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First iPhone 3G iReviews iAppear as iExpected ... But with an iTwist

As was the case last year with the original iPhone, iCabal placed highly in mainstream media have delivered their own iPhone 3G reviews a few days ahead of the public availability of the actual product. But I have to be honest. While we can expect a certain amount of iLove from these guys, for the most part the reviews are unusually fair. I mean, these were the people who completely overlooked (or just plain didn't know about) the original iPhone's many defects a year ago. (That's what happens when you don't question anything that comes out of Cupertino.)

Well, color me surprised. These good old boys can learn new tricks.

A few comments about each.


Newer, Faster, Cheaper iPhone 3G
by Walter Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal
Headline verdict: It's a a lie. The new iPhone is actually more expensive, not cheaper.

[The] first iPhone had two big drawbacks: It was expensive, and it couldn't access the fastest cellular-phone networks. On Friday, Apple is launching a second-generation iPhone, called the iPhone 3G, which addresses both of those problems.

Does it? The new iPhone is actually considerably more expensive than the original model and its 3G network, while excellent when you can get it, is only sparsely available nationwide.

I found that doing email and surfing the Internet typically was between three and five times as fast using AT&T's 3G network as it was with the older AT&T network to which the first iPhone was limited.

He makes this claim twice. But Pogue found it about twice as fast (see below). I will say this: the EDGE network is embarrassingly slow, so slow in fact that everyone who has spent time with me in the past year now has a joke about it, to my expense (and to the iPhone's). People witnessing me struggling with this pathetic network have stories to tell for years to come. This is real-world experience, not some silly speed measurement. EDGE @#$%s.

Bottom line: If you've been waiting to buy an iPhone until it dropped in price, or ran on faster cell networks, you might want to take the plunge, if you can live with the higher service costs and the weaker battery life.

I absolutely love the tortured logic of that sentence. Let's reword it without really changing the meaning: "If you've been waiting to buy an iPhone until it was less expensive, you might want to take the plunge, if you can live with the higher costs." LOL. Yeah, if you don't see any issues with that line of reasoning, you should really buy one, as you're pretty much the target market.

Article verdict: Mossberg finds it hard not to promote everything Apple makes, so this is surprisingly balanced for him.


For iPhone, the ‘New’ Is Relative
by David Pogue, The New York Times
Headline verdict: Bravo. It's not sensationalist and it's accurate. Surprisingly honest.

This iPhone can bring you the Internet much faster. It can exploit AT&T’s third-generation (3G) cellular network, which brings you Web pages in less than half the time as the old iPhone.

There is, however, a catch: you don’t get that speed or those features unless you’re in one of AT&T’s 3G network areas — and there aren’t many of them.

The iPhone 3G is not really, as Apple’s Web site puts it, “half the price.” The basic AT&T plan — unlimited Internet and 450 minutes of calling — now costs $70 a month instead of $60 (plus taxes and fees), and comes with no text messages instead of 200. (Adding text messaging costs at least $5 a month more.) ... the iPhone 3G will have cost you more than the old iPhone, not less.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do with the G.P.S. ... all it can do at this point is track your position as you drive along, representing you as a blue dot sliding along the roads of the map. Even then, the metal of a car or the buildings of Manhattan are often enough to block the iPhone’s view of the sky, leaving it just as confused as you are.

Unfortunately, most of the standard cellphone features that were missing from the first iPhone are still missing. There’s still no voice dialing, video recording, copy-and-paste, memory-card slot, Bluetooth stereo audio or phone-to-phone photo sending (MMS). And when the battery needs replacement after a couple of years, you’ll still have to pay Apple $86 for a replacement.

I'm almost crying. This is so accurate, so fair, so absolutely non-partisan. Did Mr. Pogue really write this? Bravo, sir. Bravo. Well...

So the iPhone 3G is a nice upgrade. It more than keeps pace with advancing technology, and new buyers will generally be delighted.

While this one line can't obviate the wonder that came before it, that's a bit of a stretch. It's unclear how the iPhone 3G is "keeping pace" when it still has the old camera, has GPS that lacks basic GPS features, and so on. But whatever. It's a small thing.

Article verdict: David Pogue offers an amazingly balanced iPhone 3G/iPhone Software 2.0 review. Nice job.


Apple's new iPhone 3G: Still not perfect, but really close
By Edward C. Baig, USA Today
Headline verdict: He loves Apple, he really loves Apple!

