Round Robin: iPhone 3G Review & Final Thoughts

The first week of the Smartphone Round Robin has ended and I must bid a fond farewell to the iPhone 3G. If you missed my first impressions, be sure to take a look at my Video Review of the iPhone 3G. To be honest, I had a really good time with the iPhone 3G but am definitely looking forward to seeing what else is out there in the smartphone world.

For some reason, the iPhone 3G and the T-Mobile G1 have always been linked to one another. Though that may be the nature of any smartphone being compared to the iPhone, the fact that the T-Mobile G1 is being likened to the success story of the iPhone should be considered a good thing. Certainly, they outpace the other in some aspects but I found alot of where the iPhone 3G was good, the G1 was nearly as good. 

So what does this Android User think of the iPhone 3G?

Read on for Android Central's full review of the iPhone 3G!

Also, this is an Official Round Robin Contest Post, Comment to Win a T-Mobile G1 !— More Details Here


I went over my impressions of the basic feel and build quality in my Video Review of the iPhone 3G. To recap: It's truly a stunning device and a treat to hold.

But because the iPhone gets so much media attention and its design has largely remained the same since its announcement in January 2007—almost anyone who knows technology knows what the iPhone 3G looks like. This widespread knowledge of the iPhone 3G kind of dumbs down the affect of its beauty—kind of like how a celebrity who is always in the tabloids becomes humanized—and is no longer mysterious and elusive—and therefore no longer as attractive.

So though I knew exactly what the iPhone looked like, the month I spent away from it with the G1 gave me a new set of eyes. I had simply forgotten how great the design really was and how solid the build quality continues to be.

So you can have your Bold, your Storm, your X1, your Touch Diamond—I still think the iPhone 3G is the standard on which design in a smartphone should be judged upon. My G1, though capable and infinitely approachable, just lacks that sexiness in it—it'll never drop any jaws. Hopefully HTC can lend a helping hand in developing an Android phone as stunningly designed and well built as the iPhone 3G.


I also covered a lot about the usage of the iPhone 3G in the Video Review and came away more than impressed. The lack of physical buttons isn't a big issue because each app offers a virtual button overlay for all possible actions. This gives for a great user experience because stuff isn't buried behind menus but rather on the screen and in your face. However, having such little emphasis in menus sort of limits the capabilities of the phone, the depth of action can only cover so much—for example, Apple still has yet to solve their copy & paste issue.

Believe it or not, I never had a problem with typing on the iPhone 3G. I know the idea of a soft keyboard turns off a lot of people but I would actually want Android to include a virtual keyboard for quick tasks. I'm not saying I typed as accurately, in fact I relied heavily on the autocorrect feature but thankfully, the iPhone has a smart enough brain that corrects almost all of my typos. The means are different, the end result is nearly the same.

Multi touch is a joy. Same with Visual Voicemail. I want them in the G1. I'll beg for them in Android. Please, please, please!

But with using the iPhone you're kind of stuck with what Apple gives you in terms of functionality. For example, I felt like turning on and off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 3G all involved too many steps. In my G1, I used AnyCut to move all of those features to the home page for easy access on or off. In fact, Any Cut can move nearly any frequently used feature to the front. There's no such solution for the iPhone (without jailbreaking).

Also, without a physical keyboard you don't get to enjoy keyboard shortcuts—a feature I have learned to love with the G1. Quick contact searching, Google Searches, etc aren't quite as quick on the iPhone.

And though OS X on the iPhone sure makes transitions look great, I've run into more than a few hiccups. I'm not quite ready to determine the iPhone as full-on buggy, but its issues (Safari crashes, Gmail doesn't check every 15 min, screen hiccups, phone resets after calls) have causes for concern. In this past week I've been a teensy bit disappointed with the performance and reliability. Not ready to complain yet, but starting to get a bit annoyed.

Round Robin Must Do's

1. Use their assigned smartphone as their "main brain" and may not use any other smartphone OR music device (such as an iPod) for one full week.

This was easy. I used to be an iPhone user before I switched to the G1. The iPhone is largely intuitive and so easy to pick up and use that I had no problem coming back. Everything I did with the G1 was available on the iPhone except I did miss my notifications and push G-Mail and to an extent, the physical keyboard.

2. Get their PIM data onto their phone. Ideally they will 'Sync with the Cloud," but a computer sync is ok too.

Because I use a Mac, this was easy. Because I also use MobileMe, boy it's just wonderful. The tools of MobileMe allowed me to 'sync with the cloud'. It doesn't get any easier than this. Wait. G1 syncing with Google was even more amazing =).

3. Get up their email on the smartphone

Gmail sets up fine, no qualms there except for the lack of push. Having push Gmail on the G1 is a great competitive advantage but I can't imagine Google blocking push Gmail from coming to the iPhone--don't be evil, right? I'm not really a huge labels guy, my filters handle that for me--so Gmail specific features weren't necessary. MobileMe was ridiculously simple and works flawlessly—looks like I missed all of the epic fail of MobileMe when it first released.

