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Rory Cellan-Jones

The iPhone - Great at Home, Lousy Abroad

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 13 Jan 08, 16:18 GMT

‘”Do you know why this industry keeps failing to understand what consumers want?”, a mobile phone company executive asked me recently. ”Because none of us in the business pays our own phone bills.” The same could be said for many of the journalists who review the latest handsets – so I tried an experiment. I bought Apple’s iPhone, for a hefty £269, and spent the last four weeks playing with it – and paying for it – at home, and abroad.

Here are my thoughts:

Rory Cellan-Jones and iPhoneFirst, the upside. As a mobile internet device it is simply the best I’ve ever tried, especially when connected to a wi-fi network. This morning I googled chart hits from the 70s, watched a few on YouTube, then downloaded tracks from iTunes as I lay in bed compiling a CD for a forthcoming party. And it was all very fast.

Special sites designed for iPhone make it easy to use, such as Facebook, Twitter or – my personal favourite – access to BBC podcasts on the move.

Away from wi-fi, it can be a bit of a struggle – the EDGE network is rather patchy even in London – but checking news feeds is still a lot easier than on 3g phones I’ve used.

While my £35 per month tariff only offers 200 minutes of calls, it does allow me unlimited data, and I chewed my way through a hefty 72 MB in just three weeks. But then I headed to the United States – and my problems started.

I had already read horror stories about the price of using an iPhone abroad – the editor of Wired took his to China and got a bill for $2,100 for checking his email. So I turned off data roaming – and immediately found that what I was left with was a not very smart phone.

Without the internet, you can just call and text - and these are the phone’s weakest areas. Just answering calls – you have to slide a finger across the screen – is a challenge, and I’ve not yet mastered one-thumb texting on the touchscreen. The camera is okay – for 2 megapixels – but make sure your subject is well lit and not moving. And I'm beginning to find video capture essential on a phone.

Things might have been better if there had been more – and cheaper – wi-fi in Las Vegas. The only time I managed to get online was while listening to a speech in the Las Vegas Hilton theatre, and I was soon surfing and sending pictures home.

I did turn on data roaming once – to use Google Maps to find a shop in the search for a present for my wife. I then worked out that the 300k of data involved in one search had cost me £2. Still, when you’re spending £10 on a tee-shirt, what’s another £2?

Back home, I found that just six days of calls had cost me £80, on top of my £35 monthly payment. On a couple of occasions I had tried using a Voip service offering cheap calls – but of course that involves going online and racking up extra data charges.

So what do I want to hear about iPhone from Steve Jobs in his Macworld keynote on Tuesday? Yes, I’d like a better camera, video capture, 3g, and one button to press to answer calls. But most of all I’d like a cheaper way of using my iPhone abroad. Given the way this global industry works to punish consumers who stray outside their own borders, I’d imagine that’s highly unlikely/

UPDATE:
Clearly, my appetite for web browsing on the iPhone is shared by others. According to this New York Times story the iPhone is already one of the most popular devices on which to browse the web while mobile.

Comments

I'm amazed this review has been published. What a strange angle.

How can you review a phone like this, I agree with parts of it admitidely. But really you need to understand the two seperate entities here. The phone and the network. Most people read phone reviews already know about the available networks and how they work etc. So I dont really care if the reviewer pays his bill or not. Its the phone I want to read about.

Really what you have reviewed here is 02's network and the negotiated roaming tariffs they have around the globe. How can your phone charges used abroad have any relation to the phone.

I've just come back from India and used my iPhone a lot to keep up to date with emails. I could barely notice the difference in the bill when I got back.

I'm almost struck for words, this is ridiculous.

Next thing I'll read is a review of the new Mercedes been driven across Europe and Clarkson moaning at how expensive the fuel is in Italy and how rubbish the car is as a consequence. Oh wait... no I wont because he is a professional.

You're an idiot.

Also your 2 comments regarding the actual phone are also nonsense. Saying that answering the phone is difficult amazes me. I've not met anyone who cant manage the simple swipe to answer. The text messaging is far better than most phones, its quick to type and easy to read messages as they are threaded conversations. Very nice to use.

I think its important to get a phone that fits the user. One device cant please all. My Gran has a home phone with big, easy to use buttons, I have a nice compact cordless. But she wouldnt be able to see the buttons you see. 2 great phones designed for 2 different users. The iPhone is a cutting edge piece of kit, its the best phone ever designed. I've never had so much interest in a phone. But its not for everyone. Perhaps a phone with big buttons and no roaming is more suited to you.

  • 2.
  • At 06:43 PM on 13 Jan 2008,
  • E wrote:

The cost aspect is not a limitation of the handset but of carrier pricing. The article, however, should have been written after MacWorld on Tuesday, as I suspect there may be announcements on a number of percieved limitations..3g, Video, improved camera....most of which you'll realise is software related anyway if you follow some of the 'hack' sites....

