Apple iPhone in-depth review -

Look and Feel

Although longer and wider than a conventional phone, it's still slim and feels great in the hand. As you'd expect from Apple, the design and finish is sublime with a brushed stainless steel finish and a shiny black toughened glass fascia. It does attract fingerprints, but it's resistant to nasty scratches, which are far more annoying.

Features

There's no 3G and it's a shame the camera isn't 3.2 megapixels, but there's so much more besides that we'll forgive the phone these shortcomings. Besides, when in range of a hot spot, Wi-fi browsing is very speedy and your photos will always look good on the 3.5 inch widescreen display. The built-in iPod is obviously a huge bonus, as is the ability to view all your thousands of stored photos in all their glory. Plus there's the 8GB storage.

Ease of Use

The touchscreen user interface is ingeniously designed and very intuitive to use. Menu icons are large and the touchscreen control is very responsive. We had no bother at all with the virtual phone keypad, but tapping in texts with the virtual QWERTY is a little fiddlier than it is with a conventional keypad. Having just one key to think about - the home key - to return you to the main menu is a neat touch, as is the side mounted ringtone mute key.

Performance

Call volume without the headset could have been better and we were disappointed that our 3.5mm headphones wouldn't connect. However, in all other areas, the Apple iPhone excelled. It's an unbelievable device for watching videos, photos and viewing web pages.

Battery Life

With no obvious way of removing the rear casing, we hope that there's never a need to replace the battery. As for juice, 480 minutes in not bad, and you can charge it from either the supplied docking station and charger or by attaching it to your computer with the supplied USB.

 Apple iPhone Review -
5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,6/13/2009 9:54:58 AM

10

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

8

out of 5

Features

8

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

The iPhone is visually stunning, from its chrome and black finish, to the way it renders websites, photos and videos

Cons:

Call volume was too quiet without the plug-in headset and we had an issue plugging in our 3.5mm headphones

There's really no reason to feel anything but admiration for the team behind the iPhone. After all, Apple has given us the iPod, the iMac and the iBook and has probably done more than any company on the planet to make technology sexy.

However, having denounced Apple's promise to shake up the mobile world as misplaced arrogance, we felt compelled to hold firm to our initial opinions: arguing about Apple's lack of experience in the mobile market; the iPhone's price point; size; lack of 3G; lack of keypad and its potential awkwardness as a phone.

Then we got hold of one.

Apple iPhone look and feel

The first thing you notice about the iPhone is its tactile appeal. It's actually slimmer than you'd expect and, while not lightweight, feels perfectly comfortable in the hand.

The 3.5-inch widescreen display and graphics are as dazzling as all of the iPhone adverts and images would have you believe, but - most importantly - it is an absolute joy to use.

Have you seen the TV advert for the Apple iPhone where the perfectly manicured hand takes you through the iPhone's touch-screen functionality, effortlessly clicking on menu icons, then browsing internet pages, zooming in and out of photos, scrolling through lists and moving pages and images around, with a few nonchalant finger strokes?

Well, it works just as well in reality.

The Apple iPhone should forever dispel the myth that there's no future for touch-screen phones. There's no keypad and no need for haptics (vibro-response technology), because the touch-screen is designed to be easy and intuitive to use.

Apple iPhone ease of use

Once you have activated your iPhone (see panel), you simply slide the virtual keylock from left to right to unlock it.

You'll then be presented with the main menu, consisting of 17 colourful touch-screen menu icons, with four of the most commonly used icons - phone, mail, internet and iPod - lined up along the bottom of the screen.

At the bottom of the phone, in the centre, you'll find the home key. This is the only real clickable key on the entire iPhone fascia. And if you click this key while using any of the phone's menu options, you'll be taken straight back to the iPhone's homepage.

Apple iPhone features

According to Apple, the iPhone's three killer qualities are its strengths as a phone, as an iPod music player and as a web browser. We'll deal with each of these individually.

Using the iPhone as a phone

When comparing the iPhone to conventional mobiles, the obvious drawback is the fact that it's a fairly large device to hold against the side of your face. It's therefore far more likely that you'll want to use the boxed stereo headphones that, as well as enabling you to listen to your iPod, also feature a little toggle, which lets you accept and reject phone calls.

As for calling people, click on the phone icon and you'll be offered five new touch-screen icons for favourite numbers, recent calls, contacts, keypad and voicemail.

The screen size gives you plenty of flexibility, so tapping in numbers with the virtual touch-screen keypad or calling numbers from the contacts list is just as straightforward as it should be on any phone.

However, the feature we really love is the visual voicemail. Unlike conventional voicemail, which requires you to call a stored voicemail number to pick up your messages, visual voicemail displays a list of the contacts and numbers that have left you messages. By clicking on a caller's name you can listen to the message and you'll be presented with two large icons that let you call the contact directly back, or delete the message. Alternatively, by clicking on the small arrow key next to the contact's name, you'll be able to view and edit all of that contact's information - assigning email addresses and thumbnail portrait photos.

