The massive success of the iPhone's first week, with around 700,000 sold, will make a mockery of warnings to keep the Apple iPhone out of the office. IT staff will have to co-exist with the device as fashionable executives start to use it.
The good news is the iPhone has an excellent screen and a good intuitive navigation system. As you would expect, it is a great video player, and a decent music player. But it also scores well with some more business-like features such as email and web browsing; and it is a decent phone.
However, there are disappointments such as lack of support for AT&T's fastest (HSDPA) data network. There are no instant-messaging and office-suite applications, and the management of multiple email accounts isn’t great. Also, it can get warm with constant use, and needs to have smudges wiped off frequently with the included cloth.
The Apple iPhone in use
The Apple iPhone is set up like an iPod music player, using iTunes 7.3 and the included USB 2.0 dock, and choosing folders to sync.
Compared to other phones, there aren't many buttons, so navigation is almost entirely accomplished via the multitouch screen. The only button on the face of the phone takes you to the conveniently returns you to the "friendly, fun" home screen. There's also a power/sleep button up top, and a ringer button and volume controls on the left.
We were impressed with the Apple iPhone's durability. We tried scratching it and dropping it on everything from carpet to concrete. It survived all the abuse, with only some scratches from the concrete.
Moves like "slide" and "pinch" let you navigate the Apple iPhone's multitouch screen with ease. You'll slide your finger to the right to unlock the phone; and slide again to scroll through menus (we were surprised by the often dizzying speed with which we could scroll). Pinching resizes screens (for instance in the Safari Web browser), and tapping selects options and zooms in on content.
The screen autorotates content depending upon how you're holding the iPhone, and what application you're in.
Adding contacts is visual and easy to customise - but the contacts app lets you exit without prompting you to save your record, which can be very annoying to discover after you've spent time entering details.
There are other flaws, too. The battery gauge, doesn't show the actual percentage (or, better yet, time) remaining in your battery's life. And when you tap phone icon, you go to the Contacts screen, not the keypad - annoying if you're not calling someone already in your Contacts list.
Phone call quality
Dialing on the touchscreen is easy, but it's difficult to dial one-handed without looking at the screen. Call quality was mixed in our initial sample of calls. The screen darkens while on a call, and the internal sensors reactivate it when it's moved away from the caller's head, so you don't activate hold with your cheek.
The speakerphone seemed inadequate, though. Even on maximum volume, our caller sounded faint, and had difficulty hearing us clearly.
Visual voicemail is good - it is a pleasure to pick and choose which voicemails to listen to first (you either see the number, or the contact's name if he or she is entered in your address book) and can switch among voicemails with a click of the finger.
The Apple iPhone's 2 Mpixel camera lacks any adjustments, has no zoom, and has a long shutter lag compared with good cameraphones. Photos display well on the brilliant screen, of course.
Software keyboard and predictive text entry
The Apple iPhone keyboard and predictive text entry is still no match for the type of good hardware keyboard you get on a BlackBerry or Treo, but it's not unbearable. Unlike a Blackberry and the predictive text entry shows one word at a time, not a list of options - perhaps more like a phone on predictive text. It's an essential partner for the soft keyboard, as it attempts to figure out what you meant to type, even if you miss the keys you wanted.
It sorted out the word "predictive" even though a couple of letters came up wrong as we entered them, but thought we meant "Compaq" when we typed "company." To move the cursor, press the text entry area; a bubble-like circle magnifies the text around the cursor; moving it with your fingertip repositions the cursor precisely where you want it.
Email and internet
The Apple iPhone comes with preloaded settings for Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Mac Mail and AOL mail, and support for POP3, IMAP and Exchange mail. We were easily able to setup access a Gmail account and even a Lotus Notes business email account.
During Apple iPhone setup you're given the option to sync your address book (Mac OS X, Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail or Yahoo), calendar (iCal, Outlook or Outlook Express), mail settings (Mac Mail, Outlook or Outlook Express) and your IE or Safari bookmarks. Syncing went quite smoothly, although we had no calendar to test.
Mail displays beautifully, with a handsome and functional inbox, taking full advantage of the iPhone's big screen. Some may quibble with Apple's decision to segregate all accounts, so that you have to navigate to a different inbox for each one, but moving between accounts is easy and intuitive.
Wi-Fi and EDGE
Wi-Fi setup on the Apple iPhone went relatively quickly, although here you have to get the keyboard taps just right. If the predictive text entry can help you with your WEP or WPA security codes, your codes aren't secure enough.
We had to make several tries to nail a longish WPA password - but once you get it, you'll never have to input it again as the Apple iPhone will store it.
We ran DSL Reports' speed test and got a download speed of about 2 Mbit/s using Wi-Fi. Using AT&T's EDGE network, however, speeds were more like 80 or 90 kbit/s. (Obviously, your results may vary.) The difference is perceptible when loading large web pages, but EDGE is certainly usable for web browsing if you're not in a huge hurry.
Most phone browsers deal with their tiny screens by heavily reformatting pages. With Safari, pages look pretty much as they would in a desktop browser - Safari simply shrinks them down to fit the iPhone's screen.
The shrunken versions have text that's too tiny to read, so you zoom in and out on the page by pinching and pulling. Overall, this works much better in practice than it sounds like it should - the shrunken versions are legible enough to give you a sense of where to zoom, and once you've magnified the page, you can use your thumb to scroll down. Safari works best in landscape mode, not the skinnier portrait orientation.
As a tool for reading web content - news sites, for instance - Safari is terrific. And while downloading pages over EDGE wasn't as snappy as with Wi-Fi, it also wasn't as sluggish as we'd feared it might be.
The Apple iPhone browser disappointed us on Web 2.0 sites such as iGoogle and Flickr, but most were either a little wobbly or altogether inoperable. Google Docs and Spreadsheets worked well enough to let us view some word-processing documents and spreadsheets, but we couldn't see all our documents, or edit any of them.
The real internet of 2007 also packs a lot of multimedia and interactivity in an array of formats - Flash, Java, Windows Media, Real and more. The Apple iPhone's Safari doesn't support any of these - the only web media that's likely to work in this browser is stuff in Apple's own QuickTime format.
Obviously the iPhone is good for music and video. There would be no point to the device if it wasn't. So we'll leave those parts of it to more consumer-focused reviews.
An iPhone is expensive and comes with some major drawbacks. It's not yet available in the UK, of course, but the most prudent course would be to wait for the next version anyway. Hopefully the next generation Apple iPhone will work out some of the kinks, and we hope, be tied to a faster wireless network.