UK iPhone: head says 'no', heart says 'yes'

The Apple iPhone... It's been praised and then praised some more for almost a year now. We've had a play with one for a while now and here are our first impressions ahead of Apple iPhone day this Friday, 9 November.

Sure, we have our niggling doubts about the lack of 3G, the relatively small capacity of the onboard RAM (especially if you're going to use it as an iPod), and whether everything will run smoothly when trying to activate the Apple iPhone via iTunes.

Apart from its well-publicised technical shortcomings, the iPhone is an amazing-looking piece of kit. Time magazine (rightly or wrongly) has just voted it their "invention of the year".

The Apple iPhone is a phone first and foremost, and the phone functions are top class. With the Apple iPhone, you have an 'active call menu' when you're on a call. This lets you check other details with the touch of just one button, and you can even browse the web to check a location on Google Maps or similar.

Visual voicemail (the one feature that doesn't work on jailbroken phones) is the other nifty feature that makes the Apple iPhone stand out. It's handy to see how many messages you have in one simple menu, and see how long each message is and when it was left without having to phone up your voicemail inbox.

The multi-touch screen takes a few moments to master. But once you've got the hang of typing in a different way from any other handheld device you've used, it becomes second nature. There's a clever correction function that will guess the word you're trying to type in, if you manage to hit the wrong keys.

Auto corrections

For example, if you type in 'v;ocl' the Apple iPhone will automatically change it to 'clock'. You won't have to select the right word from a drop-down menu, the word will just be changed in the typed text. Of course, if you actually meant to type 'v;ocl' then this intelligence could be a problem.

The Apple iPod functionalities are also impressive. We're already used to the cover flow display in iTunes, which enables you to you flick through your record collection as you would in a physical library.

Videos and TV shows are great to watch on the 3.5-inch widescreen display, which automatically flips around when you rotate the device by 90 degrees. The touch controls let you play/pause videos, scroll forward and back, and set the volume.

The iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store transforms your Apple iPhone into an instant go-anywhere music store. Find the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot, fire up iTunes and you're ready to browse, listen to previews, buy and download music on the go. And if you have to disconnect when files are still being downloaded, they'll automatically resume the next time you enter a wireless hotspot.

The music you buy when you're out and about will be automatically synched back to your iTunes library on your computer when you next dock your Apple iPhone.

Free Wi-Fi

Last but not least, the built-in wireless capabilities. Apple has offered a free Wi-Fi deal bundled with the Apple iPhone in the UK. Once you've entered your phone number at one of the UK's 7,500 hotspots provided by The Cloud, your Apple iPhone will automatically remember and verify your details the next time you enter a hotspot.

Web browsing and photo viewing is easy thanks to the responsive multi-touchscreen. 'Pinch' the photo or website in question and the screen will zoom in on that particular area.

On 9 November, the Apple iPhone will also be upgraded to software version 1.1.2. This will include more language support and related features, such as keyboard layouts. Other minor bugs are also addressed. The firmware upgrade also closes the TIFF exploit, a loophole which made it easier to jailbreak the Apple iPhone and install third party applications during the previous firmware version 1.1.1.

Firmware update

The Apple firmware update could spell trouble for anyone who has bought a phone from the US and paid to have it unlocked.

Apple iPhone firmware upgrade version 1.1.2 bricks Apple iPhones that have been unlocked to work with any SIM, our sister publication T3 reported.

Any third party applications that you've installed will stop working should you install the upgrade. If you own an unlocked Apple iPhone you should also be wary of upgrading iTunes for a while too, as that can also affect your handset.

Any Apple iPhone sold from Friday will have the 1.1.2 software update pre-installed. In February, Apple will release its official Apple iPhone software developers kit, after which official third party applications will work with the Apple iPhone.

Love Apple or hate Apple, it's difficult not to acknowledge that the iPhone is a revolutionary device. It will be interesting to see how other mobile phone manufacturers follow Apple's lead in creating truly convergent, versatile, attractive and highly coveted devices in the future.