iPhone 3g review

See my NEW iPhone 3G S Review – June 2009 Here. Last year I wrote one of the most detailed unbiased iPhone reviews on the net. It has drawn over 97,000 reads to date! So I thought it only appropriate to follow it up this year with a review of the NEW iPhone 3g. When I wrote my review last year I was comparing the iPhone to all other devices I had used including the Palm Treo 650 and Motorola Razer. This year, I'll be comparing the iPhone 3g to the original iPhone. 

 

My buying experience

Last year's iPhone launch was VERY organized. This was the biggest hardware launch in Apple's history and quite frankly, they nailed it! I thought to myself "this should be the model for releasing new hardware to the masses." You could tell that months of planning had gone into it. Granted it wasn't without problems, but for the most part things went very smoothly. Last year, you stood in line, got to the counter/checkout person and said either 4GB or 8GB iPhone. You gave them your credit card and they gave your iPhone and emailed you your receipt. The whole process took 5 minutes for me once I got to the front of the line. Then you went home or back to the office and activated your iPhone using iTunes. Yes there were some issues on day one (and throughout the weekend) with the activation servers being overloaded and some people having to wait longer to get their iPhones activated. Overall though, the launch was a huge success. This year things didn't go so smoothly. There were MAJOR issues on day one. Apple chose Friday, July 11th not only to release the new iPhone 3g, but also to release the 2.0 software update for the 6 million iPhone users out there and to roll out the newly revamped MobileMe online service. Some would call this ambitious! Some might call this stupid. Hind sight is always 20-20 and I guess Apple severely under estimated the demand that these simultaneous launches would have on their servers. The problem was that not only did Apple/AT&T require you to activate your iPhone on the spot at the time of purchase, but they also require people updating their original iPhones to be reactivated at the very end of the 2.0 software update process. This was quite frankly too much for the servers to handle and they crashed/timed out early in the day. Even though Apple was quoted as saying that the average activating would only take 10-15 minutes before the iPhone went on sale, it just doesn't work that way. Apple/AT&T even handed out iReady rate sheets to people in line so that they would be prepared to walk up and ask for what they wanted. However, people are going to have questions. Each question is going to delay the purchase process and make the people waiting behind them wait even longer. I would guess that the average activation was taking more like 20-35 minutes. You might ask, "why would Apple go away from just selling the device and letting you activate it on your own time?" The problem with the last launch/iPhone was that there were thousands of iPhones that were never activated on AT&T. These phones most likely ended up in other countries on other networks. Therefore, both companies lost money. So to prevent that from happening, you have to signup for your 2 year commitment before you leave the store. It's clear that this was not a limit of the technology. When the activation servers crashed, reports say that some Apple Stores just sold the iPhones and told people to activate them when they got home. I would have much rather seen Apple offer an "optional" pay, let's say $599 up front and the difference in price would be credited back to your credit card immediately upon activation. This would have made things go much quicker for those that didn't want to activate there's on the spot. Friday, July 11th 2008, 6:00 AM PST I was in Los Angeles on Friday the 11th getting ready to deliver my InDesign Seminar to a FANTASTIC audience of over 600 people. My seminar started at 10AM and I had to be there to get setup no later than 9:40AM. So my plan was to head over to the local AT&T store by 7AM. The doors were to open at 8AM and I figured I'd be out by 9AM. Before I headed over, I was talking with my buddy Scott and he told me that the iPhone 2.0 software update had just come online. So I hung up the phone with him and decided "well I can install the update while I'm showering and getting ready." That was a mistake! While the update downloaded in a about 15 minutes and installed in about another 20 minutes, I was STUCK at the "Accessing iTunes Store" stage. The last part of the process which talks to the iTunes activation server could not complete. I was running out of time. So I disconnected the iPhone which did no harm, but I was basically holding an iBrick. Without completing that last step, the iPhone could only be used to make emergency 911 calls. I had to leave if I was going to get to the store!

I made it to the AT&T store a few minutes later than I had hoped. I was 112th in line. One of the AT&T reps walked the line and counted and assured everyone up to about the 125th person that they would get an iPhone. After that person, you were not guaranteed to get one because they were not going to have enough. 8AM came and the doors opened. The line moved a bit. 8:15 came and went. 8:25 came and went. The line didn't move again until about 8:30. This was not looking good. I had my MacBook Pro with me in line (still trying to connect to the iTunes activation server to reactivate my phone). When 9:00 came, I knew that I might as well leave. There was no way that the line was going to move fast enough for me to get in and out before my seminar. So now I had no iPhone. My old one was still bricked (un-activated) and I couldn't get the new one. I finally got connected to the iTunes activation server during my lunch break and got my original iPhone back up and running again. After my seminar was over at 5PM. I called the Apple Store (knowing that AT&T was now out of stock) and I was quoted a 4 hour wait!!! I decided that it wasn't worth it. So I went to dinner and then on to the airport to catch the redeye home. After about 2 hours sleep, I made it over to my local Apple Store (Somerset Troy, Michigan) at 9AM. There were about 30 people ahead of me. I walked out with a 16GB black iPhone 3g at about 10:50 AM on Saturday morning. When I left the store, the line had grown to about 100 people. On to the review…

 

Let's start with the new hardware

The iPhone 3g looks very similar (read almost identical) to the original iPhone, especially when you're looking at them from the front. However, when you look at the from the sides or the back you'll see that Apple has added a few more curves. The side volume control buttons and ringer on/off switch are more sleek and the stainless steel back plate is now a shiny black (or white) plastic. Although it's technically no thinner, it feels thinner in my hand. The slick black plastic also feels easier to hold. This is one of those things that's hard to convey in text. You'll have to hold one in your hands to get what I'm talking about here. By going away from stainless steel on the back and going to plastic, reception should be improved. My calls do seem to be very crystal clear. I'm also happy that the iPhone 3g fits nicely into my favorite iPhone case, the DLO Hipcase.

