Apple's iPhone is without a doubt the most wanted device of 2007, but Australians will be forced to wait at least six months for a local launch. In anticipation, our US associates have taken a thorough look at the iPhone, and despite a few issues, they like what they see.
- Multi-touch navigation, fantastic display, great handheld video player, impressive browser, durability and build quality
- Lack of 3G/HSDPA, no instant messaging/office applications, gets warm with constant use, iffy text entry
If you want to love this much-hyped gadget, you'll find plenty to drool over. The iPhone is expensive and comes with some major drawbacks, but it's hard to be patient once you've seen one - the future of mobile devices is here and it's called an iPhone.
If you want to love this much-hyped gadget, you'll find plenty to drool over. The revolutionary multi-touch navigation system really is intuitive and fun. The endless expanse of display alone is nothing short of mesmerising, with beautiful bright colours and crisp resolution. It's a great handheld video player, a decent music player and camera; its browser, while not as versatile as the one on your notebook, is still impressive. Plus, it works just fine as a mobile phone.
But there are disappointments, too. Some we knew about ahead of time, including lack of support for a 3G or HSDPA data network and the absence of instant messaging and office suite applications. Others are only apparent once you start using the handset; it can get warm with constant use, and you'll need to wipe off smudges frequently with the included cloth.
We're still iffy about the software keyboard and predictive text entry. They work reasonably well, but overall text entry is still easier with a hardware keyboard, and the iPhone may not be the best choice for people who need to compose a lot of e-mail.
We were impressed with the iPhone's durability. We tried scratching it and dropping it on everything from carpet to concrete. It survived all the abuse, with only some scratches from the concrete. And then there are the undeniably fun aspects of this super-hot gadget, from the cute icons on the home screen to the way deleted e-mail swooshes into a trashcan.
The iPhone is expensive and comes with some major drawbacks. And the most prudent course would be to wait for the next version, one that'll work out some of the kinks, and we hope, be tied to a faster wireless network. But it's hard to be patient once you've seen one - the future of mobile devices is here and it's called an iPhone.
Setting up the iPhone is a smooth process. The first step, if you haven't already done so, is to install iTunes 7.3. Plugging in the included USB 2.0 dock sees iTunes immediately greet you with a screen to walk you through the activation and set-up of the iPhone.
The whole process takes 15 screens. Once complete, the iPhone is recognised as a device, and you're given a tabbed row of options for managing specific aspects of your iPhone - the same as you'd see your iPod connected to iTunes.
In fact, the entire process of setting up the iPhone - choosing what folders to sync, for example, for your music, photos, podcasts, and video - is familiar to current iPod users. And, perhaps more importantly, the process won't be intimidating to newcomers to the iPod universe.
What's dramatically different about the iPhone is how it operates. There just aren't many pesky buttons. The phone's navigation is almost entirely accomplished via its multi-touch screen. The sole button on the face of the phone conveniently returns you to the friendly, fun home screen. A power button up top, and a ringer button and volume controls at left round out the buttons.
We fully expect terms like "slide" and "pinch" to quickly become part of the popular lexicon. These handy manoeuvres let you navigate the iPhone's multi-touch screen with ease. You slide your finger to the right to unlock the phone, and slide again to scroll through menus. We were surprised by the often dizzying speed with which you can scroll - scanning through an album of several hundred photos is effortless.
The touch screen is one of the iPhone's huge assets. Suddenly, navigating in a tight space is not only viable, but also fun and enjoyable. Aside from scrolling, there's pinching and tapping; the former for resizing screens (ie, in the Safari Web browser), the latter for selecting options and zooming in on content, such as photos.
This navigational ease applies to other elements of the phone as well. The screen has an internal sensor, and will auto-rotate content depending upon how you're holding the iPhone, and what application you're in. The main menu, with its dozen bright, colourful icons for features and applications, and four primary icons for phone, mail, Safari, and iPod below, is both visually engaging and brilliant in its simplicity.
Adding contacts is visual as well. We appreciated the high level of customisation the contacts application offers via its "add a field" option (for example, add a nickname, department, date reminders, or note). When entering contacts, make sure to hit Save, though, way at the top of the screen. The contacts application lets you exit without prompting you to save your record, which can be very annoying to discover after you've spent time entering details.
There are other flaws, too. For example, while you see a battery gauge, the iPhone doesn't give you a way to see the actual percentage (or, better yet, time) remaining in your battery's life.
Another annoyance: Tap the phone icon and the iPhone shows you the Contacts screen, not the keypad. Getting to the keypad requires another tap, and this is definitely annoying if you're not calling someone already in your Contacts list.
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