iPhone 3G review: Twice the hype, half the novelty

GSMArena team, 11 August 2008.
Pages: 123456

Tags: Apple

AppStore is an install and download manager

You've probably already heard all about it. The AppStore is an application to browse all available third-party applications available for the iPhone platform. There are both free and paid applications with detailed descriptions and you can use user ratings to tell whether one is worth it or not. There are also numerous web sites that do app reviewing with screenshots and everything, so you can get pretty much all the information on any of the available apps.

iPhone 3G screenshot iPhone 3G screenshot iPhone 3G screenshot iPhone 3G screenshot
The featured apps tab sorting by categories Top 25 paid and free apps searching is easy

The only downside to the AppStore system is that every user can comment and rate apps no matter if they've even tried them (Update: no longer possible), and secondly, there are no demo versions of the paid applications.

You can also pick and download apps via iTunes - it's much more comfortable that way since their number is growing by the day, and next time you sync your iPhone, you get all the applications on board. If for some reason you need to restore your iPhone, the licenses for the paid applications are not lost, and you can freely download and install them again.

iPhone 3G screenshot iPhone 3G screenshot iPhone 3G screenshot iPhone 3G screenshot
Previewing Google Mobile App we've already "purchased" that free app in the past download status on the Home screen starting the app for the first time

We are not going to review individual apps this time since this is out of the scoop of this article, but you can find many app reviews online - you can find a good one here but there are many more.

Jailbreaking and unofficial third-party apps

(H)activating, jailbreaking and unlocking the iPhone 3G is widely popular - thanks to the momentum of the iPhone 1G.

At the time of writing this review, the iPhone 3G cannot be unlocked by software means - probably the iPhone Dev Team have gotten closer than anyone else. Thanks to their Pwnage Tool (Mac OS) and WinPwn (MS Windows), users can freely (h)activate and jailbreak iPhone 3G with both the original 2.0 software, as well as with the latest 2.01 bugfix update (look for the latest version of these tools).

Their software uses the so-called custom firmwares - you hack an original Apple firmware (in a few simple steps) and then you can use iTunes to safely (to an extent) restore your iPhone with the modded firmware.

Currently, unlocking the iPhone 3G is reportedly possible with SIM adapters only - those are inlays that you put in the SIM tray along with your SIM card. They fool the iPhone to believe you are using a legit card. These SIM adapters are fairly inexpensive and their only downsides are: (1) you need to cut your SIM card a bit in order to accommodate both the card and the adaptor in the SIM tray and (2) they are a delicate pieces of fine electronics that you may damage during the initial insertion (plus they are hard to fix firmly and tend to move around).

Now that the iPhone 3G has a plastic SIM tray it seems an easy task for SIM adapter manufactures to make their products integrated into third-party SIM trays, which would eliminate the second issue with SIM adapters we've mentioned. However, we haven't seen any products so far to take that route, which still seems the most obvious to us.

While the purpose of unlocking is self-explanatory, some of you may still be wondering what the benefits of jailbreaking are. There's only one answer to that - unlimited access to your iPhone file system and third-party apps. The access to your iPhone's internals allows for numerous tweaks (much like some would tweak their Windows registry), while 3rd party apps mean more freedom in expanding the capabilities of your iPhone (beyond what Apple have provided for).

iPhone 3G screenshot
Now here's a jailbroken iPhone 3G (Cydia listed on the Homescreen)

Third party applications are delivered to the iPhone in a way similar to AppStore (or better yet, in a way that AppStore has copied). These two ways include two competing app managers, called Cydia and Installer. Back in the iPhone 1G days, the Installer was first and it offered access to much more applications than Cydia. Cydia however offered better user experience and some superior features. Now Cydia was the first app manager to hit the firmware 2.0, but at the time of writing this article a new version of Installer just surfaced, so as we see it, only time will tell which platform will prevail.

iPhone 3G screenshot iPhone 3G screenshot iPhone 3G screenshot iPhone 3G screenshot
Using Cydia on the iPhone 3G

Currently, there aren't that many 3rd party apps for firmware 2.0 (mostly theming content), but their number is growing and we really hope they reach the variety offered for the iPhone 1G (firmware 1.1.4). Some of the better apps that would make your jailbreaking efforts worthwhile are covered in this excellent article by LifeHacker.

Final words

We've had our fair share of the first-gen iPhone but, honestly, we weren't caught in the excitement last year until we saw it live. It was only after it arrived in our office that we really appreciated its sleek design and groundbreaking user interface.

Now a year later, the excitement grew on us weeks before we even had a chance to play with the iPhone 3G. And once it arrived, the enthusiasm gradually fades away. What's the point in your new device looking just like your old device? What's the point of having a GPS receiver when there is no navigation software for it? Yeah, we heard rumors of various companies prepping some real GPS navigation software, but we've been hearing the same rumors for the copy/paste functionality for over a year now.

"Half the price", as the campaign motto goes, is not quite true either. A contract-free iPhone 3G is gonna cost you more than the iPhone 1G bought from US Apple store, imported and then (h)activated and unlocked the rogue way.

OK, there's the 3G with HSDPA. Now HSDPA is way faster than EDGE we agree, and as far as we are concerned, that's the only selling point of the iPhone 3G.

But there's the math - adding 3G to the iPhone will cost the price of a new 3G-enabled handset altogether. The price of one is basically the difference between your second-hand iPhone 1G and a spanking new unlocked iPhone 3G.

Now, don't get us wrong - don't let our upgrader's point of view get in your way. We were impressed by the iPhone 1G and now it's even better. If you've never had one and the iPhone 3G is offered in your country - now that Apple's creation is finally on par with most other modern handsets specs-wise - it seems the right time to get yourself geared up.

The Apple iPhone, be it 1G or 3G, still has the most impressive full touch user interface to-date, and with the concept of AppStore, it have just gotten better. The iPhone 3G is evidently more evolution than revolution, but it still packs quite a punch. And there's some unique features that you can hardly get in any other high-end gadgets.

Pages: 123456