We have been putting the Apple iPhone to the test ever since it was launched in the UK. Here’s our verdict on Apple’s mobile phone, coupled with the contract that O2 insists you take out.  

SEE ALSO: Apple iPhone 4S review

READ OUR Apple iPhone 4 review

FOR THE REVIEW OF THE APPLE iPHONE 3GS, READ: Apple iPhone 3GS review Updated June 22, 2009.

FOR THE REVIEW OF THE APPLE iPHONE 3G, READ:

Apple iPhone 3G review Updated: July 28, 2008.

FOR APPLE iPHONE SOFTWARE REVIEWS, READ:

Apple iPhone OS 3.0 review

Apple iPhone 2.0 software review

Apple iPhone 1.1.3 software update. Updated: January 17, 2008.

There’s plenty to love, and plenty to lament about Apple’s new mobile. With its solid design and a beautiful, touch-sensitive 480 x 320-pixel screen the iPhone is beautiful to look at and a joy to use. Its browser, while not as versatile as the one on a desktop or laptop, is impressive and - at a stroke - has made all other mobile internet devices look antiquated and woeful. And of course, it works fine for making phone calls.

Watch our iPhone 3G video review below


Price matters

But there is a dark side to the iPhone: activation requires signing up for an expensive 18-month service plan with O2, the UK’s largest mobile service provider. Unlike most mobile phone deals you need to pay £269 for the phone as well as a top-tier monthly contract, and there is no mention of an upgrade offer when the contract finishes. To add insult to injury the 18-month contract may well outlast the usefulness of the sealed-in battery.

The contract starts at £35 per month, so the overall cost of the iPhone will be a minimum £899. For this you get a piffling 200 minutes and 200 texts per month. Although unlimited data access for the internet with no usage restriction is included in this price. To put this in comparison, Vodafone offers ‘unlimited’ internet for £7.50 on top of your regular contract (but with a 120MB cap).

Considering the market rate for full internet is £7.50 per month, the remaining £27.50 for 200 texts and 200 mins is a remarkably poor deal. Part of Apple’s problem may well be that there is so much competition in the UK market. Customers are used to being offered superb deals: free phones, unlimited calls to friends and family, ludicrously high text allowances, first three months half-price deals; even cashback deals where companies pay you to take out a contract on a phone. One of our friends curtly pointed out that the only way he’d spend £269 on a mobile phone was if it had £300 in cash taped to it.

When pricing up the competition in Carphone Warehouse we certainly didn’t have to look too far to find a better investment. Frankly, you could walk into any store in the UK, point randomly at any phone and get a better deal than the one Apple and O2 are offering.

As well as laying down the £269 in the store, you may be asked to pay £100 to O2 as a deposit. Plus you must pay two months of the contract, so you may well end up paying £439 in the first month of owning this phone. Compared to the usual deal of paying, well,‘nothing’, this may be asking too much of the UK public.

NEXT PAGE: internet access > >

We have been putting the Apple iPhone to the test ever since it was launched in the UK. Here’s our verdict on Apple’s mobile phone and iPod, couple with the contract that O2 insists you take out.

Living on the EDGE

Money aside, the iPhone also faces several technical hurdles in the UK. It doesn’t work with O2’s UMTS 3G data network, let alone anything forward-looking such as HSDPA or - God forbid - a pre 4G UMTS Revision 8 standard. Instead it uses a little-known standard called EDGE. This offers performance well below that of 3G.

The iPhone does, however, enable you to access WiF-i so when you’re at home, or in the office, or near an open WiFi connection it produces speeds close to those of a laptop computer. This, however, is of little comfort when you’re standing at the railway station in the morning waiting over a minute for the BBC News home page to load.

We decided to time the results from three popular websites. We tested the iPhone using The EDGE connection found in the PC Advisor office, a home Wi-Fi connection and a GPRS connection in south-east London. The speeds were as follows ('min:sec:milli')

news.bbc.co.uk
WiFi 00.11.19
EDGE 00.47.43
GPRS 01.48.46

www.pcadvisor.co.uk
WiFi 00.14.55
EDGE 00.24.20
GPRS 01.22.38

www.apple.com
WiFI 00.11.28
EDGE 00.44.30
GPRS 01.05.44

Apple’s reasoning behind the lack of 3G is that it is a power-hungry resource, whereas EDGE is energy-efficient, and Apple didn’t want a phone that lost power constantly - a statement that has some merit. However, EDGE is ubiquitous in the US while 3G is a relatively scarce resource; the situation is reversed in the UK with 3G being commonplace and EDGE coverage limited to 30 percent of the country.

When you’re outside an EDGE coverage area the phone resorts to using GPRS for internet access. In speed tests GPRS proved to be glacial compared to EDGE, although in everyday usage we found little discernible difference. Both are gratingly slow.

We can’t help feeling that the lack of 3G is more to do with Apple deciding to make one phone for the world market and waiting for the US network to beef up. We would bet good money that a 3G phone will be out in the US, and therefore the UK, at some point in 2008. Perhaps with some power-saving technology, or a simple 3G on/off switch.

In the meantime O2 is looking to expand the EDGE network in the UK. One interesting note is that we have found EDGE to be scattered throughout most major cities and towns, rather than having blanket coverage in certain metropolitan areas. So you’ll find it switching seamlessly between EDGE, GPRS and Wi-Fi while maintaining a constant connection. The only problem we found is that it finds it hard to maintain a connection when the device is moving, and connecting to EDGE proved difficult when on a train.

One other aspect that shouldn’t go unmentioned is the access to The Cloud Wi-Fi data network. This comprises some 7,500 areas throughout Europe, including whole districts such as The City and Canary Wharf in London. We found access easy enough, simply click on The Cloud network in Settings and enter your telephone number on the homepage. It then connects and starts counting how many minutes you’ve used.

