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Apple iPhone 3G - Interface, Mobile Safari & Multimedia

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell


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With all this talk of new hardware and design tweaks it's a miracle we've yet to mention the continuing majesty of the iPhone interface, so let's remedy that. Forgive us if "majesty" sounds needlessly deferential but few phones, if any, can approach the ease of use and intuitiveness of the iPhone. Picking up, for example, another touch screen phone like the LG Viewty tells you everything you need to know: the iPhone is in a league of its own.

Ostensibly the basics haven't changed one iota. There's still the sliding bar to unlock and the grid based main menu is still navigated through effortless prods and flicks. Indeed, it's hard to underplay exactly how responsive the 3.5 inch, 480 x 320 multi-touch screen is. Every action is swiftly enacted and you're never left wondering whether a request has been registered: it just works.

It's a lovely screen to behold, too. Bright, bold, sharp and clean, it brings photos and video to life and is another facet few can match at this moment in time. If anything, though, its viewing angles aren't as wide as on the original iPhone. It's hardly a big problem, one generally looks at phones straight on whatever you're doing, but a difference exists.

Predictably, however, Mobile Safari is still the jewel in the iPhone 3G's crown and despite the recent beta launch of Opera Mobile 9.5, it's still by far and away the best mobile web browser on earth. It renders pages quickly and accurately and its excellent scaling makes them easy to read, too. Throw in the intuitive interface, multi-touch controls, Wi-Fi and now the faster 3G data access and browsing the web on the move has never been so good. Want a Mobile Internet Device? Look no further.

There's little new to report in the iPod stakes. As with most things on the iPhone the interface is slick and responsive and music, audiobooks and podcasts are all well organised and easy to access. Switching to landscape mode reveals the Cover Flow interface, a neat but not wholly adored feature that can either be enjoyed or ignored. Double-clicking the Home button will, when specified, bring up the iPod controls anywhere including when the handset is locked. It's a small but incredibly useful navigation tool and one that negates the need for any hardware control buttons.

Sound quality is generally good. It'll never match that found in the dedicated players from the likes of Creative, Sony and iRiver, and, like the original, the 3G produces an ever so slightly compressed sound, but only the fussiest of audiophiles will be disappointed provided one avoids the dreadful bundled headset.

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July 21, 2008, 5:42 pm

Thanks for the great review. One small correction. You wrote: "There's still no progress bar" in the iPod. The fact is, when you tab the screen once while the song is playing, a progress bar will appear towards the top. It's still doesn't make sense not to have the progress bar on all the time--especially with a 3.5' screen!

Matt G Baish

July 21, 2008, 5:53 pm

How come Sandra only gets to (expertly) review all the `boring` handsets but when it comes to the `sexy` iPhone 3G we get one of the in-house TR Apple Fanboys?! ;)


July 21, 2008, 6:00 pm

Finally, an iPhone 3G review that concentrates on what the iPhone does, not what it doesn't!

Great review, I like all the comparison pictures with the old one. The iPhone 3G just looks so much better - it's amazing how the minor changes they have made to the exterior have enhanced the (already great) design so much.

MobileMe is actually proving to be the winner for me. Push email, contacts, calendars and bookmarks - as a Mac user the iPhone really has become an extension of all of my Macs and then some. Having this level of synchronisation is just incredible. A revolutionary change over my Nokia N95 8GB - which is a fantastic phone, but it just can't match the iPhone 3G in terms of the user experience.

My first iPhone. Definitely not my last!

Andy Vandervell

July 21, 2008, 6:10 pm


Just for the record I've never been an Apple fan, or a fanboy for that matter. Believe it or not this is first Apple product I've used or been interested in owning, ever. If that makes me a fanboy then the barrier of entry must be exceedingly low.


July 21, 2008, 6:15 pm

Sandra should have done this review. Matt G - I wouldn't accuse anyone of being a Mac Fanboy at TR, they seem to lack a sense of humour when it comes to anything, err, funny. Good review - 10/10 for design though? It's a big black slab, boring! So the UI is designed well, but the phone itself is HUGE (hardly fits in a pocket like an E51 or E61)and tricky to hold without dropping (slipping), they should have put some kind of grippy stuff on the back.

Andy Vandervell

July 21, 2008, 6:25 pm

Heh, apologies. Missed the wink in there. Clearly we need emoticons on here.


