Apple iPhone.

Image representing iPhone

Image via CrunchBase

My Cingular 8125 was on its last legs. I’d never been particularly impressed with the device but now it would randomly reboot during calls – you just can’t have that. So as I prepared to leave Collages.net Inc. for the unpredictable world of the entrepreneur, I needed a new phone. I had a contract with Cingular – recently become AT&T – and I had no real complaints, so it made sense to stay with them. I looked at their opens. They had a brick for around $175, or I could get a flip phone for around $225. I chose the latter – and made a mental note to return it as soon as the iPhone became available. Why pay $225 for a little, wimpy flip phone when you can get an Apple iPhone for $200? I’d be saving money.

So, the iPhone is relatively inexpensive – but $200 is still a pretty significant amount of money to shell out for a phone, especially if you are a new cellular customer just locking in a contract and the mobile company offers a free phone with the package. Its important that we take some time to discuss the iPhone and what makes it a worthwhile purchase.

First, its important to note that the iPhone is much more than a “phone.” It falls into an upcoming category known as “smartphones” which are essentially mini-computers that including voice communications technology. So, let’s just take a quick tour of the features I consider most important:

  • VoiceApple does voice fairly well. With the latest update to the iPhone software reception is much better (I was having an occasional issue with dropped calls when inside buildings). One nice touch is that the screen turns off when you put it against your head and turns back on when you pull it away. This means that that little hot display isn’t radiating against your skull but becomes instantly visible as soon as you need it – I guess it uses some sort of proximity detector to determine distance from an object and turns off when it is too close. Additional, it has visual voicemail. Okay, this isn’t as exciting as it sounds – but it means you can see who called and listen to the messages in any order instead of having to listen to all the messages and deal with each one in the order it was recorded (as is common with most phones).
  • Music – If you are considering buying an iPod DON’T. The standard iPhone comes with 8 GB of storage. 8 GB is huge. Unless you have thousands of songs you have to have stored on your iPod at any given moment, the iPhone will do the trick. Additionally, using applications like Pandora[1] and Flycast you can listen to almost anything you want anytime you want.
  • GPS – Some works needs to be done in this area, but the GPS on the iPhone is pretty amazing. You see Google Maps (which are extremely high quality) and a little dot shows you your current location and another your destination. On practically a second-by-second basis your location moves. Additionally, the GPS can automatically find where you are – great if you are lost on some backroad and need directions to some distant location. It doesn’t have voice for the GPS which is a major bummer – but I expect some applications to rectify GPS’ shortcomings in the near future.
  • Camera – The photo functions aren’t overwhelming…but still are decent for the unexpected photo opportunity. The camera is around 2 MP and I’ll just say right now – Apple, give us a 5-6 MP!
  • Internet – The iPhone uses 3G cellular data networks meaning you can be connected to the internet anywhere you have a cell signal and the speeds are faster than on traditional phones which utilize these slow networks that feel like dialup. The Safari browser is absolutely amazing! It doesn’t show you mobile versions of webpages, but the full thing like you’d see it on your computer. You can zoom in and out simply by moving your fingers around – very intuitive!
  • Applications – One of the real killer features is the slick integration of applications into the iPhone. Most phones come with a relatively static set of applications – not the iPhone. Tons of developers are constantly writing awesome and innovative applications for the iPhone. I have just a few installed – items like a mobile version of Wikipedia (the most extensive encyclopedia in the world), Facebook, Twittelator (both let me catch up on social networks while on the go), Stanza, eReader (allows one to read/purchase ebooks), YouVersion (multiple versions of the Bible, easily readable and searchable), gFlash+ (prep quizzes and tests on anything – I’m personally using their Mounce Greek Vocab set), and games like BubbleWap and reMovem Free.
  • Upgrades – I hate software that stays static, but Apple has shown a commitment to ensuring that its customers have the latest and greatest – at no cost. While the original iPhone may not have all the neat new features of the iPhone 3G Apple did give users an upgrade to the latest software included in the new iPhone. I’ve received several updates since I purchased my iPhone and some significant advancements have been included. This compared to traditional phones which oftentimes aren’t updated after initial release or only for minor bug fixes – not new feature enhancements.

The iPhone isn’t perfect. The lack of a real keypad, the open faced display (no protective cover), the previous signal issues, a weak camera, a feature-limited GPS, all take away from this great device. But it is amazing. At this juncture I haven’t gotten my hands onto the new Google Android phone from T-Mobile, which looks like a beautiful device…and I imagine over the next six months we’ll see a number of new phones coming out to rival the iPhone 3G, but for the time being it is certainly at the top of its game.

  1. [1]We’ll receive the magical wonders of Pandora another day.

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