  • 3.
  • At 06:50 PM on 13 Jan 2008,
  • m.j wrote:

I agree that data charges abroad are horrendous and call charges not that much better , but my main problem is that this has nothing to do with the device ! Its the network operators who charge u for this not apple or even mr jobs so please stop iPhone bashing , no one says it about nokia phones and the costs would be the same ¿
And if you turn off data roaming and can't find a free wi-fi hotspot remeber that you can not only call and text ! But u can play music , tv shows , home videos , movies ,use the calender,make notes , take pictures, view pictures and laugh at other people who Belive their nokia is still better.

Its an awesome product and a bargain at £269 people pay that for luxury nokias that have no features but look good , the iPhone looks good and is full of features.
Oh one last thing .....this whole message was written on my iPhone .

  • 4.
  • At 06:52 PM on 13 Jan 2008,
  • David Bondy wrote:

I got my iPhone the day it came out and it was a difficult decision to make as to whether I should stick with my Blackberry or get an iPhone. In the end my love of sexy gadgets won!

Having used the iPhone every day for two months I can declare myself to be happy with it. I love the screen quality and I have no problem sliding my finger across to answer the phone.

There are some niggles which I have already fed back to the development team at Apple and these are:

* You cannot cut and paste between applications. If you need to get some information from an email for example and put it into an SMS message you have to get the old pen and paper out. This is a major inconvenience for me as an ex-Blackberry user.

* In SMS mode the "send" button is FAR too close to the "I", "O", and "P" buttons on the keyboard and old fat fingers here has sent more than one half-completed text message due to this. What about an "are you sure?" message or something similar?

* I would like the ability to delete files from the phone (photos, tunes, videos etc.) without having to plug it into my computer and fire up iTunes.

* I don't want to have to buy ringtones from the iTunes store. I want to be able to download my own ones into the iPhone.

* The Notes application doesn't sync with Outlook (Entourage) notes. This is just plain stupid!

* The "usage" meter on the settings menu does not help me to control my call / text volume. It, quite stupidly, shows statistics since the last full charge. Since my iPhone lives in its cradle on my desk this is useless to me.

* I would like to be able to use the iPod games that I have in iTunes on the iPhone and I woudl also like to be able to customise the front page.

* 3G (of course) would be much better here - although I do not expect Apple to announce this any time soon.

So, for what it is worth, that is a user's perspective after two months.

Dave


I disagree with Jamie, when you can only buy the iPhone in the UK on the O2 network they are no longer 2 entities, they have become one. Therefore the angle taken in this review is refreshingly honest about what it means to use and pay for an iPhone both here in the UK and abroad.

Calling the reviewer an idiot is uncalled for and does your argument no favours. Think next time you write comments like that.

  • 6.
  • At 07:28 PM on 13 Jan 2008,
  • Dan A wrote:

I'm sorry but the only idiot here is you, Jamie. Phone and network separate entities? Utter twaddle. The iPhone is tied to O2 in the UK, so you are stuck with the roaming tariffs they have negotiated with carriers in other countries.

For myself, I prefer a Blackberry for the simple reason that you know exactly what you're going to be paying for your email wherever you go. The iPhone is an expensive toy. Until Apple add 3G, a decent camera and lift the ridiculous ban on 3rd party applications, I won't be going near the iPhone.

Apple need to decide whether they are in the business of creating USEFUL devices or just toys which look pretty on the table in Starbucks.

  • 7.
  • At 08:15 PM on 13 Jan 2008,
  • Mike O'Brien wrote:

I'm with Chris Riley and Dan A here. The point is the carrier charges.

Apple deliberately choose to lock you into one carrier wherever the device is sold, presumably the carrier who will pay the most to Apple to have the device available solely to them. This will be reflected in the carrier charges. And Apple may be a party to those charges as well, of course.

At the end of the day, it's a device, and a device should be capable of operating unfettered on any carrier's network. A bit like the two landline phones that Jamie mentions. I'm sure that neither are restricted to one landline supplier, even if the core network belongs to one only (excepting Hull, of course).

  • 8.
  • At 08:16 PM on 13 Jan 2008,
  • C.Hoo wrote:

RE: David
Well kept secret - you can now make your own ring tones using Garage Band and then export them into a ringtone for your iPhone... of course your source material has to be non-DRM to begin with...

  • 9.
  • At 08:28 PM on 13 Jan 2008,
  • Mike O'Brien wrote:

I'm with Chris Riley and Dan A here. The point is the carrier charges.

Apple deliberately choose to lock you into one carrier wherever the device is sold, presumably the carrier who will pay the most to Apple to have the device available solely to them. This will be reflected in the carrier charges. And Apple may be a party to those charges as well, of course.

At the end of the day, it's a device, and a device should be capable of operating unfettered on any carrier's network. A bit like the two landline phones that Jamie mentions. I'm sure that neither are restricted to one landline supplier, even if the core network belongs to one only (excepting Hull, of course.

