One week with the iPhone 3G

I was going to call this post “It’s been One Week…” but in light of the recent issues Barenaked Ladies frontman, Steven Paige is having, I decided to go for something else instead.

I’m not going to do a ‘full’ review since that’s been done to death already. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the differences between the ‘old’ and new iPhone, and some tips and tricks. Excuse the randomness of these observations.

The Screen Bezel
Physically, the two flavors of the iPhone (old and new that is) look very similar…except for the black bezel on the 3G model. It actually bugs me that it’s so wide compared to the 2G model. The original felt like the whole device was your screen. The new one just feels strange to see that wide black bezel. I’m sure I’ll get used to it but it’s just something I’ve noticed.

Battery life
First of all, battery life is quite a bit different than the first generation iPhone. Before, I’d normally get 2-3 days of battery life with wifi on, bluetooth off and Edge enabled. Now, it’s more like 1 to 1.5 days although I’ve charged it everyday. This is with wifi off (who needs wifi when you have 3G data), bluetooth off and ‘location services’ (the GPS function of the new iPhone) turned off – it only turns on when needed, like when you launch Google Maps but more on GPS in a bit. If you’re not using Mobile Me, you should also turn off Push as well as lengthening the amount of time between ‘fetches’ of your email which should improve your battery life a little.

Some of this battery experience can also be contributed to ‘shiny new toy’ syndrome as it gets a lot of show and tell time since it’s so new. We’ll see how this plays out once things die down and normal usage starts happening.

The App Store
As I’ve suggested a number of times before, the App Store has proven to be the killer iPhone app. With over 500 titles available at launch, many of which are free, it’s been an amazing way to extend the usefulness of the iPhone. That’s not to say that all 500 apps are great as there is certainly some crap-ware. There are fortunately more than a few gems in there and I’ll highlight some of my favorites in a future post.

I currently use my US iTunes store account to get access to a bit more content than the Canadian store has to offer. At launch the US store had about 10 more pages of apps on offer. If you have the means, I highly recommend you setup a US account…you just need a gift card from the US to do so and you can put in any US address (choose an address in a state such as Oregon to avoid tax). No credit card needed. I’ve heard that you can’t create a credit card-less Canadian account if you want to buy apps though which is strange.

Keep up on the new releases via RSS – for the US Store at least.

iPhone ‘HotSpot’ access
One of the things that Rogers offered with their ‘value packs’ was unlimited wifi access at all their hotspots. Turns out this seems to work on any iPhone with the Mobile Safari browser (so all iPhones). They only look for the user agent string that Safari serves up. A little birdy told me that if you were to enable the ‘Developer’ menu in any version of Safari (like on your laptop for example via the bottom of the preferences screen), you would be able to choose the iPhone version of Mobile Safari as your user agent. This basically enables free wifi at just about every Canadian Starbucks for starters…haven’t had a chance to test this myself so YMMV and they could pull this at anytime.

Getting the 6gb data plans on 2G iPhones
For various reasons, people haven’t been able to upgrade to the 3G iPhone. Apparently later this month Rogers will have an option for people that aren’t eligible for a hardware upgrade to pay (thru the nose) for an iPhone. In the US, this seems to mean that the $199 8gb iPhone costs $499 and the $299 16gb model goes for $599. Pretty steep penalty for being an existing customer. So if you want to wait until you’re able to upgrade or are still happy with your 2G iPhone, you can simply call up Rogers and ask them to add the $30/6gb data plan to your current phone.

You can’t get Visual Voicemail working on it (at least at the moment on Rogers) but you should be able to get the data plan. The CSR may say that it’s not supported but it should work fine. You just need to put ‘internet.com’ into the APN setting in the Settings/General/Network/Edge screen. Leave the username/password section blank. There is a 3 year contract term if you do this but since this is basically unlimited data for an iPhone (AT&T’s ‘unlimited’ is soft capped at 5gb in the US), it’s a deal. You can cancel early for a $100 penalty. I’d also watch your billing the first few months to make sure they don’t incorrectly bill you for data.

The other nice thing about this particular data plan is that you can throw your sim in another phone and use it…it’s not ‘locked’ for use on an iPhone only. So if Nokia wanted to send me an N96, I’d be happy to play with it using my own sim and data plan.

