A Look at the iPhone 3G

This month I had a Library Technology Report published on the mobile Web, however, it was written before Apple’s release of the new iPhone 3G. This article attempts to provide a bit of an update to that, delineating some of the improvements to the device with its second issue as well as pointing out a few of the shortcomings which have been expressed by early reviewers.

iPhone 3G Improvements

Earlier this week, Apple released its second-generation iPhone, the iPhone 3G, an improved version of the wildly popular original which has sold over 6 million devices. These are some of the enhancements that this new model brings.

Lower Cost – The new iPhone 3G is available at half the price of the original at $199 for the 8GB model (down from $399) and $299 for the 16GB device (down from $499). A year ago, the 8GB iPhone was priced at $599. This is quite a significant price reduction.

Faster 3G Network – The new iPhone 3G now has access to high-speed 3G (third-generation) networks where available which are twice as fast as its slower EDGE network for accessing the Web and other data tasks.

GPS – This second-generation iPhone comes with GPS, a technology which makes it “location-aware”. This grants the device the ability to geo-tag pictures with location-based information, plot its location on a map, and opens it up to many third-party location-based software programs.

Better Audio Quality – The iPhone 3G has improved the audio quality and volume for voice calls and music playback beyond that of its predecessor.

iPhone 2.0 Software – Apple has released iPhone 2.0 SoftwareUpdate which comes installed on the new iPhone 3G, but can also be downloaded and installed on previous iPhone devices for free, and iPod Touch owners can snag it for $9.99. This upgrade brings additional functionality and features such as:

  • Compatibility with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (Note: Exchange Sync will delete an owners’ personal calendar and contacts data, however, the new subscription-based MobileMe will make it possible to store both on the device).
  • Parental controls which allows guardians to restrict applications such as YouTube or downloading abilities, etc.
  • Ability to move and delete multiple emails simultaneously
  • Address book search
  • Multiple language support
  • Ability to view Microsoft PowerPoint files
  • A scientific calculator

iPhone App Store – Apple has launched an iPhone App Store through which device owners can shop for and download new software programs for their phones and Touch devices. At the time of this writing there were over 700 applications listed in the store’s catalog, 150 of which were free and the rest ranging in price starting at $0.99. According to TechCrunch, the App Store had already made Apple $55,000 one day before the store officially opened. The new App Store is accessible to older iPhone users as well as iPod Touch owners, as long as they have installed the 2.0 software upgrade.

Sleek Design – The new iPhone 3G sports a sleek, curvy design, and is somewhat slimmer and lighter than its predecessor. It’s plastic backside replaces a metal one, making it more friendly to radio waves.

Standard Headphone Jack – This new model has a headset jack which will now work with standard, non-Apple headphones.


iPhone 3G Shortcomings

Although the iPhone 3G does make strides towards improving its device features and functionality, there are still items on the wish list for owners. For lovers of the iPhone, the 3G model is a good upgrade, it is an undeniably slick, beautiful device which, like its predecessor is breathing new life into the mobile Web, however, some may want to hold off until the next iteration and here’s why:

Service Plan Cost – Although this new model is half the price of its predecessor there is one snag – the increased cost of the service plan. AT&T – the sole U.S. mobile phone carrier for the iPhone – has raised the cost of its unlimited Internet service contract by $10 per month and has eliminated text messaging from the package which tacks on another $5/month. Over the life of the mandatory AT&T two-year contract, this adds on another $360, making the cost of the iPhone 3G actually higher than that of the original.

EDGE Network – While the new model does have access to 3G networks, they are not available everywhere, and the device defaults back to the slower EDGE network in those instances. According to the New York Times, ten states don’t have any 3G coverage from AT&T, and in 16 states, only three cities or less have coverage at this point. See AT&T’s 3G Coverage map here.

No Removable Battery – The faster 3G network uses the battery life at twice the speed of the EDGE network, and the battery is not replaceable by a spare as it is not removable.

No Expandable Memory – There are no SD or other memory slots on the device, so available memory cannot be expanded.

Weak GPS - David Pogue at the New York Times reports that, according to Apple the antenna on the new iPhone 3G is not powerful enough to support turn-by-turn navigation for driving (or walking) directions.

No MMS – This new model lacks the multi-media messaging service found on most smartphones for easily sending photos to other phones.

No Stereo Bluetooth Headset Support – The iPhone 3G is not compatible with hands-free stereo Bluetooth headsets.

No Copy/Paste Functionality – The latest model does not have basic copy and paste functionality useful for composing emails and documents.

No Flash, Java, or Windows Media Video Support – The iPhone 3G does not support these technologies.

2 Megapixel Camera – The new model comes with only a 2 Megapixel camera with no flash.

No Video Camera – The iPhone 3G lacks the ability to shoot video with the camera.

No Voice Dialing – The new device does not support hands-free, voice dialing.


Further Coverage

If you’re interested in more coverage of the new iPhone 3G be sure and take a look at these articles.

For the iPhone, the ‘New’ Is Relative – The New York Times

Newer, Faster, Cheaper iPhone 3G – All Things Digital (Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal)

Apple’s New iPhone 3G: Still Not Perfect, but Really Close – USA Today

10 Things the 3G iPhone is Still Missing – PCWorld

iPhone 3G Review – Gizmodo

Seven Problems with the New iPhone – The Bivings Report

Those of you who have taken the plunge and purchased a new iPhone 3G, please leave your impressions in the comments!