Some thoughts on the UK iPhone
I bought an iPhone in the UK on release day, battling my way through the crowd of a dozen or so at my local Carphone Warehouse. I would have gone to an O2 shop, but they only had free tea and CPW had sandwiches A few thoughts about the device:
The hardware aesthetics are just terrific. Ive's best to date IMHO. Simply gorgeous.
The UI is simple and beautiful and also really, really quick. Whatever Apple are doing under the hood they seem to have got it right. I'm sure a 600+ MHz processor and plenty of RAM help but clearly Apple have the OS side sorted too.
Safari. Ditto the comments on the UI, with the one proviso noted below.
Wifi switching. Join a network once and next time you're in range you're connected. This is the way it should be on all devices and it's just silly that it isn't.
Music. Sounds great, lovely interface, and the device has just enough in the way of external controls for in-pocket use (volume, play, pause, skip).
Video. Moved some TV programmes recorded with eyeTV onto the device. Videos look great and the video UI is particularly terrific. This is the first handheld I've owned that I'd consider a decent video device.
'Streaming' video. Not really streaming in a technical sense I think, but it starts playing more-or-less straight away which is fine. I used eyeTV's Wifi access functionality to watch programmes stored on our home iMac. Out of the box this only works on a local network but that's easily fixed.
Not quite perfect:
Using Safari one-handed. Using the device one-handed was mostly ok but I found scrolling in Safari (when zoomed in) fiddly (tended to scroll diagonally too often).
A long way from being perfect:
Keyboard. While it's clever in its word predictions and I did get better with time the error rate was still high. On a Treo or similar keyboard I can type quite easily using the thumb of the hand I'm holding the device with, but I seriously doubt that this would ever be possible on the iPhone keyboard (in its current form).
Storage capacity: 8GB really is quite limiting, especially given how good the device is as a video player.
GPRS. Never saw EDGE, and GPRS is just too damn slow. The spectacular performance of Safari over Wifi just makes this seem worse. Ok for email though.
There's no way to say this other than, under some signal conditions, the iPhone performance as a phone is simply unacceptable. Downstairs in my house the signal strength meter flickered between one bar and a 'No service' message. It dropped calls and often failed to send or receive text messages. I found this odd because I'd tested the strength of the O2 signal in my house using a friends phone and it had been fine. I invited her over and we compared how her phone (a Siemens something-or-other) and my iPhone performed. The Siemens was fine - two or three bars on the signal meter, no problems dropping calls, sending texts etc - while the iPhone (which was right next to it) did its one-bar/No service thing. I swapped the first iPhone for a second, but the replacement behaved in exactly the same way.
I don't quite know what is going on but made two other observations that might be relevant:
1) Both iPhones could always see Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange signals in my house. They couldn't connect of course because they're locked to O2 so I couldn't check the signal strength, but the fact that signal was always received might indicate that it was just 02 reception that was compromised.
2) Both iPhones displayed a reasonable O2 signal (two or three bars on the meter) and could make and receive calls, send and receive text messages just fine when attached to an external power supply (computer or the mains).
To try to work out what is going on I had a look at this web site:
which shows the mobile phone base stations in the UK. It shows that in my area Vodafone has a mixture of 1800 and 900 MHz transmitters, Orange and T-Mobile have only 1800 MHz transmitters and O2 has only 900 MHz transmitters. It's obviously impossible to draw a conclusion from this scant information but a working hypothesis could be that the iPhone performs poorly in receiving in the 900 MHz band unless connected to an external power supply, i.e. there might be power management issues related to 900 MHz reception.
That's just a guess of course and is rather academic. I returned the second iPhone and cancelled the contract. A phone that works the way the iPhone does in my house is (literally) worse than useless to me.