Need a case?
iPhone 3G cases
As usual, one of my favorite shopping destinations is already stocked up with various cases for the 3G model with prices ranging from $8-20 depending on the style you like. Many 2G cases also still work with the 3G due to the very similar size and the give that a silicone case has. I’m also still using my DLO Hipcase with my 3G.

GPS
The GPS function of the iPhone 3G is pretty slick…even if there aren’t any turn by turn driving directions like what you’d find in a TomTom or Garmin GPS system. That’s not to say that it’s not a little buggy. For example, you can geo-tag your photos. When you upload them to Flickr, they automatically get plotted on a map (once you enable the preference in your profile at least). But sometimes the iPhone is a little off in it’s coordinates. Take for example this photo, taken at Spanish Banks, near UBC in Vancouver. Strangely not in Hulunbeier, Nei Mongol as Flickr shows. I’ve read a few things about a bug in the GPS software that Apple will fix in the next firmware update which is due out soon.

2.0 Firmware unlock status
Keep an eye on this site for updates on the jailbreak/unlock status to enable 2G iPhones access to the 2.0 firmware (including App Store) and eventually the ability to jailbreak/unlock the 3G iPhone. I still want to be able to use my iPhone while travelling in the US (using my AT&T Pay as you Go sim card). Somehow I don’t think Apple will allow apps like Customize onto the App Store (hope I’m wrong) so a jailbroken 3G phone will be a nice way to add this.

Money tight?
Don’t want to spend the bucks on an iPhone and a contract? Get a cheap iPod Touch and pretend as Buzz suggested. I want to make an ‘iPhone simulator’ for the Touch as a gag app so you can mess with your friends.

That’s all for now…more later.

Update: Added the App Store RSS feed link

Update 2: The 2.0 Pwnage tool has been released. I just successfully upgraded/jailbroke/unlocked my (now my wife’s) 1st gen iPhone. You need to download the restore/update file from Apple to use this tool. You should get a download only/download+install option – choose download only. You may also need a few bootloaders. More info on my new post about the 2.0 firmware.

10 Comments

  1. Colin Clarke says:

    Interesting observations John. A lot I hadn’t heard anywhere else. Well done. Now if I could only get out of my Telus contract without the early termination fee.

  2. Tod says:

    Supergreat posting, as usual, John.

  3. Nice write up John. Couple of questions for you, not sure if you can answer them or not. Since you have access to the US iTunes stores, that means you should have access to apps like Loopt, Limbo and of course Pandora. Have you tried these apps, do they work in Canada or are they still ‘geo-retarted’ – specifically I’m wondering about Pandora, but also curious about Loopt.

    Second question – assuming these apps do work, is there any way for me to get them from you? ie. can you suck them out of iTunes? My guess is no since they are somehow tied to your iTunes account and even if I could get the file from you and put it in the right location on my mac, it likely wouldn’t work.

  4. Hmmm…the ability to edit my comment would be nice – to fix typos like ‘retarted’ :)

  5. John says:

    I’m pretty sure it’ll be hit and miss with the US based applications. I know that some don’t care (like the eBay app for example) but Pandora doesn’t work if your IP originates from outside the US.

    Unfortunately the apps are authorized onto your iTunes account. I think I could give them to you but you’d have to an authorized user of my account in order to run them and/or actually install them on your iTunes/iPhone. Just like if I was to buy a song and email it to you – it would prompt you for an authorization.

    I’ll see about adding editing comments too ;)

  6. Tyler Ingram says:

    Damn it i want an iPhone but don’t want to extend my contract (in case i want to get out of it soon…)

    You could use you’re iTouch as a phone. jailbreak it and install Skype on to it like my landlord did. Wherever you have WiFi you now have a ‘cellphone’ too! Pretty fun idea really.

  7. John says:

    @Tyler what is he using for a microphone on the Touch since it doesn’t have one built in? Or Skype for that matter since it’s not officially out at least. Perhaps some other SIP/VOIP client that is Skype-like?

  8. I was wondering about the microphone as well…

  9. You can get microphones from places like http://touchmods.wordpress.com/.

  10. Ronald says:

    The iPhone 3G are selling 2x as fast as the original and lines are constantly forming outside of Apple stores and other carriers.
    It’s a great time to personalize your iPhone by choosing any accessories that suit your personality and lifestyle. Apple Stores and most other consumer electronics specialty shops carry these cases. Do a careful search at an online auction site, such as eBay, and you may find them there.
    Um… recommend these iPhone 3G Accessories store, maybe you will also like it

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