Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Walt Mossberg Reviews the New 3G iPhone

Software and Online Store Will Widen Its Versatility, But There Are Hidden Costs:
On Friday, Apple is launching a second-generation iPhone, called the iPhone 3G... The base version of the new iPhone costs $199 — half the $399 price of its predecessor; the higher-capacity version is now $299, down from $499. Yet, this new iPhone is much, much faster at fetching data over cellphone networks because it uses a speedy cellular technology called 3G. And it now sports a GPS chip for better location sensing.

The company also is rolling out the second generation of its iPhone operating system, with some nice new features, including wireless synchronization with corporate email, calendars and address books. And there’s a new online store for third-party iPhone programs that Apple hopes will make the device usable for a wider variety of tasks, including gaming and productivity applications. This new software and store will also be available on older iPhones, through a free upgrade.

I’ve been testing the iPhone 3G for a couple of weeks, and have found that it mostly keeps its promises. In particular, I found that doing email and surfing the Internet typically was between three and five times as fast using AT&T’s 3G network as it was with the older AT&T network to which the first iPhone was limited.

There are two big hidden costs to the new iPhone’s faster speed and lower price tag. First, in my tests, 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. 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.

Second, Apple’s exclusive carrier in the U.S., AT&T Inc., has effectively negated the iPhone’s up-front price cut by jacking up its monthly fee for unlimited data use by $10. Over the course of the two-year contract you must sign to get the lower hardware prices, that adds $240, overwhelming the $200 savings on the phone itself. If you want text messaging, the cost rises further. With the first iPhone, 200 text messages a month came free. Now, 200 messages will cost $5 a month, or another $120 over the two-year contract.
Much more, including a video review after the link.

Below is a chart to give you a quick comparison of how the new iPhone compares to the original iPhone and iPod Touch:

1 comment:

thinking said...

I would only quibble with Mossberg in his characterization of the higher monthly price plan.

With the first iPhone, ATT offered a reduced rate on the monthly data plan versus what it charges with every other phone. This was to replace the customary subsidy on the price of the device itself.

With this new release, ATT and Apple basically put the iPhone pricing strategy on par with all other phones. Now as with every other cell phone you collect the savings up front on the equipment cost, but pay the same data rate as you would for every other ATT phone.

But any way you look at it, this phone is a bargain. This is truly the first viable mobile computing platform.