You are restricted to 60 minutes of usage, which is fine if you’re an occasional user, but a bit poor if you’re lucky enough to work in a Cloud enabled area. You’ll need to remember to keep disconnecting or you’ll break the limit within a few days. We can’t help feeling that Apple and O2 have missed a trick by limiting The Cloud access. After all, widening The Cloud with unlimited use would be one way to make up for the poor EDGE internet connection.

NEXT PAGE: built-in apps and style > >

We have been putting the Apple iPhone to the test ever since it was launched in the UK. Here’s our verdict on Apple’s mobile phone and iPod, couple with the contract that O2 insists you take out.

Job application

One area where EDGE functions perfectly well though is with the built-in applications. The Stocks, Weather, Google Maps and - most importantly - Mail, all work without a glitch under EDGE, and perform adequately under GPRS. Even YouTube videos play back reasonably well under EDGE (although the iPhone doesn’t allow you to load YouTube videos under GPRS).

Of course, the presence of Google Maps throws up another missing feature of the iPhone, the lack of built-in GPS (Global Positioning System). Unlike 3G this feature is hardly ubiquitous in mobile phones, however, it’s very much a consumer technology of the moment and is a big selling point of the iPhone’s main rival, the Nokia N95 (which we notice now comes with 8GB of built-in memory to directly match the iPhone.)

The style matters

But for all these failings, the iPhone has met with almost universal acclaim in the Macworld office. While it may be sorely missing some features, the large screen, multi-touch input, effective email, fantastic web browser and the wonderful animated interface (Core Animation and the stripped-down OS X system at work) make up for a lot of shortcomings. While the iPhone lacks the many features found on other phones, it offers something in abundance that no other phone on the market possesses - style.

Of course, this opens up the handset to accusations of style over substance; that the large screen and animated menu gloss over what is a fairly standard device. But we’re not convinced the style of the iPhone interface is a bad, or even insignificant thing. While the fantastic menu design gives the iPhone a visual flair we’d associate with Apple, it also provides a level of interaction sorely missing in other mobile phones.

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 auto-rotate 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.

Most importantly, perhaps, the iPhone works well as a phone. Touch-screen dialling 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. The iPhone lacks voice dialling, and we’re not convinced we could successfully dial blind, as we can on a hardware keypad.

Most calls sounded good, although the speakerphone is faint (as are the headphones when used for audio calling, oddly). The device also gets overly 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, because 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 SMS text messaging, of course).

The SMS text messaging uses an iChat style interface, which comes as a revelation. Never before has SMS chat been so great to look at, and so easy to perform. The only problem is that - like the free iChat - it encourages you to text away, which stands at odds with the measly 200 free text messages included in the basic £35 per month contract. After they’re used up you will be paying 12p a text - or be forced to upgrade to the £45 a month contract to get 500 free texts.

Visual Voicemail is another impressive feature, albeit in a less immediately dynamic way than mobile internet or email. After setting up the system it records missed calls and messages in an email style interface. It enables you to quickly skim through messages to home in on the one you want, which is a much faster and more impressive system than phoning up your voicemail and pressing the delete button endlessly.

NEXT PAGE: battery life and email > >

We have been putting the Apple iPhone to the test ever since it was launched in the UK. Here’s our verdict on Apple’s mobile phone and iPod, couple with the contract that O2 insists you take out.

Juiced up

The iPhone’s rechargeable lithium ion battery lasted the maximum 10 hours in our talk-time tests, running 2 hours longer than Apple’s own stated call time. Video playback is a battery killer though. The phone lasted only 4 hours, 21 minutes, however, when we viewed a 320 x 128-pixel version of Serenity at a 647kbps bit rate - almost 2.5 hours less than Apple’s stated video playback time.

Apple says that the battery is designed to keep up to 80 per cent of its charge after 400 full charge cycles, and that the company will replace the battery if the capacity falls below 50 per cent during the one-year warranty period.

To get the battery replaced out of warranty, you will have to send it to Apple and pay £55 (including shipping). You should be prepared to relinquish your phone for three days.

Better by mail

The iPhone’s touch-screen text input is not ideal for people that compose a lot of email, but the device comes preloaded with settings for AOL Mail, Gmail, .Mac Mail, and Yahoo Mail, and it supports Exchange, IMAP, and POP3 mail. We easily set up access to a Gmail account and, to our surprise, a Lotus Notes IMAP account (mail only, however - we couldn’t see our calendar or contacts).

Syncing the iPhone on a Mac really couldn’t be easier. Through iTunes it pulls all of your Address Book contacts, iCal information, Safari Bookmarks and Mail accounts - As well as your Music, Podcasts and Videos.

On the PC, the iPhone syncs to your address book (Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Live Mail, or Yahoo), calendar (Outlook or Outlook Express), mail settings (Outlook or Outlook Express), and bookmarks (IE or Safari).

Some of the team thought that messages displayed beautifully; others thought that some HTML messages were too small, and they didn’t like being unable to rotate the screen for more width. Some people may quibble with Apple’s decision not to let users see messages from multiple email accounts in the same window, but moving between accounts is easy.

NEXT PAGE: the internet in action > >

We have been putting the Apple iPhone to the test ever since it was launched in the UK. Here’s our verdict on Apple’s mobile phone and iPod, couple with the contract that O2 insists you take out.

Web-slinger

However, the Safari web browser rather than email is the iPhone’s killer app. It delivers shrunken versions of desktop-style pages that you scroll and zoom in on to read. Double tapping zooms in and out automatically to fit content. Scrolling is intelligent enough to notice that your finger is moving up and down but you don’t want to scroll slightly sideways; and pinching moves in and out.