3g data and GPS The iPhone 3g includes not only a 3g data transceiver but also a GPS unit built-in. Although I loved surfing the web on the original iPhone, I would always hesitate to do so when I wasn't connected to Wi-Fi. The previous model relied on EDGE and while EDGE speeds were OK, it wasn't something that you would look forward to using for hours on end. The big new thing about the new iPhone 3g is that it can use AT&T's (and other carriers around the world) faster 3g (3rd generation) faster data network. Apple bills the iPhone as twice as fast and I would have to agree. In some respects they may even be being a little modest. The iPhone 3g is definitely much much much faster at loading complex websites. It loads text based websites almost instantaneously.

 

Although Apple includes a GPS with the iPhone 3g there is no turn-by-turn navigation feature. I've heard several theories on this including one that suggests with the case design, and power to the GPS, it's just not strong enough to do this. However, the GPS is strong enough to show and track your location on the Google Maps app. I tested this by plotting a route from my house to a local video game store. Once I got in my car and tapped the Locate Me button, the iPhone 3g showed my location with a pulsing icon. As I drove the route the iPhone 3g was VERY accurate in showing me where I was. It does work, but turn-by-turn with voice prompts would have been much better. Perhaps whatever the limitations are can either be overcome by a 3rd party developer or by Apple in a future software update. Smaller lesser phones have this, so how hard can it be? Geotagging your pictures! Another benefit of the GPS and Location Services of the iPhone 3g/iPhone 2.0 update is that when you take a picture with the built-in camera, the GPS data (longitude and latitude) are now stored in the metadata of the shot.

 

Here's a shot I took with the iPhone's built-in camera. The iPhone automatically put my location information in the file. If you click the photo it will take you to Google maps and show you where I was standing ๐Ÿ™‚

 

If you import these shots into apps like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, you'll be one click away from seeing exactly where you were when you took the shot. Headphone jack and dock connector Apple did away with the funky recessed headphone jack from the original iPhone. Thank God! It was a pain in the butt to have to not only buy an adapter to use your favorite headphones, but also remembering to carry it with you. Now just about any set of standard headphones should work for listening to your iPod content. Although the iPhone 3g uses the same dock connector as all previous models and other iPods, I'm hearing reports that you can no longer use the old Firewire based chargers. There may also be issues plugging your iPhone 3g into the various iPod speaker systems out there. Typically Apple now provides a dock connector adapter with each new iPod they introduce. However, I haven't seen one yet for the iPhone 3g. Backwards compatibility The one bad thing about the slightly more curvy back is that the iPhone 3g doesn't fit properly in the original iPhone dock. Nor does the iPhone 3g come with a dock. If you want a dock for your iPhone 3g you'll have to buy it as a $29.95 add on. That doesn't bother me as much as the fact that I have the Apple Bluetooth Headset which comes with a dock that charges both the iPhone AND the headset. With the iPhone 3g I can't use that dock and Apple hasn't announced or shipped a replacement for it. So I either have to use just the iPhone Bluetooth Charging Cable which does work (charges both the iPhone 3g and the Bluetooth headset) or charge the iPhone and Bluetooth headset separately. Although Apple no longer includes a dock, strangely enough they do include a SIM eject tool so that you won't have to sacrifice one of your small paper clips. Granted I've swapped SIM cards on occasion here and there with my previous iPhones, but I can't imagine the average user doing this often. So I'm not quite sure why Apple included this tool. Perhaps it's for troubleshooting.

 

 

The other new item in the package is the newly redesigned USB charging adapter. It's much smaller! As a frequent traveler I do appreciate SMALLER electronics. However, the one thing I liked better about the older larger model is that the prongs folded down when not in use and for travel. On the new one the prongs are extended all the time. Phone Reception After all at the end of the day the iPhone is a phone! Therefore, nothing else really matters if you can't make or receive calls. I'm happy to report that the phone reception is BETTER! I would even say MUCH BETTER. There is a AT&T dead spot near my home. If I drove through that intersection while talking on my previous iPhone (hands-free of course), I would drop the call 100% of the time guaranteed. So the ultimate test was driving through that area today. Not only did I not drop the call, but the sound quality of the call remained consistent. As a matter of fact there are 3 dead spots on the way to my studio. I held a conversation today all the way from my house to the studio without a single drop. So therefore I'd have to say that the iPhone 3g definitely has better phone reception. Also I have to note that the speaker/speaker phone is definitely louder. Today I found myself needing to turn it down because it was too loud! Bluetooth Hands-free My car has Bluetooth hands-free built-in and it's compatible with the iPhone. The iPhone's Contact list downloads directly to the dashboard and I can look up numbers, make and receive calls without touching the iPhone itself. I noticed two differences with the iPhone 3g/2.0 update. The first is that now my contacts are listed last name first on the car's display. Before the update they were listed first name then last name. So if I were looking up Joe Smith, I'd go to the J's. Now I have to remember to go to the S's. No big deal, but I did notice it immediately. Also I now notice a slight echo when I'm on a hands-free call. It's not bad, but it is noticeable. I don't think the caller can hear it, but I sure can. Other than that, pairing and voice quality remained unchanged. It just works. Battery Life? It's hard to judge battery life at this point because I haven't had a "normal" day of usage yet. Like any other new toy I've spent most of the time playing with it, testing and reconfiguring settings, etc. So of course I've drained the battery faster than usual because the screen is on the whole time I'm playing. If you pinned me down. I'd have to say that battery life is less than what I had before, but again that's not fair as I haven't really used it the way I normally would yet. So let's just say the jury is still out on this one. 

