Review: Apple iPhone

Posted in by admin. Published January 27th, 2008

The iPhone. The most discussed gadget of the millennium. The phone that has launched a thousand Net discussions. The “Jesus phone”.

Everyone’s heard of it, and most people want one for themselves. If you’re lusting after one too, well tough luck, at least officially. The iPhone has been signed up to just a handful of carriers globally so far, including AT&T in the US, O2 in the UK and Ireland, Orange in France, and T-Mobile in Germany and Austria.

To use the phone on any other GSM network, including in New Zealand, the iPhone must first be activated, then “jailbroken” before being unlocked for use. This is not as bad as it seems.

There are 3 main methods for unlocking the phone.  The first involves using a piggy-back sim card chip to trick the iPhone into believing that it is still running on the AT&T network. The second involves hardware soldering – let’s not even get into that.

The third (and best for most people) is to use software to modify your phone to run on any network. Programs that do this with one click of your trusty mouse button are readily available for both Mac and PC (try modmyifone.com or iphonealley.com to start your research).

The other part of the equation is that each software update for your new toy from Apple will lock the phone again. IPhone users not on the regulation networks need to wait until a hack is available for each update before actually updating the firmware on their phone. However, all updates current to 1.1.4 have been unlocked! My phone was originally on version 1.1.1 and I updated it very easily to the latest version and unlocked it. It is currently running very nicely on my existing Vodafone contract.

The other option is you can pay for someone else to unlock it for you. It’ll cost you, but at least this way, there is no danger of you turning the phone into a very expensive paperweight.

You also need to be willing to play a cat-and-mouse game with Apple, and be sure not to update the software in your iPhone until there is a concrete hack for it available. However, the phones firmware can be downgraded through iTunes, so all is not lost even if you run into problems while upgrading.

It would be preferable to have regular access to a WiFi wireless network also. Many of the functions on the iPhone, such as the weather application, or the Safari web browser require Internet access. WiFi is one of the ways in which the iPhone connects to the Internet. The other way is over the cellular network – either EDGE (Enhanced data rates for GSM evolution) or the standard GPRS.

Kiwis need to be aware of the fact that we do not have the new EDGE data transmission service that the iPhone is capable of. We will have to make use of GPRS to transfer any data you need while on the go. This is far slower, and also could prove very pricey on Vodafone’s data plans. Invest in a Wi-Fi home connection before you buy the iPhone and use this instead of the mobile network to go online.

But is it really worth the trouble just to use an iPhone?

Apple fans, brace yourselves. As a ‘phone’ out of the box, the iPhone is not fantastic. I guess the thing that is running through my mind is that I have just splurged NZD $500(or for those of you who bought through local scalpers-$1000 or so) or so for a phone that can’t do some of the crucial things that a cheaper phone could.

In my opinion, there are several flaws in the phone that you’d think would have fixed before releasing it. The first one that stands out a mile for us in New Zealand is that the phone is not actually 3G. So no more video calls for me then, and web surfing away from a WiFi connection will be painfully slow.

The second problem I had with the iPhone is that the camera is only 2MP, has no zoom or flash. You also cannot record video with it (without help from 3rd party applications at least). This is frankly not up to par and the latest offerings from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, or Motorola offer far more in this respect!

The other thing that really bugged me was the lack of MMS messaging. I do not use this much personally, but you would think it should be there as this is almost standard on any phone these days.

OK. Gripes aside. Time for the positive stuff.

The actual design for the handset is absolutely gorgeous and the iPhone looks a million miles better than anything else on the market. The optical-grade glass touch screen is far, far better than any other handset screen I have ever seen, and the colours are superbly rendered. All in all, the aesthetics and design of the phone are a joy.

The other thing that really grabs you when you play with the iPhone for a while is the way in which the interface works. I literally spent two days playing with the multi-touch interface. Looking at a web page or a photo, it is so easy to zoom or move around. This ease of navigation makes the little screen far more useful than it should be.

“Won’t the finger prints spoil some of the fun?” I hear you ask. Well no. The little screen is so bright and clear that this minor problem fades instantly.

Those of you used to tapping at your smart phones with a little stylus, welcome to a whole new world!

The iPhone is not actually that great as a phone, but keep in mind it’s more than just a mobile. Comparing the iPhone to a regular cell phone is like comparing a 5 course gourmet meal to a Big Mac and fries.

The iPhone is a multifunctional communications device. This is the best iPod ever released by Apple, it has the best rendering of websites for mobile browsing short of lugging your laptop around, the most comprehensive and varied list of applications available through third parties such as Christchurch’s own Polar Bear Farm, mobile access to services such as Google maps, stock exchange, weather etc etc. And the user interface makes it all easy to use.

Will I be keeping my iPhone? To be honest, I should sell it on and make a nice fat profit. However, I will not be doing this. Sure there are minor glitches about my phone. It could be far better. However, to my mind all of these shortcomings can be fixed by software patches, or by downloading 3rd party applications.

What the iPhone has over all the other offerings out there in the cell phone market is that it is a fundamentally great product which will only keep improving. In my opinion, this thing is a leap in mobile phones.

So does the iPhone meet the hype? This really is the million dollar question, and for me this is a no. Currently the iPhone knocks out the competition in many aspects, but is still someway short of meeting the hype of the “Jesus phone”. Small flaws stop a really good product being a great product!

However, the iPhone version 2 is rumoured to be released later this year. I will be purchasing one, and keeping my fingers crossed that Apple will fix all the minor technical details that stop this device fulfilling its potential.

If you are a techno-freak, and like to use the latest gadgets then you will totally love this phone. If you are a regular mobile user then you should keep using your existing handset, at least until an official version of the iPhone is released for Telecom or Vodafone. And if you’re not into any of the iPhone’s whiz-bang extras (like the superb web surfing) then, frankly, this isn’t the phone for you.

Buy iPhone from Amazon


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