iPhone--it was who we thought it was

David Pogue publishes the first official iPhone review I've seen yet in the NYTimes. Very comprehensive and worth reading for all who want a balanced report from someone who's tested it firsthand. Some highlights and lowlights:

  • the glass screen doesn't scratch easily though it smudges

  • the software is fast and beautiful and simple to use

  • the phone is fun to use; once you buy the phone, you choose your phone plan at home in iTunes

  • call quality is average and dependent on your AT&T signal strength

  • e-mail and the web browser are great, and so is the battery life (Pogue suspects you'll recharge once every other day); however, someday the battery loses its charge and will have to be sent to Apple for replacement

  • no chat program, voice dialing, or memory card slot

  • you can't install programs from anyone other than Apple

  • web browser can't handle Java or Flash

  • the 2MP camera is good, but only for motionless, well-lit subjects, and it doesn't capture video or send MMS photos (i.e., picture messages). =(

  • a biggie: typing on the screen keyboard can be frustrating, and Pogue doesn't see it besting the BlackBerry on that front

  • the biggest issue all along for me is confirmed, to my dismay: AT&T's network is lousy

  • the EDGE network is super slow; web browsing will be painful

After the crush of hype, it turns out most of what was rumored and suspected about the device turns out to be true. Since I always carry my iPod and cell phone with me, the iPhone is attractive as a way to consolidate gadgets, and it sure would be great to get the real-time traffic reports via Google Maps here in eternally-congested LA. However, I had such a lousy experience with AT&T (in its Cingular guise) that I feel comfortable not waiting in line on Friday. I really wish Apple had found a better partner for this venture.

UPDATE: Walt Mossberg has his review of the iPhone up now as well. Here are some of his thoughts, which confirm my worst fear, that the iPhone is held back by being tethered to AT&T's network (when it isn't connected via wi-fi). Overall, he still liked it, but like Pogue, notes that it isn't a grand slam:

We have been testing the iPhone for two weeks, in multiple usage scenarios, in cities across the country. Our verdict is that, despite some flaws and feature omissions, the iPhone is, on balance, a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer. Its software, especially, sets a new bar for the smart-phone industry, and its clever finger-touch interface, which dispenses with a stylus and most buttons, works well, though it sometimes adds steps to common functions.

The Apple phone combines intelligent voice calling, and a full-blown iPod, with a beautiful new interface for music and video playback. It offers the best Web browser we have seen on a smart phone, and robust email software. And it synchronizes easily and well with both Windows and Macintosh computers using Apple’s iTunes software.

It has the largest and highest-resolution screen of any smart phone we’ve seen, and the most internal memory by far. Yet it is one of the thinnest smart phones available and offers impressive battery life, better than its key competitors claim.

It feels solid and comfortable in the hand and the way it displays photos, videos and Web pages on its gorgeous screen makes other smart phones look primitive.

The iPhone’s most controversial feature, the omission of a physical keyboard in favor of a virtual keyboard on the screen, turned out in our tests to be a nonissue, despite our deep initial skepticism. After five days of use, Walt — who did most of the testing for this review — was able to type on it as quickly and accurately as he could on the Palm Treo he has used for years. This was partly because of smart software that corrects typing errors on the fly.

But the iPhone has a major drawback: the cellphone network it uses. It only works with AT&T (formerly Cingular), won’t come in models that use Verizon or Sprint and can’t use the digital cards (called SIM cards) that would allow it to run on T-Mobile’s network. So, the phone can be a poor choice unless you are in areas where AT&T’s coverage is good. It does work overseas, but only via an AT&T roaming plan.

In addition, even when you have great AT&T coverage, the iPhone can’t run on AT&T’s fastest cellular data network. Instead, it uses a pokey network called EDGE, which is far slower than the fastest networks from Verizon or Sprint that power many other smart phones. And the initial iPhone model cannot be upgraded to use the faster networks.

The iPhone compensates by being one of the few smart phones that can also use Wi-Fi wireless networks. When you have access to Wi-Fi, the iPhone flies on the Web. Not only that, but the iPhone automatically switches from EDGE to known Wi-Fi networks when it finds them, and pops up a list of new Wi-Fi networks it encounters as you move. Walt was able to log onto paid Wi-Fi networks at Starbucks and airports, and even used a free Wi-Fi network at Fenway Park in Boston to email pictures taken during a Red Sox game.

But this Wi-Fi capability doesn’t fully make up for the lack of a fast cellular data capability, because it is impractical to keep joining and dropping short-range Wi-Fi networks while taking a long walk, or riding in a cab through a city.


Short interview with Atul Gawande in the Freakonomics blog.


Today is the day of silence for Pandora and other Internet radio sites to protest the increase in licensing fees for online radio (a move driven in large part by the RIAA). Save Net Radio!


The Beastie Boys' are on Flickr.


Paul Shirley, having played with both Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, assesses the possibility of the two of them playing on the same team:

Having spent a similar amount of time in the semi-intimate company of both men, I can say confidently that two people couldn't be more different. Kevin Garnett is one of the most impressive humans I've ever been around.

Kobe Bryant isn't.

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