We tested it with the LG HBS-250 stereo Bluetooth headset. The pairing process was easy and incident-free. In the music player, a small Bluetooth icon appears next to the player controls. Press it to route audio to the headset; you then can toggle back and forth between the speaker and the headset. Speaking of Bluetooth, the update also adds Bluetooth peer-to-peer networking for gaming. Yet, neither Bluetooth feature is available on the iPhone Classic, even with the OS 3.0 update installed. Apple has a chart with more information.

Turn-by-turn directions

iPhone OS 3.0 brings support for turn-by-turn directions, making the iPhone a fully functional GPS device. The bad news is that, along with MMS, we’ll have to wait until later this summer for complete functionality. Directional services won’t come from Apple, but will instead come from third-party apps. TomTom will be one of the first companies to offer an app; a TomTom executive demonstrated it at WWDC 2009. AT&T has built an app for its AT&T Navigator service and we expect that other companies will offer their own apps.

From what we could tell from the brief demo, TomTom’s service looks promising. The interface was attractive and the audible directions were clear. TomTom will also offer a car kit that will secure your iPhone to your windshield or dashboard while charging it at the same time. That’s good news for a device that sucks up juice quickly.

We’re concerned with how much the app will cost. TomTom will offer a “range” of U.S. and international maps, but that’s as much as we know. GPS maps are not cheap, so we’ll be interested to see how TomTom will package and price the content to make it affordable for consumers and profitable for TomTom.

What’s more, we’re curious how much memory the maps will consume and how the app will integrate with the iPhone’s other features. From what we understand, we’ll be able to make hands-free calls and play music on our car’s radio while getting directions. Unlike the Palm Pre, however, the iPhone doesn’t multitask (we have more to say on that below). If the GPS feature has to suspend because you get a call–just as the iPod player suspends when you take a call–then things could get tricky. We suspect, though, that Apple and TomTom have this covered.

iTunes Store

With the software update, your iPhone’s iTunes Store experience will change a bit. Now you’ll be able to rent and purchase movies, download TV shows and audiobooks, and access iTunes U. You’ll also be able to redeem iTunes gift cards on the phone in the iTunes App store. Previously, you could only redeem in the iTunes music store.

Also new is the capability to make purchases while inside apps. For example, you can renew a magazine subscription or buy additional levels of a game. This is a small win, at least for us. Sure, it’s nice that you won’t have to close the application and return to the iTunes Store, but this is almost one of those “problems I didn’t know I had.” Just remember to keep a limit on your impulse buying.

Apple promises that free apps will always be free, to avoid a bait-and-switch scenario. While that’s great for consumers in that you’ll never have to shell out money for an update, even now we see two versions of many apps cluttering the App store. The free app get you hooked, much like a demo version of a game, while the paid app offers the whole experience. As we see it, that’s not much better than offering an app for free, but then charging later for an update.

Find My iPhone

If you’re prone to losing your iPhone 3GS, OS 3.0 will give you some peace of mind. If your handset goes missing, you can use a computer to find its position on a map. You can then send it a message that instructs anyone who finds your phone to call you. It plays a tone to get a passerby’s attention, and it even plays the tone when the sound is off. Presumably, however, it won’t play the tone when the phone is off.

It sounds like a great service, but there are a couple of caveats. Find My iPhone is only available to MobileMe users. Also, it can be dislabled, and you’ll need someone on the other end who is responsible enough to notify you that he or she has found your phone. Luckily, if the latter doesn’t hold true, you can use a remote wipe option to swipe your iPhone clean of data. This is the first time remote wipe is available to consumers outside of an enterprise setting.

Voice recorder

Did we mention that iPhone OS 3.0 adds features that should have been on the first-generation device? Oh, that’s right, we did. But, in any case, the new voice-recording app is another example of something being better late than ever. It has its own icon on the Home screen, and its interface is clean and easy to use. Tap the record button to start and tap it again to end; you can continue to record while you’re using other applications, like the Web browser. When finished, you can e-mail your voice clips to a friend, or you can trim them in the same fashion as you would videos.


You’ll now see news headlines for the company tickers saved in your Stocks application. That would be a nice touch if we used the Stocks app more often. You’ll also be able to see a chart in landscape mode, and you’ll be able to get a stock price at any point on a chart.

Other additions

The remaining additions range from useful to trivial. Thanks to iPhone OS 3.0, you’ll also get push notifications, expanded parental controls, a shake-to-shuffle feature for the iPod player, the capability to forward meeting invites and contacts, Notes syncing for Macs and PCs, autofill for Web fields and Wi-Fi auto-log-ins, the option to change the default destination for the home button, and additional wallpaper. Finally, if you tap and hold on a Web link in the Safari browser, a new menu will appear with choices to open the link, open it in another page, save an image, or copy the link.

What we’re still waiting for

Fortunately, this list is getting shorter with each incarnation of the iPhone. Yet, the iPhone 3GS still lacks some important features. To begin with, it does not offer multitasking. We’ve been hung up on this for a while, but after seeing the Pre handle multitasking so elegantly, we think Apple can at least compete. And keep in mind that multitasking is hardly limited to Palm’s showpiece. It is frustrating that on a phone that can do so many things well, we have to close an application and go back to the menu in order to open another one. But more than that, it’s becoming unacceptable.

As mentioned earlier, you can’t change the look and feel of the iPhone’s interface. Though we like not having to root through multiple menu layers to access features, we’d still enjoy more customization. Similarly, Apple continues to lock down the iPhone’s file structure. There’s no file manager feature, and USB mass storage and transfer remain largely elusive. While you can access your iPhone’s camera folder via a USB cable, you can only transfer photos and videos from the iPhone 3GS to your computer. To transfer photos, videos ,and other media files to your iPhone, you must rely on iTunes. And even then, iTunes restricts what kinds of files you can move and it tells you where to store them on the phone. A wide variety of cell phones, from simple candy bar handsets to high-end smartphones, offer USB mass storage. We think Apple should do the same.