As a tool for reading web content - news sites, say - Safari looks terrific. But there are problems. The touch screen makes typing URLs and, especially, asterisked-out passwords tricky, and Safari’s lack of support for Flash, Java, Real, Windows Media, and other non-QuickTime multimedia formats made some sites function incorrectly, so they wouldn’t load visual elements, or didn’t let us listen to audio or even log in. Downloading web pages over the EDGE data network wasn’t as snappy as with WiFi, but EDGE and even GPRS certainly work for web browsing, as long as you’re not in a hurry.

There are, however, some fantastic web sites and web applications being created specifically for the iPhone. These lightweight sites load quickly no matter what connection you are using. Of particular note is the Facebook website, the Digg site, and the stunning BBC podcast site which enables you to stream radio shows directly over EDGE.

The iPhone also comes preloaded with a YouTube player that now has YouTube’s entire video collection reformatted for the H-264 technology used by the iPhone, iPod touch and Apple TV. In some websites that embed YouTube video the iPhone backs out of Safari and into the built-in YouTube application to play the video.

NEXT PAGE: audio > >

We have been putting the Apple iPhone to the test ever since it was launched in the UK. Here’s our verdict on Apple’s mobile phone and iPod, couple with the contract that O2 insists you take out.

Sounds the business

As with the iPod touch, the music interface of the iPhone is a big improvement over the click wheel. You can flick through artists, songs and playlists, and turn the iPhone on its side to enter Cover Flow - and the widescreen display makes album art look fantastic.

Like the iPod touch, the large screen is also a revelation for video playback. Unlike the iPod classic or nano, watching videos is both practical and comfortable. Again, as we mentioned in our review of the iPod touch, the only problem is a lack of decent content on the iTunes Video store and the lack of DivX playback. Neither of these problems appear to be going anywhere in the near future, so investment in a device such as the Elgato EyeTV for video recording and Turbo 264 for speedy video conversion may well be in order.

The video of Serenity, which appeared fine on an iPod, showed its warts on the iPhone. A higher-resolution (640 x 272-pixel) copy of Lord of War looked great but took up 1.35GB, which is a substantial chunk of a device’s memory when it only sports 8GB in total.

The iPhone also throws up a couple of unexpected improvements over the iPod touch. The two side buttons on the phone can be used to adjust the volume, while a single click of the earpiece acts as a play / pause remote control. A quick double-click skips to the next track.

As such, the iPhone answers one of our complaints with the iPod touch: the lack of a remote control. It also sports a built-in speaker that can be used for audio and video playback as well as for general phone use. Although speakers on phones have a bad reputation for being annoying on public transport, it does come in useful. You can use the iPhone as a portable stereo in a hotel room (for example); and showing off YouTube clips is much easier when you don’t have to share headphones.

As a music player, the iPhone sounds like a current-generation iPod nano. It also matched the iPod nano’s impressive score on our test of maximum usable output level.

One significant drawback: you’ll likely need to use an awkward adapter to plug music headphones (other than the ones that come in the box) into the iPhone’s recessed port. We are assuming that Apple did this to enforce usage of the supplied iPhone headset, presumably because these earphones contain a microphone used during phone calls, a feature that Apple doesn’t want people to overlook by switching Apple’s standard earphones for their own.

Photo call

One aspect where Apple clearly has its work cut out is the camera. The device has a 2-megapixel CCD (small, but not unreasonably so for a phone) and it lacks both a zoom and flash. Even worse, the positioning of the lens at the corner of the device (rather than the traditional centre) makes it susceptible to taking close-ups of your fingers. Finally, by relying on an on-screen button rather than using one of the external buttons, it really is awkward to use.

If all this wasn’t bad enough, the lens appears to be of very poor quality and the photos we took weren’t very sharp (even in good light). In a darkened room or at night, it’s simply hopeless. You can’t record video either, which seems something of an oversight.

This would have been acceptable two years ago, when the cameras on other mobile phones were also poor, but lately the cameraphone market has come along in leaps and bounds. The Nokia N95, for example, sports a 5Mp CCD and a Carl Zeiss lens, plus a flash and camera dedicated buttons. It’s as good, if not better, than the compact digital cameras most people own. We can’t help feeling that the lack of a decent camera function will drag the iPhone down in many people’s estimations.

The lack of 3G and, to a lesser extent, GPS combined with the sub-par camera all weigh heavily against the iPhone. But it does make up for this with a wonderful interface, and an ability to make the full web experience and email work effectively: something that no other mobile phone seems able to manage.

NEXT PAGE: call quality > >

We have been putting the Apple iPhone to the test ever since it was launched in the UK. Here’s our verdict on Apple’s mobile phone and iPod, couple with the contract that O2 insists you take out.

A tough call

Scoring the iPhone is one of the most difficult tasks the Macworld team has had to perform. It is clearly a first-generation product and is off to a promising start, but there are too many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ for it to gain five stars with a clear Editors’ Choice award. As the second and third generation models roll out, with 3G, GPS and enhanced camera functions it may start to live up to the title ‘JesusPhone’ that it’s been tagged by many in the US.

In truth, we could comfortably mark the iPhone down to three, or even, two stars. Largely because the deal that Apple is offering through O2 is so manifestly poor that any recommendation whatsoever on our part seems like a disservice to our readers. It feels like infringement on our journalistic integrity to advise our readers to spend their money on this phone, when they could pick up an Nokia N95 for so much less - we expect the iPhone to get much lower scores elsewhere than it is getting here.