It's cheaper, faster and a lot friendlier for business.

It's not cheaper.

Not all of iPhone's early drawbacks have disappeared. You still cannot shoot video, take advantage of Bluetooth stereo or dial with a voice command. Such features are common on rival devices. (I'm hoping some shortcomings will be addressed by third-party developers.)

Meanwhile, for all the hoopla involving AT&T's speedier, third-generation network, I couldn't access 3G in parts of my northern New Jersey neighborhood and elsewhere. When the fast network isn't available, the phone automatically reverts to the pokier and oft-maligned Edge network.

LOL. Welcome to the real world, Ed.

Apple's claims that 3G speeds are twice as fast as Edge were confirmed by my own download tests. It generally took 10 to 30 seconds to load popular websites through 3G, a lot zippier than when I accessed the sites on Edge ... Wi-Fi, if available, is still the fastest method for downloads.

Alas, the [GPS] feature begs for the audible turn-by-turn directions found on Samsung's Instinct and others. (Again, I'm hoping a third-party developer will fill the void.)

Alas, you have not heard that this can never happen. Sorry.

While not everything on my wish list made it onto the new device, Apple has raised the bar with iPhone 3G. To which I offer an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Article verdict: Fair enough. He certainly raises a number of issues, which I think these guys did too little of the first time around.

By the way, I enjoy the iNsider (yes, that's spelled correctly) bickering that occurs in these articles.  Last year, all three mentioned how long they'd been using the iPhone, just in case you weren't sure they were iCabal iNsiders. This year, Pogue alone doesn't do so (conspiracy theory: He's had it the least amount of time, thus his "fairer-than-expected" review). Mossberg notes that he's "been testing the iPhone 3G for a couple of weeks," as one might expect. But Baig actually one-ups him by stating that he has, in fact, been testing "the new iPhone for more than two weeks." (Emphasis mine, but I think that was the intent.)

You guys are so cute.

So I've been using the iPhone Software 2.0 on my first generation iPhone for about a week. (Cough.) While I will in fact be reviewing both this software and the new iPhone 3G when appropriate (in other words not just rushing it out to beat the competition), I do have a few observations to make.

Exchange. Using Exchange OTA on an iPhone via EDGE destroys the battery life in real time. It reminds me of driving a 1970's conversion van up a mountain in New Mexico and watching the gas tank literally go down before your eyes. Using Exchange also obviates any personal contacts and calendar data you may have: While you can have multiple email on the device, as before, you can only have one source of PIM data (as before, come to think of it).

MobileMe. I've been able to set up MobileMe email, contacts, and calendaring sync via the phone but not the PC. (It's not out yet.) I've sent email from my MobileMe account successfully and so on. You can configure which services you want to use with Push via MobileMe, so for example you can independently toggle email, contacts, calendar, and bookmarks. This lets you do things like use MobileMe for email, but use Outlook for your calendar.

Stability. Since I am using the same buggy pre-release version of the iPhone Software 2.0 that these other guys were, I'm surprised no one mentioned how buggy it all was. Safari, in particular, crashes regularly, and hopefully that will be fixed before Friday. I'm guessing, too, that all three accessed the iPhone via a Mac and not a PC (and I find it interesting that none of them explicitly mentioned this). On the PC, the version of iTunes that's currently available in pre-release form lags behind the version for the Mac. In fact, the PC version is so bad it keeps forgetting my media collection exists and proactively wipes whatever music, videos, and podcasts I have off of the iPhone as a result. It makes for long sync times and a curiously empty iPhone.

The Big Picture. One thing at least a few of the above reviews touches on that I think is very true is this: The big story here really isn't the iPhone 3G, it's the iPhone Software 2.0. In fact, aside from the Web downloads on 3G, you're almost better off using an original iPhone with the iPhone Software 2.0 via EDGE. (I can't even believe I just wrote that.) Actually, there's another exception to that rule: App Store downloads only work via 3G and Wi-Fi (like iTunes downloads) so if you're stuck on EDGE, you'll need to download via your PC. But seriously, it's the software here that matters. I'm going to get an iPhone 3G, of course. But I'm a freakish early adopter not a normal person. If you do already own an iPhone, you might want to wait a few weeks or months before getting a new (and more expensive) device. After all, iPhone Software 2.0 will be free.

iWeek continues...

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