Product Review (September 2007)
Apple - iPhone with AT&T Service

There has been much talk about the new iPhone and lucky for us we were given the opportunity to demo this unit for a mere 48 hours. Since we had little time with the unit, our coverage will be brief.

The iPhone like other Apple products is attractive, stylish and easy to use. After all, Apple is well known for their excellent human interfaces. The large, high resolution touchscreen display offers a great look that compliments the product. Users can view photos or watch YouTube clips with quality not commonly found on portable devices. In fact, the picture pops right out at you making it visible even in direct sunlight. Resolution is excellent for its size and the internal processor is fast enough to give the iPhone an analog feel in a digital world. Moving your fingers across the screen and having the graphics follow is impressive when using the mapping feature or thumbing through a set of photos. The iPhone includes a set of ear buds and a docking station with a USB interface.

Cellular and data service for the iPhone is currently offered exclusively through AT&T, who already has over 60 million subscribers. This gives the iPhone a wide coverage area with high data rates. Additional wireless data access through Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution) and Bluetooth 2.0® give the iPhone a great deal of communications flexibility.

At this writing, Apple and AT&T are now offering the iPhone for $399 for the larger 8GB model. This is a $200 price drop with double the memory. Needless to say, early adopters were not happy with the quick drop in price, so Apple decided to offer a $100 refund for those who supported them early on. Paying a premium is what being an early adopter is all about. In the long run AT&T should do well with their 2-year contract requirement on the new iPhone.

Design
The iPhone feels like a high-end iPod with a solid chassis and smooth surface. The thin (< 0.5") design is only 2.4" wide and 4.5" tall. The 3.5" diagonal display occupies a large area of the phone. The brilliant looking high resolution (480x320) touchscreen with 160 dots per inch is the primary way the user controls the operation of the unit. Unfortunately, the glossy surface quickly accumulates fingerprints and smudge marks. Yet it is still easy to read even in bright environments thanks to the high contrast display. It would probably be a good idea to consider getting a protective cover for the iPhone to prevent scratches. The multi-touch user interface offers a unique way of zooming in and out and moving content around the screen.

Each time the iPhone is turned on, the user needs to slide the virtual lever to the right to unlock the unit. This prevents the unit from being turned on accidentally while placed in a purse or pocket. The lower center button is used to always bring up the home screen no matter what application is running. Signal strength, lock status and battery level is shown on the top of the display.

There are few physical buttons that occupy the body of the iPhone. Most of controls are made through the touchscreen interface. The side of the unit has a Ring/Silent button as well as Up/Down volume buttons. The top has a Sleep/Wake button. The back has a small opening where the 2-megapixel camera can capture images. Surprisingly, the built-in camera takes fairly good pictures especially when there is sufficient light illuminating the area. Unfortunately, there is no movie mode for the camera. The button of the iPhone has a microphone, small pair of speakers and the docking connector. Finally, a 3.5mm headphone jack is available for music and other media. While Apple does provides a pair of ear buds with the unit, we prefer using aftermarket earphones from Shure or Etymotic.

Media Streaming
One of the advantages of the iPhone is its ability to stream media in ways not available in other small portable devices. The Safari web browser makes surfing the Internet a great experience. The built-in orientation sensors change the screen from portrait to landscape automatically by moving the unit 90 degrees. We found that when streaming YouTube content the video was a bit sporadic. This was likely due to limited bandwidth capability on the AT&T network or from the YouTube servers themselves.

Using the iPod feature of the iPhone is as simple as tapping the iPod icon located in the lower right of the screen. This provides users with the music capabilities that made Apple famous. The unit supports many file formats including AAC, Protected AAC, MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 1, 2, and 3), Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV. Play time can be as high as 24 hours, but would rarely be this long since most users will combine their use with phone calls and web browsing in addition to listening to music. Making phone calls is painless for the most part and the large text helps my aging eyes see the numbers. I was a bit disappointed that the iPhone lacked any voice recognition capabilities. I have become so accustomed to using this on my Motorola RAZR, so there was a level of expectation not met here. We also didn't see a way to change the icons on the screen, which is something most users might want to have.

Conclusion
The Apple iPhone is a state of the art product with a sleek looking design and a stunning display. Despite all the hype surrounding the iPhone, there will undoubtedly be some customers that may be disappointed due to the high level of expectations. The recent drop in price will give Apple a boost in sales especially with the many potential customers who were waiting on the sidelines. The appeal of the new iPhone goes well beyond the friendly user interface. Full media streaming capability gives this phone a unique advantage and with the beautiful 3.5" touchscreen it is a pleasure to look at. The larger 8GB iPhone model gives users more memory for music, photos and other applications that were somewhat restricted by the earlier 4GB limit.

Managing music content requires the user to connect to iTunes. Currently, there appears to be no way to change the configuration of the icons on the screen. Apple may come up with a solution here in the future. While AT&T has received some criticism for their network speed they may be experiencing growing pains as so many of the iPhone users have increased their network bandwidth significantly. Regardless, the iPhone is an amazing product and the service offered by AT&T enhances its capabilities. From the number of iPhone sold to date, it appears others agree.

- Kevin Nakano






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Review - At a Glance


Apple - iPhone

Technical Specifications

  • Screen size: 3.5 inches
  • Screen resolution: 320 by 480 at 160 ppi
  • Input method: Multi-touch with on-screen predictive QWERTY keyboard
  • Operating system: OS X
  • Storage: 4GB or 8GB
  • GSM: Quad-band (MHz: 850, 900, 1800, 1900)
  • Wireless data: Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) + EDGE + Bluetooth 2.0®
  • Camera: 2.0 megapixels
  • Battery: Up to 8 hours of talk time, 250 hours of standby, 6 hours of Internet use, 7 hours of video playback or 24 hours of audio playback*

Physical

  • Dimensions: 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches / 115 x 61 x 11.6mm
  • Weight: 4.8 ounces / 135 grams

Source: AT&T Loan
MSRP: Was: $599, Now: $399

U.S. iPhone technical support: 1-800-MY-IPHONE (1-800-694-7466)

Full Specifications

iPhone User's Guide (PDF)
Instructions for all features, applications, and settings.

URL: http://www.apple.com/iphone/

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