However, we also believe that it would be wrong of us to score the iPhone down when so many of us have bought the product and feel that it is the best phone on the market; we have personally decided that it is worth the considerable amount of money that Apple and O2 are charging.

When faced with the prospect of owning any mobile in the world, we would go for the iPhone without question - and in that case it would be hypocritical of us to advise our readers to do otherwise. As it stands we are ranking the iPhone at a four-star product, perhaps turning a blind eye to the cost.

Apple should feel proud of the iPhone. It is a marvel of design and a wonderful product to touch and hold. In 10 years this may well be what all portable computers look like.

However, if Apple is serious about the UK market (and it should be, considering how serious we are about mobile phones) then this device needs to be given away for free on contract (or sold unlocked) and O2 needs to at least double the amount of texts and call time that it is offering. Otherwise nobody other than die-hard Apple fans will buy it. And that, we feel, would be a shame.

NEXT PAGE: original US review > >

If you want to love the much-hyped Apple iPhone - available in the UK via O2 for £269 right now - you'll find plenty to rave about in our in-depth review of Apple's mobile phone/iPod hybrid. The Apple iPhone's multitouch navigation system is intuitive and fun. The endless expanse of display alone is mesmerising, with beautiful bright colours and crisp resolution.

Apple and O2 have also revealed the UK monthly subscription cost for the iPhone: UK users can choose various tariffs, including £35, £45, £50 and £55 per month. All three plans offer free data traffic, users pay for the device, their calls and messages. And while the UK version follows the original Apple iPhone in not supporting faster, 3G internet, users can at least get free access to a UK network of 7,500 Wi-Fi hotspots from The Cloud. This should vastly improve internet capabilities for those users in urban areas (although it will likely drain the battery).

Visit Mobile Advisor for the latest mobile-phone handset reviews and the best tariffs

The Apple iPhone is a great handheld video player, a decent music player and camera; its browser, while not as versatile as the one on your laptop, is still impressive. In the UK the Apple iPhone is available only with an 8GB hard drive.

Plus, the Apple iPhone works just fine as a mobile phone.

But there are disappointments with the Apple iPhone (see also The Apple iPhone's 50 biggest flaws revealed). These include lack of support for the fastest (HSDPA) data network and the absence of instant-messaging and office-suite applications. Others are apparent only once you start using the Apple iPhone - it can get warm with constant use, and you'll need to wipe off smudges frequently with the included cloth.

We're still iffy about the Apple iPhone's software keyboard and predictive text entry. They work reasonably well, but overall text entry is still easier with a hardware keyboard, and the iPhone may not be the best choice for people who need to compose a lot of email.

We were impressed with the Apple iPhone's durability. We tried scratching it and dropping it on everything from carpet to concrete. It survived all the abuse, with only some scratches from the concrete.

And then there are the undeniably fun aspects of the Apple iPhone, from the cute icons on the home screen to the way deleted email swooshes into a trashcan.

An iPhone is expensive and comes with some major drawbacks. It's available in the UK from November 9, but the most prudent course would be to wait for the next version anyway. Hopefully the next generation Apple iPhone will work out some of the kinks, and we hope, be tied to a faster wireless network.

But it's hard to be patient once you've seen one - the future of mobile devices is here and it's called an Apple iPhone.

Quick links:

The iPhone in use

iPhone call quality and camera

Apple iPhone: keyboard and predictive text

The iPhone, email and the internet

Music on the iPhone

Watching video on the Apple iPhone

The Apple iPhone's 'other' features

Apple iPhone: first review

The Apple iPhone in use

Setting up the Apple iPhone was a smooth process. The first step, if you haven't already done so, is to install the most up-to-date version of iTunes. We plugged in the included USB 2.0 dock, and iTunes immediately greeted us with a screen to walk us through the activation and set-up of the iPhone.

The whole process took 15 screens. Once complete, the iPhone is recognised as a device, and you're given a tabbed row of options for managing specific aspects of your Apple iPhone - the same as you'd see when your iPod was connected to iTunes.

In fact, the entire process of setting up the Apple iPhone - choosing what folders to sync, for example, for your music, photos, podcasts, and video - will be familiar to current iPod users. And, perhaps more importantly, the process won't be intimidating to newcomers to the iPod universe.

Navigation

What's dramatically different about the Apple iPhone is the way it operates. There just aren't many buttons. The Apple iPhone's navigation is almost entirely accomplished via its multitouch screen.

The sole button on the face of the phone conveniently returns you to the friendly, fun home screen. A power button up top, and a ringer button and volume controls at left round out the buttons.

We fully expect terms such as "slide" and "pinch" to become part of the popular lexicon. These handy moves let you navigate the Apple iPhone's multitouch screen with ease. You'll slide your finger to the right to unlock the phone; and slide again to scroll through menus.

We were surprised by the often dizzying speed with which we could scroll - scanning through an album of several hundred photos was effortless.

The touchscreen is one of the Apple iPhone's huge assets - suddenly, navigating in a tight space is not only viable, but also fun and enjoyable. Aside from scrolling, there's pinching and tapping - the former for resizing screens (ie, in the Safari web browser), the latter for selecting options and zooming in on content, such as photos.

Friendly menus

That navigational ease applied to other elements of the Apple iPhone as well. The screen has an internal sensor, and will autorotate content depending upon how you're holding the iPhone - and what application you're in.

The main Apple iPhone menu, with its dozen bright, colourful icons for features and applications, and four primary icons for phone, mail, Safari, and iPod below, is both visually engaging and brilliant in its simplicity.

Adding contacts is visual as well; plus, we appreciated the high level of customisation the contacts application offered us via its "add a field" option (for example, add a nickname, department, date reminders, or note).

