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Apple - iPhone Review

iPhone

29.07.07

It's better than you think. The near-seamless slab of glass and metal that is Apple's iPhone has more preconceived-notion-shattering surprises than any piece of technology since, well, the iPod. A mind-blowing touchscreen experience, the best browser on any smart phone, blazing performance that puts Windows Mobile devices to shame. It's all here. So why are we left wanting more?

Designed to Delight
First things first: The iPhone is flat-out fun to use. True, several convergence devices have similar functions--phone, browser, e-mail, mapping, and media player. And at 4.8 ounces, the iPhone is noticeably heavier than the Samsung BlackJack (3.5 ounces) and BlackBerry Curve (3.9 ounces). But the appeal doesn't come from what the iPhone does as much as how Apple put it all together. Even the most pedantic functions are performed with verve and flair that's not superfluous or showy. And we guarantee you've never used such a responsive touchscreen. After a minute, the flicking, tapping, sliding, and pinching control movements you've seen on TV feel perfectly natural. Icons move and respond under your fingertips as though you're actually touching them.

Of course, the 3.5-inch screen smudges. But it wipes clear with a shirt sleeve or the included cloth, without activating any functions--just one example of the screen's intelligence. At times the iPhone seems psychic. When you swing it up to your ear, for instance, sensors inside turn off the touch sensitivity. When you turn it horizontally, pictures, video, and Web pages also turn and automatically fill the now-wide screen--although we noted an annoying delay at times.

Minimalist, unlabeled buttons grace the rounded edges: a ringer-off switch and a voice toggle on the left, up top an on/off button, the SIM card tray, and the 3.5mm earphone jack, which is slightly recessed, prohibiting earphone jacks from sliding in all the way. You're forced to use either the included stick earphones with a built-in in-line mic or spring for an iPhone-compatible 3.5mm adapter for your own headphones. You can use a Bluetooth headset for calls, but the iPhone doesn't support stereo Bluetooth, a disappointing and head-scratching omission for a media-centric device.

Apple has tried to compensate for the inherently flawed onscreen keypad with the best predictive typing software we've used, but it's still not as fast or accurate as typing on a physical thumb pad. Plus, numbers and commonly used symbols are on a second screen, which is annoying. We suggest typing in landscape mode, which means a larger layout and (slightly) fewer typos.

MVP Media Player
For video clips and movies, the iPhone is the best iPod yet. Video on the 3.5-inch screen is crystalline and quite an improvement over the 2.5-inch video iPod experience. An episode of 30 Rock looked sharp and clear, and we could watch The Italian Job downloaded from iTunes, in full frame mode or further letterboxed in its original aspect ratio. The iPhone had no problem handling the frenetic boat chase scene.

Flick navigating through the music choices and functions is even more fun and intuitive than using iPod's scroll wheel, thanks to features like Cover Flow. This approximates flipping through a stack of CDs or using album art. Click on a cover and you'll immediately see a song list ready to launch with a single tap. The internal speakers aren't impressive, but they're loud and clear enough for private listening.

YouTube integration is pretty much flawless on the iPhone, with easy access to Featured and Most Viewed Videos and near-instant playback (at least over Wi-Fi). Playing videos over Cingular's slower EDGE network results in blurry footage that you can barely follow. Google Maps is the other highlight, complete with photo-realistic satellite views and turn-by-turn directions (though not spoken).

Part 2 >


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