 

The NEW 2.0 Software

Granted the addition of 3g data speeds, a GPS and a standard headphone jack are all welcomed additions to the iPhone 3g, however the big news is the updated OS. iPhone Software 2.0 comes on the iPhone 3g and is available as a FREE update to the original iPhones. It's also available as a $9.95 upgrade for iPod touch users. With the iPhone 2.0 update Apple fixed some long standing issues. One of the issues I had was an intermittent syncing problem. That issue seemed to be resolved. They also not only tweaked some of the existing apps, but made it possible to add native 3rd party apps. Search your Contacts (it's almost there) I have over 1,000 contacts on my iPhone and it was a pain in the butt either having to scroll up and down the long list or break them down into groups. Now Apple has included a search feature right at the top of the Contact window. I was very happy to see this addition. It works, but it's not quite there yet. In Address Book (Apple's contact manager) on the desktop, Apple got search right! You type in what you want and no matter where it is in the contact record, it finds it. However, that's not quite the case in the iPhone search. For example, let's say you have a contact that is listed as a business, "BMW Dealer", but you also have the sales rep's name in the name field "Jim Edmondson". If you do a search for BMW, it comes up. However, if you search for Jim – it doesn't! Searching for either BMW or Jim in Mac OS X's Address Book would find the contact. New and Improved Calculator The original iPhone calculator was basic, but had a big flaw. There was no "Clear Entry" key. So literally there was no room for error. If you were keying in a bunch of entries and made a mistake, hitting "C" would clear the whole thing. Now in iPhone 2.0 hitting "C" performs a Clear Entry (of the last entry) and you can correct your mistake! YAY! FINALLY!. If you need a Scientific Calculator just rotate your iPhone and your basic calculator turns into a Scientific Calculator. Neat! New Contacts App Apple has provided an additional way to get to your Contacts. It may seem like duplication of effort at first and it is. However, from what I'm told, this was one of the most requested features. The ability to get to your Contacts in one tap without having to go to the Phone app first is welcomed. I must admit that I've used it a few times already and I like having this additional way to get there. Microsoft Exchange and Cisco VPN! – Official Enterprise Support At Last!!! This is BIG! Most major corporations use Microsoft Exchange for their Email, calendar and contact serving. The original iPhone software only supported Exchange via (relatively limted) IMAP support. Most corporations weren't willing to turn on Exchange IMAP support for their users to use iPhones. iPhone 2.0 changes all that! This is largely because IMAP just doesn't offer enough in terms of features/security such as remote wipe and requiring a password on the device. Now there is Microsoft's Active Sync support built right in. My employer's IT department is the best! They were very eager to see this support in the iPhone. Not only were they one of the beta testers, but they had corporate email, calendaring and LDAP contact support up and running for iPhone 2.0 users on day one! It's a joy to be able to get work email pushed out to my iPhone seamlessly and better than I've had on any previous device. I can also access web pages on our intranet for the first time with the iPhone's built-in Cisco VPN support. This also alleviates the worry of losing my iPhone or having it stolen and someone accessing my data. Corporate IT departments can institute a password requirement and remotely wipe a missing iPhone once it's reported stolen or lost. The remote wipe is secure and writes 1's and 0's repeatedly to the iPhone. Even if they pull the SIM card or turn off the iPhone. Once the iPhone is back on the wipe will continue. There is no way to stop it. Setup was a breeze and done over the air. I had it up and running on Friday before I left LA. This will mean that the iPhone will now be open to millions of business users that couldn't have used the original iPhone (software). This is probably one of the most useful additions to the 2.0 version for me. Push Email, Calendars and Contacts for the rest of us Apple also rolled out MobileMe on Friday. MobileMe replaces Apple's aging .Mac service. The new MobileMe service is cross platform now for both Mac and Windows users. The $99/year service gives you 20GB of online storage, an email account and access to your contacts, calendar, pictures and files from any internet connected computer. What's new and more relevant to iPhone users is that this service offers "Push" email, contacts and calendars for iPhones. Similar to what a corporate Microsoft Exchange user would get. The idea is that you wouldn't have to plug in your iPhone just to sync a new calendar entry or contact update. These updates would happen in both directions over the air. Once the MobileMe servers actually came online and stabilized, my "Pushed" information worked as advertised. My buddy sent me an address and phone number change. I made the change in Address Book on the Mac and noticed the change just happened automatically on the website version of MobileMe. Then I checked my iPhone 3g and it was there as well! I added a calendar appointment on the iPhone and checked my iCal and it was there. Although MobileMe seems to work as advertised there are a couple things I'd like to see improved. The first and probably the biggest thing is that I have multiple iCals, "work", "home" etc. Then I have some that aren't important enough to have with me on my iPhone. However, with MobileMe you either have to sync ALL or NONE of your iCals. There is no way to pick which ones go out to the iPhone and which ones don't. Worse is that if you subscribe to other people's/organization's calendars there is no way to have Subscribed calendars pushed out to your iPhone via MobileMe. For example, my wife and I share each other's personal iCals. She subscribes to mine and I subscribe to hers. Now with MobileMe "push" there is no way for me to see her iCal on my iPhone. This is a serious omission and I hope this gets resolved/added in an update. Yes it's for both Mac AND Windows users! I can't stress enough that while .Mac was for Mac users only, MobileMe AND the iPhone are cross platform. That's one of the reasons why Apple changed the name from .Mac. So on the Windows side, MobileMe and the iPhone 3g/2.0 offers support for Microsoft Outlook. You'll get the same "Push" abilities with your Outlook calendar and contacts. 