Flash support for the Safari browser is also a must. Apple has skirted this issue, so there may be hope in the future. But in the meantime, we still expect Flash Lite to get a true Web experience. Apple has long boasted that the iPhone puts “the Internet in your pocket,” but without Flash, it’s not quite there.

We doubt we’ll ever get the last few items on our list. But as long as we’re complaining, we’d love to see an FM radio, a “mark as read” option in the e-mail app, an FM transmitter, and a user-replaceable battery. We still wonder what you’re supposed to use as a cell phone when you send in your iPhone for a replacement battery. And don’t forget: you’ll have to pay for that service.

Internal performance

The “S” in iPhone 3GS stands for speed and the device promises to be quicker in two ways: not only will a new processor enable it to load apps faster, but it will utilize an upgraded AT&T 3G network for speedier Web browsing. We expected both of these improvements, so we’re not surprised that they are the new 3GS’ prime selling points.

We’ll start with the processor: Apple doesn’t provide details on the processor’s capabilities, but a T-Mobile Netherlands’ Web site briefly reported that the iPhone 3GS has a 600MHz processor–similar to the Pre’s–and 256MB RAM. In contrast, the earlier iPhone 3G had a 412MHz processor and 128MB RAM. As our colleagues at CNET Asia said, twice the memory “should speed things up a fair bit.”

The promised change surprised us, since we never thought the iPhone Classic or the iPhone 3G were that slow in the first place. But, whatever the reason for the improvement, we’re certainly not going to refuse if Apple wants to dish it out. And from what we can tell, it’s not an empty promise. We conducted side-by-side tests between an iPhone 3G and an iPhone 3GS. Both phones had identical contact lists, calendars, photos, apps, and music libraries.

For most native applications that don’t depend on a cellular or Wi-Fi connection, the iPhone 3GS was consistently faster. For the photo gallery, camera, calculator, calendar, notes, clock, and contacts list, the iPhone 3G lagged about 2 seconds behind. No, that’s not a huge difference, but it was a difference nonetheless. We noticed a similar change when using the Spotlight feature and opening the Settings menu.

We saw a bigger change in other areas. The iPhone 3GS opened the iPod player almost 5 seconds faster, and it was much quicker at loading some notoriously slow apps. For example, Bejewled 2, which can take up to 12 seconds to load on the iPhone 3G, started in just 5 seconds on the 3GS. Even better, Pocket God went from opening in almost 30 seconds to starting in just 11. The iPhone 3GS also started up much quicker than the iPhone 3G–we were up and running in 26 seconds instead of 50 seconds.

We realize that the above tests aren’t very scientific or exact, but they do reflect everyday use. Indeed, the iPhone 3GS appears to delivers speedier internal performance; people should notice a difference.

Browser and data

On the other hand, we didn’t notice any differences in data and browser speeds over AT&T’s 3G network. We’d certainly welcome any improvements that should come from the carrier’s forthcoming HSPA network upgrade to 7.2Mbps, but there’s an important caveat for the moment: AT&T won’t start rolling out the faster network until later this year. What’s more, full deployment is scheduled for 2011. Though we expect urban areas will be first, coverage will vary widely for the next year, at least. As such, we don’t predict any miracles soon. On the other hand, we noticed faster browser speeds when using CNET’s Wi-Fi network. The New York Times loaded in about 30 seconds on the iPhone 3GS, but took up to a minute on the iPhone 3G.

Call quality and reception

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) iPhone 3GS world phone in San Francisco. Call quality was virtually unchanged from the iPhone 3G. When the calls could connect, and when they weren’t dropping, the audio quality was decent. Voices sounded natural and we heard a satisfactorily low amount of “side noise,” which is the sound of your own voice coming back through the phone. Wind noise was apparent in some instances, and the volume could be louder, but the 3GS lacks the sensitive sweet spot that we encountered on the first iPhone.

On their end, callers didn’t report any differences from the caller experience on the iPhone 3G. They could hear us under most conditions, and, while they could tell that we were on a cell phone, that’s not unusual. The only complaints mentioned occasional background noise. Automated calling systems could understand as well, but we had the best experiences when using the phone inside. We’ll test the iPhone 3GS in more places over the next few weeks.

Speakerphone calls were good, but not great. The external speaker was rather soft, but voices weren’t distorted, except at the highest volumes. Also, as long as we were in a quiet room, we didn’t have to speak close to the phone if we wanted to be heard on the other end. We connected to the BlueAnt Q1 Bluetooth headset without any problems. Call quality was mostly satisfactory, though we noticed a slight amount of static. That could be from the headset, however.

Unfortunately, we saw no change in overall signal strength and reception. The hand off between EDGE and 3G remains shaky, and the iPhone still tries to latch onto the 3G signal even when it’s barely detectable. As we found with the iPhone 3G, the reception jumped if we switched off the handset’s 3G radio on the Settings menu. Constantly doing that, however, can be a pain.

While testing the iPhone 3GS with the iPhone 3G in areas of San Francisco with reliably poor AT&T coverage, we noticed no difference in the number of bars or in the capability of each to establish a connection and make a call. What’s more, the iPhone 3GS dropped calls as frequently as its predecessor in the “semidead zones.” We also used the iPhone’s internal Field Test application, which is a more accurate test of signal strength than the number of bars on the display. In most cases the iPhone 3GS had a stronger signal, but not by much. Dial *3001#12345#* to run the test yourself. You’ll see the signal strength in decibels in the upper-left corner of the display–the lower the number, the better the signal.

