iPhone 3G Review: The Bad *AND* The Good

OK. Here we go. The big iPhone 3G rehash from Greeblemonkey. Those of you who took the plunge this weekend, DEFINITELY feel free to add your thoughts as well.

Now, remember: this is coming from the perspective of a previous iPhone user moving to the new iPhone 3G. If you are someone thinking about an iPhone for the first time, here is my 3 word review: JUST DO IT. Just my humble opinion, of course! But there really is no alternative. Yeah, um, more humble. Of course, I haven’t played with Sprint’s iPhone knock-off, the Instinct, and that one admittedly looks pretty cool. But if you are going to go there, why not get the iPhone? Other than having to be on AT&T’s network, of course. But with the Instinct, you have to be on Sprint’s, right? The other two alternatives are the Blackberry and the Motorola Q, both of which are solid phones, but not nearly as FUN.

And also remember, given the fact that MobileMe was released at the exact same time as iPhone 3G – AND – all iPhone users, both new and old, get the new “operating system” per se, I do recognize this review is a bit muddled. Bear with me.

And ALSO. Let’s just get this out of the way: Apple and AT&T fucked up on a mammoth scale this weekend. I know it. They HAVE to know it. They weren’t ready and were caught with their pants completely down. BAD MOVE, Apple. BAD MOVE, AT&T. The best guess consensus for the activation at the stores was to stop the black market. Well, I hope all the ill will you stirred up was worth it. I *almost* took down the framed Kermit/Jim Henson Think Different poster in my office. Almost.

Truth is, though, we had a blast in line. A total laugh riot. Except when the Apple employee lady tried to cut the line off 2 people ahead of us after we had been waiting 2 hours and still had 2 hours to go before the store closed. That’s when the Inner Bitch made an appearance and both Apple Girl and her 2 security guards backed up a little bit, nervously looked up and down the long line wondering how many other Inner Bitches may be present in Cherry Creek Mall that evening, then decided they would let whoever was already in line, and wanted to, wait and see if they got an iPhone or not. Including that crazy Bitch lady. After that, the Apple store employees started bringing Twizzlers down the line to all of us, and even the Inner Bitch got a bit of a sugar fix going on.

This is the point where I have to give the employees of one particular store in Colorado a standing ovation. Because, to be frank, I have been to most of them – and most of them don’t know dick. But the people in the Denver Cherry Creek Apple Store have got it going on. Those folks worked from 5am till 11pm+ and were still cheering when I left the store at 10:30 with my iPhone. (Except for that lady who tried to stop the line 2 people ahead of me, of course). And once we were in and talking with them? They. knew. their. shit.

SO. I GOT IT. And FINALLY, after catching up on some sleep, I am ready to share.

First, go look at my review from the first iPhone to see where I stood on a lot of the original stuff. And then here we go with iPhone 2.0…

No Dock. Apple cut the price and chintzed out with no dock included. Which would be no big deal, since I have two for the old iPhone, except…
New iPhone is 1.1 millimeter wider than old iPhone and DOES NOT FIT IN THE OLD DOCK. The dude at the Aspen Grove Apple Store swore *up and down* they were the EXACT same width and I kept telling him, WELL, the specs online say *1.1 MILLIMETER WIDER.* That is *NOT THE SAME.* And sure enough, 3G won’t fit in the old docks. (Take that, DUDE.) Basically, I am going to get Bryan to dremel my old docks out for me. I certainly don’t recommend YOU do that, but I hate the thought of the damn things going into a landfill just because Steve Jobs was throwing a bone to the accessory department. Speaking of accessories, my 3G *does* just fit into my Altec Lansing T612 speakers, which I totally love and are super speedy at charging. YAY ALTEC!
MobileMe is jacked right now. This is really not entirely related to the iPhone directly but it made the transition over to the iPhone really difficult. I had contacts in there twice, some data missing, iCal calendars overwriting each other, the works. There was a Mac OSX patch that came out Sunday night that seems to have fixed a lot of the problems, but it’s still being weird. Absolutely and postively mucked things up.
3G Network for the Web. It’s not as fast as they told us it would be. At least here in Denver. But I have to say, the Edge really sped up over the last year… (Gasp! Did a company actually dump their profits back into their infrastructure? No way!) …So I have faith the 3G will too. But even saying that, it is definitely better. Better better better.
– Still no MMS. This is bad news for my sister who can never remember to send me a photo in email instead of via text.
– Still no file storage. Seriously WTF? I have 16 GIGS of space, Mr. Jobs!!! And I realize I have tons of music that could easily take up that space, but I would love to transport some FILES too.
– No copy and paste. Can’t tell you how often I have wanted to copy a piece of an email into a text and vice versa. What is soooooo hard about adding copy and paste????
– No stereo bluetooth. Meaning yet again, no cordless headphones for me in the car.
– Curved back. The back of the iPhone 3G is more rounded and thus doesn’t sit as flat on the table. Which means I cannot just sit and type on it with one hand while it lays on the table. Well, I can, but it rocks back and forth and, well, that is annoying.
– Less Sensitive Touchpad. Possibly. I checked with James here at work and he has not noticed a difference, but I feel like the iPhone 3G is just not catching where I am typing or touching. Or maybe my old one just liked me better.
– Only one Exchange email account per phone. Luckily I only have one.
– Increased monthly service charges from AT&T. I understand all the reasons for it, but it still seems a bit over the top to me. Especially when the network isn’t as speedy as I hoped, even in a decent sized city like Denver.