The iPhone's web browser

As you'd expect, the iPhone has adopted Apple's Safari browser for viewing internet pages and it works incredibly well. In fact, internet pages render about as well as they possibly could on a mobile phone. And the iPhone's touch-screen navigation allows you to zoom in and out and manoeuvre your way around pages with simple, intuitive operation.

Apple has done a tremendous job to ensure that controlling and browsing through webpages using your fingertips is both natural and instinctive and it's all rather clever. There's no getting around the fact that, if you're viewing a full-blown version of the internet (as you are with the iPhone) you're always going to compare the experience to that of a desktop PC, Mac or laptop. When viewing a website from a phone, to actually read the words, you need to zoom in close and this means it becomes harder to successfully navigate your way around any given page of the site.   

Sure, this is still a better browsing experience than you'll get on any other mobile phone, but it will always stack up poorly against browsing at your desk at work or at home. Although they're not as visually appealing as full webpages, for browsing news stories at least, RSS-style news feeds are more practical for handheld devices.

There has also been a lot made of the lack of 3G on the iPhone. In principle, this appears an oversight, but, in practice, we found web browsing speedy and fluent even when we were out of range of a Wi-Fi hotspot. Obviously, Wi-Fi gives you broadband-like speeds and, when out of hotspot range, the iPhone defaults to EDGE.

iPod on the iPhone

Apple describes the iPod on the iPhone as its best ever, which is a bold but accurate statement.

You can do everything you can on a standalone iPod and because the screen is larger and bolder, you get numerous other visual benefits.

As with the iPod, you can search for all your downloaded tracks by playlist, artists, songs, videos and more (albums, audiobooks, compilations, composers, genres and podcasts). You can also browse albums and tracks by album cover art, which is probably not ideal if you're in a mad rush to find an album, but it looks fantastic - especially if you're an Iron Maiden fan.

Artists and songs are all listed in alphabetical order, so you can either scroll through the lot by simply stroking up or down the page, or you can use the alphabetical index listing to go straight to all artists or albums beginning with a certain letter.

To play a song, you simply click on the track using the touch-screen. You'll then have the option of controlling a track's volume using the touch-screen controls or with the physical volume control on the side of the phone. Meanwhile, virtual music controls on the touch-screen enable you to skip forward and back through tracks.

Storage-wise, you may be able to get 20 times as much with an iPod, but 8GB is huge for a mobie phone and gives you plenty of room for music, videos, photos and more.

The other big advantage that you don't get with the iPod is the iPhone's ability to access iTunes online directly. Prices of music, videos and movies are the same, but it takes the need for a PC out of the equation.

As for listening to your stored music, the iPhone features a 3.5mm jack port, so you can either plug in the stereo headphones that Apple provides, or you can connect your own specialist cans.

Other features

Although Apple says you won't be able to add any third-party applications to the device until next February (at the earliest), the device offers plenty of cool applications that'll keep you occupied until then.

A pre-installed YouTube application gives you access to all the latest videos, which render brilliantly on the device thanks to its built-in accelerometer. This is great for viewing home videos and clips on video-based internet sites like YouTube because it detects when you've rotated the device from portrait to landscape and changes the content of the display accordingly.

As for the other applications, Maps, which gives you access to loads of points of interest (restaurants, bars, hotels, etc) and maps to direct you there for any given city, is very cool even if the device doesn't feature GPS built-in. Meanwhile, the Weather tool gives you live access to the week's weather for your home city.

iPhone camera

A lot has been made of the fact that the iPhone only offers a 2-megapixel camera and we'd have to agree, but with a caveat. It would have been great to see a 3.2-megapixel camera, but that's because manufacturers are under increasing pressure to keep upping the resolution ante. In truth, the iPhone's snapper isn't as good as a dedicated camera and there's no flash in sight. But the pictures it does produce look great on the phone's 3.5-inch display.

Which brings us to one of our favourite aspects of the iPhone; its Photo viewer. Having a great big display and enough storage capacity to store many thousands of photos means you can view all your favourite snaps in a slide show format whenever the mood takes you. The screen is much larger than any digital camera and you can also zoom in and out of images by simply stroking the screen.

Apple iPhone verdict

You only have to use the iPhone for a couple of days to fall in love with it. Sure, it has its flaws: call volume is weak when you use the phone without a headset; our Sennheiser headphones couldn't connect properly, although they should fit the 3.5mm port; it's difficult to close one website and open another quickly and simply and we found that the music player was on continuous play (draining the battery) hours after we thought we had turned it off.

Despite these quirks, the iPhone offers some real visual treats, a stunning design and (for the first time ever) a touch-screen user interface you just can't leave alone. We defy anyone to use one and then not want to buy one.