iPhone 3G – One Week On

In my post iPhone 2.0 Wishlist I outlined what I hoped for from the new iPhone which Steve Jobs did indeed announce on June 9th – so did I get everything I wished for?

I was lucky enough to receive my iPhone 3G on the July 11 launch day; I say lucky because the launch and the run up to the launch here in the UK was a shambles, and that is being polite.

O2, the UK network that has the exclusive deal for the iPhone, made a a big deal about pre-registering interest in the iPhone 3G and in offering upgrade deals and launch day delivery by courier to us, their existing customers. They must have sent me half a dozen SMS messages telling me “it was almost here” etc. and then on Monday July 7 they sent me and my fellow pre-registrants an SMS telling us we could order our iPhone now.

Reeeeady…. GO

So we all head to the O2 site which promptly crashed, and crashed and crashed…

O2 designed a ridiculously over-complicated process involving SMS messages linked to AJAX forms and then hosted it on a ZX81. Pathetic. Paul Boag has an interesting post on the O2 “debacle” and the mistakes they made.

However, at lunchtime, after many, many attempts I was just about to give up when I finally appeared to place an order; I say appeared because I received no confirmation at all. Hearing many similar stories and also stories of confirmatory emails I accepted that I had not been successful and resigned myself to queueing up outside my local O2 store on Friday.

Then, 48 hours later and out of the blue I received an email confirming my upgrade and informing me my iPhone 3G would be delivered on Friday. Did I mention it was a shambles?

Friday 11th came and to my surprise my iPhone 3G was indeed delivered.

So here we are a week later and I’m sure you are all wondering what I think of my shiny new iPhone 3G? And was it worth the hassle?

First let’s address the items on my wishlist:

Speed : 3G and we’re told HSDPA so good here. Sadly I’ve been off work ill since I received my iPhone, and I’m lucky if I can make a mobile phone call where I live so it’s difficult to test data speeds.

Form Factor : The “photos” in my wishlist post are surprisingly accurate/legitimate. The iPhone 3G does come in black and white backed versions; I have the black version which looks great until you touch it – it’s a fingerprint magnet. I’ve seen a white version and thought I’d like it more but the white just doesn’t sit well with the black front for me. I have a Gelaskin on order to prevent both fingerprints and scratches – the plastic back will be nowhere near as robust and hard-wearing as the original aluminium.

The new iPhone 3G is marginally thicker than the original but due to the tapered edges it actually feels slimmer and better in the hand.

MMS : Still no MMS and I’m still surprised. I can’t see any technical reason for it not being included so it must be a policy or maybe Apple thinks they can drive iPhone takeup by forcing us all to email photos…

Storage : The iPhone still comes in two memory sizes: 8 and 16Gb. I chose the 16Gb I expect a 32Gb in time for Christmas.

Movies : Still no movie recording ability. This seems to be a big deal for some people but thinking back I’ve never really used this function on any of my phones so don’t feel any particular loss at it not being there.

Task and Notes Sync : Despite all the MobileMe “push” stuff Tasks and Notes still has no syncing between desktop and iPhone. Another peculiar omission.

iPod Sort : A constant annoyance for me – iTunes, iPod and Front Row all sort tracks in different ways and still not “fixed”. All devices should sort like iTunes.

Email “home” Button : Sadly still MIA. You gotta tap, tap, tap to move between accounts.

So I got my speed and storage but that’s all from my wishlist, but what else does the iPhone 3G bring?

I guess the two main additions are GPS and Applications:

GPS : The original iPhone had pseudo location abilities via triangulation from cell towers and wifi hotspots which was only effective in very built up areas. The iPhone 3G now has true GPS; I’ve only had a quick play in the back garden but it seems pretty accurate and tracked me as I walked around the side of the house. I really like being able to see my location on Google maps; this should come in handy in parts of London I don’t know for example.

The GPS function is also used to geo-tag photos and can be used by applications to provide location information. The tin hat brigade can switch off the location facilities if they don’t want the black helicopters to track them.

The App Store : Looks likes it could be another money-spinner for the Steve Jobs retirement fund. Integrated beautifully into iTunes the App Store allows download and installation of applications to your iPhone; there is also an application on the iPhone itself that allows download over wifi or 3G.

We were told in advance of the App Store launch how many applications Apple had had from developers and how few had been let through to the store as a quality control but having had a look around there still seems to be some dross creeping in – a “Torch” application that simply turns your screen white?

I’ve tried a few applications and the install process works smoothly enough; although I have found that if I delete and app on the iPhone iTunes likes to reinstall it for me. I’ll write some mini-reviews of the apps I’ve tried as time allows.

So there we have a quick introduction to iPhone 3G – what’s new, what’s not and what’s still missing.

Was it worth the hassle of O2’s pathetic ordering process? Well yes, but O2 have destroyed any credibility they got from the iPhone and I suspect that Apple will be talking to them about the bad PR they generated.

Is the iPhone 3G better than the original? Again yes, but it’s an evolution not the revolution the first one was. I think it needs a software iteration or two to iron out a few wrinkles but that’s almost an Apple tradition now.

The best thing? My original iPhone sold within hours on eBay; so it’s not  like the iPhone 3G cost me anything. Honest.