 

A couple of undocumented features

With every new iPhone software update there are usually a couple of features that don't make it into the headlines. This iPhone 2.0 update is no different. The first one I am very thrilled about as I'm a co-author of "The iPhone Book", this one will be a tremendous help in finishing the update and that is the ability to natively take a screen shot of the iPhone screen. Simply hold down home button and press the power button to snap a picture of the screen. The picture is then added to your Camera Roll and can then be downloaded to your computer or emailed. The next one is a smaller, but welcomed addition and that is the Mail app now has a BCC (blind carbon copy) field. Also you can now switch the outgoing account that the mail is going to come from on the fly (this only works if you have multiple email accounts, of course). 

 

3rd Party App Support

Aside from getting my work email and pushed content from my contacts and iCals, 3rd party App support is the next biggest favorite of mine. No software company can do everything. Apple is no different. Therefore, I'm very happy to see Apple open the iPhone up to 3rd party developers. There are some really great apps for the iPhone and on day one Apple announced over 500 apps that are available in the iTunes App Store! Many of the apps are either free or very low cost. Some of the new apps even addressed some of my early criticisms of the iPhone. For example, I was surprised that Apple didn't include iChat (instant messaging) on the iPhone in addition to SMS. No worries because AOL has made AIM for iPhone available as a FREE app. Also I couldn't believe that there wasn't a Movies widget that would let you see theaters, movies and show times. Now I have two. Movies.app was my favorite web based iPhone app. Now it's a native iPhone app. I also found BoxOffice. I haven't decided which one I like best yet. They're both FREE! Apple makes it pretty easy to add 3rd party apps to your iPhone. You can either download them using iTunes and then sync them to your iPhone or you can use the new App Store icon right on your iPhone to buy/download free apps. If you grab an app directly on your iPhone, it will be backed up to your your computer the next time you sync. Some of these 3rd party apps are really clever and take advantage of the built-in features of the iPhone. For example, Bank of America's "Mobile Banking" app uses the iPhone's location services. If you ask for the nearest ATM it will give you the option of keying in a zip code or simply finding it based on YOUR current location. The game Super Monkey Ball uses the built-in accelerometer and motion detectors of the iPhone to turn the entire iPhone into a game controller. Simply tilt and turn the iPhone to control the monkey through the game. Having 500 apps available on day one is just the beginning! I expect to see hundreds more apps in the coming months. 

 

My top 10 favorite iPhone apps

Remote, AIM, eBay, Movies.app, Mobile Banking, PayPal, Blackjack, Super Monkey Ball, MySpace OK and then there's PhoneSaber because it just makes me (and everyone I show it to) laugh ๐Ÿ™‚

 

However, the app that I'm most anxiously awaiting is Slingbox for the iPhone! That will be a killer app. 

 

Still room for improvement

The iPhone 3g along with the iPhone 2.0 software update goes a long way towards improving an already great device. However, there are still dozens of things I'd like to see added! For starters, the one thing keeping the web experience from being perfect or near perfect is the lack of Flash support. Hopefully Adobe can get this on the iPhone soon. It is in the works! The iPhone still lacks some other basics such as MMS messaging (the ability to send/receive pictures/movies/sounds from phone to phone directly), voice dialing and video recording. Here is my original list of "50 Ways To Make The iPhone Better" (via software updates). The ones that Apple has added via iPhone software updates recently are colored blue and the ones that were added either via iPhone 2.0 or 3rd party software have been colored green. The ones in black are still on my wishlist:

1 – Ability to use My OWN ringtones (sounds, music, etc.) The iTunes store will NEVER have some of the sounds I want to use.

2 – Sync Notes to the computer

3 – Cut/Copy Paste system wide

4 – Email anything (besides notes, photos URLs) Contacts, maps, directions, voicemail messages as attachments, etc.

5 – MMS (Multimedia Messaging – send pictures/movies directly to another phone)

6 – Consolidated Mail inBox and an easier way to jump between accounts than going back, back, back

7 – Flash support in Safari (this is now my number ONE request).

8 – Video and Voice (Memo) Recording (3rd Party)

9 – Color coded or Separate Calendar views (just like iCal does today)

10 – Searchable Contacts (there but still needs improvement)

11 – To be able to assign ringtones to groups of Contacts (it's really a pain doing them one-by-one)

12 – Wireless Syncing iPhone to Computer over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (MobileMe Push)

13 – Voice dialing (3rd Party app – Speechcloud Voice Dialing – I haven't tried this app yet)

14 – Dial-up Networking (use the iPhone as a modem)

15 – iPhones on AT&T corporate plans (discounts or not, I shouldn't have to setup a personal account to use the iPhone on AT&T)

16 – Landscape Keyboard entry in all the apps

17 – Additional Audio email attachment support for files in Vonage (u-LAW encoded) WAV format

18 – Email to a group of Contacts

19 – iChat/AIM built-in (3rd Party)

20 – Calculator CE (clear entry) key

21 – Native Microsoft Exchange support (MS Direct Push or 3rd party support).

