Review roundup: iPhone 3G

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The early iPhone reviews are in. Tech columnists at The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today have played around with the iPhone for the past few weeks; and, with Apple’s Friday-morning release approaching, they’ve posted their hands-on impressions. The general verdict: two steps forward, one step back.

Here are the pros and cons.

The price:

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"$200 for the 8-gigabyte model, $300 for the 16-gig. Those are terrific prices for a machine with so much sophistication, utility and power; a year ago, an 8-gig iPhone would have cost you $600,” says the Times. “But the iPhone 3G is not really, as Apple’s Web site puts it, ‘half the price.’ The basic AT&T plan – unlimited Internet and 450 minutes of calling – now costs $70 a month instead of $60 (plus taxes and fees), and comes with no text messages instead of 200. (Adding text messaging costs at least $5 a month more.)"

The network:

“This new iPhone is much, much faster at fetching data over cellphone networks because it uses a speedy cellular technology called 3G,” says the Journal. “The iPhone 3G is hardly the first phone to run on 3G networks, and it still costs more than some of its competitors. But overall, I found it to be a more capable version of an already excellent device.”

The battery:

“The iPhone 3G's battery was drained much more quickly in a typical day of use than the battery on the original iPhone, due to the higher power demands of 3G networks,” says the Journal. “This is an especially significant problem because, unlike most other smart phones, the iPhone has a sealed battery that can't be replaced with a spare.”

The other phone features:

“GPS adds live tracking and may deliver more precise results,” says USA Today. “I was pretty impressed by the accuracy on the new device as I drove along in my car, searched for nearby pizza places, and requested directions…. But not all of iPhone's early drawbacks have disappeared. You still cannot shoot video, take advantage of Bluetooth stereo or dial with a voice command. Such features are common on rival devices.”

The online Ap Store:

Apple didn’t allow reviewers to test out its new online marketplace of third-party software. But Apple promises that “hundreds [of applications] will be available when the store opens Friday, with thousands to follow,” says the Times. “You browse, download, and install new programs directly on the iPhone; they don’t have to be transferred from a computer, and you don’t have to hack the phone to use them. Most of the programs will be free or cheap.”

The reviewer wish list:

“As with its predecessor, iPhone 3G doesn't support popular Web browsing standards such as Adobe Flash, Windows Media Video or Java. And there's still no removable battery,” says USA Today. “I'd have also loved Apple to add a slot for expandable memory. It did not.”

The final verdict:

NYTimes: “The iPhone 3G is a nice upgrade. It more than keeps pace with advancing technology, and new buyers will generally be delighted.”
WSJ: “If you've been waiting to buy an iPhone until it dropped in price, or ran on faster cell networks, you might want to take the plunge, if you can live with the higher service costs and the weaker battery life.”
USA Today: “While not everything on my wish list made it onto the new device, Apple has raised the bar with iPhone 3G. To which I offer an enthusiastic thumbs up.”

Here are the links to the full reviews: NYTimes, USA Today, and WSJ.

Also, if an iPhone sounds good, but doesn't quite meet your standards, CNET pulled together a list of smartphone alternatives.

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