Apple's phenomenon does phone calls, multimedia, e-mail, and text messaging and surfs the Web amazingly well. But the AT&T Edge network is slow, text input is difficult -- and it'll cost you.
The iPhone is a triumph of engineering and design. It's a sleek little unit with a black surface and chrome edges, like a pocket-sized version of the monolith from 2001.
It works as a phone and video iPod. It displays maps and driving directions. It does e-mail and text messages. It displays photos clearly and in bright colors.
And, most remarkable of all, it's a usable pocket-sized Web appliance. You can use it to read most Web pages. Web access is painfully slow using the AT&T mobile data network, but the iPhone also supports Wi-Fi, which makes page-rendering fly.
On the downside:
Text input is difficult -- I found the software keyboard to be nowhere near as easy to use as the thumb keyboard on devices like the RIM BlackBerry. I'm not rushing to judgment on this one -- I may get used to the software keyboard over time and find I never want to go back. But for now, I'm skeptical.
There are still a few slight bumps and glitches in the user interface, most notably in the synchronization process when you first activate the iPhone.
Still, the iPhone is excellent, and you should rush right out and buy one now -- assuming you have $499 or $599 lying around. That's for the phone itself; add to that a $36 activation fee, plus $1,439 to $5,279.76 for two years of fees to AT&T, payable in monthly installments of $59.99 to $219.99.
Did I mention the iPhone is expensive?
Taking It Home And Unboxing
Apple understands that presentation is important when you're selling consumer electronics, just as it is when preparing a meal. Apple believes you should enjoy buying its products and enjoy taking them out of their boxes. I certainly did. (For more photos of the unboxing process, check out our iPhone Unboxing Photo Gallery.)
The iPhone and its peripherals come in a small, sturdy cardboard black box with subdued logos -- it feels almost like wood when you open it. The iPhone itself is on top, resting flat. Underneath the iPhone is a black envelope containing a couple of pamphlets -- the entirety of the paper documentation. It's all the documentation you need.
Peripherals include a docking station, a cable to connect the docking station to the computer, power supply, headphones, and a black, velvety cloth to clean the iPhone surface. I'm sure I'll lose the cloth in about a day.
The headphones look like the standard iPod headphones; if you examine them closely you'll see a tiny, hard plastic bump a few inches below one earpiece. That's the microphone for making phone calls.
When you buy other electronics, you have to delay your gratification for hours after opening the box, so you can charge the battery for the first time. Not the iPhone -- it arrives charged and ready to go as soon as you get it out of the box.
Well, not quite. First you have to activate it and sync it with your desktop data.
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