July 21, 2008, 6:27 pm

The phone is great but it's over priced in my book, I would rather get a 12 month contract and a phone and buy the Ipod touch.


July 21, 2008, 6:27 pm

Ok, but with all respect, if you're not an Apple fan, how can you give 9 for features when:

- there is no AD2P (probably because Apple has no BT headphones/headsets to sell)

- no mms, 2mp camera, half speed 3G...

- no VGA screen

- No proper GPS software

- etc...

Yes, the interface is the best at the moment, but frankly the features if the iPhone 3G are less than what you could get a year ago in a high-end smartphone like a Tytn II (bar the screen size). It deserves a 7 at most (in this area). Otherwise what do you give to a Touch Pro, feature-wise?


July 21, 2008, 6:29 pm

The new black plastic back makes the phone considerably stickier and less prone to being dropped. And, it really isn't huge. Certainly no bigger than any other full size smartphone.

Andy Vandervell

July 21, 2008, 6:49 pm


I can see most of your points, obviously some of those were already mentioned in the review. GPS software, obviously there is none at the moment but software will always be an added extra on any contract - if it's included you're still paying "extra" for it.

VGA screen. It would be cool, but would push the price far too high and is by no means a standard feature on many phones. Hopefully in a year or two the price of that resolution on a screen might make it possible.<br />

Of all the things you mentioned, the lack of A2DP is the most ridiculous thing, MMS and the camera are personal things. You either want them or you don't.

As a general comment the Features score doesn't just reflect the number of features, but also the quality and implementation of those features - something the iPhone scores highly on.


July 21, 2008, 7:00 pm

full size or full featured? Because the iphone 3g is bigger than some competitive phones, has less features than some competitive phones, has worse battery life than competitors phones and is more expensive than competitors phones (the price of the phone may be being advertised as lower but cost of ownership over the 18 month contract has actually increased, as i'm sure you've already calculated)

In your opinion the... "The new black plastic back makes the phone considerably stickier and less prone to being dropped"

Well yes, it's arguably slightly more adhesive than the Aluminium version but it's still very easy to have it slip around in the hand, even if you have big hands. Some nice tactile rubber ribs (oh, err!) would have been good. Style over function even when function is the only requirement.

Then there's the non-user replacement battery and the complete locked down nature of the phone (even PAYG phones and phones that would be out of contact in 18 months that Apple will refuse to unlock) which forces customers to use awful iTunes (or to use JailBreak)

All in all, the iPhone 3G is very good, but don't forget to have a little perspective. To give it so many 10/10's in spite of all it's shortcomings (as Manni points out) is a bit generous.

I was delighted to so a Nokia getting 10/10 the other day though. (E61...fully agree with you on that one!)

;) (wink....meant in a good natured debate!)


July 21, 2008, 7:17 pm

Yeah it is missing a few features but honestly I think the reason why most people give it such a mark is just because it as that great to use. The features it does have are so well integrated and implemented that it really does put the UI and software on other phones to shame.

it&#039;s taking some time but other phone companies are starting to cotton onto the fact that its the software that really makes the iPhone great not the hardware features. Other phones may shoehorn a massive amount of features into a phone but as we&#039;ve seen time and time again what good are they if the average user cannot access them easily and quickly?


July 21, 2008, 7:35 pm

"Unlimited Data... subject to fair usage policies"

Am I the only person who gets irritated by this sort of thing? 02 don't bother to give a firm limit, but I'd guess it's around 2-3GB before they start charging or disconnecting. Hardly "Unlimited".

Andy Vandervell

July 21, 2008, 7:36 pm

How Dare You! Oh hang on... ;)

Anyhew, are you sure cost of ownership has gone up? I presume you mean after price cuts on the original. Been trying to find the figures but without any luck, but I'm sure that at launch time (i.e. before any price cuts) the 3G is cheaper than the original was...

Ah, iTunes. It is, especially on Windows, a bit pants. Just about bearable once you get used to it but clearly far too much has been shoehorned into it and it's long overdue a bit of a re-design.

Too many 10's! It got one less 10 than E71! ;)

To be serious for a moment, nothing is perfect and when we give a 10 it's certainly isn't intended to be so. It's a tricky balance to find, we've vacillated between 9 and 10 for a few days now, but felt if the iPhone wasn't worth it then nothing would be.

