Apple iPhone review
It's a rough diamond with a price to match, but genuinely a huge step forward for the mobile phone.
Review Date: 6 Dec 2007
Reviewed By: Dave Stevenson
Price when reviewed: (£269 inc VAT); contracts from £35 per month
The launch of the iPhone in the UK was a slight disappointment. The enormous crowds seen in New York didn't quite materialise, and many of Apple's revolutionary touches had already seen the light of day a few months previously on the iPod Touch (web ID: 128822). But the iPhone's alluring feature set the fabulous screen, browsing the internet desktop-style with Safari and synchronising with Outlook (via iTunes) - is every bit as show-stopping as when it first hit the US.
The hardware is a triumph, with great touches such as the hardware mute switch on the side: give it a flick and the iPhone's instantly set to silent mode no menus to panic about if it rings in a meeting. Plus the rocker switch below effortlessly controls volume for both voice conversations and music playback.
But it's the combination of bright, clear touchscreen and superb bundled software that's the real revelation. Applications and menus glide, slide and fade into view with a feeling of momentum, and you're never left guessing as to where you've come from, or how to get back. Returning to Windows Mobile after a week is like going from a digital watch to a sundial; the gap in usability is astonishing.
The onscreen keyboard is surprisingly easy to get to grips with, too, if you follow Apple's advice to "keep going" through mistakes. The predictive software means that if you hit keys adjacent to the ones you want, it searches for words you may have meant: "beilliant", becomes "brilliant", for example. It's no replacement for a proper QWERTY keypad, but it's the next best thing.
Voicemail is also superb: messages are converted to audio files and downloaded via the data connection. Treated as standard audio files, they're labelled by name of caller and can be skipped around at will, and in any order. The single drawback is that this can become expensive abroad. SMS is also cleverly thought through: select the recipient for a new message and any previous "conversation" is brought up, making those single-word messages meaningful again.
But for all the hype, the iPhone has its fair share of irritations. The most significant is the reliance on EDGE when not near a wireless network: fine for text emails (if not attachments), but it's no 3G. You do at least get unlimited data on all of O2's iPhone tariffs, but Google Maps is only just usable, and the YouTube app - which streams video direct from the site - is a no-go without Wi-Fi. There's a small hope for urban dwellers in the exclusive deal with The Cloud though, allowing iPhones to be connected to any of its hotspots for free. However, it will run the battery down rather quickly we saw around three days of life when used as a standard phone, but add in data use, heavy wireless or lots of music playback, and it can struggle to last a full day.
Elsewhere, the 2-megapixel camera is another annoyance. Image quality is good, but there's no way to send a multimedia message: you're forced to resort to email. There's also no way to record video irking given the 8GB of storage. And, unlike standard iPods, you can't drag individual songs or albums from your iTunes library to the iPhone only playlists. It's particularly annoying when first loading songs, but remains irritating each time you want to add more, especially if you're only adding one song. Then there's the headphone socket, which is so deeply recessed there's already a market for bulky headphone adapters if your headphones have the connector at right-angles to the cable, they almost certainly won't fit.
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