4. Use their smartphone to get directions at least once.

Google Maps on the iPhone is great. I'm pretty big on looking at maps to find my own directions so Google Maps works perfectly for me and multi-touch is just a breeze to use. Street View is buttery smooth over Wi-Fi but no built-in compass--I'd trade my compass in for multi-touch anyday however. And for whatever reason, GPS on the iPhone seems to work better than the G1 though.

5. Use their smartphone with a bluetooth headset.

As easy to pair a headset together as the G1. 0000 and you're in. No stereo Bluetooth either, no problem since I don't use it.

6. Install at least 2 3rd-party apps (if possible) on their smartphone.

This is where I kind of went overboard. The App Store is just as easy to use as Android Market so I went on a little download craze. Sportacular, Shazam, Now Playing, Yelp, Scramboni, ESPN Cameraman, and many more applications and games have filled my iPhone home screen up! Every smartphone needs an App Store or Android Market—getting third party apps has become mindless with it!

7. Play a game

Scramboni was my game of choice. In Scramboni, you race against other iPhone users to de-scramble a word. The catch is that a specific letter has to be either at the beginning or end of the word. This G1 user certainly outsmarted more than a few iPhone users!

8. Browse the internet

Here we go again. LOVE the multitouch. Browsing is a much more fluid experience. The iPhone 3G loads websites just wonderfully, though I do feel like the G1 loads higher quality images and the G1's browser is infinitely more reliable. And it looks like Flash is coming to the Android but not the iPhone!

9. Add music to their smartphone and use it as their music device.

Don't these must-do's all seem a little iPhone-biased? Like Steve said, the iPhone is the best iPod Apple has ever made. I wholeheartedly agree. Every Mac comes with iTunes. iTunes syncs with iPhone. You barely even have to think to get music onto your iPhone.

10. Watch a video on their device.

Another easy task. Youtube App comes with iPhone. Now embedded in Safari too! Watching iTunes Movies is a cinch as well, videos just play great on the iPhone.

What I LIKED about the iPhone 3G

I'm going to be honest. There's a lot to love about the iPhone 3G. A lot of its great features fall right along with my usage levels. I've never needed a spare battery, I'm not big on customization, and I'm perfectly fine with a touchscreen. Combine that fact that I'm strictly a Mac user and also subscribe to MobileMe—I'm nearly the target iPhone market.

The App store is great and easy to use. Right now, the offerings are better than Android Market because of its ability to offer paid applications and also the iPhone has been available longer than the G1 has. I also adore its synergy with the rest of the Apple product line. Syncing via iTunes and being able to connect with a lot of the iLife Suite is crucial. Add to the fact that MobileMe allows for wireless syncing between iCal, Mail, and Address Book—it's just so easy for the iPhone to become an extension of your Mac.

Unsurprisingly, handling media and using Mobile Safari on the iPhone is still best in class. It's pretty amazing that it still leads the pack considering how little Apple has changed in those two apps since the release of the original iPhone. I can't imagine what it would feel like for users of those other phones whose media capabilities are still straggling behind.

But the main reason I loved my time with the iPhone? Even more so than the touchscreen or the UI, I just loved how the iPhone matters. People, Companies, Developers, Websites are all aware of the popularity of the iPhone and uniquely accommodate for iPhone users. The iPhone is important not because it's the best smartphone available but because, deserved or not, it's the device that made smartphones relevant.

iPhone users are spoiled with iPhone-specific websites that work ridiculously well, powerful third party apps that are the envy of other users, and a general "when it comes to the iPhone, it'll be better" feeling with any other phone's feature. Facebook has so far ignored Android but very rarely, if at all, will any company ignore the iPhone. Basically, you'll never feel like the ugly stepsister when you're using the iPhone—and that iPhone users, is a very good thing.

Let's be honest, The G1 probably will never gain that type of relevance—but Android can. They're backed by a company that is as much a media darling as Apple and have a platform that is even more exciting. Now we just need the stunning devices and the millions of users and we'll be on our way!

What I DIDN'T LIKE about the iPhone

If you're coming from a competing smartphone or even a high end featurephone you'll run into a lot of basic smartphone tasks that the iPhone inexplicably cannot do. Copy and paste. MMS. Removable Battery. Video Recording. Voice Dialing. Stereo Bluetooth. Flash. And really, the list goes on. A lot of users have issues with the lack of such-and-such on the iPhone and can't believe its not there. And you know what? I agree with them. It's sad that there seems to be no official word on when these features are going to come to the iPhone. Apple is notoriously tight-lipped as a company but come on, we can't even know if they have a plan to fix these majorly minor issues?

