Review: a newbie's view on the iPhone 3G

iPhone 3G: impressive, most impressive
iPhone 3G: impressive, most impressive

Cheaper, faster and with GPS, Apple's 3G iPhone is an upgrade that could well take one of the most admired handsets in the world into one of the most popular; be it the 8GB or 16GB, this is a phenomenal phone, and, with the iPhone 2.0 software and third-party apps it could well be 2008's must-have gadget.

Critics answered

When the original iPhone was released it faced several criticisms – the lack of 3G for a phone that was built for surfing, the quality of its camera and the lack of GPS to partner with its Google Maps application.

Apple has now answered two of these criticisms and its latest handset brings both the HSDPA connectivity that allows faster connections when the owner is outside of Wi-fi and a neat little personal navigation system that should make sure you can always find the nearest public loos, restaurant or tourist attraction.

At launch, with the right contract you can get hold of both 8GB and 16GB versions for no additional cash; the former will take a minimum of an 18 month £45 contract and the latter the £75 plan. For the smaller £35 contract the 8GB version will cost you £99 and the 16GB £159.

As always with Apple products, even unboxing is an event. The 3G iPhone sits right at the top of the neat box, with the standard white headphones, charger and USB cable beneath.

Quick installation

The installation process that the UK owners will run through is painless, as long as your iTunes is up to date you can quickly get your iPhone registered and paired with the computer.

The cosmetic changes from the previous iPhone are negligible, but what once was an aluminium back is now uniform plastic; the phone looks thinner, although in actual fact it is a little larger overall but bevelled to look less chunky.

3G seems fast, certainly an improvement on its predecessor's Edge network connection, but that was fairly inevitable. The downside is a much-reduced battery life, and this is a phone that will almost certainly require some carrying round of the charger if you plan to use it a lot.

The GPS is actually a joy, with a bit of patience and a couple of finger taps you will soon be able to track down your location, and after you set directions your movement will be tracked as a blue dot.

It's all a little big brother, but its functionality is clear; in conjunction with Google's maps you need never wonder where the nearest public lavatory, restaurant or hairdressers is again. Personal sat nav for the terminally lost is not a new thing – it was a major selling point of Nokia's popular N95, but its presence on the 3G iPhone removes another reason not to buy it.

You can also geo-tag photos, which bring us to a major flaw in the 3G iPhone's make-up. The much-maligned 2-megapixel camera has not been improved. It's a minor niggle in the grand scheme of things, but it is something that jars in comparison with rivals like LG's Viewty.

Push-email is another addition that will bring a whole new audience. People who work for companies that use Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync will now be able to access their work mail in much the same way as they would on a BlackBerry.

The 3G iPhone also comes with the latest iPhone 2.0 software, allowing quick and easy to a whole host of third party applications and Apple's own fixes to little niggles.

Not being able to delete multiple emails, for instance, has been remedied, and a simple icon allows access to the new App Store – and a whole wealth of options.

App happy

From the quirky free iPint, which allows you to drink a virtual pint (you have to see it to believe it), to a handy Facebook application and games like Super Monkey Ball and Bomberman, it is perhaps this downloadable content that holds the most potential for the future of the phone.

All in all Apple has achieved something miraculous – by cutting the price and adding functionality they made a truly wonderful piece of kit accessible to an even bigger audience.

Judging by the early interest, the 3G iPhone could well become a massive hit in the UK (and probably globally), and although it's early days, it seems set to be the most desired gadget of 2008.

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.