The iPhone 3G - Comparing The Old With The New
Written by Erik Neff   
Friday, 13 June 2008
iPhone 3G Thumbnail



A year and a half ago, several colleagues and I had a riveting discussion about the relative merits of a brand new handheld device, potentially being named the "iPhone" (pending of course the timely resolution of a trademark dispute with Cisco over the iPhone name).  At the time, I thought the device was revolutionary, but still, I was very critical of it for its myriad shortcomings.

Since then....
 
                                   ...the iPhone went on to totally revolutionize what we expect from a smartphone.  Thus, when the iPhone 3G was announced, I decided to revisit that conversation in an effort to see where the iPhone 3G as well as the new version 2.0 firmware stand in comparison with the original iPhone and firmware (all based solely upon what Steve Jobs told us last Monday morning at
the WWDC).

Here's what I discovered:



On Mon, Jan 15, 2007 at 3:57 PM, Erik Neff wrote:
...As I see it, the reality of the iPhone is this...

...watch a movie and your battery is completely toast...
FIXED - 7 hours of video-watching time

 
...no sd card slot...
NOT FIXED - the no sd card slot issue may never be fixed, since Apple's business model has traditionally revolved around forced deprecation in order to transform otherwise marginal improvements into potential justifications for totally new purchases by its traditionally high-disposable-income customers.


...the camera has no zoom...
NOT FIXED - nor was the quality of the camera upgraded from the previous version to this version.


...it doesn't have very much RAM...
NOT FIXED - no more RAM was added, either.

 
...it only works on the GSM network...
FIXED - and by fixed, I mean that I no longer believe this is a shortcoming.  I also read that the iPhone 3G may implement simultaneous talk/data through the use of hspda, so that constitutes an improvement in this regard, although I don't have confirmation of this.

 
...no GPS...
FIXED - and taken one step further - a new api called 'core location' has been included to enable developers to easily build location-based apps, as demoed at wwdc.

 
...can't input anything without direct line of sight (ie: trying to type a word with the device under the table)
NOT FIXED - the lack of tactile awareness will likely continue as a fundamental flaw of touch-screens until we stop using keyboards entirely and start using hand gestures to give our voice instructions context (a la minority report).


...does not allow installation of 3rd-party extensions...
FIXED - sort of.... only time will tell if Android's fully-open-source approach is a more fruitful one than apple's somewhat closed 3rd party application system involving an app store instead of everything being free as in beer.
 

...no support for ms office attachments...
FIXED - doc/xls/ppt documents now supported
 

...no 3G support (likely due to conflicts with cingular's policies requiring users of the 3G network to only support the pathetic cingular music store)
FIXED - now boasts the best 3g performance of any handheld on the market, with suprisingly reasonable battery life, so steve would have us believe...

 
3G network must support Cingular's RealPlayer-based mp3/video service...
FIXED - no idea how they got the death star to give up that requirement... money talks I guess...

 
...max network speed on the EDGE 2G network is ~10 k/s...
FIXED - no longer requires the EDGE network
 

...it's not actually running OS X.....
FIXED - the iphone 2.0's kernel is now the exact same, line for line, as os x's kernel



So, the tally of fixed vs unresolved issues from back when the first iPhone was first announced came out to be:

9-4


That's pretty good, but in retrospect, the issues I pointed out above weren't particularly comprehensive.  This was because a number of issues could not have possibly been known until the iPhone got into the wild.  Several of those issues that were later uncovered still remain unaddressed, while still others got fixed despite no one ever mentioning them.  Thus, I will now provide a comprehensive enumeration of the remaining issues not previously discussed:

...no flash support for websites...
NOT FIXED - and very irritatingly so, given its prevalent use on modern websites.  I've read a lot about the b


...no video recording/video conferencing...
NOT FIXED - how could a device so beautifully suited for playing videos leave out the ability to record them.  Mind-bending, and yet, not quite as bad as the next issue...


...no copy and paste...
NOT FIXED - the company that invented cut and paste in modern operating systems still hasn't figured out how to incorporate it into the iPhone... pardon my french, but what the f*$#??


...no text messaging...
NOT FIXED - yet another obvious one - no regular implementation of text messaging?  Is this some sort of joke?  Sure they did some ridiculous hack that forwards them to an e-mail address, but that's not acceptable.


...voice recording/voice dialing...
NOT FIXED - an obvious feature no apple device has ever had - strange.