When entering contacts, make sure to hit Save, though, way at the top of the screen - the contacts app lets you exit without prompting you to save your record, which can be very annoying to discover after you've spent time entering details.

There are other flaws, too. For example, while you see a battery gauge, the Apple iPhone doesn't give you a way to see the actual percentage (or, better yet, time) remaining in your battery's life.

Another annoyance: tap the phone icon and the iPhone shows you the Contacts screen, not the keypad. Getting to the keypad requires another tap - definitely annoying if you're not calling someone already in your Contacts list.

Quick links:

The iPhone in use

iPhone call quality and camera

Apple iPhone: keyboard and predictive text

The iPhone, email and the internet

Music on the iPhone

Watching video on the Apple iPhone

The Apple iPhone's 'other' features

Apple iPhone: first review

Phone call quality and camera

Dialing on the Apple iPhone's touchscreen is easy enough, but it's difficult to dial one-handed without looking at the screen, as you might be able to when you press tactile keys on an ordinary mobile phone.

Call quality was mixed in our initial sample of calls. Most sounded good, with just an occasional hiss to remind us that we were on a mobile.

We loved how the Apple iPhone screen darkens while on a call, and the internal sensors reactivate it when its moved away from the caller's head (no more accidentally activating hold with your cheek).

We also loved the Apple iPhone's visual voicemail feature - what a pleasure to pick and choose which voicemails to listen to first (you either see the number, or the contact's name if he or she is entered in your address book) or to switch among voicemails with a click of the finger.

The speakerphone seemed inadequate, though. Even on maximum volume, our caller sounded faint, and had difficulty hearing us clearly.

Camera

See also: How good is the Apple iPhone's camera?

The Apple iPhone's 2Mp camera lacks any adjustments and has no zoom. Shutter lag is longer than with a dedicated digital camera - or even the better cameraphones we've seen. Syncing nearly 258MB of images - that translates into 392 Jpeg photos - took a little over five minutes.

Photos looked eye-popping on the bright, brilliant screen. Colours closely matched the originals, and we saw no issues with images being cropped to fit the screen. Most of the time we felt images were sharp and faithfully reproduced. Occasionally, we felt our high-resolution image lost some clarity in the conversion to the iPhone's format.

Quick links:

The iPhone in use

iPhone call quality and camera

Apple iPhone: keyboard and predictive text

The iPhone, email and the internet

Music on the iPhone

Watching video on the Apple iPhone

The Apple iPhone's 'other' features

Apple iPhone: first review

Software keyboard and predictive text entry

When we got a brief hands-on look at the Apple iPhone in January, the software keyboard was its most disappointing feature. It repeatedly got our input efforts wrong, and during our brief session the predictive text entry feature wasn't able to compensate.

Nine months later, and with more time to practise, we found the Apple iPhone keyboard and predictive text entry improved (or at least better than we remembered).

The Apple iPhone is still no match for the type of good hardware keyboard you get on a BlackBerry or Treo, but it's not unbearable to use, and certainly beats any standard phone keypad. (Now, if only Apple had bundled the big instant-messaging services.)

Predictive text: a word at a time?

The Apple iPhone's predictive text entry works differently than it does on a BlackBerry, where you see a list of words that might be the one you're trying to type. The iPhone shows one option at a time, which changes as you enter different characters.

Sometimes the Apple iPhone's software was amazingly good at figuring out our intentions, even with a couple of mistyped characters. For example, it correctly ascertained that we were trying to type the word "predictive" even though a couple of letters came up wrong as we entered them.

Other times, the Apple iPhone just couldn't figure out what I wanted (when we tried to type the word "company," it proposed "Compaq"). If you do see the word you want, just hit the space key and the iPhone will use it and move on.

When we first started typing on the iPhone, we thought there was no good way to move the cursor around. We were wrong. With the software keyboard active, pressing down on the text entry area produces a bubble-like circle that magnifies the text around the cursor; moving it with your fingertip repositions the cursor precisely where you want it.

It's a very cool feature of the Apple iPhone.

Quick links:

The iPhone in use

iPhone call quality and camera

Apple iPhone: keyboard and predictive text

The iPhone, email and the internet

Music on the iPhone

Watching video on the Apple iPhone

The Apple iPhone's 'other' features

Apple iPhone: first review

Email and internet

The Apple iPhone comes with preloaded settings for Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Mac Mail and AOL mail, and support for POP3, IMAP and Exchange mail. We were easily able to set up access a Gmail account and even a Lotus Notes business email account.

During Apple iPhone setup you're given the option to sync your address book (Mac OS X, Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail or Yahoo), calendar (iCal, Outlook or Outlook Express), mail settings (Mac Mail, Outlook or Outlook Express) and your IE or Safari bookmarks. Syncing went quite smoothly, although we had no calendar to test.

You've got mail

Mail, like almost everything on the Apple iPhone's lovely screen, displays beautifully. The inbox is as handsome and functional as any we've seen, taking full advantage of the iPhone's relatively abundant screen real estate; the same goes for the messages themselves, whether they're plain text or image-rich HTML.

Some may quibble with Apple's decision to segregate all accounts, so that you have to navigate to a different inbox for each one, but moving between accounts is easy and intuitive.

The Apple iPhone automatically and easily displayed images sent as email attachments - up to a point. When a colleague sent a couple of large photos, the iPhone spent quite a few minutes with a "Loading..." notification in the body of the received message; eventually, instead of rendering two 3.5MB images, the mail client provided links that downloaded each image separately.

On a minor note: we like the way deleted messages swoosh into the trashcan at the bottom of the mail screen. It's one of the many small touches that make you feel like the Apple iPhone works hard to justify its high-end price tag.