According to FCC radiation tests, the iPhone 3GS has a rating of 0.79 watt per kilogram. That is the highest at-ear SAR for voice calls. Data use and at-body use can result in different SARs.

Audio and video quality

Editors’ note: Senior Editor Donald Bell contributed to this section.

For all the small tweaks and improvements made to the iPhone 3GS, music and video playback quality is indistinguishable from the 3G model. Fortunately, in this department, the iPhone can afford to rest on its laurels. Audio is crisp and full, with a suite of iPod EQ presets, ample volume, and minimum background hiss. A range of audio files and resolutions are supported, starting at basic MP3 and AAC, all the way up to CD-quality formats, such as AIFF, WAV, and Apple Lossless. Video playback quality is still the same bright, smooth experience we enjoyed on the 3G model. If there’s a story to be told about video improvements, it’s the fact that the 3GS is the first iPhone to both play and record video. Apple has also updated the mobile version of the iTunes store to include movie, television, and music video downloads, in addition to the music and podcast downloads offered prior to the OS 3.0 update. Music quality on the LG HBS-250 stereo Bluetooth headset was quite satisfactory–a big improvement over the iPhone’s external speaker and better than the standard wired headset. Of course, your experience will vary depending on which stereo headset you choose.

Battery life

Battery life remains one of the iPhone 3G’s biggest detractions. Indeed, you’re lucky if your handset lasts longer than a day with heavy use. When Apple first introduced the iPhone in June, the company promised relief for beleaguered users. The 3GS’ rated battery life is 9 hours of Wi-Fi battery life, 10 hours of video playback, 30 hours of audio playback, 12 hours of 2G talk time, and 5 hours of 3G talk time.

In our initial tests conducted just after this review posted, the iPhone 3GS’ battery appeared to last longer than its predecessor’s. We could go longer during a day of heavy use before having to recharge. Also, our first talk time test with EDGE delivered almost 11.5 hours of battery life, which is impressive considering the iPhone 3G lasted 8.75 hours on EDGE. We then sent the 3GS to CNET Labs for more rigorous testing. In those tests, the 3GS largely matched Apple’s promised times. We’ll start with voice calls first. CNET Labs managed 5.36 hours of 3G talk time and 13.4 hours of 2G talk time. While those results may seem surprising, remember that we leave the handset alone with the display dimmed during our talk time tests.

Battery life for multimedia use also was satisfactory. In Airplane Mode on with the cellular radio turned off, the 3GS delivered 36.7 hours of music playback and 10.03 hours of video playback. With the Airplane Mode off and 3G enabled, we got 35.4 hours of music time and 9.2 hours of video playback. In both cases, the screen was off during music playback.

It’s important to remember that real-world use will be a better judge of the iPhone 3GS’ endurance. The large color display, frequently switching between different applications, and heavy 3G or GPS use will drain the battery faster than just making a call. As it’s difficult to develop an accurate benchmark for testing battery life while multitasking, your experience will vary widely depending on how you use your iPhone 3GS. There are quite a few things you can do to maximize battery life, but we recommend using Wi-Fi over 3G whenever possible, limiting GPS use, and dimming your display’s brightness. The 3Gs is the first iPhone to show the percentage of battery charge on the Home screen.

MacWorld iPhone review

April 14, 2010

Groundbreaking wireless communicator really lives up to the hype

by Jason Snell of (the article was written in 2007 and focuses on the US market)

Apple’s iPhone is a product that’s been years in the making. Apple’s designers have been working on it for years, and the Web has been buzzing about Apple’s entry into the phone market for just as long—or maybe even longer. But now, after six months of intense speculation since its introduction at Macworld Expo, the iPhone has arrived. Although the iPhone is not without a few quirks, it makes good on the hype that surrounded it.

Hefting the hardware

Steve Jobs proudly described the iPod as a beautiful piece of hardware that had amazing software inside it. And with the iPhone, Apple’s hardware designers have once again wrapped the output of the company’s in-house developers into a remarkable piece of hardware. Pictures of the iPhone don’t do it justice: it’s smaller than it looks. Roughly the width (2.4 inches) and height (4.5 inches) of a full-size iPod, depth is the dimension that makes the iPhone feel tiny: it’s shockingly thin, measuring less than half an inch.

However, the iPhone doesn’t feel fragile. It’s got enough weight (4.8 ounces) to it to feel substantial when it’s in the palm of your hand. And as our colleagues at PC World have shown , the iPhone appears to be built to last, with a screen that proved quite resistant to scratches and drops. The iPhone’s back side is a textured silver, rather than the polished stainless steel of the full-sized iPod models, so my guess is that both the front and back of the iPhone will be more resistant to scratches than either the full-sized iPod or the original iPod nano.

This is not to say that the iPhone is impervious to being marked up. Perhaps we were unwise to order pizza at Macworld on the day of the iPhone’s arrival, but the grease from that pizza helped make a point: the iPhone’s screen collects fingerprints. The good news is, the screen’s so bright that in most situations you don’t notice the fingerprints. But it’s enough of an issue that Apple includes a small black chamois cloth in the iPhone box, and the image-conscious iPhone owner will want to give their screen a good wipe-down often.

The dominant physical feature of the iPhone is its black glass face, punctuated by a single physical button on the bottom and a speaker slit near the top for listening to phone calls. But the Home button isn’t the only physical button to be found anywhere on the iPhone; on its side are a pair of volume buttons, which (depending on context) will let you raise or lower the volume of the phone’s ringer, music or video playback, or conference-call speakerphone. Placed right above these two buttons is a switch that slides back and forth; in one position the iPhone will emit sound from its external speaker, while in the other it will only vibrate to warn you that something’s going on.