  • 10.
  • At 08:37 PM on 13 Jan 2008,
  • Tom wrote:

Jamie-

I'm also going to repeat the point others have made. The iPhone is available, in the UK, on only one network. Furthermore, there is no choice of tariff - you have to agree to the one on offer or don't get an iPhone.

Now, most people looking to buy into this package want a complete review, that covers the entire setup that you are paying for.

There have been many hardware reviews of the iPhone, so this sort of localised review is exactly what the majority of people looking at buying an iPhone in the UK are after.

I have an O2 mobile, but my tariff has allowed me to go abroad and not be charged a fortune, so what Rory tells me in this review is very beneficial.

Thanks, Rory!

  • 11.
  • At 09:13 PM on 13 Jan 2008,
  • James baird wrote:

I think the point of this article is the fact that you are buying a phone as more than just a phone, and here in the uk its great, and the coasts are not that high. But whats the point of buying the iPhone with all its toys when as soon as you leave the country its going to cost a bomb to do use any of its unique selling points that apple bang on about so much.

Writing a long winded pointless reply and then slam the reviewer is just ridiculous.

  • 12.
  • At 12:08 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

There are hundreds of articles on the net about the features of the iPhone, what it can and can't do.

I think this article was interesting, because it shows what it's like to LIVE with the iPhone - contracts, charges, data usage, EDGE coverage, etc

It has reinforced my fear about the £35 monthly tariff not being nearly enough to cover call charges ... this is why I've not bought one ... I expect with time the cost of the phone and the tariff will come down, as usual the early adopters pay a high price.

Maybe I'll just buy one in the US, crack it and use my existing Vodaphone SIM card.

Remember that the iPhone - and other smartphones - are increasingly predicated on having data connections on tap. Suddenly being without that stream of connectivity highlights not only failures of the phone networks, but also Apple's inability to break away from the past. The iPhone might be very swanky, but underneath it's still a phone that suffers all the same network problems as its rivals (despite having terrific Wi-Fi support and great browsing).

Those pointing out that owners are trapped on one network are right - and that's something you can't change without invalidating your warranty - and they are a result of exclusivity deals agreed by both Apple and the carriers. Nobody's blameless there.

I have to say, though, I was also in Las Vegas for CES and using my iPhone - and my problem was even simpler: call quality was terrible!

  • 14.
  • At 12:41 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Dan B wrote:

As someone who just received a $1,101 bill from sporadic phone use while traveling across Asia for a month I find this article to be very useful.

I did not pick up a wifi signal once in Taiwan, Tokyo, or Hong Kong outside my hotel room. The edge tech did however work just as well in the main cities as it did in San Ya (southern most Chinese island, a growing tourist area but still mainly rural).

Overall I love my phone... but I must agree that it works better at home then abroad. That said, it is still the best phone I have ever had the pleasure of owning.

  • 15.
  • At 03:34 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Des G wrote:

The fact that the carrier/service provider if the point of focus on this review is actually quite pertinent as it was apple that selected the provider and undoubtedly had a pretty big say in the tariff/contract too.

That there is only a phone and camera if you don't use the data network is pretty damning as well.
Obviously not a pda then. Sure it maybe "just" an issue with software, but apple did release it in that state.
Or maybe devotees of apple will be happy to pay 50 quid a year to "update" their iphone, as they do with their macs.. Bless 'em.. Jobs loves you all!

  • 16.
  • At 04:22 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Charles wrote:


Is a lie by omission a lie?
maybe not...

Is an article that omits to say that *all* other Smartphones / PDA Phones suffer from the same issues a very bad article?
Yes, certainly.

Had the article started by a catchy sentence mentioning the iPhone and then gone to mention that the problem is for all data roaming phones (whether they are Symbian, WM6, made by Nokia, Samsung, HTC, or whoever), then it would not have been such a bad article.

This article is in the same league as those others mentioning that iPods are a threat to corporate security (what happened to all other USB devices?), or that iPod user are tied-in to iTunesStore (duh, what happened to all the pirated mp3 they talk about in that other article?).

Would they publish anything these days to get more hits?

Great review, Rory.
One of the best I've read -- full of user experiences that none of the techie enthusiasts ever seem to notice!
But I suspect you may have fallen off Apple's Christmas card list...

I'm guessing what you describe as voip was actually a callback-type scheme (like Jajah) as there's no proper voip client for the iphone yet.

Truphone (http://www.truphone.com/) have been testing one for several months -- maybe they'll announce more next week?

Smartphones are still "at the cutting edge" of a technology that's shifting at a huge rate of knots. If you want to keep up, subscribe to the SMSTextNews blog. It's is a great source for news, reviews and industry gossip (http://www.smstextnews.com/) and run by Scot from London, currently in San Francisco.