22 – Wireless stereo music playback over Bluetooth and AirTunes

23 – A one button Redial feature (example: triple tap the Home button)

24 – A "Dialed" list in addition to "Recent" and "Missed Calls"

25 – Ability to play music directly from the Slideshow feature

26 – Built in Unit Converter (I expect a 3rd party app for this)

27 – To Do's, sync'd with iCal/Outlook

28 – Password/Pin protected Notes

29 – An option that lets me choose what screen I land on when I wake my iPhone; it can either be (a) whichever I screen I was at last, like it does now, or (b) I can choose to always start at another screen (like the phone favorites, or the Home, etc.).

30 – Being able to rotate Mail 90 degrees

31 – Keynote app (now with TV out, you could use your iPhone for slide presentations without needing your laptop)

32 – Pseudo GPS based on cell towers to tie in with Google Maps feature (iPhone 3g includes a real GPS too)

33 – General file storage like a USB drive (Enable iPhone as a Hard Drive)

34 – Support for Stereo Audio over Bluetooth headphones

35 – Support for a Bluetooth Wireless Remote AND the ability to use the iPhone as a Remote

36 – Sound Profiles (example: I would create a profile that turns off all sounds except incoming calls for traveling)

37 – Auto dialing of a string of numbers/pauses (ie. you dial your company voicemail and tap a button to dial your ext. and pin)

38 – Built in "Movies" widget (show times, buy tickets, trailers) Yes I know there are good web based ones. Having one built-in would be faster to access and could remember your settings. (3rd Party)

39 – Safari password remember/store feature (Keychain for the iPhone)

40 – Multiple email signatures (also the ability to assign default ones per account)

41 – Mail spam filtering

42 – Mail Rules

43 – Full Bluetooth support on the Mac (Browse the device, dial from Address Book, etc.)

44 – Delete multiple items at once such as emails

45 – iPod songs as Alarm sounds

46 – A true RSS reader (the one in Safari desktop would be a good start) (3rd Party)

47 – Call duration display

48 – SMS to multiple Contacts

49 – .Mac Push Email

50 – The ability to direct ALL of the Audio sources over Bluetooth (such as email attachments, audio on web pages)

51 – Built in Dictionary/Thesaurus (3rd Party)

52 – Add a ".com" button on the MAIL keyboard as well.

53 – view PowerPoint attachments and now iWork files too.  So as you can see Apple has made progress towards my list ๐Ÿ™‚ 

 

The Bottom Line

I still feel the same way I did a year ago. The iPhone is not perfect! However, in my opinion it is the quite simply the best smartphone out there! The iPhone 2.0 software update brings 99% of what's on the new iPhone 3g to ALL iPhone users at no additional cost. Although Apple bills the iPhone as "Twice the speed, half the price", the iPhone 3g will end up costing you more than the model it replaces. This is due in part to the fact that AT&T raised the charge for unlimited data from $20/month to $30/month. They also no longer include the 200 SMS text messages like they did before. To get the same 200 messages as before it will cost you $5/month more now. When Apple says "Half the price", they are really referring to the cost of entry. The iPhone 3g now starts at $199 for the 8GB. That's a far cry from the original price of $599 (then dropped to $399). Also since this is a subsidized phone, in order to get the $199 or $299 price for the 16GB model, you have to either be NEW to AT&T or eligible for an upgrade. I watched a guy storm out of the Apple store because he hadn't had his existing AT&T (non-iPhone) phone for 18 months and therefore didn't qualify for the upgrade pricing. The iPhone 3g is available in a black 8GB model or your choice of black or white in the 16GB model. The iPhone is available here in the US by either visiting your local Apple store or AT&T store. To see many of the new iPhone features in action, check out Apple's iPhone 3g Guided Tour.

 

iPhone 3g News Since My Review: iPhone 2.0.1 Software Update Speeds Up The iPhone

 

See my NEW site for App Reviews and News – bestappsite.com

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Apple preps for iPhone 3g/2.0

The iPhone 3g goes on sale in about 24 hours here in the states. Apple has begun prepping for the new iPhone by releasing iTunes 7.7 which will be needed for the new iPhone as well as original iPhones/iPod touches with the 2.0 software update.

Apple has also taken down .Mac in preparation to roll out MobileMe. It should be an exciting weekend as Steve Jobs was quoted as saying that there will be 500 apps in the App store of which 25% will be FREE! 90% of the Apps will be $9.99 or less. I can’t wait to see what the developers have come up with.

The iPhone is about to kick some major booty!

I’m headed to Los Angeles today. Look for more sporadic updates throughout the weekend, plus my full review once I get my hands on an iPhone 3g. Sleep, who needs sleep?  ๐Ÿ™‚

There is nothing that I want that bad!

I made a joke about people lining up already to get the iPhone 3g when it was announced back in early June. Sure I knew people would start lining up a day or two before they went on sale. However, I can’t believe that people started lining up A FULL WEEK before they go on sale this coming Friday!

The good folks over at MacNN posted this report and picture above about people lining up this past Friday at the 5th Avenue NYC store.

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The true meaning of “get a life!”

Sure, I plan to get the new iPhone 3g as quickly as I can (mainly to report on it here and update my book), but not if it means camping out overnight (let alone for a week!). I’m almost tempted to hop on a plane, fly to NYC and ask them “why?”

If last year’s launch is any indication of the availability of the new iPhone, there should be plenty to at least last throughout the weekend. Especially now that you have to do in-store activation and it will be one per person activating the phone. You’ll probably be able to walk right into a store on Saturday morning or even Sunday and buy one with no waiting. Is being first really that important?

Here’s a test?

Remember the guy who got the first iPhone last year?…………….. Exactly! No one cares.

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I’m sure they’ll be handing the first person in this line their iPhone with a stick. ๐Ÿ™‚ I feel sorry for the Apple Store employee that has to sit there with him while he gets his phone activated. PU!

