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The iPhone 3G & AT&T Service Review

Monday, December 8th, 2008



Having owned and used the iPhone for several months now, I feel I can make a much more accurate assessment of the device.

Let me begin by saying that I have never had a smartphone before my iPhone. My previous phone had no special features other than it was supernaturally durable and reliable enough to take 6 years of abuse at my hands and would have easily have taken another 6 years had I not replaced it with the iPhone. My previous phone would get signal anywhere even in elevators and underground in both San Diego as well as Chicago. Over the course of six years, I can count the number of dropped calls on one hand.

When the original iPhone came out and I got a chance to play around with it in the Apple store it was amazing, but I would be buying the phone as primarily a mobile internet device and without 3G, I could resist its siren call. When the 3G iPhone came out I had no more excuses and my girlfriend and I braved the long lines on opening weekend and got our phones after a 6-hour wait.

The Service
AT&T inadvertently signed us up for two separate family plans instead of one. After I got the bill and saw the discrepancy I called up AT&T. After a 10 minute wait I finally got on the phone with a real person and after some explaining they assured me that everything was cleared up and I paid the single family plan bill. Two weeks later I found out things were not cleared up when, without warning, my phone service and data for the internet on the phone were both deactivated. I called AT&T up again and they wanted to charge me for both family plans as well as a reactivation fee. I again explained the situation to an incredibly rude phone operator and got objection after objection. I then had to use actual math on her and detailed out the bill for her before my logic actually took hold. She half apologized (being clearly wrong) for her mistake and reduced the amount to the correct amount I had stepped her through. It was an incredibly frustrating process and needless to say I am not happy with AT&T’s customer service.

The service for the iPhone itself is not great, but passable. I get service in most places, but not underground or in elevators anymore. Drop calls are infrequent, but happen enough to be annoying. The 3G coverage for Chicago has been good, but you will occasionally enter into areas only covered by the much slower Edge network and in these areas you might as give up on the internet.

Enough about the service let’s dive into the device.

The Device
The iPhone has become such a large part of my life now that I do not know how I got by without it before. The phone is one of those things that you didn’t know you needed until after you have it. Since getting the iPhone, I have been significantly more productive. Every single blog post I have written at LimitlessUnits.com has been written largely, if not entirely through the iPhone. My 20-minute commutes on the bus in the morning and evening have turned into the most productive time of the day for me. I check the weather and e-mail in the morning while getting ready for work on the iPhone. It has really been a dramatic change in my routine.

The screen is bright and beautiful. The touch interface is where the iPhone really shines. It is so far ahead of anything else I have seen on the market. It is very intuitive, double tapping to zoom along with the pinching works great. After experiencing the iPhone, I cannot imagine using nav keys or a stylus. The keyboard takes some getting used to, but once I did, I have grown to like it. After writing so much with the keyboard my speed has become surprisingly fast with it.

The 3G internet connection is just fast enough that surfing the internet is not annoying. The browsing of full (non-mobilized) websites is simply amazing. The ability to watch Youtube videos is incredible. The Safari browser was much less reliable early on and would consistently crash, however several updates have made it a much more stable and dependable browser. The iPhone also provides full e-mails, PDF, word document and excel file browsing.

The GPS along with Google maps is great especially for somebody with bad direction sense like myself. I do wish that the phone had a built in application or somebody would make an app for the App Store that gave you voice directions for the occasions when you cannot look down at the device without endangering yourself, like while you are in a car.

Battery life is not awful, especially if you set your e-mail updating to manual, turn off auto-brightness and lower the default brightness down a touch. I use mine almost the entire day for music, browsing the internet and blog writing, yet the battery does not have trouble keeping up.

To top all this off, the crowning achievement of the iPhone is undoubtedly the Apple App Store.

At the time of this writing there are over 10,000 Apps currently available for download on the store. Many of the apps take full advantage of the GPS and tilt functionality of the iPhone. I will list out a few of my favorite Apps.

Pandora Radio
Pandora Radio functions exactly like the desktop version, but for the iPhone. You simply type in an artist or song you like and it plays it for you. It creates a song list of similar artists for you to listen to, hopefully introducing you to some new music. Buying a song is as simple as a few clicks and you are ready to download.

Labyrinth

This is a pretty fun little game that has you moving a metal ball barring through a maze with holes that the ball can fall into. The movement of the metal ball is controlled by the way you tilt the phone and controls very realistically.

Urbanspoon
Urbanspoon uses the GPS to find a restaurant near you that matches 3 different criteria. The criteria are location, type of food and price. You can lock in any of these three criteria or none of them and then shake your iPhone and it will give you a suggestion. It’s been great for finding new eateries in a big city like Chicago.

AIM
AIM, just on your iPhone

Bloomberg
This is decent for keeping up on your stocks.

The iPhone has a few negatives also.

No copy paste functionality.
Not having a copy paste feature is really annoying.

No Undo function
This is particularly irritating when combined with the backspace lock bug.

Backspace lock
Occasionally, while hitting the backspace the button the phone will become locked and will continue deleting everything you have written at an incredibly rate. You have to react quickly to stop the locked backspace by pressing another button. For this reason I back up what I am writing by e-mail it to myself every so often to prevent this from happening.

No video recording or video conferencing
You have a 2-megapixel camera and an 8 or 16 gigabyte HD built into each iPhone, yet it does not have video recording. That does not make sense. Come to think of it, why doesn’t this thing have video conferencing?

Monetary Cost
The monthly cost of an iPhone service plan is nearly twice as expensive as my old phone. However, this cost has been more than justified by how much more productive I have been with iPhone.

AT&T customer service
As I previously stated after my experience with the ineptitude that is AT&T customer service I am looking forward to the day when I can leave them. For now they are a monopoly and I have little choice after signing a mandatory 2-year service contract with them.

Conclusion
All in all, the iPhone is an amazing phone tied down by a monopolistic terrible company in AT&T. Despite this, I would still highly recommend the phone for the amazing UI, 3G speed of the internet and Apple App store.

See my other related articles:
TapDefense Reviewed Through the Eyes of a Game Designer

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