Editors’ note: 10 years ago this week, Kent German reviewed the original iPhone. He, and he had opinions — lots of them. To commemorate the occasion, we partnered with Genius (you know, the people formerly known as RapGenius who make a cool annotation tool) to mark up our review with notes on what we got right, what we got wrong — and just how much in the . Just click the yellow highlights to see Kent’s notes and comment on his comments.
June 30, 2007
THE GOOD The Apple iPhone has a stunning display, a sleek design, and an innovative multitouch user interface. Its Safari browser makes for a superb Web surfing experience, and it offers easy-to-use apps. As an iPod, it shines.
THE BAD The Apple iPhone has variable call quality and lacks some basic features found in many cell phones, including stereo Bluetooth support and a faster data network. Integrated memory is stingy for an iPod, and you have to sync the iPhone to manage music content.
THE BOTTOM LINE Despite some important missing features, a slow data network, and call quality that doesn’t always deliver, the Apple iPhone sets a new benchmark for an integrated cell phone and MP3 player.
The iPhone’s display is the handset’s design showpiece and is noteworthy for not only what it shows, but also how you use it. From the moment Apple announced its iPhone at Macworld 2007, the tech world hasn’t stopped asking questions. Because Apple has kept many iPhone details under wraps until very recently, we’ve been forced to speculate. Until now. Is the iPhone pretty? Absolutely. Is it easy to use? Certainly. Does it live up to the stratospheric hype? Not so much.
Don’t get us wrong, the iPhone is a lovely device with a sleek interface, top-notch music and video features, and innovative design touches. The touch screen is easier to use than we expected, and the multimedia performs well. But a host of missing features, a dependency on a sluggish EDGE network, and variable call quality–it is a phone after all–left us wanting more. For those reasons, the iPhone is noteworthy not for what it does, but how it does it. If you want an iPhone badly, you probably already have one. But if you’re on the fence, we suggest waiting for the second-generation handset. At $599 for the 8GB model and $399 for the 4GB model, it’s a lot to ask for a phone that lacks so many features and locks you into an iPhone-specific two-year contract with AT&T. We’ll be more excited once we see a version with–at the very least–multimedia messaging and 3G.
The iPhone boasts a brilliant display, trim profile, and clean lines (no external antenna of course), and its lack of buttons puts it in a design class that even the LG Prada and the HTC Touch can’t match. You’ll win envious looks on the street toting the iPhone, and we’re sure that would be true even if it hadn’t received as much media attention as it has. We knew that it measures 4.5 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.46 inch deep, but it still felt smaller than we expected when we finally held it. It fits comfortably in the hand and when held to the ear, and its 4.8 ounces give it a solid, if perhaps weighty, feel. We also like that the display is glass rather than plastic.
At a generous 3.5 inches, the display takes full advantage of the phone’s size, while its 480×320 pixel resolution (160 dots per inch) translates into brilliant colors, sharp graphics, and fluid movements. Fortunately, we can report that on the whole, the touch screen and software interface are easier to use than expected. What’s more, we didn’t miss a stylus in the least. Despite a lack of tactile feedback on the keypad, we had no trouble tapping our fingers to activate functions and interact with the main menu. As with any touch screen, the display attracts its share of smudges, but they never distracted us from what we were viewing. The onscreen dialpad took little acclimation, and even the onscreen keyboard fared rather well in our testing. Tapping out messages was relatively quick, and we could tap the correct letter, even with big fingers. The integrated correction software helped minimize errors by suggesting words ahead of time. It was accurate for the most part.
Still, the interface and keyboard have a long way to go to achieve greatness. For starters, when typing an e-mail or text message the keyboard is displayed only when you hold the iPhone vertically. Also, the lack of buttons requires a lot of tapping to move about the interface. Since there are no dedicated Talk and End buttons, you must use a few taps to find these features. That also means you cannot just start dialing a number; you must open the dialpad first, which adds clicks to the process. The same goes for the music player: since there are no external buttons, you must call up the player interface to control your tunes. For some people, the switching back and forth may be a nonissue. But for multitaskers, it can grow wearisome.
Criticisms aside, the iPhone display is remarkable for its multitouch technology, which allows you to move your finger in a variety of ways to manipulate what’s on the screen. When in a message, you can magnify the text by pressing and holding over a selected area. And as long as you don’t lift your finger, you can move your “magnifying glass” around the text. You can zoom out by pinching your fingers together; to zoom in you just do the opposite.
The iPhone’s only hardware menu button is set directly below the display. It takes you instantly back to the home screen no matter what application you’re using. The single button is nice to have, since it saves you a series of menu taps if you’re buried in a secondary menu. On the top of the iPhone is a multifunction button for controlling calls and the phone’s power.
Located on the left spine are a volume rocker and a nifty ringer mute switch, something all cell phones should have and which is a popular feature of Palm Treos. On the bottom end, you’ll find the speaker, a microphone, and the jack for the syncing dock and the charger cord. Unfortunately, the headset jack on the top end is deeply recessed, which means you will need an adapter for any headphones with a chubby plug. Is this customer-friendly? No.
Unfortunately, the Phone does not have a battery that a user can replace. That means you have to send the iPhone to Apple to replace the battery after it’s spent (Apple is estimating one battery will keep its full strength for 400 charges–probably about three years’ worth of use). The cost of the replacement is $79 plus $6.95 shipping. No, you don’t really need a removable battery in a cell phone, but like many things missing on the iPhone, it would be nice to have, especially for such an expensive phone.