Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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iPhone 3G - One Week Review Of The Apple iPhone 3G Black 16 Gig Model

By Ben Nadel on

So last week, I stood in the hot sun for a few hours to get my hands on the new Apple iPhone 3G Black, 16 Gig model. Luckily, I live in New York City and we actually have the 3G network... well, for the most part. For last few months, I've been using the generation one iPhone and have been fairly happy with it. I don't have internet at home, so the primary gesture of my phone has become checking my GMail from the comfort of my bed (and deleting stupid spam comments posted to my site).


 
 
 

 
Apple iPhone 3g Product Review  
 
 
 

Since it's been a week, I thought I would share my experience thus far.

To start off with, the 3G network is clearly faster. This is most easily noticed in applications like YouTube and the downloaded Pandora.com on-demand radio. On the Edge network, watching a YouTube video was quite literally a hit or miss activity; sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn't. Sometimes it would play the first few seconds and then pause for several minutes waiting for the rest of the video to load. Now, on the 3G network, YouTube is literally on-demand video. You click, it plays. Now, I can kick off every morning with an upbeat song for a can-do attitude adjustment.

The internet is also much faster. To me, this is most easily seen on slow loading pages like Testosterone Nation. On the Edge network, this site was simply unusable! Just loading the homepage would take, no joke, several minutes. I would literally navigate to the page, put my iPhone down, go do something else for a few minutes (ex. Brush my teeth), and then come back. Unfortunately, clicking into sub-pages required the same cycle, Bleh!. On the 3G network, I can finally use this website to increase my fitness awareness. The page loads in 10 to 15 seconds which is worlds faster than it was before (much better than even the 200% advertised).

One of the "ooh-ahh" features that I have enjoyed is the fact that you can now download pictures from websites to your camera roll. Finally, things like Suicide Girls can be downloaded and used as desktop backgrounds. Other than desktop creation, I doubt I will have much use for this feature, but it's about time that they actually implemented it. You can also take a screen shot of the iPhone by simultaneously click both the top and bottom buttons - again, an ooh-ahh feature that is cool, but will probably be rarely used.

Ok, now let's talk reality. The 3G network is awesome; but, the 3G network is not ubiquitous - not even in here in New York City. I often find that the iPhone 3G downgrades its connection from [3G] to [E] (as denoted by the connection icon at the top of the screen). At that point, I am experiencing classic Edge network speeds (which are noticeably slower). The network itself seems to be a bit shotty. I can be standing or sitting in one place and go from full 3G bars, to zero bars, to Edge network, to no service, to full 3G bars in the space of a minute without having moved at all. Now, I know that this is not the fault of the iPhone 3G (or so I assume), but it does get very frustrating very quickly. What I can't explain is that areas that used to have good Edge [E] service, such as my bathroom, are now dead zones. Why would the network availability change depending on the device? Ideas? No. Frustrating? Very.

The network is not the only thing that gets slow - the iPhone 3G itself is slow... and crashy. In the last week, I'd say my Safari has crashed at least 10 times (one time it crashed 3 times in a row on the same website). This is more than my iPhone generation-one crashed in 6 months. And Safari is not the only crashy application; my SMS text messaging, YouTube, Camera Roll, and Pandora.com applications have all crashed on a noticeable basis. I have also found that the applications load slowly and have delayed response times. It is not uncommon for me to be able to type an SMS text message much faster than it actually gets rendered. There's nothing more frustrating than finishing a sentence and then sitting there, watching the buttons trigger for the next 10 seconds (as if a ghost were typing on my iPhone). Clicking on the SMS button and then seeing a white screen for 10 seconds before conversations are loaded is all a less-than-fun activity.

And what about the casing? The iPhone generation-one had a cool, badass, metal casing. I felt like I could abuse it and it wouldn't get hurt. The iPhone 3G, on the other hand, has a plastic backing. Who decided to OK that downgrade? The plastic does not fill me with confidence. The metal case was also solid and cool (temperature-wise) to the touch. The iPhone 3G, with its plastic backing, gets very warm with brief use and gets my palm all sweaty. This is not only gross but creates a dangerous situation where surfaces can get slippery and phones can be dropped accidentally. I miss the metal casing:


 
 
 

 
Apple iPhone Generation One With Sexy Metal Casing  
 
 
 

See how good the metal casing looks?

