Apple iPhone 3G review

Our first look at the highly-anticipated Apple iPhone 3G.
 
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  • Updated:14 Jul 2008
 

01 .iPhone 3G review

Please note: this information was current as of July 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market. For more recent information, see our Apple iPhone 4s first look.


Apple has released its new iPhone version 2 in Australia with features including 3G network access, GPS capability and upgraded connectivity. Apple claims 3G network access gives the compact multimedia device twice the speed of the previous model (not released in Australia).

The iPhone 3G comes in two versions – a black model with 8 gigabytes (GB) of storage or a choice of black or white models with 16 GB. 

iPhone features

iPhoneThe iPhone 3G comes with a raft of new features and programs, including GPS and ‘push’ email, contacts and calendar so you can have messages, address book and appointment scheduling changes sent to your phone automatically as soon as they’re received.

Unlike the similar looking iPod Touch, released here last year, the iPhone has built-in speakers and a fixed lens 2-megapixel camera (which lacks a flash and video capability).

The sim card slot on the top edge opens at the prod of a pinhole opening via a supplied tool or a small paperclip. You’ll need an iPhone sim from Vodafone, Optus or Telstra to utilise the iPhone’s special features.

On top also is a 3.5 mm headphone socket for the included in-ear headphones with built-in microphone. On the side is a volume control and vibrate-mode switch. Under the bottom edge is an iPod-style port, for charging and synchronising data with computers via the included AC adapter, USB cable or optional dock.

Two tiny speakers deliver robust volume for handsfree mode, as well as for ringtones. Earphones are needed for high quality sound for music and videos though.

As with the iPod Touch, Apple includes a microfibre cloth -- essential for eradicating fingermarks from the glossy surfaces -- but no protective cover. A third-party cover should be an immediate consideration as it could be all too easy for this sleek, shiny device to slip out of the hand, or pocket.

Beware of hidden costs

When considering which iPhone to purchase, consider the carrier and plans available to obtain best value for your needs. In particular, beware the potential hidden cost of excess data charges.

The iPhone’s effective integration of internet services and ease of use could make a generous data allowance essential to keeping down ongoing usage costs. Email, web browsing, YouTube videos, music downloads and so on can rack up a hefty data bill quickly.

At launch, Optus was the only carrier to offer an upfront purchase option and the potential for unlocking it from the Optus network. The 3 network missed out on the iPhone at launch, but has lobbied Apple to be included.

CHOICE verdict

This long-awaited iPhone brings Apple’s famed style and ease of use to the mobile arena, with capabilities that blur the line between a phone and a handheld computer. It has great potential but choose your phone plan carefully to avoid unexpected excess usage costs.

Our UK sister organisation Which? has also reviewed the iPhone. Click on the icon, below, to see the video review.

Screen shot of Which? website

 
 

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iPhones can be ordered from Vodafone, Optus and Telstra stores or you can find it at the new Apple Store in George, Street, Sydney, which have staff from the three telcos on hand in store to help buyers with choosing plan options.

Apple’s famous ‘Think different’ advertising slogan of recent years could be good advice to prospective iPhone owners. Don’t assume you won’t use data services extensively because you haven’t done so on previous phones, and don’t assume you’ll stay with the same network you’re now on – compare the plans of all carriers very carefully, especially data costs, and be prepared to change to get the best deal.

App Store extras

The main screen holds repositionable program icons for SMS, calendar, photos, camera, YouTube, stocks, maps (for GPS features), weather, clock, calculator, notes, settings, iTunes and App Store. This area can span multiple ‘pages’ and be flicked through with a finger. A bottom row stays in place, includes by default Phone, Mail (for email), Safari (for web browsing), and iPod.

Touching the App Store icon lets you browse and search through hundreds of free and commercial programs across over a dozen categories from business, education, entertainment and finance to games, lifestyle, music, sports, travel and social networking (including mobile versions of Facebook, MySpace, eBay and Twitter).

You can download them directly to the iPhone, via the App Store utility, or download them with iTunes on your computer and synchronise them to the iPhone. This, arguably more than anything, is what separates the iPhone from its rivals, giving the handheld combination cameraphone, iPod and portable email and web browser the flexibility of a computer.

At launch, the App Store listed hundreds of mini programs developed by third-party companies, more than 100 free to download. Expect hundreds more, especially games which make use of the iPhone’s touch screen and motion sensing ability.

The App Store functionality carries over to the iPod Touch also, though existing Touch users will need to pay $12.99 to download the 223 MB iPhone 2.0 Software Update for iPod Touch , from the iTunes Store.