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Apple iPhone: much to love, a lot to lament

Living with the Apple iPhone for three months

Among those US iPhone fans who queued up on June 29 to buy Apple's much-hyped iPod-mobile phone hybrid, were several of PC Advisor's US sister title's editors. And PC World's finest have been putting it to the test ever since.

Their verdict: there's plenty to love, and plenty to lament. The iPhone offers a solid design and a beautiful, touch-sensitive 480-by-320-pixel screen you can control with multiple taps or pinches of your fingers. Its browser, while not as versatile as the one on your notebook, is impressive. And of course, it works fine as a mobile phone.

But activation requires signing up for a two-year service plan (in the US at least), which may outlast the sealed-in battery. The iPhone doesn't work with AT&T's fastest (HSDPA) data network, and it doesn't work with any third-party apps except web-based ones - and even those may not run properly, since the iPhone doesn't support several web formats such as Flash.

Read PC Advisor's exclusive in-depth review of the Apple iPhone here

Easy sign-up and use

Overall, the iPhone ranked fifth in the recent PC World PDA phones chart; despite a Superior design score, its specs score and high price weighed it down. Unlike mobiles like the T-Mobile Wing and Dash, for example, the iPhone lacks productivity apps for editing documents.

You can sign up for phone service yourself via Apple's iTunes 7.3. In the first days after its launch, we heard many reports of problems with activation; PC World staffers didn't experience such glitches, however.

Your finger does almost all the navigation, because the iPhone has only four hardware buttons. Once you power it up, sliding your finger across the screen unlocks the phone. Pinching, a two-finger movement, zooms the part of the screen framed by the pinch. Flick or drag your finger to scroll through menus or web pages. The screen will autorotate content between landscape and portrait mode, depending on which application you're using.

For any feature that requires text input, the iPhone displays an on-screen keyboard that you can toggle between qwerty text keys and numbers/symbols. It's still no match for the hardware keyboard you get on a BlackBerry or Treo, but it certainly beats any standard mobile phone keypad.

As a phone, the iPhone works well. Touchscreen dialing is easy enough, although getting to a numeric keypad requires two taps of the phone icon (the first tap just brings up your contacts). We found this two-step process annoying when attempting to dial a number directly - and we wouldn't try to do that while driving. The iPhone lacks voice dialing, and we're not convinced we could successfully dial blind, as we can on a hardware keypad.

Most calls sounded good, albeit with an occasional hiss that was audible to the caller but not to the person on the other end. The speakerphone was faint.The device can get warm with constant use, and you'll need to wipe smudges from the glass screen frequently with the included cloth. The screen is smart enough to darken and deactivate some controls while you're on a call, so you don't accidentally press something with your cheek. We also loved the visual voicemail feature, as it lets you choose which voice messages (identified by number or address-book name) to listen to first. However, we wish that the phone also had multimedia messaging and instant messaging capabilities (it allows text messaging, of course).

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