Oh, and the Wired editor's $2,100 bill was indeed only for checking his email while in China. But his iPhone was setup to do it every 10 minutes! (http://tinyurl.com/2vj582)

:-)

Hi gents, consider getting a borderless SIM card from the likes of MAXroam (maxroam.com) or AwayPhone (awayphone.com) to help cut down on the crazy phone bills. Those 55 pence/1.50 a minute calls really do add up...!

  • 19.
  • At 08:47 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Kimberley wrote:

I agree with the main publish here. The iphone is a joke, over complicated and such. Answering Calls? Why would someone need to do that. Over Complicated.. and Texts, that is truely a complete mess.. iPhone really need to bulk up there ideas. I'm sure my 11 year old brother could have done a better job. It isn't really a phone it's more of a noisey mess. They could have made alot more money of producing a genuine good phone and the tariff prices put me of, and alot of other people, straight away. Why have a useless phone and pay though the ear for it?

  • 20.
  • At 08:54 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Gareth Williams wrote:

I have to disagree with jamie on pretty much all his points.

Since the iPhone is only available on one network and at a high price for the privlage of being tied to just 1 network its very important that the network is reviewed just as much as the phone itself.

I don't want to be paying £270 for a phone that becomes something I could have bought 8 years ago as soon as I leave the country. If I am paying for quite an expensive tarrif I want that to work for me wherever I am in the world.

Before I even consider an iPhone some basic functionality needs to be added (MMS and the ability to send 1 text to more then 1 person at once for example) it will need to be 3G and most importantly of all it needs to be unlocked and other networks need to be able to supply it so we can have a bit of competition to help drive the price down.

  • 21.
  • At 09:24 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Des G wrote:

The fact that the carrier/service provider if the point of focus on this review is actually quite pertinent as it was apple that selected the provider and undoubtedly had a pretty big say in the tariff/contract too.

That there is only a phone and camera if you don't use the data network is pretty damning as well.
Obviously not a pda then. Sure it maybe "just" an issue with software, but apple did release it in that state.
Or maybe devotees of apple will be happy to pay 50 quid a year to "update" their iphone, as they do with their macs.. Bless 'em.. Jobs loves you all!

  • 22.
  • At 09:31 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Bryan Campbell wrote:

I thought you said you had an unlimited data plan, you mention that it cost you more to try and use VOIP?

"While my £35 per month tariff only offers 200 minutes of calls, it does allow me unlimited data"

But..

"On a couple of occasions I had tried using a Voip service offering cheap calls – but of course that involves going online and racking up extra data charges."

  • 23.
  • At 10:06 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Gareth Williams wrote:

The unlimited free data minutes only apply while you are connected to the O2 network in the uk. Rory was trying VOIP from abroad where he would have been charged for data calls.

  • 24.
  • At 10:10 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Chris C wrote:

The point he is making in the review is that his plan only gives him unlimited data in the UK, so he can browse as much as he likes in here in Britain, but services like VOIP cost money in Las Vegas.

  • 25.
  • At 10:10 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Kevin Yates wrote:

There's no point arguing with iknuckleheads as it might as well be the King's new clothes. The iphone is pretty and after that its average as a phone. Once all the iknuckleheads went out to buy one, I wonder what the sales figures are doing after that. This is a great article that covers a wider problem but this becomes magnified with the iphone because of the punitive contract available in the UK. Its only a smart phone in that its managed to get the iknuckleheads to buy them to a man.

  • 26.
  • At 11:24 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Damian wrote:

People have to wise up and get off their high horses about their favorite Gadgets. The iPhone is just another phone, which idiots like Jamie Reynolds purchase simply because you think you need it and help boost Apples coffers. Can you really say that mobile phones are replacements for video/digital cameras? If you look at youtube for gigs and concerts which people have recorded on their phones, the quality and sound is rubbish compared to that of a device which is made to do a certain purpose, not something like the iPhone which crams so many under quality functions into a COOL design just to get you to buy it. Get a grip people!

  • 27.
  • At 11:43 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Gareth Williams wrote:

Damien - "something like the iPhone which crams so many under quality functions into a COOL design just to get you to buy it."

Truer words have never been spoken and its probably one of my biggest problems with the iPhone.

Its style over substance, yeh it looks pretty, yeh it's fun to play with, but it really doesn't do anything that mobile phones have been doing in the UK for a long time. In fact it probably does a lot less. It works well in the states where mobile technology is nowhere near as advanced as the UK. But over here we are used to expecting certain features that the iPhone just doesn't have.

  • 28.
  • At 11:46 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Neil wrote:

So much hate.

Guys you need to step back from this one a bit and see the wood for the trees.

I am an iPhone user (unlocked) and I've got to say that it's quite simply the best device for browsing the web outside of a computer. I've owned 2 smart phones before this and found them to be clunky and slow at loading pages (this is nothing to do with network, it's page load time rather than data).

I work in an IT office surrounded by Apple hatred, yet those who have had a play with my iPhone have started to see exactly what all the fuss has been about.