Using a switch instead of a toggle button was an excellent choice, since you can feel the switch’s position even in a darkened movie theater. However, the volume buttons are located a bit too close to the switch, and on several occasions I found myself pushing the switch (which won’t budge) in a vain attempt to boost the iPhone’s volume.

The iPhone’s top has a physical button, too. It serves as a wake/sleep toggle button: press it and the iPhone goes to sleep and locks instantaneously. (This feature is aimed at preventing you from accidentally pushing an on-screen button; you can still receive incoming calls when the phone’s in this state.) Press that same button and hold for a few seconds, and the iPhone will shut down completely.

Opposite the wake/sleep toggle on the iPhone’s top edge is a recessed headphone jack. It’s a standard 3.5-millimeter jack—the very same sort used on the iPod—but because it’s recessed many third-party headphones won’t fit, especially if they’ve got a large plug or one that turns at a 90-degree angle. It’s too bad that a clunky add-on accessory will be necessary for aficionados of high-quality headphones to use the iPod features of the iPhone. (Although if the iPhone is a success, headphone manufacturers will almost certainly build their plugs to ensure iPhone compatibility.)

The iPhone comes with a set of stereo earbuds that sound pretty good, exponentially better than the earbuds that shipped with the original iPod. These earbuds also include an inline microphone that’s also a clicker: click once to pause or play your music, or click twice to advance to the next track. Although I’m sure that third-party headphone makers will create numerous excellent alternatives, the good news is that the iPhone’s in-the-box earbuds are very good.

On the iPhone’s back face is the tiny lens of its compact, two-megapixel camera. It doesn’t zoom and doesn’t work well in low light, but with still subjects in well-lit areas it produces nice results. It’s definitely more appropriate for fun shots when no other camera is around than as a replacement for your digital camera, even if your camera is five years old. (The camera also can’t record video, at least not with the current version of the iPhone’s software.)

The iPhone’s inside may not be as beautiful as the outside, but it’s full featured. Each iPhone contains either 4GB or 8GB of flash data storage. It’s also got three different wireless technologies inside: a standard GSM cellular connection with support for AT&T’s EDGE network, support for 802.11b/g Wi-Fi networks, and Bluetooth.

Bright, clear display

The iPhone’s display is excellent. Yes, it’s big and bright, but its most impressive trait is its high resolution: It’s 160 dpi, more than twice the traditional Mac screen resolution. Jamming that many pixels together in such a small space means that everything on screen looks smooth, not pixelated. Digital photos and videos look gorgeous, and even the colorful icons on the iPhone’s home screen are so bright and clear that sometimes it’s hard to believe that you’re looking at a computer screen and not something physical, like a sticker. On-screen text looks sharp, more like printed text in a book or magazine than drawn with pixels on the screen.

Of course, the iPhone’s screen isn’t just for looking at: It’s the key driver in the device’s interface. Using the iPhone is a tactile experience—it’s all about touching your fingers (or, if you’re daring, your thumbs) to that screen. Instead of dragging a scroll bar or clicking a mouse, you move through screens on the iPhone by a combination of taps, flicks, and other finger gestures.

The original Macintosh changed the world by providing a physical control to move a cursor around on a computer interface. But the iPhone does it one better—instead of pushing around a mouse in order to make a disembodied arrow or hand move up on the computer screen, it’s your finger doing all the moving. When you touch a photo, Web page, or e-mail message on the iPhone and slide with your finger, it moves along with your touch, as if you were moving a real, physical object. There’s no cursor on the iPhone because your finger is your pointer—which, despite what your mother might have told you, is just what fingers are designed to do.

Fingertips on virtual keys

If pointing is a natural act, typing on a keyboard (especially a tiny one) is its antithesis, but it’s a necessity of our modern age. After the crash-and-burn of the Newton’s handwriting-recognition interface and even Palm’s original Graffiti writing system, the makers of most mobile devices settled on tiny, chiclet-style keyboards as the best way for people to input text.

The iPhone’s designers seem to agree that typing is the best way to enter data on a small device, but they’ve ditched the physical keyboard and replaced it with more touchscreen space. When you’re using the iPhone and reach a point where you need to input text, a keyboard automatically slides up from the bottom of the screen.

The abolition of a physical keyboard is probably destined to be the iPhone’s most controversial feature, at least at first. There’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using the iPhone’s keyboard, especially for people who are comfortable using the physical keyboard on a Blackberry, Treo, or other smart phone.

I can’t say that my typing experience with my previous phone, a Palm Treo, was particularly good. I could manage, but never felt that I could reach an acceptable typing speed. As a result, it’s hard for me to put myself in the place of an accomplished Blackberry thumb typist who has spent a year honing his or her skills. But I believe that most users—even thumb typists, given an open mind and some training time—will find the iPhone’s keyboard to be excellent.

It does take some getting used to, however. That’s because the iPhone’s keyboard is a failure if taken literally. If you slowly tap every single letter and painstakingly backspace if you press the wrong one, you will never be satisfied. The iPhone’s keyboard excels when you ignore your mistakes and keep on typing, because it senses your finger presses, compares all the nearby keys to its built-in dictionary, and intuits what you’re actually trying to type. Over time, as it learns the kinds of words you type, it improves its auto-correcting accuracy.

Within a few hours with the iPhone, my finger was flying over the keyboard, and I’m sure my fingertip was only getting roughly close to the correct letter most of the time. But the iPhone’s software, with remarkable consistency, knew what I had meant to type. I assume that with some practice, two-thumb typing would be even faster, but with my index finger I managed to type faster than I ever have on a tiny device, physical keyboard or not.