Take the E71 as an example. It definitely has its issues, but on balance it's that much better than anything it competes with and that's definitely still the case with the iPhone.


July 21, 2008, 7:59 pm

Yes, I see your point Andy...I don't own one (I'm a tinkerer, tweaker and tuner kind of person who doesn't take kindly to being regulated by the company that sold me my phone) but I do admit that above all else; features, looks, design, build, price etc aside... the iPhone does have a certain appeal that cannot be quantified and is worth buying into if your of that persuasion.

BTW I did mean the E71 in an earlier post. Cheers.

Also, interestingly I find myself actually displaying more than a p{assing interest in RIM products these days. I definately would not have thought that 2 years ago.

Andy Vandervell

July 21, 2008, 8:07 pm

Hmm, me too. Loving the look of the Blackberry Bold. They're definitely trying to hit a wider market and not just business users. Reckon they and Nokia will be heading up the business handsets for a long while, Apple don't really get Enterprise.

As for Windows Mobile, some time in the next ten years maybe MS will come up with an interface that isn't utterly appalling.


July 21, 2008, 8:43 pm

As hear you Andy, but still:

- If the GPS software is not included in a WM smartphone, you have ten different options to chose from. Can you name one fully featured GPS software that works on the iPhone (even when you're out of a GSM/3G signal) and that is available today?

- The VGA screen, especially for a 3.5" size, have been available for years. I had one on my iPaq HX4700, there is one (although smaller) on the Eten glofish models which are now one year old, and on the new HTC phones (the Diamond and the upcoming Touch pro).

Again, I do am not discussing the interface or the design, as the iPhone (my personal opinion) is by far the best designed phone on the market today.

But feature-wise, each iPhone is about a year late compared to what the rest of the market is offering, and I feel it's misleading to pretend that the 3G iphone is at the top feature-wise. Yes, all the included features are extremely well integrated, but there is no excuse for the lack of VGA on a screen that big, for the lack of AD2P or for the lack of a proper GPS software (included or optional).

I'm not even mentioning the lack of removable battery, or HDSC memory slot...

Again, the iPhone is a great phone for who doesn't need added functionality, but it is lacking a lot of what is available today from competitors like HTC. And that remains true if Touch-Flo or Opera Mini are not as good as the iPhone interface or Safari.

This is not a problem in itself, but it becomes one when it gets such a biased review (give it a 7 in features and an 8 overall, and your review becomes truly excellent (wink)).

Doug Ellison

July 21, 2008, 8:53 pm

No MMS. No proper bluetooth. Crap camera. No video recording. No battery to swap. No card expansion. Yet 9/10 for features? I&#039;m a Mac guy - MBP as main machine, MB is the other laptop at home...but even I couldn&#039;t give the iPhone 9/10 for features and given that, couldn&#039;t give it 9/10 for value.

Andy Vandervell

July 21, 2008, 9:07 pm

- No, but the iPhone is a comparatively new platform and development doesn't happen overnight. Windows Mobile has been around for a few years now and it's still rubbish.

- I still contend that VGA resolution screens aren't that common. Moreover, with the exception of the Diamond, all those are business targeted business handsets. I've yet to see many consumer devices, of which the iPhone undoubtedly is, using VGA resolution screens. As a general point there's no point at which the lack of VGA even occurs as a problem in general usage, at this point it simply doesn't need that resolution imho.

- A2DP we agree on. SDHC would be nice, but with up to 16GB of storage you're hardly wanting.


July 21, 2008, 9:22 pm

Manni, what is the point of having lots of features that when you actually come to use make you want to throw your device out of the window?

I can't quite comprehend people's quarrel with the lack of MMS. Has anyone actually ever used it? It's like using powerpoint on your phone. It is foul.

Who said iTunes was awful? Strange person. How is it awful? It has a much more intuitive interface the WMP, has a tonne of good features (party shuffle is genius) and actually works when syncing your device (I have yet to find another combination of phone/mp3 player plus software that actually syncs well, in a timely fashion, with constant feedback on what the software/hardware is actually doing).

Lastly, good work Andy with a nicely presented review. Good man for sticking to your guns!


July 21, 2008, 9:31 pm

Matt G: You wanted to know why Sandra wasn't reviewing the iPhone 3G. Maybe it's because she didn't want to deal with the slaughter that Andy is having to deal with now.

