The iPhone Still Doesn't Excite Me

The iPhone Still Doesn't Excite Me

David Pogue and Walt Mossberg (of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, respectively) just posted their official reviews of Apple's hotly anticipated iPhone. As someone who's actually used a PDA phone on a daily basis for the last two years--I can't believe the softball reviews that these guys (who generally make good product recommendations) are giving this phone.

Disclaimer: I haven't actually handled an iPhone yet, so I'm really doing nothing more than deconstructing these reviews based on the inconsistent language that the reviewers used. I do not have any personal experience with this device. It's also worth mentioning that I am not an Apple hater. I've purchased several iPods, I give them as gifts and recommend them to friends regularly. I also am a big fan of OS X. I have a deep and abiding respect for the folks that develop apps and user interfaces at Apple, and think that they're among the best in that business.

Let's hit the high points first

Both Pogue and Mossberg agree on what they like. The battery life is good, the screen is gorgeous, the multi-touch touchscreen is pretty nifty, visual voicemail rocks, and they love the huge onboard memory. They don't like the lack of an expansion-card slot or the replaceable battery. All of this seems very reasonable to me, so I'm going to move on to the points that are controversial.

That pesky keyboard

The thing that jumped out for me in both iPhone reviews are the problems, caveats, and gotchas listed in these reviews. Both Pogue and Mossberg list the lack of a physical keyboard as a problem. Pogue says:

Then there’s the small matter of typing. Tapping the skinny little virtual keys on the screen is frustrating, especially at first.

Two things make the job tolerable... Even so, text entry is not the iPhone’s strong suit. The BlackBerry won’t be going away anytime soon.

I might be mistaken, but "tolerable" doesn't really sound like a good thing. Mossberg quite liked the on-screen keyboard:

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.

I guess he only types when he's able to look at the keyboard.

But what about the network?

The other major spec sheet flaw for the iPhone is that it hooks on to Cingular's archaic, slow EDGE data network. Mossy was critical of slow data transfers:

Mossberg: 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.

Pogue echoes the sentiment and backs it up with some benchmarks!

But otherwise, you have to use AT&T’s ancient EDGE cellular network, which is excruciatingly slow. The New York Times’s home page takes 55 seconds to appear; Amazon.com, 100 seconds; Yahoo, two minutes. You almost ache for a dial-up modem.

I don't know about you, but I'm glad I use Google instead of Yahoo if it takes two minutes to load the homepage. Blech! Since the phone almost certainly isn't upgradeable to use AT&T's much faster (and already deployed) 3G network, people who shell out $500 or $600 are stuck with the slooooow EDGE access as long as they own the phone.

Everyone loves the web browser

The thing that really confuses me is that one of the topics that both reviewers gush about is the built-in Safari web browser. Pogue says:

The Web browser, though, is the real dazzler. This isn’t some stripped-down, claustrophobic My First Cellphone Browser; you get full Web layouts, fonts and all, shrunk to fit the screen.

And he goes on. Mossberg is just as effusive, but I won't subject you to any more blockquotes.

Closing thoughts

Both reviews end on up notes, Mossberg says "Despite its network limitations, the iPhone is a whole new experience and a pleasure to use." Pogue goes further, despite a more negative overall tone to his review:

But even in version 1.0, the iPhone is still the most sophisticated, outlook-changing piece of electronics to come along in years. It does so many things so well, and so pleasurably, that you tend to forgive its foibles.

What I don't understand is how you could actually forget its foibles? Even if we take it as stipulated the iPhone's browser is the best mobile browser ever made, the browser is only as good as its connection to the net. And as someone who's spent a lot of time using EDGE, let me tell you that it's too slow to actually use the web. While it's great that the iPhone has Wi-Fi access, 95% of the time that I have Wi-Fi access, I also have access to a network connected PC. And no matter how good the iPhone's browser is, Firefox on my PC's full-size screen will be better.

The other thing that concerns me is text input. Pogue listed text input using the touch-screen keyboard as tolerable, and said that the Blackberry isn't going away soon. Since email is the number-two thing that most smartphone users use their phones for, that seems like a pretty damn big problem to me.

 

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avatar

Chumly

Google has an Ajax powered page now just for iPhones. Mixed reviews on it too...

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Compmaster

Ok...how come when windows accidently creates something not exactly top notch...Everyone jumps on Windows lovers and like rubs it in our faces and says how suckey we are...when its just a new type of OS....but when MACS messup...o thats totaly different....its ok for them 2 mess up. Like with the iphone. Its so flippin pointless! They sent thousands of them broken...they sliders dont work...the list goes on. But every1 freaks out about it and STILL buys them..they just blow it off and try 2 hide the fact that macs really really suck. and windows rules. Its so not fair! Macs get to suck..but get away with it..but when windows makes a little mistake...ITS BLOWS UP IN OUR FLIPPIN FACES?!?!?! WTF?!?! w/e....if u wanna read more rants about how mac-sux...just go to mywebsite!!!!-
www.freewebs.com/mac-sux
THNX!

Mac-Sux!!!!!!!!!!
PC Rules!

avatar

Lomoco

That's right, I have exposéd your iPhone Video Rant. Yes, that little video with not 30, but 29 "reasons" why the iPhone is a piece of junk.

 

Your video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7715731546597955196&ei=vnU7SdC9DoSKqQOI64nKCA&q=iphone+rant

It exposéd: http://mac-sux-exposed.webs.com/ 

 

You can reach me at Lomoco.MacHack@gmail.com 

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oihorse

I think the iPhone's strength will come in the everday use of having all your 'precious' things with you.

Your favorite photos from iPhoto, your favorite videos, your favorite movies, your contacts, etc. etc.

All those things that help pick you up and make the day tolerable.

While it's fine to review the iPhone in a vacuum, what I'm really interested to see is how it's being used 3 months after release. If we find people making changes on the fly to their Facebook & Myspace pages, sending twitter messages, rocking out to their favorite songs, firing up their favorite video while waiting in line, watching their favorite movie while taking the train, SMSing their friends, making calls to their relatives... then I see the iPhone becoming everybit as entrenched as the iPod.

Horse

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TheMurph

Yeah, and if you can do that all on one charge of the battery, i'll give the iphone a standing ovation.

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sc123

It should be noted that this isn't Apple's first foray into mobile phones. Apple teamed with Motorola and Cingular to create the ROKR - which was supposed to be a wonderful combination of iPod and candy bar phone - which was an utter disaster. Oddly, people seem to have forgotten this debacle.

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Aeshir

What does the iPhone do that the Treo or Blackberry or whatever other PDA/Smartphone can't? I don't understand all this hype. It's the same case with the iPod; why should I pay 200-something bucks for an iPod when I can get something with way more features for 50+ bucks less?

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