The iPhone’s key layout is smart, too: it changes what keys appear depending on context. For example, in Safari’s URL window, you’ll be presented with a .com key. In an e-mail window, you’ll only be provided with characters that can be part of a valid e-mail address. One inconsistency is the presence of a horizontal keyboard when the iPhone is in a landscape orientation: it shows up in Safari, but it would be nice if you could rotate other applications, such as Mail, in order to take advantage of a larger keyboard.

One iPhone text oddity is that the device has no concept of a text selection, let alone copy, cut, or paste. You might think that touching your finger and dragging it across text might select it, but it doesn’t—Apple uses that gesture to bring up a magnifying glass so that you can correctly reposition the insertion point (which is a great idea).

Without copy and paste, you can’t (for example) compose a blog entry in the notepad while in Airplane mode and then paste it into your blog-posting tool in Safari when you’re back on the ground. Yes, you can e-mail that note, and if your blog tool has an e-mail-to-blog gateway, that’ll do in a pinch, but the lack of a better way to transfer text from one place to another can generally hamper interaction between different iPhone programs.

iPhone calling

It’s easy to get lost in the hype about touchscreens and Web browsers and forget that the iPhone is, like its name says, a phone. And it works pretty well as one: When an incoming call arrives, the iPhone gently interrupts what you’re doing to display Caller ID information about who’s calling. You can set any of 25 built-in ringtones as your ring and assign custom ringtones to individual callers. Unfortunately, you can’t use your own music or sounds as ringtones.

Once a call is in progress, the iPhone’s large screen gives Apple room to make it clear what your options are while on the phone, including placing people on hold and creating conference calls.

The iPhone uses iTunes to sync the contents of your Mac’s address book (or a set of groups within the address book) with its internal contacts list. Although I was initially resistant to the idea of syncing over all my contacts rather than just a group containing the people I was most likely to call, in the end, syncing everything is probably the best approach, since your contacts are also used for e-mail addressing.

Fortunately, the iPhone remembers which contact group you were looking at most recently. So even though my iPhone contains all 207 of the contact records I’ve got on my Mac, when I tap Contacts I see only the contents of a “Phone” group that I created within the Mac’s Address Book. (If the person I need to call isn’t in there, I can tap on a back arrow and browse the entire contacts list or a different contact group.)

In fact, the stickiness of your current contact group is just one example of an effect you’ll find throughout the iPhone’s interface: When you return to a task you were previously using, things will generally be just as you left it. For example, if you’re looking at a Mail message and then press the Home button to check stock quotes, when you tap on Mail again you’ll be back to that same message.

The iPhone’s Phone application is a five-tabbed interface that lets you quickly get to a numeric keypad for “old school” dialing (especially useful if you’re trapped in a phone tree), see your contacts, and get a list of recent calls.

There’s a Favorites list, too, so you can create a short list of your most commonly dialed numbers. However, creating and accessing favorite people should be easier than it is right now. To add a contact as a favorite, you have to tap on the name in your Contacts list, then scroll down to the bottom of the contact record and tap Add to Favorites, then—if they have more than one number—pick the one you’d like to add as a favorite. There’s got to be an easier way, like tapping on a name and dragging it onto the Favorites icon.

The iPhone also lacks a quick-dial feature that you’ll find on many other phones, in which you hold down a particular button to call your most frequently-called contacts. Obviously the iPhone can’t map contacts to buttons it doesn’t have, but top contacts are probably a few too may taps away.

When you’re on a call, tapping the screen brings up six commands—Mute, Keypad, Speaker, Hold, Contacts, and Add call. That last command is particularly noteworthy, as it’s an example of the kind of task that can be confounding on other smart phones while being drop-dead simple on Apple’s handset. Whether you’ve initiated or received a call it’s an easy matter to put one caller on hold while you contact another and then bring the three (or more) of you together in a conference call. If only our phones here in the office worked as intuitively.

One of the iPhone’s most unique phone-related features is Visual Voicemail, which displays messages by showing you the name of the caller and the time of the call; messages that you have not listened to yet are marked with a blue dot. Tap on any message and that message will be played back, regardless of its position in the message queue. While listening to a message, a progress bar shows the length of the message and current playback position, letting you jump back and forth with the drag of a finger—no more listening to entire messages over again just to hear that phone number you missed the first time. There’s also a large green Call Back button to return the person’s call (assuming the caller didn’t have Caller ID blocked) and a large red Delete button. It’s a fresh approach to voicemail, and a welcome change from the kludgy menu-driven Voicemail systems with which most mobile-phone users are all too familiar.

One of the most useful interface touches on the iPhone is the method you use to scroll through a massive list of information: a strip with every letter from A to Z which runs vertically down the right side of your contacts list (as well as most lists in the phone’s iPod functions). Touch the strip with your finger in the general direction of the first letter of the contact name, song, or artist that you’re looking for, and the list will jump to that letter.

If you want to use a Bluetooth wireless headset with the iPhone, you should be able to do so without much trouble. I easily paired the iPhone with a Plantronics headset, and my colleagues have had success with headsets from Apple and Aliph. However, the iPhone doesn’t currently support stereo headphones, nor can it pair with your Mac for such tasks as passing files, using the iPhone as a modem, or passing call information to your Mac.

One-handed e-mail

The explosion of interest in smartphones is because they’re a mixture of two great tastes that taste great together—cell phones and e-mail. And the iPhone’s Mail program is excellent, capable of displaying formatted e-mail messages, including many common attachment file types.

The Mail interface is a simple hierarchical list that lets you tap through to different accounts (if you’ve got more than one account, as I do). If you’re using IMAP, you’ll see a list of all the mailboxes that are a part of your account. Once you’re in a mailbox, you can see a list of messages, complete with the name of the person who sent it, the message’s subject, and, optionally, the first few lines of the message.

