The anticipation for the new iPhone 3G is building toward the July 11 release date, and the first reviews are out.
Overall tech experts are pleased with two main offerings — the significantly faster 3G network and the new online Apps store, which will allow people to purchase programs from outside developers.
Three experts who tested the iPhone were all extremely pleased with the iPhone’s 3G speed. Walter S. Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal noted that e-mailing and surfing the Web was typically between “three to five times as fast using AT&T’s 3G network as it was with the older AT&T network.” Ed Baig of USA Today reports that pages loaded by a half minute or faster than the old iPhone. David Pogue of the New York Times said you can talk on the phone and surf simultaneously now, which previously could not be done.
Excitement is also building for the iPhone App Store, an online catalog of new programs for the iPhone. Most of the programs are either free or inexpensive. The store, which opens on Friday, allows users to install new programs directly on the phone, bypassing the widespread hacking methods of the past. The store will also be available to owners of the original iPhone and the iPod Touch.
Some programs that people can look forward to — iCall, which gives you free phone calls when you’re in a Wi-Fi hot spot; G-Park, which uses GPS technology to help you find where you parked; Urbanspoon, which makes your iPhone into a virtual eight ball — you shake the phone and it randomly displays a good restaurant nearby.
But with the positives of the iPhone, there are also some downsides. Here are some of the oft-mentioned:
3G Network Availability
While the 3G network speed will bring you the Internet much faster, some say that it’s dependent on whether you are even in one of AT&T’s 3G network areas.
That’s because AT&T currently has 3G networks in just 280 cities. Pogue of the New York Times notes that the AT&T 3G broadband coverage map shows that in 16 states, only three cities or fewer are covered, with 10 states having no coverage at all.
Converting cellphone towers is likely to happen gradually, so some phones will switch to browsing on the slower EDGE network when not in a 3G network area.
With the faster 3G speed comes a shorter battery life. The iPhone’s battery drains much more quickly than the original iPhone because of the higher demands of the 3G network.
The WSJ’s Mossberg says it’s comparable to other 3G phones, but the big difference is unlike these other phones, you can’t change out the battery on the new iPhone. If you do, it’s reported to cost $86.
Mossberg says the trick is to use Wi-Fi instead of 3G whenever possible, turn down the screen brightness and even turn off 3G altogether when you can.
Much has already been said about the price of the iPhone — the actual phone is cheaper — the base model is $199 versus the $399 price of its predecessor — but the plans are getting more expensive.
The basic AT&T plan, which gives you unlimited Internet and 450 minutes of calling, now costs $70 a month instead of $60 (plus taxes and fees) and comes with no text message instead of 200. Adding text messages costs at least $5 a month or more.
One of the features most anticipated is the iPhone’s GPS capability. While USA Today’s Baig was impressed by the accuracy of the device, the New York Times’ Pogue was less than.
“All you can do at this point is track your position as you drive along,” he says, instead of emulating a real GPS system with turn-by-turn navigation.
The new iPhone will allow the use of Microsoft’s widely used Exchange ActiveSync service that lets you sync your Outlook e-mail, calendar and contacts on your phone.
Watch out, though. Mossberg notes that if you sync with Exchange calendars and contacts, your personal calendar and contacts will be erased.