John Paczkowski

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Believe the Hype (Most of It, Anyway): An iPhone Review Roundup

iPhone Fan Medium
Today may well have been your last chance to buy shares of Apple for under $120. The first reviews of the iPhone (by journalists actually allowed to test the device) were published on the Web at 3 p.m. PDT today and seem to be generally positive, with the typical caveats about Apple’s choice of cellphone carriers. Interestingly, some of the issues that were initially cause for concern seem to have fallen by the wayside. Indeed, two of the three reviewers below actually seem fond of the device’s virtual keyboard and all of them found its new screen to be durable.

We have been testing the iPhone for two weeks, in multiple usage scenarios, in cities across the country. Our verdict is that, despite some flaws and feature omissions, the iPhone is, on balance, a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer. Its software, especially, sets a new bar for the smart-phone industry, and its clever finger-touch interface, which dispenses with a stylus and most buttons, works well, though it sometimes adds steps to common functions. … The iPhone’s most controversial feature, the omission of a physical keyboard in favor of a virtual keyboard on the screen, turned out in our tests to be a nonissue, despite our deep initial skepticism. After five days of use, Walt — who did most of the testing for this review — was able to type on it as quickly and accurately as he could on the Palm Treo he has used for years. This was partly because of smart software that corrects typing errors on the fly.

Walt Mossberg and Katherine Boehret, The Wall Street Journal

The phone is so sleek and thin, it makes Treos and BlackBerrys look obese. The glass gets smudgy—a sleeve wipes it clean–but it doesn’t scratch easily. I’ve walked around with an iPhone in my pocket for two weeks, naked and unprotected (the iPhone, that is, not me), and there’s not a mark on it. … But the bigger achievement is the software. It’s fast, beautiful, menu free, and dead simple to operate. You can’t get lost, because the solitary physical button below the screen always opens the Home page, arrayed with icons for the iPhone’s 16 functions. … Apple says one battery charge is enough for 8 hours of calls, 7 hours of video or 24 hours of audio. My results weren’t quite as impressive: I got 5 hours of video and 23 hours of audio, probably because I didn’t turn off the phone, Wi-Fi and other features, as Apple did in its tests. In practice, you’ll probably wind up recharging about every other day. So yes, the iPhone is amazing. But no, it’s not perfect.”

David Pogue, New York Times

If you’re looking for quibbles, flaws and omissions, you’ll certainly find them in this first version of the iPhone. (I’ll get to these below.) But the bottom line is that the iPhone is a significant leap. It’s a superbly engineered, cleverly designed and imaginatively implemented approach to a problem that no one has cracked to date: merging a phone handset, an Internet navigator and a media player in a package where every component shines, and the features are welcoming rather than foreboding. The iPhone is the rare convergence device where things actually converge. … In a sense, the iPhone has already made its mark. Even those who never buy one will benefit from its advances, as competitors have already taken Apple’s achievements as a wake-up call to improve their own products. But for all its virtues, the iPhone is still a risky venture because it’s yet to be proven that, despite the wow factor, millions of people are ready to pay several hundred dollars more than the going rate for phones—and in some cases, paying even more to bail out of their current mobile contracts.”

Steven Levy, Newsweek

After months of hype, Apple has delivered a prodigy–a slender fashion phone, a slick iPod and an Internet experience unlike any before it on a mobile handset. Still, iPhone isn’t perfect, or even the most ideal smart phone for every user. It’s pricey. It lacks certain features found on some rival devices. AT&T’s coverage was spotty in some areas I tested it in. Your employer may prevent you from receiving corporate email on the device. … On the data side, [iPhone] works through AT&T’s Edge network, which is pokey compared with third-generation, or 3G, data networks used with other phones. At times, I fell off the Edge and lost coverage. Even at its best, Edge never felt close to the broadband-type speeds I experience on my home network. Assuming Apple gets around to supporting 3G in the future, you’d ultimately have to buy a new 3G-capable iPhone for improved network performance, not that Apple is ready to announce one.”

Edward Baig, USA Today

No, Apple is most certainly not ready to announce a 3G-capable iPhone, as this call-and-response Q&A between Walt Mossberg and Steve Jobs demonstrates:

Walt: When will there be an iPhone that runs on the fastest, so-called “3G” networks?
Steve: Walt, you know we don’t talk about future products. Again, Wi-Fi is far faster than 3G networks.
Walt: Will you follow the pattern you set with the iPod and bring out less costly models? If so, when?
Steve: We don’t talk about future products.
Walt: This first model is missing some features some other smart phones have, like video recording, instant messaging and real-time GPS navigation. Do you plan to upgrade iPhones purchased now so they have these features? If so, when?
Steve: We don’t talk about future products.

Over at Valleywag, Nick Denton’s whipped up a helpful chart scoring the critical consensus on the device.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald