Apple iPhone - Initial Review
June 30, 2007 — by Per Christensson
The iPhone looks and feels as good as I hoped it would. It is light, thin, and most importantly, comfortable to use. The ease of use is aided greatly by an incredible screen that has a ridiculously high resolution. Even when fully zoomed out on a Web page, I can still read some of the text. That is pretty impressive, considering the screen size is less than a tenth of the size of most computer monitors. And not just Web pages look great ? photos and videos look even more amazing. Put simply, the iPhone has the most beautiful screen I have ever seen.
Describing the iPhone is a bit difficult because it is part phone, part iPod, and part personal computer. But, thanks to some well thought out design and great attention to detail, the iPhone succeeds in each one of these areas.
When making and receiving calls, the iPhone works like any other cell phone and the sound quality is better than most phones I have used, but not the best. It is typically very clear and easily loud enough, but sometimes distorts if the signal is too high. The speakerphone is also better than most models I have used. One cool feature of the iPhone is that as soon as you place the phone by your ear, the screen goes dark. This capability is enabled by a small infrared sensor that detects objects near the phone. When you move the phone away from your body, the screen lights up again so you can select the keypad, mute, speakerphone, and other functions.
I also like that you can use the rest of the iPhone's features while you are connected with another caller. That means you can view your address book or your calendar, check your e-mail, browse the Web, or do anything else the iPhone is capable of while you have someone on the line. Also, when someone calls while you are already talking with another person, you can put the current call on hold or end the current call when you answer the new call. That is a great feature that I wish my old phone had. It comes in handy when you need to answer a call from someone right as you are about to leave a voicemail message. (You know, when a person just misses your call and decides to call you back right as you begin to leave a message.) Finally, the iPhone makes conference calls as simple as pressing the "Merge Calls" button when you have two people on the line.
Surprisingly, you are limited to the iPhone's ringtones and cannot use your own iTunes songs as ringtones on the iPhone. That's right — you cannot choose ringtones from your own music library. I was pretty shocked to find this out, because you would think that if any phone would allow you to play your music files as ringtones, it would be the iPhone. But alas, there is simply no way to choose songs from your iPhone playlist for your ringtones. I imagine this was part of the deal Apple made with AT&T, since the ringtones business has grown so big. But it is a sad fact to accept for iPhone users.
At least you can send SMS text messages with the iPhone just like any other cell phone. However, it organizes conversations with people much like an iChat conversation (Apple's instant messaging program) instead of displaying the messages in a list format. You also have a full QWERTY keyboard instead of a numeric keypad to type your messages with. This seems like a nice improvement, but for many people (including myself) who have become proficient texting with a numeric keypad using T9 mode, it may be a bit of an adjustment. However, like T9, the iPhone guesses the words you are typing and if you make mistakes, it usually corrects them accurately. Though I am still getting used to the onscreen keyboard, I am optimistic that one day, I will be able to type messages as fast as I could on my old phone. The only thing I don't like about the text messaging interface is that the Send button is a little too close to the O and P keys. That means I have to be careful not to accidentally hit Send when typing the word "pop," for example. Once you send a text message, there is nothing you can do to stop it. I also wish you could save and organize text message conversations because they can quickly become rather lengthy. Hopefully Apple will add that feature in a future update.
iPhone's e-mail feature is basically like Mac OS X Mail. It shows messages the same way you would view them on your computer, including attachments. Photo attachments are displayed within the messages, making them very easy to view. You can quickly check your e-mail, reply to messages, and compose new messages just like you would on a regular computer. With AT&T's EDGE network, you can even check and send messages without a Wi-Fi connection. So much for lugging that laptop around.
Browsing the Web on the iPhone is much like browsing the Web on a computer with the Safari Web browser. That's probably because the iPhone uses the Safari Web browser. To access a website on the iPhone, just type in a Web address or select one of your bookmarks and the Web page loads, just as it would on a computer. This is a huge improvement over other smart phones, which only show a "mobile" version of the Web. Of course, the pages appear much smaller. But you can quickly zoom into different areas of a Web page by double-tapping or moving your fingers apart over the section you want to zoom into. Dragging your finger across the screen moves the part of the document you are viewing.
If you like Google Maps, you will love Google Maps on the iPhone. You can quickly search for locations all across the world and find directions from one place to another. You can view maps in street mode or satellite view, though you can't currently view a hybrid version on the initial version. Still, the directions are great and you can follow along as you travel by just pressing the right arrow each time you get to the next stage in your trip. Google Maps quickly jumps to the next location to show you how far you need to go and where you need to turn. While it is technically not a GPS device, in some ways, the iPhone works even better than one.
Of course, I can't forget to mention that the iPhone serves as an iPod. It functions much like a regular iPod, except that you can choose Playlists, Artists, Songs, or Videos from the bottom of each menu. This is a nice improvement over the standard iPod interface, because you don't always have to go back to the top menu to switch the type content you want to play. The iPhone also supports Apple's Cover Flow browsing, which is a visual way of flipping through the album art of each album have stored on your iPod. It is a fun way to browse through your music, though if you don't have album art for a lot of your songs, you are going to see a lot of question marks as you flip through your music collection.
Besides everything I have already mentioned, there is a great address book, an easy-to-use calendar, YouTube videos, weather and stock trackers, a calculator, alarm, stopwatch, timer, notepad, and 2 megapixel built-in camera. It truly is an all-in-one device. If the iPhone had an 8 megapixel camera with video capability and optical image stabilization, I don't think I would ever need to buy another portable electronics device. Well, at least not until something better came out.
Want more? Read the iPhone Review - Part 2.
- Excellent design and great attention to detail
- Huge, glorious high-resolution screen
- Full Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support
- Surprisingly accurate touch sensitivity
- Great maps feature
- E-mail and Web browser programs function just like the computer versions
- Works great as an iPod
- Can't use songs from your playlist as ringtones
- Onscreen keyboard can take awhile to get used to
- Mediocre camera and speaker
- Only works with AT&T wireless service