I'm also disappointed that there are no real application improvements. Yes, they added new features like the App Store (which has some cool apps that haven't found time to use), but the existing applications seem to be just on par with how they were before. I still cannot sent or receive Picture SMS messages (a huge limitation that continues to anger my friends). And Safari still has horrible caching and faulty Back-page functionality, especially when links are opened in a new window. Actually, when you factor in things like crappy response time and frequent crashing, the existing applications are working worse then they were before.

Overall, I enjoy the faster internet speed of the 3G network, but I find the Apple iPhone 3G to be more frustrating than its predecessor. The overall experience has been a downgrade. But, do I regret getting the iPhone 3G? No. As using Safari is the primary gesture of my iPhone use, the faster (albeit less dependent) browsing sill outweighs all the other features that have been poorly implemented.




Reader Comments

Hey Ben,
I was thinking of upgrading this weekend... I'm curious, did you upgrade your old iPhone to 2.0? I'm wondering if the crashes are from the 2.0 os or the 3G

@Anthony,

Sorry, I think I was unclear in my post. I did not upgrade the OS of the iPhone to the 2.0. I left my generation one iPhone with the original software. I have now purchased the new iPhone 3G and am using the software that came with it.

I'm hoping they make some updates to the OS soon and release an upgrade.

There have been articles at Gizmodo and Engadget that point out that the phone reception issues to actually be the iPhone 3G's fault. It's happening worldwide on every network that has it. A huge blunder.

@Todd,

While the facts are not for-sure, it is comforting to know that the case was not easily blended. That give me confidence.

@Brandon,

Humor is never off-topic ;)

It's not just the 3G phone that experiences slow and crashing applications. I upgraded my v1 iPhone to 2.0 and I wish I could go back.

Ever since I updated it to 2.0, every native app is extremely slow and they all crash a lot. I'm talking about Address Book, Text Messaging, iPod, Safari, Google Maps, Clock!!!, you name it. Even the settings are ridiculously slow to open up.

I hope they fix these issues in 2.1. IMO, access to iPhone apps is not worth the trade-off of a much slower performing phone. I would have gladly waited until they fixed this before updating. Now, there's no going back and I've got an iMolasses. :(

Something I've come to realize lately (and your post confirms it even more) is that while Apple excels at making pretty hardware, and succesfully marketing their products, they generally can't create quality software. If you ignore the Apple fanboy zealots, and read honest reviews like yours, you find ample evidence that Apple consistently drops the ball with their software, including their firmware and OS X.

So then I wonder...who is better at writing software? Microsoft, or Apple? Tough call. I will say this, though: Microsoft has been dropping the software ball a LOT longer than Apple, and Microsoft has had more than enough time to clean up their act. I'm still waiting...

Sadly, there are fewer and fewer companies these days that know how to (or even care to) use good discipline in their product life cycle combined with well trained QA teams and usability testing. There are still some companies like that, but they seem to be few and far between anymore. Sigh...

I go the white iPhone, I like it, I am not getting as many bars on 3G, but the calls are okay. I turned off 3g reception when I am not using it to surf the web. By the way, who is that SEXY CHICA in the photo???? She is smoking HOT!

Generally Apple has problems with x.0 software and clears it up with the x.1 release. As a long time Apple user, I've tried to hold off the x.0 releases ever since the System 6 days (yeah, *long* time Mac user!) but with the phone and some system software, we don't have that luxury.

I agree that things seem slower to launch. My wife and I bought our iPhones in November - well after the original launch - and upgraded three days after the 2.0 launch so that we didn't have to suffer all the initial teething problems with the upgrade delivery! I'm sure it'll get fixed in 2.1. Overall, the software improvements are worthwhile (for me) and having access to (new) applications is a good trade off.

If I upgrade to a 3G model, it won't be for six months or so.

One observation I will make - on the subject of fanboys - is that the most fervent fanboy-ism I've seen in the last few years has all come from "switchers". Long-time Apple folks are rarely fanboys :)

@Sean, re: fanboys,

Probably true. My personal definition of a fanboy is someone that loves a company or product so much, that they refuse to accept that their favorite products have flaws. And they try to hide those flaws in conversations about the products by defending the product with lame excuses. I have rarely (if ever) found you to be a fanboy, under this definition. On the contrary, in your reviews that I've read, you seem to be pretty fair. I know you have often written about your Mac OS troubles, and that is (to me) is a definite sign that you aren't a true fanboy (according to my definition). You like Apple and their products, but at the same time you are honest about their flaws.