Much quicker OS, processing time, whatever you want to call it. Meaning, the thing really *is* faster. As in, the calendar, the phone, all that stuff, moves much faster. This is where they really spoke the truth about speed. Which in turn really helps with…
The Application Store. Many of the apps are free and many are FREAKING AWESOME! My fave so far has no value whatsoever except making me excessively happy, and that is: Aqua Forest.
Massively improved sound quality. MASSIVE. Both to the ear and especially through the speakers. (Pssst! This means I may hear the phone ringing when you call me!)
– iCal Colors. Thank you thank you thank you! We can now see the colors of each individual calendar. Seeing as I have literally SEVEN different iCal calendars that I actively use (not counting Bryan’s), this is a HUGE help.
Turn the calculator on it’s side and it becomes a scientific calculator.
– Separate Contacts button. So I can finally put Contacts down in the bottom menu bar! YAY! One less click to make a phone call or look up an address!
– See passwords as you type them. So much less annoying to see the last character as you type. Or more precisely, less of me having to reenter passwords.
– True GPS. It has been extremely accurate in finding me. Creepily accurate, actually.
– Battery Life. People have been complaining about this, but I have been doing well. I tested yesterday – and on a normal day, doing normal stuff, the new phone lasted quite a bit longer than the old one would have. However, playing with apps and games will significantly drain the battery sooner, so I bet that’s where people are having issues. (And that battery-life sucking 3G network too!)
– Curved back. This is also down here in the Goods, because I do admit it is more comfy in your hand.
– Lighter weight. Not that I really care, but you *can* actually feel the difference.
– Normal Microphone Jack. As in, no more adapters. As in, I can plug my music directly into the MP3 player in Bryan’s truck. This is actually a “con” according to Bryan.
– Parental Controls. As if Declan is touching this thing.
– More granular email control. Including, being able to change what account you are sending from on the fly. Halla-freakin-luhah!
– Contacts and Appointments through the Air. This is kind of old school for Blackberry users, but it is BEYOND AWESOME to sync my calendar, which is forever changing, through the air via MobileMe. Literally my very fave thing.


So, there you have it.

I am not sure if I have mentioned this, but I kind of had no choice in this endeavor. A few weeks ago, I dropped my old iPhone on its ear from 4 feet up. I totally have to give the thing snaps for surviving, but it has been wonky ever since. And before you give me all kinds of grief for “dropping it” right before the launch of a new iPhone (because certainly I have had an earful form the guys at work) – it really was an accident! I swear!

But if I had not dropped it?

Whew. Tough call. Because alot of the improvements above will come to the old iPhones to with the upgrade of the OS. But as we saw when we downloaded that OS to the old iPhone here at the office, that old iPhone could be hardpressed to keep up. AND my battery was sucking wind anyway, even before the fall. So, yes, I probably would have gone ahead and upgraded to an iPhone 3G at some point.

But should you? I think it really depends on how well your old iPhone is performing right now battery-wise (because it costs $79 plus shipping to have the battery replaced), and how well it does with the 2.0 upgrades *AND* how important the faster, newer, better, 3G features are to you.

Let me know what you decide.

P.S. James has a great post on this too, with some battery saving tips! Life With The 3G

This article has 11 comments

  1. zipper

    good review. I am on the fence.

  2. joansy

    This is mostly a copy of a post from my blog, but I can’t link because I had to make it private because I almost got sued by a billionaire, so this is a little long, but definitely on topic:

    The ability to add new applications in very cool. So far I’ve just been playing with the free and very cheap applications:

    Moo – picture of a cow and it moos when you turn the phone, just like the little can toy.

    Urban spoon – my favorite so far – you tell it an area of town, food type and money amount and it gives you restaurant suggestions and then links to a map. And the application is free!

    Phone Saber – makes light saber noises when you move your phone. Much more fun than it sounds.

    Wooly Willy – like the kids’ game with the magnetic beard and hair. The bonus is that you can use your own photos and draw hair in strange places on your friends.

    Movies One Tap – another huge favorite – it finds your current location, finds the closest movies, gives you times and a map to the theater. My favorite part is that it also links to a preview of the movie which will play on the ipod video player. So cool.

    Epocrates rx – like a physician’s desk reference and identifies pills.