As for the review - Sure to answer a call you swipe your finger across instead of hitting a button, I actually like this because I don't accidentally accept a call in my pocket. Data prices outside of the UK are astonishing if you are tied to the O2 contract. I'm shocked at the review totally missing the other point of the iPhone - the video and audio section. Yes it's an internet device, but it's also a phone and an iPod.

Peace.

  • 29.
  • At 11:52 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Gary Cooney wrote:

Solve the problem. Get an Ipod Touch and Nokia N95.

  • 30.
  • At 12:04 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Matt Williams wrote:

Sounds rather odd to me as being a regular visitor to Las Vegas, I've found almost ubiquitous free wi-fi in the hotels and convention centres. Nothing at all like the rip off merchants who run European hotels and think nothing of charging £10+ for a couple of hours of internet access.

  • 31.
  • At 12:08 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Del wrote:

Most people's objection to the iPhone is not criticism of what it does. Those who object to it do so on the basis that the iPhone does nothing new (even though every man and his dog called it "revolutionary"), was beaten to market by another touchscreen phone which was COMPLETELY ignored by journalists, bloggers and customers (it didn't have the right logo on it), and the smugness, the condascending arrogance that comes with most Apple owners. Ugh.

As one good tech blogger wrote last year:

"Apple products are over-priced Fisher-Price entertainment systems for "adults" (sic)".

If Apple actually brought out something which did something new or much better I might buy it. But I am not paying more more for colourful icons and superficial design. Even the iPhone's case looks SERIOUSLY dated. Just compare it to the latest Sony/Samsung/LG phones......

  • 32.
  • At 12:29 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • a wife wrote:

i hope the £10 t-shirt for your wife didn't say "my husband went to las vegas and all he bought me was this t-shirt"... :p

  • 33.
  • At 12:45 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Paul Kerton wrote:

Its interesting to see the people on here who suggest that its just a problem with the networks roaming charges and not the iPhone. Sadly this could be further from the case.

The iPhone is exclusive to o2, and the tarrifs are exclusive to the iPhone and negotiated by o2 and Apple. If this was any other phone, I could put a chip from a regional carrier in my phone and use the local telephone system in order to save money, because the iPhone is locked to o2 I would have no choice buy to use its tarrifs, or buy another phone defeating the point of having the phone in the first place.

Apple's issue is that a lot of the time, its form over function. Sure, things look good, and work well, but the feature set is limited compared to other options available to consumers. I used to be a big Apple fan myself, but recently I've begun to realise that the cost of the equipment just does not outweigh the benefits.

I'd rather have a phone with more features that costs less, like the Nokia N95 which not only costs £269 less on a 18 month contract, but I get unlimited data and 1000 minutes of calls and 1000 texts for the same cost on contract.

  • 34.
  • At 12:53 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Sideshowbob wrote:

I am an IT director and have both an iphone and a blackberry. I find that I hardly use my blackberry now as the iphone does everything I need and is friendlier to use. Having previously lugged a phone, blackberry and ipod about it is refreshing to be able to do everything I need to in one device. Sure you can gripe about the camera, and the EDGE network but as a first punt into the mobile handset world Apple have made a truly wonderful device. It feels sturdy which is something that can't be said about most other handsets and it is a breeze to set up.

The points about data costs while roaming abroad are a bit mute. The blackberry suffers in the same respect. I have seen numerous bills from my users for £600 - £800 for a few weeks of using their blackberry's to retrieve and send mails while abroad. My iphone is tied to O2 and the blackberry T-mobile. My company was previously with Vodafone and had higher bills. At least with the iphone you have the chance to try and access a wifi network which is something the blackberry lacks.

The other great thing about the iphone is that Apple have managed to pull a bit of power away from the networks which is good for other handset makers. They will now be able to pull a few more punches which might open up VoIP and the possibility that handset makers might start to create wifi networks around the world to entice users to use their phones. If that happened networks would certainly drop their high roaming costs to keep people using the networks.


  • 35.
  • At 12:57 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Ben Towell wrote:

This article seems a bit strange to me. Why did you need to go all the way to america to find out that it would be expensive. You say that you use "a hefty 72 MB in just three weeks", and when you signed up for the phone I guess you would have seen the cost of calls abroad.

Thus you would know it would be expensive to use it while away.


Do your research first....then buy something that is right for you. PDA and a phone is good for some, just a cheap phone is good for others, then the iphone is good for others.

  • 36.
  • At 01:03 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Patrick Dodds wrote:

Quite agree vis the rip-off roaming charges. My carrier, T-Mobile, charge approx. US$10,000 per gigabyte (£7.50 per mb) when using the net abroad (in Europe - still classified as "abroad" to a British citizen despite years of membership of the EU, but that's another story). Admittedly a gig is a large amount of data on a phone, but this sort of charging is still ludicrously expensive given that web access is something we as consumers should be able to take for granted now, no matter where we happen to be in the developed world.

  • 37.
  • At 01:32 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • jacko wrote:

Del, if you're referring to the HTC touch, you really ought to have better knowledge of that device.

