iPhone 3G First Impressions

Posted: July 22, 2008 in first impressions, iPhone, iPhone user review accessories
Tags: , ,
So after “3G Release iFriday”, I finally made it through the line after EIGHT hours!!  I have never waited in a line for that long for anything, the closest experience of course being last year’s original iPhone line.  It was one of those things where you were already so deep into it, you couldn’t just leave midway through.  I won’t bore with the gory details, but it wasn’t as great an experience as last year.  It didn’t help that a co-worker told me he picked one up Friday night after waiting only 2 hours, lol.  Of course I knew in my head this would be the case, I was just a bit worried Apple would do something weird with stock and it would be selling out everywhere.  Still, it was one of those things you don’t soon forget, and I again met an interesting bunch of folk in line and was treated to a barrage of Apple employees supplying Smart water, coffee, and this time a popsicle to boot!

So of course everyone knows about the crappy release timing by Apple with the 2.0 software update needed to do authentication.  I guess the servers died or were slammed too hard or whatever, I’m not sure there was an official story.  Regardless, MMORPGers like myself shouldn’t have been too surprised; it seems like no one is ever able to estimate the popularity of their own products.  Either that or they figure one day of server issues is worth the cost knowing it will calm down in a day or 2.

Moving on to the new unit itself:
First thought was it felt lighter.  I didn’t think I’d notice the difference but it was fairly evident.  Not that I’d ever had an issue with the weight but certainly a nice touch.

3G speed.  I tested a “real world” situation with 3G on.  My 3yo nephew loves to see WALL-E and other assorted movie photos like Spiderman and Iron Man, so I usually use IMDB to bring them up.  Last week I had a few excruciating waits to bring up the pictures he likes and my nieces and I would make fun of the Edge network speeds.  So I tested the exact same links in 3G and it was incredibly faster.  It was clearly not just twice the speed, it was a huge difference.  More importantly the “feeling” was much more like the information was at your fingertips, the way it “should” be.

GPS.  Very understated in the design.  You don’t have some button “GPS” to turn on or whatever and I rarely see much about specs.  I did test it briefly on a drive out and it seemed remarkably accurate, within a car length or 2 I could see the blip on google maps shift as I approached the corner of a street.  I was very impressed and hopeful the news is true about the turn by turn software that is supposedly being readied.  A few days later, I got lost while driving back to the airport on a business trip.  Turns out the freeway I was on was designed in a circle, which I had never seen before.  In any case, I whipped out the Google Maps and GPS showed me I had diverged onto the wrong part of the circle.  I was running late and panicked a bit, but seeing my blip on the map finally moving in the right direction eased my mind.  I saw the dot approaching a river and up ahead a bridge appeared.  Nice!  Turn by turn directions would have been nicer, but hopefully that will come in time.

Sound quality.  I haven’t noticed the drastic improvement I read about in reviews, but I haven’t made many phone calls yet or listened to music much.  The built in speakers definitely seemed better on the one song I tested.  My original phone would have trouble when I maxxed the volume out but this one doesn’t seem to have the same issue.  Still not loud enough though, IMHO.  After a week or so of usage, I still haven’t noticed a huge difference in overall sound quality.  Calls seem to have more clarity, but I would attribute that to being on 3G, not necessarily some improvement in the sound hardware.  But maybe that’s what they meant all along.

Battery life.  My new theory is Apple really did not replace/change the battery at all.  I’m guessing their new chip is just more efficient in Edge mode and thus they can claim some better life standards for 2G use.  I ended up having to charge the phone again after about 4ish hours of use.  But this was a lot of turn on and off, playing with programs, wireless surfing and apps store downloading.  Ultimately my opinion is you just have to use the device and not worry about it from a spec point of view.  I know that sounds lame, but I obsessed over the battery on my original iPhone for months.  Eventually I just reached a normal usage pattern that had me charging approx. once a week with occasional charging during syncing.  I suspect with 3G and all the awesome new apps this is going to change dramatically, probably 2 or 3 times what I used to.  This is not a criticism of the battery, but a reality check given the new usability of the device.  Which leads me to…

App Store Apps.  OMG!  Over 900 already, it’s just insane.  I spent most of my time with the phone in the Apps store, and even after only 1 day, already spent way too much money.  So many games to try out!  And tons of utilities (filemagnet was great to import a pdf version of my work presentation), fun time wasters (the light saber is incredibly fun), etc.  There are some crappy ones for sure, but a lot of really really cool stuff.  It’s really taken the iPhone to the next level, making it very hard to describe right now.  You think about how good the software already is on day one of release and just imagine what levels programmers will be able to take it to down the line.  They’re going to need a new name for the device because “iPhone” is almost misleading at this point.  iMobileMac?  I dunno, but I continue to be impressed with what people have come up with.  Some big ones I’m anticipating: Slingbox, GPS navigation and video recording, all of which are supposedly in the works.  Would love to see some form of new RPG or roguelike but I haven’t seen much on that yet (aside from the old school JRPG Vay), though Bioware and others have expressed interest.  You figure with a built in userbase close to 10 million (counting iPod Touch, I’m just guessing the numbers) and growing, software developers, particularly gaming companies, would be crazy to ignore it as a major platform.  I just can’t get enough of these, I’m constantly checking the Apps store to see if something new has come out.  Some other highly recommended apps: Sketches, Pangaea VR, Aurora Feint, Aqua Forest to name a few.  And a few personal favorites which may not be as popular: 300 Bowl, Fire Words and Top 3 Solitaire.

Oh yeah, it’s still an iPod.  Almost lost amidst the new features and Apps and faster speed, this unit is still the best damn portable entertainment device you can shake a stick at.  I had almost forgotten how much I loved the baseline iPod features until I was sitting in a plane for 5 hours listening to a bunch of music and watching 3 classic episodes of The Office. 
MIA?  I was a bit disappointed to hear no new camera or video or second/front camera were being added, nor had MMS or cut/paste been addressed.  My guess is the next version will tackle the camera improvements.  As to the long requested MMS and cut/paste, I have no idea what the issue is.  Plenty of ways to get around the former, but the latter would seem to be an obvious software upgrade that should have been implemented in some form long ago.
In spite of the above, simply put, an amazing piece of technology just took a huge step to the next level. 
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