    Shazam – another big favorite. You hold it up to any source of music – radio, tv, musak at the grocery store, etc. and it identifies the song, artist and links to iTunes so you can preview and then purchase it. This is so great.

    ipint – very silly – it gives you a virtual pint of beer that gets consumed when you tip the phone the right direction.

    Jott – My friend loves this application in her non-iphone life, so I’m going to try it. I think the idea is that it sends messages to your contacts, phone or e-mail and puts your voice messages into text. I need to learn more.

    Evernote – I haven’t done much with it yet, but the idea is that you take a photo of something, like a handwritten note, business card or whiteboard and it turns it into searchable text.

    Mr. Shuffle – I paid for this one, which was probably a mistake. It lets you add cartoon elements to your photos. The idea is okay, but it doesn’t have a lot of options and it keeps stalling on me.

    There are hundreds more – I can’t wait to explore this feature some more.

    The internet speed with 3G is definitely faster than the speed with edge — which was probably my primary reason for wanting the new phone. I also like the new contacts button and the gps is cool. I still wish the camera did video and I still need to figure out how to make the e-mail work they way I would like it to work, but on the whole I’m happy, happy, happy.

    I found something that makes me way, way unhappy. My Bose stereo at my office will not charge the new iPhone. My husband’s expensive speaker box from Apple also will not charge the new phone. Both charged the old iPhones and this is seriously going to mess with how I use the iPod function at work as I’m used to leaving it docked all day playing music and having it charged. Now I’m going to have to bring a charger to the office and I’ll have to stop listening to music while charging. Ugh. This makes no sense to me and makes me a tad cranky. But I’ll live.

    I’m also happy that when I drop and crack the hell out of this screen, like I did with my first iphone, I can pay $300 for a new one instead of $500. Why oh why cannot not have insurance?

  3. SciFi Dad

    The two things that amaze me more than anything are the lack of copy/paste (seriously… what kind of input interface doesn’t have copy and paste? EDLN had copy and paste!) and the lack of A2DP (stereo bluetooth) support.

    I’m still running a SE w810i with a 4GB MS Pro Duo (that I can use to xfer files) for another year or so before the contract is up for renewal. It doesn’t have A2DP either, which I thought was a boneheaded move back in 2007 when I got it, let alone a 3G in Q3 2008.

  4. alphadaddy

    I haven’t taken the plunge yet..and likely won’t, given our history with mobile phones (I washed mine a couple of weeks ago–still mostly works). I’ve played with both versions of the iPhone (and am designing an app for it as we speak); it seems to me that the only big difference between the two, form-factor-wise is the curved, shiny back on the new one that takes finger prints really well. And to your point, it doesn’t sit flat on the table, but it does feel better in my hand.

    The only other thing that I’ve heard people bitch about is the increased monthly charges from AT&T. $30 as opposed to $20.

    I’ll probably get one at some point..maybe when they start offering them for free with a contract…yeah right.

    Thanks for the review.

  5. Jill - GlossyVeneer

    I bought the new iPhone this weekend, moving from a Blackberry on Verizon and I LOVE LOVE LOVE my iPhone. I have an iPod Touch and I do think the screen on the new iPhone doesn’t seem as sensitive as the Touch is, but I’m trying to adapt. The network is faster than browsing web pages on the Blackberry and the rendering is far better. (Of course, this means I don’t have the crappy Blackberry browser to test web development in anymore, but I’ll adapt!)

    I really wish there was an app for Google Talk, not just the stupid web version Google released. My family members use Blackberry and they have Google Talk accounts and if I could IM with them via Google Talk that would negate the need for texting for me completely.

  6. amy

    Oooh, I’d been waiting for this! Thanks for the review! I totally am drooling over them and my Blackberry is quickly becoming the ugly stepchild (no offense to stepchildren everywhere!–it is just sooooo slow and aesthetically dull. But can I justify ditching a perfectly good phone? And only having one Exchange account on the iPhone is a total bummer, as well as the lack of stereo bluetooth.

    Oh, still so on the fence… But very, very, very tempted!

  7. aimee e

    I am keeping the old one for now. I haven’t had it long. Joe got the New one ” just for personal use!” it is fast!

  8. laurie

    Great review, thanks!!!

  9. Myrna

    I love the inner bitch story!

    Great review, thanks!

  10. Cindy

    I won’t be taking the plunge. Here in Canada there is no unlimited data plan. If you buy it this month or next you can get a max 6gig data plan included — but after that — it goes back to NO data plan whatsoever. So until they force their networks to offer a data plan (which we know they won’t) I won’t be buying one. Sad though…it looks really really cool.

  11. g-man

    I just went legal and spent the ten bucks to upgrade my touch to v2.0. I am totally groovin on all the apps and way improved email (including exchange) which makes it so worth the extra ten spot just to be able to have all my shit updated in real time so I am not forgetting anything.

    On the down side the upgrade to v2.0 was painful and required lots of technical know how and much googling.

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