I pray that there is never anything I would want that bad that I’d be willing to live on the street for a week to get it! If you happen to be one of those folks in line already reading this, please respond below with your reasons. C’mon, I gotta know! Good luck!

UPDATE: Apparently the group is trying to set a world record for the longest wait in line to buy something. See their website here.

Buying an iPhone 3g is going to be a little harder and more costly for some

We’re just a little over a week away from being able to buy the new iPhone 3g. However, it’s going to be a little (in some cases, a lot!) harder to buy one this time around. Last year when Apple released the iPhone I thought it was brilliant that they let you buy the phone and then take it home to activate it on your own time. This was a very innovative way to buying a wireless device. However, it won’t be so easy with the iPhone 3g. You’ll have to activate the device before leaving the store. This also means, no buying one for your buddy (unless your buddy is with you!).

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You might be asking, why would Apple make it harder?

That’s a pretty easy one to answer. By not requiring you to activate the device before leaving the store gave people a chance to circumvent “the plan” and therefore cause Apple/AT&T a loss in reveune. Many many thousands of iPhones purchased last year were never activated on AT&T. The process to jailbreak (unlock/hack) and iPhone became so easy that even I could do it in a matter of 10 minutes or less.

This time around it will probably still be fairly easy to jailbreak the new iPhone, but it won’t really matter if you can’t get one without first activating it on a carrier. This way AT&T (and other carriers around the globe) get’s their cut/contract up front. So even if you activate it and then cancel the contract, you’re still on the hook for an early termination fee.

I certainly see the reasons behind this, but this is definitely going to make for some long lines on day one. I estimate the process to be on average at least 30 minutes a person to complete the process. If you think about it, the average buyer is not going to know which plan they want up front and will have to have things explained to them before completing the activation process. Prepare for frustration and tempers to flare.

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What’s the iPhone 3g really going to cost me?

AT&T has released some rate information (finally) and it seems that the iPhone 3g plans ARE going to cost you more than the previous plans. For one, text messaging is no longer included. You’ll have to pay extra for a text messaging plan if you want it. Also the low cost of entry of $199/$299 for the 8GB and 16GB models only applies to NEW AT&T customers or those who are eligible for an upgrade! The rest of us must spend $399 or $499 respectively. AT&T has also annonced a “No commitment” option for $599 or $699 for the 8 or 16GB models, but no timeframe as to when that/those options will be available.

What about the iPhone 2.0 software for those of us with iPhones/iPod touch already?

Apple has not released a date as to when the FREE iPhone 2.0 software will be available for existing iPhones. Speculation ranges anywhere from any day now til some time on the 11th. Although the software is probably done (after all the software has to be done in order to be included with the new phones), Apple is probably going to wait to release it to continue the buzz around the 3g model. Technically, existing iPhone users will get all the same features that the iPhone 3g has except the faster 3g data and the built-in GPS. Those are hardware specific features and you’ll need the new handset to get them.

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Sales begin at 8am on July 11th

Due to the longer process to buy an iPhone, AT&T has announced that the iPhone will go on sale at 8AM on the 11th. Last year’s iPhone went on sale at 6PM (and I was in and out in 15 minutes with 2 iPhones!). Be sure to check out the AT&T iReady Check List (PDF).

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Apple has put out this Guided Tour video showing the new features of the iPhone 3g/iPhone 2.0 software update. Check it out! (If I didn’t know better I would swear this guy is part robot ๐Ÿ™‚ )

More on the iPhone 3g

Now that the dust has settled a bit on yesterday’s announcement of the iPhone 3g, a few little tidbits are coming to the surface:

  • The iPhone 3g will REQUIRE in-store activation! So no more picking one up, never activating it on AT&T (or whomever) and jailbreaking it just to resell it.
  • The AT&T data plan is going up by $10/month to $30/month instead of the original $20/month. Rod Harlan has an interesting take on that and the price comparison between the iPhone 1.0 and iPhone 3g.
  • As it stands right now, no online orders for the iPhone. You’ll have to go into a retail outlet to get one!
  • See the Steve Jobs WWDC ’08 Keynote introducing the iPhone 3g and iPhone 2.0 software update here.

So it looks like even though the entry price for the iPhone is only $199, Apple has tightened up on making sure you activate your iPhone with the appropriate carrier (and sign up for the 2 year contract). Also for those that ask the question: “why is it that I can get a 16GB iPhone 3g for $299 while an iPod touch 16GB goes for $399?”, the answer is with the iPhone you can’t use it without signing up for phone service. Apple appears to be taking a more traditional method of using the service contract to bring down the entry price of the phone. It will be interesting to see as time goes on, whether they will officially offer an unlocked version here in the states at a higher price?

iPhone 3g coming July 11, 2008

As expected Apple announced the iPhone 3g today! This is the iPhone that takes advantage of faster 3g data networks for near wi-fi data speeds.

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It’s the software stupid

Apple lead their keynote today with lots of talk about software. As with any successful platform, it will live or die by the apps that are available for it. Apple realizes that they can’t do everything that everyone wants. So many 3rd party developers announced and showcased their apps today. Apple also showcased their support for Microsoft’s Exchange syncing which is HUGE in the corporate world. Not to leave consumers out, Apple announced “mobileme“. Mobileme is the successor to Apple’s .Mac service. This service will provide push email, calendar, contacts and photos to consumer users of the iPhone.

3rd party iPhone apps will range in price from FREE on up. You’ll get your apps directly through the iPhone App store on your iPhone running the 2.0 software.