The touch screen is basically a 'front' to the other applications, after that you need to use the stylus (unless you have tiny (tiny!) fingers.

The iPhone has a great touch screen and it's entire system has been designed to use it.

The iPhone isn't perfect, nothing is and yes, it's expensive (to purchase and the plans), but if you've ever used one then you will realise that it's a really well thought out device and is indeed great to use.

  • 38.
  • At 02:22 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Keith M wrote:

I think those trying to see this as a review have surely missed the point. We all know no phone is ideal for everyone, and that networks rip you off abroad (& at home) but Rory's key point is surely that these high spec phones (if 2M pixel camera can be called high spec) are expensive for the individual to own and run, particularly if you travel. If you have mega high salary, or if your company picks up the tab for your phone then you are fine, but for the mass market these are unaffordable.

  • 39.
  • At 02:32 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Rory Cellan-Jones wrote:

Wow, I knew Apple's products had passionate supporters and detractors, but I think some of you have over-reacted, in both directions.

Let me repeat, the iPhone is the best mobile internet device I have ever used. It is also a great iPod, though if that's all you want the iPod Touch is a better buy.

But until now, two F-words have stopped many people using the internet on a mobile - fuss and fear. The fuss involved in using seventeen keystrokes just to Google an address, and the fear of racking up a huge bill.

At home, the iPhone sorts out both issues(though you can now get unlimited data plans on other phones). But abroad the fear returns. Yes, that may be the case with rival phones too - but my whole point is that the appeal of the iPhone is as a brilliant internet device. When that capability becomes too expensive to use, you are left with a very nice iPod, lacking some of the features of other phones.

In fact, I took two other devices to the US - a blackberry because I'm addicted to push email, and another phone with a good video camera.

So I'm not rubbishing the iPhone - now I'm back home I'm addicted to it again. But you can't ignore the fact that it is tied to one network, and expensive to use abroad.

  • 40.
  • At 02:41 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Jonathan Jones wrote:

I think I may have been living under a rock for a little too long - what's an iphone?

  • 41.
  • At 03:32 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Darren Stephens wrote:

I've used an iPhone on and off, but don't want to buy one because of its being tied to O2, a network I'm not keen on. I also use a lot of Apple kit (and like it, but I'm not rabid).

The iPhone is a well-designed piece of kit, with a fabulous user interface that should be an exemplar of how to do it properly (see Microsoft's awful attempts at mobile phone interfaces) but it has some issues:

for those like me with a nearly full 30Gb iPod, the weedy space available doesn't help - and iTunes doesn't let you manually manage the music on it.

MMS is fairly commonplace on European phones - unless you're an iPhone user. Having to send multimedia via email is faintly poor. Not helped by a weedy camera on such a supposedly high-end phone.

Wireless networking is patchy - for instance iPhone just won't work on many wireless networks that use PEAP authentication - Apple don't support it yet.

The SMS interface is clunky, even allowing for the cleverness of the predictive sensing.

The fact is that while the iPhone was a big deal in the US, here in Europe (and also in Japan I'd bet), where the market is much keener and phone specs are higher, the iPhone loses some of its power. Issues like those raised @4 are important too. so while Apple's marketing machine certainly kicked the hype off before launch, in this market they still have plenty of work to do to come out on top over a number of other equally good or perhaps even better products - the Nokia N95 has been mentioned several times.

  • 42.
  • At 03:56 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Paul Kerton wrote:

Oh Rory, you should've realised that anything anti-Apple draws out the fanboys quite quickly. I find it a shame when people don't appreciate the product, and instead its the company that they appreciate more.

Most companies have made duds, including Apple in the past. Is iPhone a dud? No, not in the USA, but in the UK it really is a step back in terms of technology, design and abilities. iPhone Mk 2 or Mk 3 may bring some true cutting edge features but as it stands, its a jack of some, but not all trades, and a master of just one. Multi-touch.

  • 43.
  • At 04:09 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Robert Carnegie wrote:

Is there a product that routes your personal wi-fi or Edge devices onto an affordable data/VOIP tariff while roaming? A hotspot in your pocket? Then it would appear that you could use your iPhone without troubling O2 - but at a slow rate of course. And of course such a device would tend to move revenue traffic to the cheapest network, so I can imagine that none of them would want to cooperate. And Apple probably would be willing to disable the function too - perhaps that is the case already. Thus I move from considering a purely hypothetical appliance to complaining that it is banned.

I Google for "3G Router" and find that the thing does exist, anyway!

  • 44.
  • At 04:21 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Tobias wrote:

Thank you, Rory for your initial post and your later interjection, both of which I wholeheartedly agree with. I am an admittedly biased Apple fan, but the bottom line is that the iPhone really is the best smart phone I have ever had (and I've tried a few). There isn't one thing I can put my finger on - it's so much better and easier in so many ways.

