THE AFTERMATH: iPhone 3G

Wow what a crazy few days! If you figured the hype surrounding iPhone 3G was just going to be contained to the US you thought wrong. Starting at midnight in Auckland the iPhone 3G fever spread throughout the world. If you haven’t checked out the great photos we took – click here. It seems that most people that wanted one got one despite Apple’s iTunes activation system meltdown and woes getting MobileMe up and running for push email contacts and calendars.

My experience for launch day was a bit different. I started off in Melbourne at 6am on Friday AM where I picked up a demo unit from Vodafone. I got to the store at 5:45 and at that time the queues were still building. Then after playing with the phone for a couple of hours I hopped on a plane and arrived in Los Angeles (for another vendor’s launch) and proceeded straight to the Apple store in Santa Monica where a queue snacked up the outdoor mall for at least 500 metres.

At 10:30 I spoke to the guy  at the front of the queue who had been waiting since 6am. Things were going slow – due to the various activation issues plaguing Apple – but those that left the store seemed happy. And thankfully the smog hiding LA from the blaring sun stayed put till about 11 but afterwards things started heating up for the queue.

My colleague David Flynn said he dropped in to the North Sydney Optus store around lunch time and quizzed the floor staff about the best-selling plans and phones. They reported that the $59 and $79 cap plans were equally the most popular followed by the $49 plan with the 16GB iPhone most sought after – to the point where by noon they’d sold out of the 16GB and stocks on the 8GB were running low. Bear in mind that the North Sydney store might be skewed to a decidedly tech-savvy and semi-trendy audience.

But what’s the response been to the new iPhone 3G? In one word: mixed.

Most analysts agree the iPhone 3G is simply the evolution of what was a revolutionary product – a product that has finally been blessed with a 3G radio and GPS – two features is deserved from day one. Analysts also rightly note that upgrading from the first generation to the second generation is more of a luxury rather than a necessity. That’s because the big deal with the new iPhone is actually in the software and all original owners can upgrade to the new iPhone 2.0 software for free. Holders of ‘cracked’ iPhones will also soon be able to upgrade with word that an unlock solution is just around the corner.

The biggest and best new feature of iPhone 2.0 software is the App Store. The App Store launched with over 500 applications with around 25% free. The remaining 75% of applications cost between USD$0.99 and $49 with an average application price of around $9.99. Reports also came through today noting that Apple has again started accepting additional developers to its official dev program – a program that so far yielded over 250000 downloads of the iPhone SDK.

Of the free applications available there are a few stand-outs notably Facebook AIM Bloomberg MySpace Mobile eBay Mobile and Mobile News Network. If you want to browse the App Store and you don’t have an iPhone simply fire up iTunes install the latest version 7.7 click on the Applications section in the library and choose ‘Get More Applications’ at the bottom right corner of the screen.

I’ve only had limited time to play with the new phone but I have a few observations:

  • iPhone 3G feels better in hand – while the plastic back ‘feels’ cheaper the reality is that it’s easier to grip (which also means it picks up fingerprints more easily — perhaps one reason the white iPhone is superior to the black one; it doesn’t show the fingerprints.)
  • The interface seems to lag a bit – certainly navigating contacts feels slower than on my 1st gen phone (running 1.1.4) – and has crashed a couple of times already especially when browsing certain web pages which can actually cause the phone to hard-reboot.
  • Installing apps is a cinch – and I’m blown away by the quality. The Facebook app for instance will make me use Facebook more often – it’s just so easy to access. Other apps make excellent use of the features in the phone. The Twitter app for instance can take photos with the iPhone camera geotag them automatically based on the A-GPS or GPS location data and upload them as a tweet to your friends. 
  • Other sites have noted the new ability to capture screen shots – simply hold down the home button and press the power button. Screen grabs show up in your camera roll
  • On my way to the airport this morning the GPS easily found and tracked me along route.
  • I haven’t read this anywhere but Apple now include a SIM contacts import feature. It’s located in the Settings –> Mail contacts calendar–> Import Sim Contacts (scroll to bottom of the screen)
  • MobileMe is finally up and works well with email calendars and contacts being pushed down to the phone. The first few days have been rocky with authentication issues and numerous outages but things now seem to be flowing smoothly.
  • There’s now support for multiple calendars.
  • If you want to send from another email address (using your me.com address)  you’ll need to use another SMTP server. For instance I use Gmail as my primary email address and using the Gmail SMTP lets me send using my Gmail address.
  • I’ve got two Apple TVs at home and the new free Remote app from Apple is nearly perfect. It lets me select and play music from either iTunes or my Apple TV libraries without switching on the TV (my Apple TV is connected direct to my amp). It’s also instantly available when you bring the phone back from sleep. It’s like the most amazing universal remote control — and it’s a free download! (OK ‘universal’ remote might be a bit strong considering it only controls iTunes but the point is the interface is what every universal remote should be like.)
  • Entering passwords is easier as the iPhone now displays the last character you entered and only creates a dot when you move to the next character.
  • Search in the contacts works well but doesn’t search information in the notes section of your contacts. It should have been included from the beginning.
  • SMS app is still too slow. AIM messenger is now a free download for the iPhone; it’s obvious that Apple had a deal with US carriers to not include instant messaging and force people to message through SMS — otherwise why would it not have created iChat for the iPhone by now?
  • Enabling the Chinese Pinyin keyboard lets you bring up the handwriting recognition unit – let’s hope this is added as an option for other languages as some still prefer a graffiti style input to onscreen typing.
  • NineMSN have launched a special iPhone portal located at m.ninemsn.com.au.

If you’ve got any more tips/comments please leave them in the comments.

[With help from David Flynn]