iPhone 3G reactions

So, the big event finally arrived, the new iPhone is out there, or at least the specs are. And, of course, several people have asked me for my thoughts, so I thought I’d blog it so I only have to answer once.

First and foremost, way cool. 3G speed is awesome and full GPS is a really nice bonus. I don’t have a strong reaction either way to the plastic (as opposed to the old aluminum). It would be great if the whole thing could have been thinner, but the total size is about the same and that’s OK. With 3G and better battery life (well, more or less), I wasn’t really expecting them to be able to make it smaller.

What I am bummed about is the later release date; I was hoping for the June 18th date that was a popular number on the blogosphere. It’s not so much the waiting I mind as the timing—I’m going off on a family camping trip with all my zillion in-laws starting on July 13; not exactly the prime environment to tinker with a new techie toy, you know? And this looks to be a good toy.

The fact that you can’t buy them on-line, and the perception that you have to have it activated right there in either the Apple Store or an AT&T store is kind of a drag. (Though there’s a hint that such activation won’t actually be required; this will need to be sorted out.) If I do decide to try to get one right on the 11th, I’ll have to try to decide where to make the attempt. There’‘s an iPhone-supporting AT&T store right around the corner from my house but I’d kind of rather get one at an Apple store, especially if there’s going to be a long wait while they activate everybody. Then I have to guess which Apple store (there are three within reasonable distance of me) to head over to at 5am. Yes, I’ll probably get up really early to try to get one on the 11th. Well, probably, anyway.

The piles of new software for this thing (actually, for any iPhone) look to be amazing. I was completely blown away by the game demos. I’m not really all that much of a gamer, but just the fact you could even run something like Kroll on an iPhone is impressive. I thought the AP application was also pretty cool; for free, too, which is excellent.

There are some other topics to be attacked yet, though, which even deserve their own headings:

Hooray for the price drop; one has to think at $200 they’ll sell these as fast as they can make them.

However, as some people have noted, AT&T’s price for unlimited data will be $10/month more with the 3G data plan, meaning that in a 2-year contract you ultimately pay $240 more in fees to AT&T. This, some are saying, means the iPhone 3G is actually more expensive. Nonsense, it’s still cheaper. I mean, yes, the total number of dollars you’ll shell out over two years will be higher, but the value of money isn’t constant over time. Besides inflation, there’s inherent value in deferring payment. Let’s say you’re buying something non-techie—a couch. There are two choices: pay $600 now, or pay $300 now and $300 in one year. Which do you think most consumers would choose? It’s the same amount of money but people will not be indifferent to the choice.

So, overall, I’d say the price situation has improved, but of course it’s not effectively half the price, as the Apple Web site is claiming. Frankly, for 3G and GPS, I would have been willing to pay more, so I still think this is a win.

I will admit that I wonder how the new iPhone pricing by AT&T will fit in with all their other stuff. When I switch to AT&T my wilfe will almost certainly want to switch as well. And, since I have AT&T for my home landline and DSL, how does this fit in with AT&T’s package deals? If I could get the package deal AT&T just offered me ($99/month for landline, DSL, and family wireless plan) and just add the $30/month for unlimited iPhone data on top of that, I’d be on that like white on rice.

Bummer Missing Features
Some things about the 3G/2.0 situation aren’t entirely clear. You’d kind of think that the lack of copy-paste would be fixed in software; is this part of the 2.0 software? I would hope so, but if not, well, shame on you, Apple. That’s just dumb.

I am very surprised that it doesn’t have voice dialing on it. However, since the address book is part of the core API, I’d be even more surprised if some third-party developer doesn’t release a voice dialer almost right away. So maybe this will be OK. Still a bit odd.

The other feature I’m even more bummed not to see is support for using the iPhone as a modem. At 3G speed, this would actually be worthwhile. If the phone supports 3G and Bluetooth, why shouldn’t I be able to use it to connect my laptop at 3G speeds? I’m not going to pay an additional $60/month or whatever to buy a 3G laptop access card when I’m already paying for unlimited 3G data. I think Apple really missed the boat on this one, though I wonder how much pressure they got from AT&T about this.

Expected Missing Features
As in, I didn’t expect Apple to do these anyway, though it would be nice if they did. Expandable storage via MicroSD or some such would be a bonus, but it’s not that big a deal. When the original iPhone was released I said I was hoping for more like 12GB for $500 and now it’s 16GB for $300, so I think the storage situation is at least OK.

I guess I was a little surprised that they didn’t include some kind of flash for the camera, but this isn’t really a deal-breaker for me as I don’t take a lot of cell phone pics now (my current phone doesn’t have a flash either), and it just isn’t that big a thing for me.

Irrelevant Missing Features
Of course, here I mean “irrelevant to me.” I don’t care about video recording (I don’t know if anyone else has bothered to point this out, but videos recorded on cell phones universally suck). My current phone has video recording and I never, ever use it. Since the iPhone has a full email client, the lack of MMS isn’t that big a deal; I’ll just email photos or put them up in an on-line gallery anyway. (MobileMe actually looks pretty good, by the way; this looks to be a real improvement9 over .Mac. assuming it actually works as advertised.) Lack of stereo Bluetooth is also radically overblown; the sound quality of your typical BT headset is so low that this hardly matters; I’ll use wired buds or cans when I care about audio quality, A2DP or not. I also don’t really care about the lack of Adobe Flash support, either—Flash also pretty much sucks, and I try to avoid Flash-based sites on my desktop as it is. If anything, the lack of Flash on the iPhone and the market share Apple will command might actually encourage Web developers to stop using Flash, which IMO is actually a win.