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Round Robin: TreoCentral iPhone 3G Final Review

Tue Dec 23, 2008 - 12:57 AM EST - By Jennifer Chappell


Welcome back to the Smartphone Round Robin, our fun experiment in which each Smartphone Experts editor has to put aside his or her everyday smartphone and use a different one for a week or so. So far, I've used the HTC AT&T Fuze, RIM's BlackBerry Bold, and the Android T-Mobile G1. Whew, and now I'm just finishing up with Apple's iPhone 3G. Even though it's been lots of fun using those other smartphones, I'm ready to pick up my cute little Palm Centro again. I love my Centro! I love my Treo Pro too but not as much as I do my Centro. I guess it's the Windows Mobile thing. I much prefer the Palm OS as I've said many times.

As I said in my iPhone 3G first look video, I was happy to finally be able to start using my new iPhone 3G. I still had my iPod Touch lying on my desk, and I couldn't use it either. I also mentioned in my video how wishy-washy I was to have previously said that I wasn't going to get an iPhone 3G after giving my first generation iPhone to my Mom. I got the iPod Touch and was happy with it because I could listen to my music and watch movies and television shows. Plus I could still surf the Web using Safari. But.... I did begin to miss the phone function. When I was away from home where my Wi-Fi access is, I didn't have the data to rely on to surf the Web like I did with the iPhone. I couldn't text anyone with the iPod Touch either. Plus, I started missing the camera that was on the iPhone. That camera takes some pretty good photos.

As the Round Robin neared, I starting wanting an iPhone 3G. Even though we still don't have 3G in our area, I saw on AT&T's website that 3G is getting closer. There is a blue 3G square on the coverage map for North Carolina that is about 45 minutes from here. So I'm hoping that it won't be too much longer.


I'm sure that you're all familiar with the iPhone 3G by now, especially if you follow our sister site TiPb, where you can get all the iPhone news. I won't make this a top to bottom review as you can go and read the iPhone 3G hardware and software reviews at TiPb.

I'll go over some differences in the iPhone 3G and the first generation iPhone's hardware though.

The iPhone 3G is a little different than the first generation iPhone. The front looks pretty much the same though and the screen size is the same with the 3.5 inch, 480 x 320 resolution screen. The front of both devices also has the lone Home button down at the bottom. There are a couple of small differences on the front though. The silver trim around the front of the iPhone 3G is thinner. And if you look closely, you'll see that there is some silver mesh behind the ear speaker. The first generation might have some type of mesh behind its speaker also, but the mesh behind the speaker on the iPhone 3G is much more discernable.

When you look at the back of both smartphones, you'll see a big difference. The back of the iPhone 3G is curved outwards whereas the first gen iPhone's back is completely flat. When lying on a flat surface, the iPhone 3G can wobble, but I haven't found that to be a problem myself. My iPhone 3G's back is plastic and is a very glossy Black color. And yes, fingerprints sure do show up there. You can also get the iPhone 3G in a glossy White color. The back of the first gen iPhone is two-toned, most of the top part is a dull aluminum that resists fingerprints, and the lower part of a dull Black.

You'll notice something nice on top of the iPhone 3G; a flush 3.5mm headphone jack! Goodbye to that annoying recessed headphone jack. It's nice to be able to use any 3.5mm headset that I want now. Thanks Apple!

The power/sleep button on top is in the same place but the button on the iPhone 3G is a shiny silver rather than the black plastic on the previous iPhone. The ringer on/off switch and volume rocker buttons are also a shiny silver on the iPhone 3G.

The bottoms of both devices are different and I actually just now noticed "how different" when writing this review. The built-in speaker and the microphone on the iPhone 3G are both smaller and have silver mesh behind them. On the previous iPhone, the built-in speaker and the microphone take up more space and both consist of tiny holes.

There are two tiny screws on either side of the sync/charge port on the iPhone 3G. I wish those screws meant that we could take the iPhone apart and put in a user replaceable battery but nope, afraid not. I really wish that I could swap out our iPhone's battery like I can with my Palm smartphones! I have no desire to send my iPhone back to Apple to get the battery replaced. I was hoping that the iPhone 3G would be different in that aspect but it's not unfortunately.

The iPhone 3G uses an ultracompact USB power adapter, which is much smaller than the power adapter that the first gen iPhone uses. Even though the iPhone 3G's power adapter is smaller, I still wish that the blades would retract.

Here are some size comparison photos. We have the first gen iPhone, iPhone 3G, the Palm Treo Pro and the Palm Centro.