That said, I have just come back from a short trip to the Middle East and a bill of £197. Ouch.

I would subscribe to almost every suggested improvement listed above. They'll come, I am sure, as Apple is very good at listening to its punters, and most of the issues are software related.

One thing that strikes me in this blog and elsewhere is that I'm not reading many negative comments from iPhone users - only people who hate Apple, or who are good at gadgets and therefore don't mind the tortuous menu systems on other so-called smart phones.

Self delusion, or good product? I think the latter.

  • 45.
  • At 04:44 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Anonymous wrote:

The number of mangled cliches, expressions and turns of phrase in these replies beggars belief!

That would be "buck up their ideas", "moot point" and "stuck for words".

  • 46.
  • At 04:46 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Rich Major wrote:

"For myself, I prefer a Blackberry for the simple reason that you know exactly what you're going to be paying for your email wherever you go. The iPhone is an expensive toy. Until Apple add 3G, a decent camera and lift the ridiculous ban on 3rd party applications, I won't be going near the iPhone."

Umm... Your blackberry, has at the most a 2mp camera, and doesn't support 3g either...

Just a thought.

An international data package would be good, but only for a handful of people. Everyone expects it to be expensive when they take their phone abroad. Therefore i dont really understand the point of this article. Its no supprise that a data intensive product like an iphone, brings a heavy bill when abroad.

This isn't a problem with an iphone, its a network problem. You cant go abroad and uses masses of data with a uk only data tarriff and expect it to be cheap. so, where's the iphone issue here?

  • 47.
  • At 05:08 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Gavin wrote:

Just a quick a quick piece of advice to one iPhone user. Although you can't currently delete songs from the iPhone, you can remove video. Just slide your finger over a video to the left and an option to delete will appear (like deleting e-mail)

  • 48.
  • At 06:22 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • markn wrote:

well, i very much like my iphone (which is on o2 pay and go). but if i were going abroad, it would hurt that i can't put in a local sim card (but i understand the reasons).

i don't know why a couple of contributors have been so harsh about the very fair article which wasn't at all anti-apple.

  • 49.
  • At 07:24 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Kevin Yates wrote:

Lets get this straight for the iknuckleheads, the iphone is not a smartphone. Its clever, its cute but it isn't a smartphone. I use an Eten Glofiish X800 with WM6 which has mobile office, push, wifi, 3G, camera, blah de blah de blah. Its unlocked and it is a smartphone. I use it, I don't worship it, I put it in my jacket pocket when I'm done with it. I occasionally listen to music on it (4gb microsd). Its a great phone but only a phone.

The HTC series are smartphones as well as others but the iphone isn't. Its more of a ..... cute quite clever but not quite for grownups phone.

I love the itouch but its not worth the money.

  • 50.
  • At 09:32 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Tim wrote:

4 days web surfing in France cost an extra £200! Call charges reasonable enough but I would recommend turning off the data access when abroad . . .

Data worked out at roughly £5 per megabyte . . . Oh well, it's only money. Still love it though!

  • 51.
  • At 10:36 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Keane wrote:

Early disclosure: I've never used a smartphone, so the iphone is my only reference point in that sphere, and I'm comparing with standard 2g mobiles, which are my other reference point.

I completely agree with Rory's assertion that the iphone is a great mobile internet device. It makes accessing the internet on the go fantastically easy, and that's not just away from home -- I can also just hook into my wifi wherever I am in the house to check email or whatever.

I've used the iphone for 3 main purposes since I got it just a few weeks ago: email; google reader; google maps. It does each of these things very very well. And it's the integrated experience and ease of use that sets the iphone apart. Increasingly, I'm also using the calendar (so simple it's a joy, though I am rekeying appointments into Outlook Exchange and the Moleskine too...) and the ipod functions (sure, I could carry my 80gb ipod *and* a phone, but I'd much prefer to carry just one, thanks). The ipod (in whichever guise you choose) is still by far the best mp3 player available, and podcast integration and the quality of the movie playback makes the iphone a great train companion.

I'm perfectly happy with the call and texting functions, despite the niggles (that said, I haven't really missed a 'send to many' function, and have coped just fine with the 'slide to answer' interface). To be quite honest, they do all I need from a phone.

I have missed genuine MMS, and I have been disappointed by the camera (though I think the camera is shown up unfairly by the quality and size of the screen).

And onto roaming. This is/was my big fear. I travel a lot with work (and a LOT of people travel a lot with work), outside of the UK. Now, the issue here isn't that when you roam, you have to pay roaming charges. I know that. Us seasoned roaming travellers know that. It's that the iphone integrates the mobile internet experience so seamlessly with its other functions, and this creates a disproportionate cost when roaming (compare £35 for 200 minutes/texts and unlimited data with the cost of 200 roaming minutes/texts and unlimited roaming data; answer: ouch).