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What we know…

  • Shipping: July 11, 2008
  • Software: iPhone 2.0 as a free download to existing iPhone users and $9.95 for iPod touch users
  • Capacity: 8GB (only in black) and 16GB (available in black or white)
  • Speed: 3g data network
  • GPS: YES!
  • Push Data: via Microsoft Exchange and Apple’s NEW mobileme (no announcement of when mobileme goes live)
  • iPhone 2.0 Software and the iPhone App store: a free download to existing iPhone users ($9.95 for iPod touch users) in early July.
  • Terry’s Pet Peeves Addressed: Not sure what else from my list of “50 ways to make the iPhone better” will get solved in the 2.0 version, but one thing that has been added is a Search feature for Contacts. Also we now get Bulk Delete and Move of things like email messages.
  • Other NEW Features: View PowerPoint, and iWork (Pages, Numbers & Keynote) document attachments. New Scientific Calculator. Adding photos from emails to your iPhone Pictures library. Also many more languages are included.
  • Price: 8GB model $199!, 16GB model $299

Learn more here.

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iPhone 3G: Twice as fast. Half the price!

Probably one of the biggest shocks of this announcement was the price! You’ll be able to get a iPhone 3g 8GB model for a mere $199. The 16GB model will go for $299. Both models are slated to be available Friday, July 11th (I’ve got to imagine that there is some idiot out there who is already standing in line. Please tell me it isn’t so!) Don’t get me wrong, I plan to upgrade on day one, but camping has never been my thing ๐Ÿ™‚

When you think about it, $199 is a STEAL for a touch screen iPhone, with a GPS, that is also an iPod that plays video, does web, email, mapping and allows for 3rd party apps. Wow! The first 5GB iPod was $399 if that gives you some perspective.

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Start the countdown…. July 11th can’t get here fast enough!

I had internet access in my car!

Actually it wasn’t my car, it was my car service. As you may have read in yesterday’s post, I’m in San Jose California this week on business. I usually fly into SFO because it’s a direct flight. I’ve used the same car service for years now. El Paseo Limo has never let me down. They are always on time, courteous and hassle free. However, when I got into the back of the car this past Saturday, I decided to do some email using my iPhone. As soon as I fired up the iPhone it detected a Wi-Fi network called "elpaseolimo9". I’m so used to blowing off networks that I don’t recognize (many of them being fake) that I dismissed the dialog box immediately. After a couple of minutes I started thinking about it and thought, "why would someone create a fake network at the airport called "elpaseolimo9"? So I went back to my network settings and sure enough it was still there! I asked the driver, "do you guys actually have internet access in your cars now?" He said, "yes!" He then pointed to the back window and low and behold there was a Linksys wi-fi router sitting back there. For a split second I thought I was on a episode of Pimp My Ride.

 

There was no additional cost or passwords. No login pages either. It was also fairly speedy and I was connected the whole way from SFO to downtown San Jose. My guess is that this router was connected to some type of 3g network such as Verizon’s EVDO service. However, I was impressed by just how seemless and well it worked. El Paseo, way to stay ahead of the competition and to keep your business customers productive/happy!

A really cool idea for the 3g iPhone

While I can’t take credit for the idea (wish I had thought of it), I have never heard anyone mention it before as it relates to the iPhone. I was reading a post on engadget.com about a new phone (I don’t even remember which one it was), but it had a feature that would be KILLER on the 3g version of the iPhone.

Here goes: Most of us that travel with iPhones also travel with laptops. One feature that we hope for on the 3g iPhone is to be able to use it as a wireless modem (tethering/DUN) via Bluetooth. However, what would even be sweeter is having the iPhone itself become a Wi-Fi access point. Having a 3g iPhone means that we’ll have the potential for significantly faster data access than what we now see over EDGE. Since the iPhone already has Wi-Fi built-in, why not just tap a button, set a password and have it broadcast a Wi-Fi access signal that you could tap into with your laptop and surf?

Of course there’s the whole battery life thing and I have no idea if the Wi-Fi radio uses more power than the Bluetooth radio, but it would be pretty sweet nonetheless. It would also allow multiple devices to share the 3g internet connection simultaneously whereas Bluetooth would not.

Either way, the next version of the iPhone should definitely have either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi internet sharing for your laptop! Steve would probably argue that the iPhone is so good that you shouldn’t need to connect to the internet from your laptop and maybe with all the new corporate support (MS Exchange support, VPN access, etc.) that’s coming in iPhone 2.0 he’s right. I can’t wait til June to find out!

You may remember that I have a running list of features that I would like to see come to the iPhone (some of which have either been addressed in recent updates or have been announced for the 2.0 software update due in June) and all of which could be implemented via software updates or 3rd parties. So while were on the subject of the 3g iPhone, here are my:

 

Top 10 iPhone 2.0.1 Feature Requests

  • Flash Player! – We can’t keep pretending that we don’t need this! With a faster iPhone, there’s no excuse
  • Video Recording – No reason not to have this either
  • MMS Messaging – Can we send some picts and video directly to our buddies without using email?
  • Cut/Copy/Paste – Duh!
  • Contact Search – I’m sure I’m not the only one with hundreds of contacts
  • Note Syncing – No reason not to have this
  • Audio Recording – Taking notes/Voice recorder would be a very popular feature
  • Email Anything – The ability to email anything that’s on the device, ie: contacts, voicemail messages, maps, etc.
  • Voice Dialing – Lesser phones have this basic feature
  • Consolidated Email Box (option) – I have 5 email accounts on my iPhone – my screen is starting to wear out in the spot that I have to keep hitting the Back button on.