Personally, I have a couple more gripes about the iPhone as a communication device. I don't understand the lack of ringer profiles. I mean different situations call for different ringer profiles. With the iPhone I'm stuck with only Vibrate or Ring. As easy and intuitive as Apple makes things sometimes, in this case, Apple simplified things to a fault. Options are not the iPhone's forte.

Another BIG gripe: the lack of a proper notification system. Dieter talked about the greatness of the G1's notification system and I'm sure Rene will touch on it as well. It's simply one of the best notifications system on a smartphone today. What's great about it is that it does exactly what it sets out to do: notify you that something is going on AND it has an indicator light.

I know it goes against Apple and the iPhone's philosophy of a clean design but an indicator light would work wonders! I don't notice the indicator light on the G1 AT ALL until I need to notice it. Makes so much sense huh?

With the iPhone, after a missed call it beeps once, upon receiving an E-mail it'll make your predetermined sound but nothing a few minutes later. With SMS you have the honor of it beeping twice. But after that? Nothing. A few hours later? Silence. There is no way to know you missed anything because there is no real notification feature on the iPhone! As much as unlocking the iPhone makes me smile, it isn't efficient to have to double-check your phone to see if you missed anything.

A few more personal requests: the iPhone should support weekly view in the calendar—dots don't express appointments as well as hour blocked in color-coded glory. I wish for the option to turn the accelerometer off so that Safari will just stay in Portrait Mode. And one more thing—wouldn't it be freakn' cool if Apple made an app that put Photo ID Calling on the home screen? I know there's a third party app that does this but from what I've experienced it's slower than if I just went through the Phone App.

And as I mentioned before: the iPhone needs easier access to switch on/off 3G, WiFi, & Bluetooth. The iPhone 3G Battery drains fast (better than the G1, however) and I would love to not have to dig deep into Settings to use these features.

One last thing, I miss my buttons. There's few things in the smartphone world as gratifying as pressing a button. And no, the Home Button won't suffice.

iPhone 3G vs T-Mobile G1

The iPhone platform serves as a great blueprint for Android to learn from, but definitely not copy. There are issues with the Apple way of doing things that just doesn't resonate well with consumers. The closed platform, though streamline, is much too controlling. The glaring problems, though relatively minor, are never officially addressed. And it probably won't change. Apple is Apple and has been this way for years. That's the way you have to accept when getting an iPhone.

Don't get me wrong, the iPhone 3G is a great device. It's perfect for those who love media and need access to the web. It's extremely easy to use for Mac & MobileMe Users and offers a lot of great third party apps. It's an especially great phone for first time smartphone users.

I mean, it's not without reason that there have been so many phones claiming to be an iPhone killer and others pretending to be the next iPhone. The iPhone is a good phone. Those other phones (read: Samsung Instinct, LG Voyager, etc) fail because they don't really want to put the time and effort to seriously challenge the iPhone. They want to ride the iPhone's success and help fill the market that the iPhone is creating.

Google and Android aren't doing that. They're not comparing themselves to the iPhone because they really couldn't be more different. Being an iPhone killer isn't about offering the same feature set as the iPhone because a lot of the times you're less polished, harder to use, and just plain suck. Being an iPhone killer is stressing different ideals and possessing different philosophies about the smartphone platform. It's about creating a new platform, not copying the iPhone's. Offer something new, then stick to what you're good at and then you'll succeed.

Google's allowing developers to truly have a blank slate with Android. It's an open source platform that anyone can tinker with. Get denied by Apple? Why not get approved by Android? Want a variety of devices? Android will be on multiple phones. Frustrated with Apple's direction? Android can be moved into any direction! I think Google and Android have got it right in being a iPhone killer—offer options and features that the iPhone simply cannot meet, offer a philosophy that Apple disagrees with.

Final Thoughts

I'm not going to say the T-Mobile G1 is a better phone than the iPhone 3G right now. I won't even say that Android will be better than the iPhone OS X in the future. But the truth is that Android and the G1 have been on the market for only one month. Read that again: It's only been one single month since the Android platform has been released—and it can already hang with the big boys.

To use a basketball analogy to compare the two phones. LeBron James isn't a better basketball player than Michael Jordan. But Lebron James at 23 years old is a better basketball player than Michael Jordan was at 23. Same goes for the T-Mobile G1 and the iPhone—the G1 at one month shows more potential, flexibility and is better than the iPhone at one month.

And though that's largely due to the growth in technology over the last year we can't discount Google's own efforts. Google has shown in Android that they've already learned from the iPhone's successes and flaws and created a platform with more potential, more freedom, and more opportunity than the iPhone. Google's services work wonderfully well with the G1 and heck, outside of Apple, Google even makes the best apps for the iPhone. They've proven that they can do this smartphone thing.

And that's why—as good a device as the iPhone 3G is—you go to Android.

Casey Chan