Using Mail on the iPhone couldn’t be much easier: tap the New Message icon to create a new message, and then choose a recipient from your Contacts list (or type in an address yourself). If you’re reading a message, pressing the reply button will give you the option of replying to or forwarding the message.

It’s no fun entering in e-mail settings on a computer with a full keyboard, let alone on an iPhone’s virtual keyboard. So Apple has tried to make e-mail set-up on the iPhone easy, and it has largely succeeded, albeit with a few caveats. When you first set up your iPhone, iTunes transfers all your mail account preferences from your Mac’s copy of Apple Mail. If those accounts are the only ones you want, you’re set.

But if you need to enter in account info yourself, Apple has created several account presets that work for some major account types: Yahoo, Google’s Gmail, AOL, and Apple’s own .Mac. Setting up those services was very easy and required a minimum of data entry.

If you’re not using any of those services, however, you’ll have to enter in a bit more data. And you’ll probably discover one of the iPhone’s major interface mistakes: there’s no option to display the text of the passwords you’re entering. That’s a fine security measure, but when you’re typing on the iPhone’s teensy virtual keys, and most likely not typing any sort of character string that the iPhone is good at auto-correcting—at least not if you’ve got a decently secure password—it’s very difficult to carefully enter in your password and make sure you’ve done it properly. I managed it by pressing my finger down on the keyboard and, if the letter that popped up wasn’t the one I wanted, deliberately sliding my finger until the proper key registered, then picked up my finger. But for long or numerous passwords it’s a big pain, and something Apple should fix.

If you’ve never used a mobile device for e-mail before, you’ll also discover that you may need to change some of your mail settings (or change servers) to get the best e-mail experience on the iPhone. After entering all the data for my office’s mail server, I was confounded by an error when sending mail. At first I thought that I had entered my password incorrectly (hence the repeated visits to the password entry screen), but it turned out that my mail server wasn’t listening for outgoing mail messages at the same location (SMTP port, for you mail geeks out there) as the iPhone wanted to use by default. After some research I discovered what SMTP port we were using, and appended it (preceded by a colon, of course) to the name of my mail server in my mail settings. It worked, but it was the kind of difficulty that will drive most people to tech support.

Moreover, the iPhone doesn’t filter mail, nor does it have any built-in spam catcher. That means if you’re relying on a client-side filtering program such as C-Command Software’s SpamSieve ( ), you’ll be stunned at the amount of spam you’ll see on your iPhone. The solution: Use a mail server with server-side spam filtering, if you can. If your server also offers other server-side filters, it might be an opportunity to redirect some mail you don’t want to get on your phone, such as messages from mailing lists, elsewhere.

iPhone Mail has a few other idiosyncrasies that I hope will be addressed in the future. By default every reply you send quotes the entire message you’re replying to, with your response at the top. This didn’t bother me, but that style of mail drives some people crazy. And since there’s no way to select a mass of text and delete it, there’s really no way to get around the default reply style. There’s also no way to select all of your mail at once and delete those messages or mark them as read. It’s not a show-stopper, but it is annoying.

Another, much more minor, missing feature is the ability to assign signatures for each of your e-mail accounts. You can have a signature (by default it’s “Sent from my iPhone”), but that signature is applied to every message you send, regardless of account.

Big Web, little window

At numerous public appearances, Steve Jobs has promoted the Web-browsing experience on the iPhone as one that brings you the “real Internet”—in other words, the experience of viewing the Web via a full-fledged computer browser, not dumbed-down pages simplified for mobile phones (or, what’s worse, complicated Web pages that a puny cell phone browser can’t properly render). By embedding a version of Safari on the phone, Apple has brought the iPhone most of the way toward that goal, but it still falls a few notable steps short.

When you’re using Safari on the iPhone, you feel as if you’re using Safari on your Mac. Web pages load in full, scaled-down to fit on the iPhone’s screen. Tap twice on any part of the page and Safari automatically zooms in, making text readable and enlarging photos to fill the screen. The experience is as close an approximation to the Web you experience on your Mac as you could possibly get on a screen the size of the iPhone’s. Web-page text is a pleasure to read on the iPhone’s high-resolution display.

Your bookmarks even come along for the ride, because iTunes syncs bookmarks between your Mac copy of Safari and your iPhone. (It’s a two-way sync, so don’t delete bookmarks on the iPhone unless you’re willing to lose them on your Mac too.)

If the iPhone is a success, the iPhone Web story will improve, too: Web developers can custom-build style sheets to work with the iPhone, as well as make some basic additions to their pages to improve the iPhone browsing experience.

Loading Web pages on a Wi-Fi network felt about as snappy as it did on my Mac, but when I switched over to AT&T’s EDGE digital cellular network, things bogged down. I found browsing the Web on the EDGE network less pleasurable, but still quite usable (though it’s worth noting speed of the network can vary widely).

Safari on the iPhone even has a clever way to support multiple open Web pages at once: tap the Window button and the current page pulls back to reveal that it’s one in a chain of up to eight different pages. If you click a link that’s set to open in a new window, Safari handles the process itself, zooming you out of your current page and sliding you over to the new page.

However, there are a few limitations that prevent Safari on iPhone from truly showing the real Internet. The biggest is the fact that perhaps the most common browser plug-in in existence, Adobe’s Flash, is nowhere to be found. Over the past few years, the melange of different browser plug-ins for features such as embedded Web videos have largely been replaced by a single video player format: Flash. Although the iPhone’s included YouTube player solves the problem for that popular video-sharing Web site, it doesn’t address the larger fact that numerous Web sites use Flash to play video or display other interactive content.

The iPhone also won’t play back Web audio or video being streamed in the Real or Windows Media formats, although Mac users can play such media on their Macs.