AT&T and Verizon 3G cards compared

I’ve been a long time fan of Verizon’s EVDO network. I was a fairly early adopter and have been quite happy with the service. However, there is one thing that has led me to have to look at an alternative network and that’s the fact that I’m traveling abroad more and more for work. Verizon’s EVDO network is great in the states, however it’s practically non-existent outside of the US.

So with that in mind I signed up to get a AT&T 3G card through work. At the time I ordered the card, the ExpressCard version was not available to us to order. So I went with the USBConnect 881 card. While I would much rather have an ExpressCard version simply because it fits better into the MacBook Pro, the USB version works with computers that don’t have ExpressCard slots and it’s not that bad.

Before I have my Verizon card turned off, I decided to do some speed tests in various locations before my next international trip. I went to Miami for a conference and I fired up both cards and did some tests at my favorite internet speed testing site, speakeasy.net/speedtest/. While I was in Miami, I got these results (tested against the Atlanta server):

Verizon EVDO speeds using a V740 (rev.A) card

AT&T USBConnect 881 card

 

Next I traveled to Seattle for a week of meetings and here’s what I got (tested against the Seattle server):

Verizon EVDO speeds using a V740 (rev.A) card

AT&T USBConnect 881 card

The speeds vary from location to location. However, AT&T’s upload speeds seem consistently faster than Verizon’s.

 

Traveling internationally

Sunrise in Marbella Spain this morning (makes you feel all warm and fuzzy doesn’t it? ๐Ÿ™‚ ) If you’re interested in exactly where this shot was taken, check out the embedded GPS metadata in the shot or simply click on it above.

 

This week I’m in Marbella Spain for meetings and while I have a very good Wi-Fi connection at the hotel here, there were a couple of times I had no access and used the AT&T card. So I decided to run a test here too and here’s what I got (tested against the New York server):

As you can see 3G speeds are not the same everywhere. Although the driver reported that I was on a "3G" network here, the speeds were dramatically slower than what I was getting in the states. Although slower, the speed I’m getting here in Spain is fine for email and general web surfing.

 

 

Mac compatibility?

The Verizon cards are directly supported by Mac OS X 10.4.x Tiger and Mac OS X 10.5.x Leopard. This is a great thing because it means never having to worry about installing or updating drivers. You just plug the Verizon card in and activate it directly from the menu that pops up in your menu bar. However, this is not the case with the AT&T USBConnect 881 card or the AT&T ExpressCards. With the USBConnect 881 card I had to go download the free driver from Sierra Wireless. The instructions were pretty clear on where to download the driver right in the packaging that came with the card. However, this driver seems minimal at best. I find that I have to launch and relaunch it a few times occasionally to get it to actually connect. Once it does connect it’s pretty stable and stays connected for me. I’m surprised that Apple doesn’t support the AT&T cards natively in the OS like they do for Verizon cards considering their relationship with AT&T with the iPhone.

Sierra’s Mac driver

 

What about the costs?

3G wireless cards/plans aren’t cheap. However, if you travel regularly you could easily justify one if you regularly pay for hotel internet access which ranges from from $9.95-$24.95/day. Of course some hotels have free internet access, but unfortunately that’s not the norm. The Verizon V740 EVDO card/plan goes for $59.99/mo. ($79.99 for the card if you do a 2 year contract or $204.99 if you do a 1 year contract). Verizon also offers a USB solution. Although Verizon claims their service to be "unlimited", there are in fact limits and if you hog too much bandwidth, you could get your service suspended. Check out the 3gstore.com site for best prices and info.

The AT&T card goes for $60/mo. (5000MB/mo. max bandwidth without paying overages) When roaming in Canada – 0.015/KB, when roaming internationally 0.0195/KB. The card is $49.99 with a 2 yr. contract and after rebates. You could just buy the card outright for $299.99 with no contracts.

 

The Bottom Line

If you spend more than 7 nights a month in hotels paying for high speed internet, getting a 3G wireless card is a no brainer. If you travel internationally, then you’ll want to go with one of the AT&T cards. By the way, the hotel internet here in Spain is รขโ€šยฌ 19.95/day (including local tax) which works out to be $30.63/day US! If you only travel in the US, then Verizon has the better coverage at the moment than AT&T.

Apple & AT&T give me drivers please!

Now that Apple and AT&T are a couple and they’re about to give birth to their first offspring (the iPhone), it’s time that Apple stepped up to the plate and supported AT&T’s other kids. Namely the new Option GT Max 3.6 Express Card and the Sierra Wireless Aircard 875u (USB solution) Granted they are not as cute as the iPhone, however they shouldn’t be treated as step children. Apple had no problem supporting Verizon’s EVDO kids (v640 & v740 in the WWAN 1.0 Driver Update) so it should do the same here. Sure I know that Option supposedly offers Mac drivers directly, but that kind of child support should come directly from the father of the Mac. So how about it Apple? How about the WWAN 2.0 Driver Update? It’s embarrassing that AT&T has to list these cards as being supported by Windows only (isn’t that like welfare or something?).

I love my Verizon v640 card. It works great! However, the Cingular solution is a 3g (HSDPA) world solution that would work outside the US and it’s theoretically faster than EVDO. I don’t travel outside the US often, but when I do I hate that I have to leave the v640 parked in my bag until I return. Since Apple is more open to providing drivers for wireless cards right in the OS, I don’t want to have to go installing 3rd party drivers if I don’t have to. Apple either needs to support this card quickly or AT&T needs to ship the Novatel Merlin XU870 ExpressCard that Apple already supports. My Verizon contract is over and Apple I’m just waiting on you to do the right thing.