- 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.
The iPhone comes with preloaded settings for Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Mac Mail and AOL mail, and support for POP3, IMAP and Microsoft Exchange mail. We easily setup access to a Gmail account and a Lotus Notes account (mail only, no calendar or contacts).
During setup you're given the option to sync your address book (Mac OS X, Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail or Yahoo), calendar (iCal, Outlook or Outlook Express), mail settings (Mac Mail, Outlook or Outlook Express) and your IE or Safari bookmarks. Synchronising went quite smoothly, although we had no calendar to test.
Mail, like almost everything on the iPhone's lovely screen, displays beautifully. The inbox is as handsome and functional as any we've seen, taking full advantage of the iPhone's relatively abundant screen real estate. The same goes for the messages themselves, whether they're plain text or image-rich HTML. Some may quibble with Apple's decision to segregate all accounts, so that you have to navigate to a different inbox for each one, but moving between accounts is easy and intuitive.
The iPhone automatically and easily displayed images sent as e-mail attachments, up to a point. When a colleague sent a couple of large photos, the iPhone spent quite a few minutes with a "Loading..." notification in the body of the received message. Eventually, instead of rendering two 3.5MB images, the mail client provided links that downloaded each image separately.
On a minor note, we like the way deleted messages swoosh into the trashcan at the bottom of the mail screen. It's one of the many small touches that make you feel like the iPhone works hard to justify its high-end price tag.
Wi-Fi setup on the iPhone went relatively quickly, although you have to get the keyboard taps just right. If the predictive text entry can help you with your WEP or WPA security codes, your codes aren't secure enough. We had to make several tries to nail a longish WPA password, but once you get it, you'll never have to input it again as the iPhone will store it. We wish Apple would have supported a 3G or HSDPA service, though, as you can't count on being in range of a Wi-Fi network when you're downloading big image files or Web pages, and Wi-Fi drains battery life very quickly.
Steve Jobs has boasted that the iPhone delivers "the real Internet" rather than a dumbed-down version. If that means the phone's Safari browser should be capable of anything a desktop browser can do, the iPhone fails to meet that standard. But it's still a sizable leap forward for mobile browsing.
Most phone browsers deal with their tiny screens by heavily reformatting pages. With Safari, pages look as they would in a desktop browser, as Safari simply shrinks them down to fit the iPhone's screen. The shrunken versions have text that's too tiny to read, so you zoom in and out on the page by pinching and pulling. Overall, this works much better in practice than it sounds like it should. The shrunken versions are legible enough to give you a sense of where to zoom, and once you've magnified the page, you can use your thumb to scroll down. (Tip: Safari works best in landscape mode, not the skinnier portrait orientation.)
As a tool for reading Web content such as news sites, for instance, Safari is terrific. And while downloading pages over EDGE isn'tt as snappy as with Wi-Fi, it also wasn't as sluggish as we'd feared it might be. We happily browsed through sites we wouldn't even try to load in most phone browsers.
Today's real Internet includes plenty of sophisticated Web applications, and its here the browser disappoints. A few of the Web 2.0 sites we tried, such as iGoogle and Flickr, worked well. But most were either a little wobbly or altogether inoperable. Google Docs and Spreadsheets worked well enough to let us view some word-processing documents and spreadsheets, but we couldn't see all our documents, or edit any of them. The Meebo Web-based instant-messenger client loaded, but we couldn't send IMs. NetVibes wouldn't let us log in; Remember the Milk sort of worked, but not as well as its mobile version. And so on.
Of course, even if an application like Google Docs worked perfectly, there'd be a limit to how much typing you'd want to do on the iPhone's tiny on-screen keyboard. Even typing URLs is a little tricky, and we struggled with passwords; it would be nice if you could opt for them to be displayed rather than asterisked out, since it can be hard to tell if you've made a typo. (Safari syncs your bookmarks from IE and desktop Safari when you connect to a computer; too bad it doesn't do the same for Firefox.)
The real Internet circa 2007 also packs a lot of multimedia and interactivity in an array of formats including Flash, Java, Windows Media, Real, and more. The iPhone's Safari doesn't support any of these and the only Web media that's likely to work in this browser is multimedia in Apple's own QuickTime format.
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