Using the iPhone

The iPhone is a joy to use. The 3.5” (diagonal) screen has a crisp and clear 480-x-320-pixel resolution.  The touch screen functionality is well-designed and easy to use. You simply slide your finger across the screen to unlock it. Then touch any icon or control on the screen to choose it. On many screens, like when working with the Web browser, pulling 2 fingers apart while holding them against the screen will act as a zoom function to make the chosen part of the screen larger. You can simply pinch 2 fingers together on the screen to make the screen smaller. You can then use your finger to drag any area of the screen into view.

The front of the iPhone has only one button. Use this button to access the Home screen, which is shown in Figure 5. The home screen has 5 rows of icons corresponding to the included functions of the iPhone. The first 4 rows, include weather, calendar, photos, camera, settings, clock, calculator, maps, notes, app store, iTunes, stocks, YouTube, and SMS text messages.

iPhone 3G ReviewFigure 5: Home screen.

The bottom row contains what Apple assumes will be the most used icons. They include phone, email, Safari web browser, and iPod. The entire home page is customizable. You can move the icon to any location. As you add more applications, the home page expands to 2 or more pages. Each page can be accessed by dragging your finger across the screen to move the current page to the left or right showing the next or previous page. The 4 icons on the bottom are shown on each page of the Home Screen making it easy to always access them.

The iPhone has a lot of neat little shortcuts that you can learn from others or by experimenting. One of those shortcuts is to click the home button twice to access your list of Favorite contacts.

Pressing icons to make choices on the iPhone is intuitive and easy. Using the pop-up touch keyboard or keypad takes a little more work. If you are used to a Blackberry or other “thumb-typing” type of keyboard, you will be frustrated with the touch screen when typing. However, we found that, like most other different types of keyboarding, you can get used to the iPhone keyboard with a little practice.

The bottom of the iPhone, as shown in Figure 6, has from left to right, a built-in speaker, a standard 30-pin dock connector, and a microphone.

iPhone 3G ReviewFigure 6: Bottom of iPhone.

The top of the iPhone, as shown in Figure 7, has an on-off button, the SIM card tray, and a standard 3.5mm microphone jack. The previous version of the iPhone had a non-standard microphone jack that required a special adapter. This has been corrected in this new 3G version.

iPhone 3G ReviewFigure 7: Top of iPhone.

The left side of the iPhone, shown in Figure 8, has a small, but very useful slider that can be used to change the ringer from silent to ring and vice-versa. When you move the slider to the silent position, the phone vibrates quickly to show that you have set it in that mode. Next to the ring/silent button is a volume up and down control. Although the volume can also be controlled by the touch screen, it is often more convenient to use this control.

iPhone 3G ReviewFigure 8: Left side of iPhone.

The beauty of the iPhone is in its simplicity. There are minimal buttons, but the iPhone’s functionality is always at your fingertips. Instead of the nested menus needed to control most cell phones, the iPhone relies on visual menus and cues making it easier to use than any other cell phone we’ve seen.

AT&T is the only carrier in the US that currently handles the iPhone. Apple has made arrangements in other countries with wireless carriers in those countries to handle the cellular connections. At $199 for the 8 gigabyte version and $299 for the 16 gigabyte version, the price of the iPhone has plummeted. Unfortunately, at the same time, AT&T has upped the minimum monthly data charge for the iPhone from the $20 a month that was required on the previous version of the iPhone to $30 a month for the new 3G iPhone.

However, while the older iPhone used the slow AT&T Edge network, the new iPhone can connect via the much faster AT&T network, called 3G. This is why the new iPhone is called 3G. This confuses some who ask why a 2nd generation iPhone is called 3G. In any case, AT&T’s 3G network is faster, but it is not available everywhere. If that network is not available, the iPhone will fall back to using the slower Edge network.

If you have a 3G network, you will like the speed of the iPhone. However, the iPhone also hooks up to any available Wi-Fi network. So if you have a wireless network at home, the office, and the corner coffee shop that you frequent, not having the faster 3G network may not be much of an inconvenience.

With all of the functionality of this new iPhone, it is not surprising that we longed for better battery life. In our tests, we left the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on all day, talked for up to 2 hours, played music for hours and played with games and applications throughout the day. Although on most days, the battery lasted throughout the day, there was 1 day when it petered out before the sun went down. We feel the average user will be recharging the iPhone every day. Heavy talkers and 3G users may want to carry their charging cable with them. Unfortunately, like iPods, the iPhone’s battery is not user-replaceable. Only time will tell how long it will last before we have to send it in to Apple for replacement.

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up's Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.