...radio...
NOT FIXED - yet another feature that irritatingly, no apple device has ever had.  Wouldn't it be cool to listen to the radio, record a song, and add it to your playlist?  Of course it would, but then the iTunes store might not generate as much money.  It's irritating self-serving decisions like this that make me think Android is positioned to become the de-facto standard in the smartphone market 3-5 years from now.


...bluetooth flexibility (lack of A2DP support)...
NOT FIXED - not sure exactly how this plays into daily life, but apparently the A2DP bluetooth standard is something fairly prevalent, and no apple device has ever supported it.


...required 2-year contract with at&t only...
NOT FIXED - I'm a control freak, and thus, I hate paying to have my my rights stripped from me.  This situation seems familiar somehow... coughbushcough


...support for xvid/divx/ogg/etc alternative video/audio playback...
NOT FIXED - in a fit of microsoft-esque manipulation and deceit, this is an obviously heavy-handed tactic to force people into a drm-filled world where all your base are belong to steve jobs.


...can't use the device as an internet modem for your laptop...
NOT FIXED - I'm betting AT&T had a hand in stopping this from being possible out of the box, since so many people would just own that unlimited data connection, especially now that it's about as fast as wifi (once again, according to mr jobs)...


...battery not easily removable...
NOT FIXED - reminds me of my old palm V, and not in a good way.  I'd imagine the motivation for this is the same as the motivation for not having an SD card slot - forced device obsolescence..


...no turn-by-turn gps navigation...
NOT FIXED - one might expect a 3rd-party app to do this, but forget that - what I want is google street view directions showing me what I should be seeing, and super-imposing where to turn over that.  Nevertheless, as it stands right now, there is unfortunately no out-of-the-box navigation-replacement functionality.


...cost...
FIXED - reduced from $599 to $399 to $199/$299 depending on version (but still requires a contract ... grrrr)


...better graphics acceleration...
FIXED - using openGL - take that, winblows vista.  Your transparent attempts to promote xbox at the expense of openGL by forcing it to be run through directx emulation have been thwarted, as now game developers have a reason to develop games in openGL again (aside from porting them to linux, or making them run on all Virgin seat-back linux boxes).


...better battery life...
FIXED - longer standby/talk/video playback/audio playback/web browsing times.


...enterprise-class security features such as vpn & remote wipe...
FIXED - something that prevented companies like lockheed martin from adopting the iphone initially, but not anymore.


...microsoft exchange support, including push e-mail/contacts/calendar...
FIXED - something blackberry has had more or less exclusivity with for years, and was their primary claim to fame, but no longer.  This was a pretty big deal breaker for pretty much every business person, but now that it's not a problem, I think corporate types would jump at a chance to get away from those hideous blackberry menus in favour of some of the most beautiful interface design ever conceived.  They'll switch in a heartbeat, since they use so few of the bb's features anyways.


...apple push service for updating the status of non-running programs...
FIXED - not something anyone necessarily outright complained about, but something apple found an elegant solution to all the same.  They build the ability for services to notify programs of something new, even though that program isn't actively running.  This was implemented in a similar way to how blackberry implemented push e-mail - Apple put a push server in between the service and the iPhone, meaning that the service doesn't have to be adapted at all.


...limited availability in non-US countries...
FIXED - as I'm sure you're well aware, iPhone 3G is being released next month, simultaneously in 22 countries (including Canada), and will be rolled out to about 45 others shortly thereafter.


So the tally for these overlooked items stands at

7-11


Thus, the grand total for the number of improvements vs problems for the iPhone 3G v2.0 is:

16-15

In my opinion, that's pretty darn good.

I've heard a lot of people saying R!M is still secure and the iPhone doesn't pose a threat, and to those people I say, I don't think you could be more wrong.  Overall I'd say the second generation of the iPhone represents a solid incremental improvement, despite several obvious oversights that continue to plauge the device.

In spite of the iPhone v1.0's painfully long list of potentially deal-breaking flaws, it was an undeniably huge success.  Thus, I estimate that the iPhone 3G will set new records for adoptoin rates. and will likely propel Apple to #1 in smartphone sales worldwide.

There were four deal-breakers that kept me from buying the first iPhone - no 3G, no GPS, poor battery life, and excessive cost.  Now that those 4 issues have been resolved, I believe I'll be getting one.  How about you?

Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 March 2010 )
 
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