Wi-Fi and EDGE

Wi-Fi setup on the Apple iPhone went relatively quickly, although here you have to get the keyboard taps just right. If the predictive text entry can help you with your WEP or WPA security codes, your codes aren't secure enough.

We had to make several tries to nail a longish WPA password - but once you get it, you'll never have to input it again as the Apple iPhone will store it.

We ran DSL Reports' speed test and got a download speed of about 2Mbps using Wi-Fi. Using AT&T's EDGE network in the US, however, speeds were more like 80 or 90Kbps. (Obviously, your results may vary.) The difference is perceptible when loading large web pages, but EDGE is certainly usable for web browsing if you're not in a huge hurry.

It has been said that the EDGE network isn't good enough and that this could be a major downfall for the iPhone. Right now, we don't agree with that at all.

And anybody who uses EDGE on a BlackBerry will probably concur. Would it be nice to have faster speed? Of course. But if you're not near a Wi-Fi network, using EDGE to grab email and surf the web is a boon. Many people that pick up the iPhone wouldn't have used EDGE before because the phones they had either didn't support it, or it was so difficult to setup, they didn't bother. But being able to get your email anytime you want is something you get used to really fast.

We still wish Apple would have supported 3G HSDPA, though; you can't count on being in range of a Wi-Fi network when you're downloading big image files or web pages, and Wi-Fi will drain battery life very quickly. That said, the UK Apple iPhone can access more than 7,500 Wi-Fi hotspots for free via The Cloud.

Web browsing

Steve Jobs has boasted that the iPhone delivers "the real internet" rather than a dumbed-down version. If that means the phone's Safari browser should be capable of anything a desktop browser can do, the Apple iPhone fails to meet that standard. But it's still a sizable leap forward for mobile browsing.

Most phone browsers deal with their tiny screens by heavily reformatting pages. With Safari, pages look pretty much as they would in a desktop browser - Safari simply shrinks them down to fit the iPhone's screen.

The shrunken versions have text that's too tiny to read, so you zoom in and out on the page by pinching and pulling. Overall, this works much better in practice than it sounds like it should - the shrunken versions are legible enough to give you a sense of where to zoom, and once you've magnified the page, you can use your thumb to scroll down. Safari works best in landscape mode, not the skinnier portrait orientation.

As a tool for reading web content - news sites, for instance - Safari is terrific. And while downloading pages over EDGE wasn't as snappy as with Wi-Fi, it also wasn't as sluggish as we'd feared it might be.

We happily browsed our way through sites we wouldn't even try to load in most phone browsers.

Web 2.0 - hit and miss

But today's internet includes sophisticated web applications, and here the Apple iPhone browser disappointed us. A few of the Web 2.0 sites we tried, such as iGoogle and Flickr, worked well. But most were either a little wobbly or altogether inoperable.

Google Docs and Spreadsheets worked well enough to let us view some word-processing documents and spreadsheets, but we couldn't see all our documents, or edit any of them. The Meebo web-based instant-messenger client loaded, but we couldn't send instant messages.

Of course, even if an application like Google Docs worked perfectly, there'd be a limit to how much typing you'd want to do on the Apple iPhone's tiny onscreen keyboard. Even typing URLs is a little tricky, and we struggled with passwords - it would be nice if you could opt for them to be displayed rather than asterisked out, since it can be hard to tell if you've made a typo.

(Safari syncs your bookmarks from IE and desktop Safari when you connect to a computer; too bad it doesn't do the same for Firefox.)

The real internet of 2007 also packs a lot of multimedia and interactivity in an array of formats - Flash, Java, Windows Media, Real and more. The Apple iPhone's Safari doesn't support any of these; the only web media that's likely to work in this browser is stuff in Apple's own QuickTime format.

Quick links:

The iPhone in use

iPhone call quality and camera

Apple iPhone: keyboard and predictive text

The iPhone, email and the internet

Music on the iPhone

Watching video on the Apple iPhone

The Apple iPhone's 'other' features

Apple iPhone: first review

Music

Right off the bat with the Apple iPhone, it's clear that this isn't your father's iPod. Apple built a completely new interface for the iPhone's music player, adding touch and tilt sensitivity to elements of its iTunes and iPod interfaces.

Syncing seemed relatively slow compared to other iPods we've tried - transferring 2.2GB of music and video to the device took just over 11 minutes, for a rate of just over 3MBps.

For the most part, browsing a music library is a joy. Tilt the Apple iPhone on its side with the iPod app going, and it flips into Cover Flow mode to let you flick through your albums with a quick gesture of your finger. (Be sure to have iTunes update your cover art before you sync your library, as any holes in your cover art will make for some ugly blank spots in the Cover Flow progression.)

We didn't see any of the load-time issues with Cover Flow that we experience regularly in the Windows version of iTunes, although they may still exist in libraries larger than the 4GB on our test Apple iPhone. Tap an album cover, and it flips around to display a list of tracks. Tap any one of those to start it playing.

Tilt back to vertical, and your volume and play controls overlay the bottom of the screen. Tap the screen to bring up a progress indicator that lets you scrub through to any point in the song.

That's actually one area where the Apple iPhone falls behind the iPod. With its acceleration-sensitive scrollwheel, you can easily pinpoint the right section of a track without any microscopic finger movements. Finding the right area on the Apple iPhone's progress bar is much trickier, which can be a bit of a pain on longer tracks such as podcasts or full-length concerts.

While we quickly learned where the different controls reside, it still bugs us a bit that functions such as the volume slider are locked to a single orientation of the player. Still, if Apple's planning to move all of its MP3 players to this type of interface, as the continuing rumours of a touchscreen video iPod would seem to indicate, the iPod's future is in good hands.

