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iPhone 3G Review: The All-Powerful iPhone 3G for AT&T

Game-changing device does it all, but be prepared to hurdle its learning curve

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating
User Rating 5 Star Rating (1 Review)


The iPhone 3G

The iPhone 3G

Image © Apple, Inc.
The first iPhone wasn’t merely well-marketed hype. In its second iteration of the phone that has become a global phenomenon, Apple has again unleashed upon the world another game-changing device with the iPhone 3G. Read on for a full iPhone 3G review on About.com

While the iPhone 3G changes the game for many reasons, let’s hone in on the ones that matter most.

For starters, the heart of the new iPhone 3G is front and center in its name: the “3G”. To you, 3G simply means faster data transmission. Faster data transmission means faster Internet usage.
To help you wrap your head around the speed difference, Apple says a 48-second download on a 2G “EDGE” network becomes 20 seconds with the iPhone 3G, which is faster by 2.4 times.

As a momentary aside, it should be noted that the world has evolved to 3G over time from 1G, 2G and 2.5G, which were all less-advanced standards as compared to today’s 3G.

But even with all the hoopla the iPhone 3G is making today and will make in the coming months, it should also be noted that 3G itself is already evolving to an entirely new “network of tomorrow” called 4G.

4G is still several years away, though, which means the iPhone 3G will have plenty of time to stay in vogue until technology demands a replacement.

In addition to the iPhone 3G’s swift surfing, though, the second game-changing element to this device is its price. It’s half the price of its pricey predecessor. For a device in the do-it-all smartphone game, $199 for the 8-gigabyte version and $299 for the 16-gigabyte version is actually affordable.

When compared to the first iPhone’s pricing of $399 or $499, the iPhone 3G sounds like a steal. Of course, this is one main reason why people have waited in line for hours upon hours in the first days of the iPhone 3G’s release. The iPhone 3G is tapping into an entirely new crowd who couldn’t afford the first iPhone or just refused to shell out that kind of cash.
iPhone 3G launch in Chicago on Michigan Avenue on July 12, 2008

iPhone 3G launch in Chicago on Michigan Avenue on July 12, 2008

Photo © Adam Fendelman for About.com
Based on a well-voted poll on the About.com cell phones site, 35 percent of people said they wouldn’t buy an iPhone 3G at all while 29 percent said they’d spend $199, 11 percent said they’d want to upgrade for free, 10 percent would spent $299 and 8 percent want one but can’t afford it.

As a last note on pricing, make sure to consult your specific situation to determine whether or not the new $199 or $299 pricing will actually be applicable to you.

Depending on various factors (including a service contract vs. no contract, a new customer vs. a current customer and a new iPhone owner vs. a previous iPhone owner), your price could actually be $399, $499, $599 or even $699. Read this article to understand why.

Leaping the iPhone 3G Learning Curve

So beyond the 3G and its slashed price (this is why the simple but powerful marketing message of “twice as fast, half the price” is splashed so prominently for the iPhone 3G), what you don’t see advertised is all about the iPhone 3G’s learning curve.

This isn’t a basic phone. It’s a powerful device. Having great features means having great responsibilities to learn and use them. If you don’t want or need a feature-packed phone, there’s no reason to spring for an iPhone 3G (unless you just want to “feel cool”).
If an extensive feature smorgasbord is your friend, though, the good news is the iPhone 3G can do it all. On the flip side, you then have to know it all or learn it.

Following extensive usability testing on July 12, 2008, here are many practical tips to help you use an iPhone 3G faster, better and smarter or help you gauge whether or not you’d want an iPhone 3G in the first place.

The Service Carrier Test

Before you consider buying an iPhone 3G, make sure you first pass the service carrier test. Are you on AT&T now? If not, you’d need to switch. For the time being, AT&T has inked an exclusive deal with Apple and is the only carrier on which you can use the iPhone 3G.

If you’re on Sprint, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile, etc. and don’t want to switch to AT&T, the iPhone 3G isn’t for you. AT&T could lose its exclusive on the iPhone 3G in the future, but at this time, it’s AT&T or no go.

Browsing the iPhone 3G’s Fast Internet

Surfing the Web was a large focus in usability testing for your About.com cell phones guide. The iPhone 3G doesn’t just sport a 3.5-inch multi-touch display for funsies. At the heart of this large-display design is the expectation that you’ll use it for Web surfing, pictures, video, e-mail, music and more.

The iPhone 3G features the fast-rendering Safari Web browser, which is known to display faster than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. When surfing, the first thing you’ll notice is a faster browsing experience. Just like you would with a mouse on your computer, slide your finger down and then back up the touchscreen to read a page.
iPhone 3G launch in Chicago on Michigan Avenue on July 12, 2008

iPhone 3G launch in Chicago on Michigan Avenue on July 12, 2008

Photo © Adam Fendelman for About.com
But those hyperlinks are mighty small, aren’t they?

The iPhone 3G has you covered. Touch two fingers to the screen and “pinch” inward. This allows you to zoom in. To zoom out, “flick” your fingers outward. You can also double tap on a particular region of the Web browser and it’ll zoom right in or out from there.

To clear an Internet address in the browser, touch the “x” on the right. While the iPhone 3G defaults to Google, you can change the search engine to Yahoo!. While you can’t change the default search engine to any other, you can bookmark another on your home screen.

Even after the iPhone 3G fully downloads a Web page, you’ll sometimes briefly notice white and grey boxes on the screen when you scroll to see more of a page. This is due to a temporary delay in the “painting” or “rendering” of the data from the phone’s “cache” (or memory). Some may find this a minor nuisance.

The Web on the iPhone 3G effectively allows you to multitask and view many different browser windows. You can easily see thumbnails of your different windows and switch between them. You can also bookmark your favorites, too. Continue on to page two...

Cell Phone Chooser: Want About.com to reveal to you your best new cell phone? Let our exclusive, 20-question cell phone chooser do all the work for you. Here’s the first question:

What cell phone size do you prefer?
A) Small.
B) Average.
C) I prefer big phones.
D) I don’t care.

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