3G iPhone review: addictive, fast, power-hungry – Times Online

3G iPhone review: addictive, fast, power-hungry – Times Online

The most telling thing you learn when playing with the 3G iPhone is how annoying it is when someone tries to take it off you. If gadgets were drugs, this one would be an opiate.

The new, curvier incarnation of the iPhone – which comes out just over a year after its predecessor appeared in the US – is the first handset that truly gives a sense of holding a small computer, rather than a communications device.

With an extremely compelling and speedy web browser, a video player, a photo organiser, a navigation tool, and an iPod – and you get some idea of how dependent you might become on it.

The image on the massive 3.5-inch screen is TV-crisp. The entire front surface is touch sensitive except for one button, which always takes you back to the home page. Yes, the screen gets smudged, but even after a couple of drops it remained scratch-free.

Every time you go to type, a full QWERTY keyboard pops up automatically. The keys, while small, are easy to use, and surprisingly forgiving – even to the fat of thumb.

In e-mail mode, the entire contents of your various accounts are tastefully adapted for the small screen, and accessible at the touch of a button from the home page.

Crucially – and unlike its predecessor, the 3G iPhone is fully compatible with Microsoft Outlook, meaning that your work e-mails can be forwarded to the device. BlackBerry, whose customers have enjoyed “push e-mail” for years, has witnessed many threats to its dominance in the corporate e-mail market, but none will have chastened it quite so much as this one.

The maps feature – undoubtedly one of the most useful – makes navigation a dream. The expansive screen means you can see big chunks of a city or town without scrolling.

One click and the phone’s GPS chip – another new feature in the latest model – locates you on a map via satellite. Search for a second location by street name or postcode and the phone marks out the route – and gives directions.

It’s the web browser that’s the real eye-popper, though. Pages appear exactly as they would on a PC and, as with the old mode, pinching and swiping your fingers across the scene zooms in or sends you scampering around the page. The difference is that the new device runs on the faster, 3G network, making the whole experience of using the web much more PC-like. At least in theory.

O2 says that 80 per per cent of the UK population now lives within reach of its 3G network, but geographically speaking, the network covers a much smaller proportion of the country. This means that if you’re travelling, you’ll have to make do with a 2.5G connection.

The Times found that on the whole in London, 3G coverage was good, and that even YouTube – a very data-rich service – worked effectively.

From time to time, the reception dips, at which point it can take as long as 20 seconds to load a page, and when the phone was roaming in France, it found no 3G network whatsoever. (You should be wary about roaming, anyway – at £3 per megabyte of data, browsing becomes a proper luxury.)

The two-megapixel camera is meagre by most standards and won’t replace your digital standalone, but it’s perfectly good for impromptu snaps. The photos feature also allows you to “side-load” other photos onto the phone from your PC via a cable – handy if you want to share details of a trip in person.

Those with larger music collections might find the memory inhibiting. Even the more capacious 16GB version accommodates only 4,000 songs – and that’s not allowing for any videos or photos you might want to store.

Battery life, too, will be a problem for some – the 3G network chews through power. Apple says the battery life is five hours for internet use, and five hours for phone calls.

The Times found that at the end of a day using the iPod on the commute both to and from work, browsing the web off and on during the day, and making a handful of phone calls (30 mins to an hour) – the battery was pretty much spent. There’s no replaceable battery, either – plugging it in is the only way to get new power.

Getting your hands on a new iPhone will involve shelling out up front, unless you pay £45 or more per month for your O2 contract. The 8GB and 16GB versions cost £99 and £159 respectively for O2 customers on £30 or £35-per-month contracts.

Consider, though, that an 8GB iPod nano costs £129, and that with every contract you’re getting unlimited web browsing, and the iPhone 3G becomes a very compelling proposition – admittedly only for O2 customers.

There’s one other secret weapon: Apple’s App Store – an online catalogue just like iTunes, but instead of songs it offers programs you can download to soup up your iPhone.

There will be customised versions of sites like Facebook and Amazon, as well as games and other features. Many will be free, some will involve a small, one-off fee.

If the Mk I iPhone changed the rules of the game, then Mk II has Apple careering around the new playing field while the rivals are still in the changing rooms. The network can be patchy and the battery drains fast, but little chinks like that do little to reduce the scale of the challenge now facing BlackBerry and Nokia.

Blogged with the Flock Browser
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2 Responses to “3G iPhone review: addictive, fast, power-hungry – Times Online”

  1. Get the Solio solar phone charger for the bugger. You can plug it in when you’re in transit in the car, bus, tube or plane, or even on the beach or in the office.

  2. I need a Tazer just to get into the Apple Store here at present!

    Will look at your Solio charger, see if they get them over on these shores. Guessing you’re a Brit abroad with your lingo?

    Thanks for reading, and commenting, please keep on ……

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