One month of the iPhone 3G: what Apple needs to fix

Apple iPhone 3GIt is just over a month since the worldwide launch of the iPhone 3G. The device has been welcomed enthusiastically by millions of buyers around the world, but the second coming of the iPhone has not been flawless by a long shot. Sure, it's rare for any launch to be entirely flawless, but problems have cropped up in greater frequency this time around than even after the original iPhone launch. Here, we look at the ups and downs in one month with the iPhone 3G.

By now, almost everyone is aware of the activation mess that happened on July 11. Less than two hours after the device went on sale in the US, the iTunes activation system used in retail stores to set up the iPhone stopped connecting to the server, affecting to-be customers around the world. Some stores simply made customers wait for hours at a time until it came back up, while others turned customers away, and others just sold deactivated iPhones. It wasn't until later that day when the systems finally came back up when customers could actually use their phones.

Some iPhone 3G owners??”mostly ones that had bought white iPhones, but some black??”have begun reporting finding tiny hairline cracks around the edges of their devices. The cracks seem to show up most often near switches and ports, like the volume and mute switch on the side, and the headphone jack on the top. Because the back of the iPhone 3G is now plastic (versus the metal on the original), it's apparently more susceptible to stress damage, and white iPhone owners have noticed it the most. Some have reported being able to get replacements by complaining to Apple, while others haven't had as much luck. Sure it's just cosmetic, but for a device that people have only had their hands on for a month, it's disappointing.

iPhone users have reported a number of software problems since July 11, including the GPS completely flaking out (despite being in an open area with easy GPS access) and slow interface response times. Sometimes, tapping on an icon or a button will yield no response from the phone for several seconds, but with no indicator that it's working on it (like the beachball of death on the Mac), users are left confused as to whether they simply didn't tap accurately enough or whether the phone is having problems. Further, the "sticky keyboard" has been a common complaint about the iPhone 3G (or, more specifically, the iPhone 2.0 software that shipped with it), although this problem seems to have been resolved some by the release of iPhone 2.0.1.

Last, but not least, is the iPhone's questionable handling of 3G, at least here in the US. iPhone 3G customers on AT&T have reported extremely spotty coverage, even in major cities that should theoretically be covered pretty well. We have heard reports from users in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York??”not to mention a smattering of smaller cities??”and have experienced it ourselves numerous times in Chicago. One minute, the iPhone will be on the 3G network, and the next, it'll be on EDGE??”sometimes without even moving the phone an inch. Other times, all it takes is crossing the street to suddenly be outside of a 3G spot. Considering that most of these areas are well within AT&T's supposed 3G coverage area, it's hard to pinpoint whether this issue is due to AT&T's failings or Apple's. As reported by CNet yesterday, both Apple and AT&T have remained mum on the issue, with both either pointing fingers at each other or responding with blanket PR answers. Although this response isn't particularly surprising, it is disappointing.

What exactly is good about the iPhone 3G? Well, despite the numerous issues with third-party apps and the App Store, the ability to install software developed by someone other than Apple is still pretty awesome. Suddenly, the iPhone truly is a pretty capable mobile computing device instead of just a phone that can play music and surf the web. And, when the 3G works, it really works. When testing for our iPhone 3G review, we managed to get anywhere from decent to blazing data speeds (from 300Kbps to 700Kbps), while EDGE has traditionally only skirted the edge of "tolerable."

But the availability of third-party apps and nice 3G speeds aren't enough to make up for the other problems??”problems that aren't exactly confined to a small group of people. If we were to choose two major issues that we would like to be prioritized, it would be the 3G spottiness problem and the iPhone's handling thereof, and the elimination of the iPhone SDK NDA (which, in turn, could help remedy many of the other problems with third-party apps). If 3G was solid within the right coverage areas and software for the iPhone more mature, we're sure that users would be much more willing to tolerate some line-waiting and maybe even a little bit of cosmetic damage. But until then, every little thing that comes up will just add to the growing list.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Apple

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