Sounds like a nano to me

We never expect much out of the internal speakers or the earbuds that come with a phone or MP3 player, so let's just get those out of the way. The Apple iPhone's internal speakers aren't too bad. While we wouldn't want to listen to music on them - they distort fairly quickly on any high-register sounds - they're fine for dialogue-heavy video playback. The earbuds are fine, too. If you've heard Apple's classic white iPod earbuds, you'll know what you're in for here.

So what does the Apple iPhone really sound like? If you want a quick demo, borrow an iPod nano. We couldn't hear much to distinguish it from a current-generation nano on either Shure's E500 PTH in-ear phones or Sony's MDR-V900 over-the-ear headphones. In our listening tests, the iPhone held up well compared to most flash-based players. We'd rate its overall sound quality just behind that of Creative's excellent Zen V Plus and almost exactly even with the current generation of iPod nano players.

Audio tools

Our objective audio tests bear that out, with the iPhone generating scores nearly identical to the iPod nano. The 4GB iPhone we tested turned in a particularly strong performance on our crosstalk test, tying Creative's Zen V Plus for the best score we've seen. It also tied the nano's impressive score on our test of maximum useable output level.

Those results aren't bad, but when we compare the iPhone to my 80GB iPod, there's a noticeable lack of bass with EQ turned off. Cymbals, guitar, and any hiss in the recording sound just a touch brighter and more prominent than we'd like, which makes for a slightly more fatiguing listening experience. Female voices in particular, such as the "Live from Austin Texas" recording of Neko Case that we used for some of our testing, sound a bit harsh compared with the better hard drive players.

We're picking nits here just a bit, though. Overall, the Apple iPhone sounds quite nice for a flash-based MP3 player. One significant drawback: although Apple built in a standard-size jack instead of the mini-headphone connector you find on most mobile phones, you can't just plug in the great set of headphones you bought for your iPod.

The Apple iPhone uses a three-segment headset connector that normal headphones can't plug into, which means lots of us will be springing for an annoying adaptor as our first iPhone accessory. Yuck.

Quick links:

The iPhone in use

iPhone call quality and camera

Apple iPhone: keyboard and predictive text

The iPhone, email and the internet

Music on the iPhone

Watching video on the Apple iPhone

The Apple iPhone's 'other' features

Apple iPhone: first review

Video

Here's how nice the iPhone's screen is for video. For the first time, we're looking at the videos we encoded for our iPod and thinking we need to go with some higher-quality settings.

And that's where video on the iPhone gets a little tricky. On an 80GB iPod, the 530MB, 320-by-128 pixel version of 'Serenity' we used as a demo looks just fine. Transfer it to the iPhone's beautiful 480-by-320-pixel display, and the low resolution really starts to show its warts. A 640-by-72-pixel copy of 'Lord of War' downloaded from the iTunes Store looked great, but at that resolution takes up 1.35GB, or one-third of the 4GB model's capacity. Even with an 8GB iPhone, TV shows are a better bet.

Once you get the video quality dialed in, though, the Apple iPhone makes a great video player. We'll have to follow up a little later with battery tests during video playback, but every other aspect of iPhone video was top notch.

Tap the screen during playback to activate its on-screen play controls. There's an icon in the top-right corner that lets you automatically zoom in on widescreen movies if you can't stand the letterbox effect. The same progress indicator from the music side of the player lets you scrub through to your favorite parts of a video, and the Apple iPhone showed very little lag when jumping from one point of a clip to another.

Quick links:

The iPhone in use

iPhone call quality and camera

Apple iPhone: keyboard and predictive text

The iPhone, email and the internet

Music on the iPhone

Watching video on the Apple iPhone

The Apple iPhone's 'other' features

Apple iPhone: first review

Other features

The Apple iPhone has a select handful of extra apps. Some are more noteworthy than others - for reasons good and bad.

SMS messages look like emails do on the primary screen; then in conversation, they appear in fun balloon form. Unfortunately, you can't send picture messages, though; instead, you have to send images via email.

The Apple iPhone note application is fashioned after a yellow legal pad. Tap out your notes on the keyboard, and then save them to the device - or send them via email. When you do send a note via email, everyone will know where it came from: the bottom of the note we sent had a "Sent from my iPhone" tag-line tacked on.

The Apple iPhone clock is full-featured, with a world clock, stopwatch, timer and multiple alarm settings (useful if you need reminders during the day, or to set up different wake-up calls for different days of the week).

Google Maps is conveniently integrated into the Apple iPhone, as is Yahoo's six-day weather outlook and stock data. You also get a dedicated YouTube application (separate from the iPod video-playback capabilities).

Right now, only about 10,000 YouTube videos have been reformatted to accommodate the Apple iPhone's screen; the company plans to have the entire library converted by end of year, though. YouTube videos loaded quickly, and we found the image quality as good as (or even better than) the source material as viewed on a PC.

When we left the device paused on a YouTube video, first the screen intelligently dimmed, then the phone shut off entirely. When we came back and powered up again, the YouTube video was right where we left it. We experienced the same level of resume when I was using other phone features, as well.

Quick links:

The iPhone in use

iPhone call quality and camera

Apple iPhone: keyboard and predictive text

The iPhone, email and the internet

Music on the iPhone

Watching video on the Apple iPhone

The Apple iPhone's 'other' features

Apple iPhone: first review

Apple iPhone: first review

First posted on 3 July 2007

The hugely hyped Apple iPhone has been in the hands of early adopters in the US for a few days now. You can pick up an unlocked Apple iPhone in the UK for around £300 right now. We've been using an Apple iPhone for a couple of days, so here are some early impressions - what we like and what could be improved.