A good review, I thought. Makes it perfectly clear that the iPhone is far from perfect, but is better implemented (not necessarily better featured) than almost anything else out there.

A few things really bug me about the iPhone though. Firstly, MMS - if almost every other phone available in the last 4 years can do it, why not the iPhone? It's not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it's a silly little issue that shouldn't exist in the first place. Copy & Paste seems like another foolish oversight. It's these little things that should be done right, but aren't that frustrate me.

But the most frustrating thing of all, for me, is that not one other manufacturer out there has come close to matching the iPhone interface. With 18 months to develop something, they've concentrated on beating Apple on the easy things (putting in proper Bluetooth, copy and paste, MMS, 3G (not Apple beating any more, of course)), but have completely failed to compete with Apple on the one thing that makes the iPhone special - the interface. For me, that is completely inexcusable, and the mobile manufacturers are playing right into Apple's hands...


July 21, 2008, 9:31 pm

I think that one of the 'problems' we're all debating over is caused by today's devices converging. Once clear cut markets such as phones for business, phones for fun, phones for media etc...are all merging. As someone mentioned on another thread, put a 3.5mm jack on an E71 and you have a great media phone, RIM products playing video would have been a crazy suggestion not so long ago, and God forbid...a nearly fully functional and fancy looking phone from Apple.

Customer expectations are increasing ahead of the drip-feed technology mentality that tech companies adopt in order to make a decent profit from one invention before moving on to the next.

But variety is the spice of life, so lets not rush towards that ubiquitous 'do it all' phone solution to quickly. Besides the next big technology step will involve making the physical phone itself, a thing of the past. How you gonna show off your wealth and social status then Mr. iPhone user!?

In the mean time, let's all trot along and go buy an E71. No? :)


July 21, 2008, 9:37 pm

Got to side with Andy here. I think everyone is forgetting that Safari is one heck of a feature, the iPod integration is one heck of a feature, the Google Maps app is one heck of a feature. Mobile iTunes? App Store? Even the handset as a whole can be easily upgraded via firmware updates through iTunes. Microsoft can't even get v6.1 onto most of its Windows Mobile 6 handsets... let alone WM5.

Likewise, all the handsets being compared here (Touch Diamond, E71) could just as easily be criticised for not having these features as much as the benefits they do possess. It's all relative people...


July 21, 2008, 9:40 pm

Err... you know what I think about Nokias lifethroughalens, so no ;)


July 21, 2008, 9:40 pm

Andy, I respect the fact that you defend your position, but let's try to keep this as objective as possible ;).

I was discussing the features, and the lack of a GPS application, you argued it's an extra you have to pay for, to which I replied I'd be happy to pay for an extra, but there is nothing I can buy, which is not the case on WM!

Now you may dislike it, but cannot say that WM is rubbish. If we go there, I'm going to raise the fact that it offers about 10 thousand different applications, many of them free, and amongst them quite a few dozens that I use daily (for example the ability to open and edit MS Office documents - keeping most of the formatting if I use TextMaker/Planmaker - some excellent multilingual dictionaries, excellent GPS software, a great movie database, etc...). Yes, its interface is not perfect, but its software catalog opens thousand of possibilities that the iPhone simply doesn't offer (yet).

So let's stick to the discussion about features, or it becomes slightly ridiculous as we are not comparing apples with apples (pun intended).

- Lack of VGA is a problen because 1) many people have converted their DVDs to Divx in 640x480, and don't want to do it all over again and 2) it's much more comfortable when using a web browser.

Again I'm not saying it's a wrong choice on Apple's part to chose not to implement these features. It doesn't make the iPhone a bad phone (although I wouldn't want one for all these reasons, I think the 3G is a great mainstream offer). I'm simply saying that in my opinion it's misleading to give 9 regarding the iPhone features, or an overall 10.

The iPhone integrates perfectly many features, and makes them useable for the masses. Great! But there are a lot of missing features, some of which would indeed be lost by the masses, but more advanced users want or need. I have been using many of these features on my Tytn II for more than a year now, and while the iPhone is slowly catching up, it's still way behind the rest of the market feature-wise (which again doesn't mean it's not ahead of the market design-wise or interface/useability-wise).

This website is called Trusted Reviews, and this is the first review that makes me think maybe I should not trust it as much as I do, which is why I'm voicing my surprise. Now let's agree to disagree!

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