When it comes to sound quality, the iPhone isn’t going to blow you away. That’s not to say that it sounds bad, but compared to players from Creative, iRiver and Sony, it’s a couple of steps behind. As usual, I plugged my Shure E500PTH earphones in, which improved things infinitely over the awful white Apple earbuds that ship in the box. As Jon mentioned in the iPod touch review, things just sound a little compressed, especially when using very good earphones.
Tracey Thorn’s hauntingly beautiful vocals on Massive Attack’s Protection are rendered perfectly on iPhone, but in the background the snare and bass drums aren’t quite as distinct as they should be. It’s unlikely that you’ll even notice nuances like this without a very good set of earphones, but it’s worth bearing in mind that, as always with iPods, there are better sounding players out there.
Video playback is superb, and even though I don’t generally recommend watching video on a mobile device, the screen on the iPhone is so good, that it really is a viable option. I’m not sure that I’d want to watch an entire movie, but the odd TV show and music video works very well – now let’s hope that Apple starts to provide some decent video content on the UK iTunes Store.
Apple has integrated Google Maps into the iPhone, which goes a long way to excuse the lack of GPS receiver. The implementation of Google Maps is first rate – you simply type in a location name, or postcode and the map is displayed. You can then zoom in and out of the map just like with mobile Safari. You can also switch between map view and satellite view, so you can see an actual photograph of your location. It even lets you bookmark specific locations, so you can jump straight to them without searching. I’ve got to say, that this has been a killer feature for me when I’ve been wandering around London looking for a meeting or Press event that’s being held in an obscure location.
There are some other cool bits and pieces, like the weather forecast, which you can set to multiple locations, you can check your Stock investments and of course view all your photos on that superb screen – even though the integrated 2-megapixel camera is pretty poor. And no matter what application you happen to be using, or how deep down a set of nested pages you are, a simple press of the Home button underneath the screen brings you straight back to the home page.
You’re probably thinking that Apple has produced a near perfect phone on its first attempt right? Unfortunately not, because despite the astoundingly good usability, there are a few issues with the iPhone that take some of that glossy shine away.