Less major though still annoying, is the lack of support for file upload via Web pages. It would be nice if Safari allowed users to upload certain kinds of content in order to, for example, post pictures taken with the iPhone’s built-in camera to the Flickr photo-sharing site. (An alternative would be for Apple to add support for photo-sharing-site uploads right into the iPhone’s Photos program.)

iPod reborn

The iPhone’s iPod functions are like no iPod we’ve seen before—but I’d hazard a guess that they closely resemble the look of iPods to come. Without a scroll wheel to use in navigation, the iPhone’s iPod features take some getting used to. It took me quite a while to figure out how to toggle into and out of Shuffle mode. (The controls appear when you do a single tap on the screen.)

When held in a vertical, or portrait, orientation, the iPhone’s iPod menus are reminiscent of the old iPod, but with much more detail. Instead of a main menu, there’s a row of five buttons along the bottom of the screen. You can customize four of them with elements you might remember from the iPod’s main menu (including Artists, Genres, Videos, and Podcasts). The fifth, called More, is the home for all the options that didn’t make it onto the row of buttons.

When you’re in a list—of artists, for example—you can scroll through it by flicking your finger, or use the same vertical A-to-Z quick index feature that’s present in the Phone’s Contacts list (assuming you’ve got a long enough list of artists or songs). Tapping on an Artist brings up a list of albums or, if they have only one album, a list of songs from that album. Conveniently, you can now choose to begin shuffling at almost any point: all songs, all songs by a particular artist, or all songs in a particular album.

When the iPhone’s in a landscape orientation, the iPod interface switches into Cover Flow mode, in which you flick through a row of album covers. Find a cover that looks intriguing, and tap on it to see its contents. It looks great, but I’m still not convinced about how useful Cover Flow is as a feature—on the iPhone or anywhere else.

Due to its large, high-resolution screen, the iPhone excels as a video player. It’s the largest canvas a video iPod has ever had, at 480-by-320 pixels. (The current video iPod’s display resolution is 320 by 240.) And the widescreen aspect ratio, while not quite a Hollywood-standard 16:9, is still better for watching widescreen movies and TV shows than the 4:3 ratio of the video iPod.

Of course, the iPhone doesn’t have a large hard drive on which to store a massive video library. That means you have to be judicious with the amount of content you load on the iPhone. And if you convert your own videos (from DVDs or other sources), you’ll want to spend the extra time compressing and resizing them to fit on the iPhone. But I was able to load up my 8GB iPhone with 350 songs and eight hours of video, and still have 3GB left over. So while loading an entire season of a TV show onto an iPhone is basically impossible, there’s certainly enough room (especially in the larger model) for a nice selection of viewing options. And in a nice touch, the iPhone offers to delete videos off its flash drive after you’ve viewed them, to free up more space.

There are also several things the iPhone doesn’t do that the iPod does. It won’t output video to a TV, for one, and its iTunes synchronization process is much more like Apple TV than an iPod. I often drag-and-drop music and video onto my iPod when I attach it to my Mac, but the iPhone will only sync with a library or playlist on a specific Mac or PC. If you want to drag-and-drop, you’ll need to do it into a playlist that you’ve set to sync with the iPhone.

There’s also no support for embedded lyrics in music files, and no voice-recorder support, either with the iPhone’s internal microphone or with various iPod voice-recorder add-ons.

And there’s more

It’s easy to focus on the iPhone’s four core programs, but there are 12 other icons on that Home screen. A few of them are full-blown applications, while others are nothing more than simple Dashboard-style widgets.

The Text program, which has been built to resemble iChat, works quite well as a messaging tool for the cellular network’s SMS text-message protocol. I was able to send messages directly to other phones, status updates to via its SMS gateway, and even chat with someone who was using iChat via AOL’s SMS gateway.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Text can’t send MMS messages, which are similar to SMS messages but can contain multimedia. Because of this limitation, you can’t send a picture you snap with the iPhone’s camera to another phone via Text. (You could send that photo via e-mail.) What’s worse, the iPhone has no support for any Internet-based instant-messaging network. AOL’s SMS gateway works okay in a pinch—and when your buddies are initiating the chats—but it’s no replacement for a full-blown AIM buddy list. And if you’re in a location where you’ve got Wi-Fi network access but no cellular service, there’s no fallback.

The iPhone is dying for a full-blown instant messaging program, and Text doesn’t fit the bill. Although I don’t have any inside information, I assume the choice of SMS support over instant-messaging support has something to do with the fact that AT&T makes money on SMS message plans. But SMS simply isn’t a replacement for instant messaging, and Apple should make the addition of a chat program a priority for a future iPhone software update.

The Calendar and Notes programs help the iPhone fulfill its role as a personal information manager, but they’re like night and day when it comes to their utility. Calendar is implemented beautifully, with a useful Day view and a mega-useful List view of all upcoming events. You can add and edit events and sync them back to iCal on your Mac.

Calendar’s big limitation is that it doesn’t color-code differences between different synced calendars, and new events can’t be assigned to particular synced calendars—they all automatically get assigned to a single, default calendar. And neither Calendar nor any other iPhone program will let you display or edit your iCal to-do lists.

In contrast, the Notes program is fairly useless. It’s cute, with its brow header and yellow legal-style ruled background. But notes don’t sync back to your Mac, so you have to e-mail them from your phone if you ever want to free them from the iPhone. And not to get too font-nerdy on you, but the Marker Felt font used in Notes is extremely ugly and, sadly, can’t be changed. (Here’s hoping that when Leopard arrives, with its system-wide support for notes, you’ll be able to sync iPhone and Mac notes.)