First look: Hands-on with the iPhone

The iPhone as a phone

Apple's latest toy may have iPod and web-surfing capabilities but, at its heart, the iPhone is a phone (the clue is in the name). These days, phones are everywhere. Still, it's not a given that a company is going to produce a good phone.

Problems with mobile phones arise when phone makers become so concerned with putting features into a device, they forget that we actually want to make phone calls with it, first and foremost. Apple seems to have avoided that pitfall by getting the phone part of the Apple iPhone right.

We've talked to several people on the iPhone using a Jawbone Bluetooth headset, the iPhone speakerphone and the handset itself. All worked fine. We could hear be heard perfectly well.

The Bluetooth connection was superb. We were able to walk farther away from the iPhone using a Bluetooth headset than we could with any other phone. Syncing Bluetooth devices was very easy, too - just make a device discoverable and the iPhone immediately finds it.

The iPhone and email

With a smartphone, email should be easy to set up, receive and interact with. Apple did a good job with the iPhone's built-in Mail application in many respects, but there's some room for improvement here.

First the good: Apple made setting up email accounts on the iPhone as easy as can be. If you have an email account that isn't in your Mail application, you can set it up on the iPhone manually. If you are setting up Gmail, Yahoo, AOL or .Mac, it's even easier. You type in your username, password and the name you want mail to come from, and the iPhone has everything else it needs.

The look of individual emails is unmatched on any device we've seen. iPhone emails look crisp and clear, and most messages are very quick to load, even if they have small attachments or pictures, which show up inline.

So where does Mail fall down? Our early impression of the iPhone is that Mail struggles in a couple of ways. First, larger messages take a really long time to load. It would be nice to have an option to restrict how big messages get downloaded from the server so you can put a limit on it.

And every iPhone Mail account is set up with a separate Inbox. There doesn't appear to be a way to view all incoming messages in one large mailbox. This is actually very important, especially if you are going to add several email accounts. Right now, to see if you've got mail, you go to the accounts page; see which accounts have mail and tap on one; tap on the Inbox; and there you will see your unread messages.

Now if you have unread messages in another account on your iPhone, you have to back all the way out to the accounts page and repeat the process with every account that has messages. That's just a waste of time.

It would be nice to have one main iPhone Inbox that could be used to view all new messages. You should still have access to the individual boxes, but having the main Inbox would save a lot of time and effort. It would make reading messages a one-tap process.

Another thing missing from Mail is the ability to mark all messages as read. In order to get rid of the read designation on the iPhone, you actually have to look at each message - again, a time waster if you have already read the messages on your computer. Why should you have to go through the messages on the iPhone and mark them read individually?

Wi-Fi networks and EDGE

It has been said that the EDGE network isn't good enough and that this could be a major downfall for the iPhone. Right now, we don't agree with that at all.

And anybody who uses EDGE on a BlackBerry will probably concur. Would it be nice to have faster speed? Of course. But if you're not near a Wi-Fi network, using EDGE to grab email and surf the web is a boon. Many people that pick up the iPhone wouldn't have used EDGE before because the phones they had either didn't support it, or it was so difficult to setup, they didn't bother. But being able to get your email anytime you want is something you get used to really fast.

First look: Hands-on with the iPhone

One thing about entering a password to join a Wi-Fi network - you can't actually see what you're typing on the iPhone's onscreen keyboard. Instead, the password you type in is rendered in asterisks for security purposes. With long passwords - particularly those that are a jumble of numbers and symbols - it's easy to lose track of just what you typed.

The keyboard and predictive typing

The prospect of a buttonless, keyboardless phone can be a scary one. But the iPhone's keyboard is great. The predictive typing is even better.

Apple recommends in its iPhone instructional videos that you start off typing with one finger, and then, when you get used to it, start using two thumbs. We picked up the iPhone and started typing with two thumbs right away, made a few mistakes but got to grips with the keyboard pretty quickly.

And if you do foul up, just keep typing - 99 percent of the time the iPhone's predictive typing feature comes up with the right word. (And when it does, hit the spacebar, and it will magically appear in your text.)

Quick links:

The iPhone in use

iPhone call quality and camera

Apple iPhone: keyboard and predictive text

The iPhone, email and the internet

Music on the iPhone

Watching video on the Apple iPhone

The Apple iPhone's 'other' features

Apple iPhone: first review

Apple iPhone: Specs

  • 3.5in touchscreen
  • 320x480 at 160ppi
  • 8GB storage
  • GSM: Quad band (MHz: 850, 900, 1800, 1900)
  • wireless data: Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) (free via The Cloud), EDGE, Bluetooth 2.0
  • 2.0Mp camera
  • battery: up to 5 hours talk/video/browsing
  • up to 16 hours audio playback
  • 115x61x11.6mm
  • 135g
  • 3.5in touchscreen
  • 320x480 at 160ppi
  • 8GB storage
  • GSM: Quad band (MHz: 850, 900, 1800, 1900)
  • wireless data: Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) (free via The Cloud), EDGE, Bluetooth 2.0
  • 2.0Mp camera
  • battery: up to 5 hours talk/video/browsing
  • up to 16 hours audio playback
  • 115x61x11.6mm
  • 135g

OUR VERDICT

If you want to love this much-hyped gadget, you'll find plenty to go ga-ga over. The Apple iPhone's revolutionary multitouch navigation system really is intuitive and fun. The endless expanse of display alone is nothing short of mesmerising, with beautiful bright colors and crisp resolution. It's a great handheld video player, a decent music player and camera; its browser, while not as versatile as the one on your notebook, is still impressive. Plus, it works just fine as a mobile phone.

Find the best price