So I fear the international roaming costs, particularly given that I'm on my first trip outside of the UK with the iphone by my side, I have data roaming OFF, and yet the iphone is happily downloading emails and getting weather updates and would connect to the web if I asked it. What's that about? (Detail: I'm in Jersey, on the JT-Wave network, which has an affiliate relationship with O2. Does this mean that the data roaming protection is bypassed? Will I/Won't I get charged for data roaming? I'll let you know when I get my bill.)

  • 52.
  • At 10:43 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Chris Barnett wrote:

You CAN get cheap unlimted wifi abroad.

Boingo do a cheap wi-fi service for mobile phones and PDAs. It only costs about £3.00 per month and it's flat rate - use as much as you want, as long as it's just a mobile phone or PDA.

I swear by it and have it on my Nokia E65.

I would post the url, but you'll have to google it. Not sure what the rules are posting urls.


  • 53.
  • At 12:06 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Andy Coxon wrote:

The lack of network compatibility is exactly why the iPhone will never be a serious business tool and will continue to be the preserve of Nathan Barleys everywhere.

Not being able to put a local SIM card into the iPhone makes it all but useless abroad.

  • 54.
  • At 02:55 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Jay wrote:

@Jacko,

HTC?!

Er, try the Neonode N1, a touchscreen phone with music and video, web and email, notepad, camera etc. It beat the iPhone to market not by months (as did the LG Prada) but by YEARS. Never heard of it? Of course not! It wasn't an Apple so why would anyone have heard of it?

  • 55.
  • At 06:49 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • cambayne wrote:

A ten pound 'T' shirt as a present to your wife? You really know how to show a girl a good time!

  • 56.
  • At 10:29 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Mbui Shadrack wrote:

Somebody wants to throw there phone I am willing to receive them!

At the end of the day, I do agree with most people when they say that the charges aren't down to the actual device itself, but rather the provider.

However, you could also say that Apple were stupid to offer the device to a single network, especially one with such poor coverage and bad service as 02!
So, the situation with charges is in the hands of both the provider and the handset. I'm sure a leading network such as Orange or Vodafone would/could have come up with more competitive and fair roaming price plan.

Essentially anyway, if 3g was available on the all singing all dancing iPhone (which is in my opinion a craze created because it's an Apple product and because it has a touch screen)...would 02's 3g service be sufficient to handle that many users using that much data? Are they sufficient enough a provider?

  • 58.
  • At 12:52 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Dan wrote:

I am amazed at the levels of ignorance on display in this article and by many of the posts. firstly people who say there isn't enough compitition with the iphone, how can this be true. It competes with every other phone on the market, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses.

secondly roaming charges on the iphone are the same as on ANY O2 tariff. if you travel alot its something you need to check first.

thirdly the call plan is a standard £25 call plan plus a 200mb data bundle (seperatly £7.50) and cloud wifi access (£3 a month) totalling £35.50 so its cheaper than when bought seperatly. this shows that o2 havn't raised the costs of the plan simply because of apple taking a percentage.

finally if the iphone was as bad as everyone claims it wouldn't be it would have been a huge flop and nobody would care. The truth is what it does do, it does brilliantly what it doesn't do can be improved on later which it will be.

Jay, the Neonode N1 is a bit of an ugly brick, but I appreciate it came out a few years ago, so I'll forgive that. Yes, it has a touch screen, but I don't think it's as good as Apples.

However, the Neonode N2, looks a lot better and the touch screen looks better too.

But before you start slating people for never hearing of them, I believe that's called marketing. Add to the fact that when they released the N1 they originally could only make 10k units from orders of 10 times that, maybe that answers you question!

I am no apple fan boy. But what you have to realise is that Apple do put that extra bit of thought into the user experience. Yes, they may leave out certain features and Mr Jobs has to have his way, but the products are usually very good and very usable.

I've just got a brand new Windows smart phone and well, smart it ain't. It's a tad slow, it's not very well thought out (I can't exit applications, from the application; what the hell?), but it is an open platform and it does do pretty much everything I could want.

Just not as well as the iPhone does it. And that is what makes Apple special. It's not always about features people, it's about the quality and the user experience.

  • 60.
  • At 12:00 AM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • moserw wrote:

I sure don't get why Apple gets so many people worked up. For myself I have used lots of Nokias & Motorolas and can say browsing was a pain in them how much ever they were good in other things. Iphone is not yet available in India but I will get if its reasonably priced and when its available. Just wanted to mention browsing on the mobile is a breeze if you use Opera Mini which will work on any mobile and what's more is free! I am typing this out on my Motorola E6 which is a good touch screen phone!

  • 61.
  • At 12:56 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • bfreesun wrote:

The iPhone tariffs are not the same as every other tariff.

I had unlimited roaming on my Blackberry from O2 for £20 per month extra. This was per month and could be canceled and renewed at any time paying only for the month I used.
I would have thought something similar could be available for the iPhone. Over £7 per mb is just not viable for me and makes roaming with the iPhone a real pain. It really is very ordinary without wifi and data.

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