If there’s ever been an example of Apple’s software-design prowess, it’s the Maps program on the iPhone. Maps is powered by the same data you get when you visit Google Maps with your Web browser, but its interface is so slick—from the ease of finding addresses in your contacts list to the whizzy turn-by-turn direction animations—that it not only puts the Google Maps implementations on other cell phones to shame, it makes the Google Maps Web site itself look dowdy.

The only thing missing from the Maps equation is that the iPhone doesn’t know where it is. Not via built-in GPS (it has none), nor by triangulating signal strengths from nearby cellular phone towers. It’s too bad, because with some knowledge of where it’s currently located, the iPhone’s Maps program would be perfect.

A trio of iPhone icons—Calculator, Stocks, and Weather—will be familiar to anyone who has used their Mac OS X Dashboard Widget equivalents. They’re harmless, attractive, and functional. They also point out how, before too long, the iPhone’s Home screen will need some sort of management tool. Not just because Apple will no doubt add to the 16 icons currently on the screen—but because some people will want to hide icons that they don’t use. For example, I wouldn’t mind if I never saw the Stocks icon ever again. I’m sure someone else feels the same way about Weather. And who knows? Perhaps those who hate math might want to kill Calculator.

The Clock program, on the other hand, is more than just a pretty face. Yes, it lets you see what time it is in major metropolises such as London, Moscow, and Cupertino. But it also lets you add multiple alarms (unfortunately only using ringtones, not the contents of your iTunes library), set a stopwatch, or initiate a countdown timer.

The least exciting, but most useful, of the iPhone’s 16 Home screen icons is Settings. This is where everything behind the scenes on the iPhone happens. The preferences for the iPhone in general, and individual programs in particular, are all located here. From Settings, you can send the iPhone into Airplane Mode (which turns off all its radios, including cellular, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi), connect to a Wi-Fi network, and even connect to a corporate VPN (Virtual Private Networking) server.

I was able to connect to my office’s VPN a few times, although I was unsuccessful on some occasions. And I ran into an annoying bug: despite the fact that I asked iPhone to remember my VPN password, it insisted on asking me for it every time I tried to log in.

Power on

The iPhone tech specs claim battery life of up to eight hours of talk time, six hours of Internet use, seven hours of video playback, 24 hours of audio playback, and 250 hours of standby time. Apple arrived at these figures under testing conditions that may not necessarily reflect your own use.

Macworld is running battery tests of our own, and we’ll post the findings once we have them. But Macworld staff have been impressed with the anecdotal results we’ve seen so far, given the number of tasks you can throw at the iPhone—often at once.

The AT&T factor

Unlike other Apple products, the iPhone is the result of a partnership between Apple and AT&T, the company that’s exclusively providing the cellular network for the iPhone. iPhone owners must be AT&T customers, and commit to being AT&T customers for two years.

The result is that it’s fairly hard to judge AT&T aspects of the iPhone. While I’ve been an AT&T customer (and before that Cingular, and before that — oh, the irony — AT&T) for years and have been relatively happy with the service, I’ve also heard from many people who hate AT&T’s cellular service. Add to that the fact that every cell phone user tends to use their phone in a different set of areas, each with their own particular coverage characteristics, and that makes it difficult to give any cellular carrier a broad judgment. What might be great service for one person might be horrendous for another.

In addition, I’m aware of numerous complaints from iPhone buyers—including at least one on the Macworld staff —about long, drawn-out issues with activating their phones. Still others have complained about poor customer service on the part of Apple and AT&T during the product’s first days of existence. Without downplaying those issues, it’s worth noting that neither Apple nor AT&T has ever released a product like this before, and it’s not surprising that both companies are still figuring out how to handle the attendant customer-support issues. If you’re changing from a different carrier and are skittish about AT&T handling the changeover, you might want to wait a few weeks until the initial surge of iPhone sales drop off and both companies have learned some valuable lessons about how to handle iPhone activations.

If you’re not sure AT&T is the right carrier for you, despite your interest in the iPhone, my advice is even more amorphous: Find someone who uses AT&T and who uses their phone in the same places you do, more or less. See how their experience is. Or ask a friend to borrow their AT&T phone for a couple of hours and take it to the places you tend to use yours, so you can see for yourself.

Macworld’s buying advice

In both hardware and software, the iPhone is a truly new creation. In the technology industry, we tend to call these “1.0 products,” and many savvy consumers choose to wait until a second version arrives, presumably with the original version’s bugs worked out.

The iPhone certainly has room to grow, and there’s no doubt that future versions will build on the impressive list of features in this initial product. But let there be no doubt: this first iPhone is an impressively polished product, with none of the haphazardness that we’ve come to associate with anything 1.0.

Among its liabilities are some features that ideally would be addressed via software updates, including adding instant-messaging support, some method of selecting text and moving it between programs, a faster quick-dial feature, Flash support in Safari, and improvements to the Notes program including the ability to sync it with the Mac. Other weaknesses, like its lack of support for faster cellular networks and absence of GPS capabilities, will have to wait for a new version of the iPhone’s hardware.

But the iPhone’s positives vastly outweigh its negatives. It’s a beautiful piece of hardware with a gorgeous high-resolution screen and a carefully designed, beautiful interface inside. The iPhone’s touchscreen keyboard will end up pleasing all but the most resistant Blackberry thumb-typers, making it an excellent device for e-mail. Its Safari browser cleverly condenses full-blown Web pages into a format that’s readable on a small screen. Its iPod features make it a versatile audio player and a drop-dead gorgeous video player. And, yes, it does pretty well at making phone calls, too.

To put it more simply: The iPhone is the real deal. It’s a product that has already changed the way people look at the devices they carry in their pockets and purses. After only a few days with mine, the prospect of carrying a cellphone with me wherever I go no longer fills me with begrudging acceptance, but actual excitement.