The Two G's inside

The two G's I'm referring to are the new and faster 3G and the GPS function. Apple says that the 3G speeds should be twice as fast as EDGE. I wouldn't know though since I don't have 3G here. I know, I know, I've said that a zillion times already. But I don't have it! ;-) I can't even compare Wi-Fi speeds to 3G since I don't have 3G. I do know that Wi-Fi is MUCH faster than EDGE, thank goodness! It's like night and day! And I would imagine that EDGE and 3G are also like night and day.

I've heard that the 3G definitely takes a toll on the battery. Likewise, Wi-Fi does too. My battery drains pretty fast when I leave Wi-Fi on.

I've been enjoying the GPS in the iPhone 3G. It's fun to be able to have your location pinpointed and see the live tracking that allows you to see your progress as you drive to a particular destination. And it's really cool that you can also watch your progress when you walk somewhere too! Your location's pinpoint will follow you along as you walk or drive to your destination. Sweet! You don't get turn-by-turn directions, but the GPS is still very useful and fun.


The third party software on the iPhone 3G is a big difference from last year's first generation iPhone. I was able to get some 3rd party software on my iPod Touch though of course. Even though Apple has a sternness (Dieter talks about this in his Round Robin iPhone 3G review)about which apps can and can't go into the App Store, I still love being able to browse all the available apps. It's like an app smorgasbord! The App Store makes the iPhone 3G so much more fun than the first gen iPhone. I was too chicken to try and jailbreak my first iPhone. Well, I did do it once but wasn't able to get the games I downloaded to work, and I quickly deleted them and reset my iPhone.

But enter the App Store, and my goodness, what a great time I've been having! I especially love browsing through the games. After buying and playing "Cro-Mag Rally", I can see that some of the games are super. I know there are even better games than that as I've seen people play other action games on the iPhone 3G, and it's no surprise to have read over at TiPb about John Geleynse, Director of Technology Evangelism at Apple, make the following statements:

It's a gaming console
It's not a phone, it's a console experience

I can't wait to see the games that continue to pour out. The graphics are amazing and I love being able to use the accelerometer.

One day I was browsing around in the Reference category and discovered a wonderful app called "iBird Explorer - Backyard" by Mitch Walte Group. I love birdwatching and this is the perfect app. iBird is a full featured interactive field guide to the backyard feeder birds of North America. It covers all the birds found in the backyards of North America including the United States and Canada. iBird plays the songs and calls of almost any backyard species in North America. There are hand-drawn James Audubon quality, full sized color illustrations and several professional photographs. Plus, there are many other features. iBird is a great app and only costs $4.99.

Included Goodness

The iPhone 3G has some nice goodies included:

  • Email - Microsoft Exchange, mobileme, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, AOL, and Other
  • Safari
  • Weather
  • YouTube
  • Stocks
  • Calendar

Besides Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, AOL, and Other, Apple has added support for Exchange email and mobileme this time around. Apple probably gained some business customers by including the push email. I'm still just using the good ole Gmail and am very happy with that. Safari looks as great as ever and is the best web browser out there as far as I can tell. You really get a full web browsing experience with Safari.

I enjoy surfing around on the included YouTube also. I recently bought a Kawasaki Ninja 250 so I've been doing searches for that sport bike on YouTube. I've seen some nice customer reviews and other neat videos.

I like the included Weather app on the iPhone 3G, but was wanting a weather app that has more details. I asked over at TiPb's forum and found out that I could get The Weather Channel weather app for free. Thanks TiPb forum members for all your help!! I downloaded the Weather Channel app and I love it. I've been checking my weather on that app every since.

The Calendar on the iPhone 3G is okay but I prefer the Calendar on my Palm Centro. It's much easier to input appointments and there is a weekly view on my Centro's Calendar.

Editor "Must-Do's"

And once again, as part of the Round Robin rules, all the editors have a list of "must-dos" that we each must attempt to follow. Below are the results of my iPhone 3G "must-do's":
  1. Use their assigned smartphone as their "main brain" and may not use any other smartphone OR music device (such as an iPod) for one full week: Another long week without my Centro. I can't wait to start using it again! The iPhone 3G has been fun though.
  2. Get their PIM data onto their phone. Ideally they will 'Sync with the Cloud," but a computer sync is ok too: I've got all my contacts on the iPhone 3G. When I first connected the iPhone to iTunes, I was asked if I wanted to sync all my Google account email contacts. Now I actually have waaay too many contacts because many are duplicates and some are contacts that I haven't been in contact with for years. It takes me forever to scroll through all my contacts now, and I'll be deleting a crap load of them soon.

    Unfortunately, I can't sync my Calendar. I can always sync that on my Palm smartphones.

  3. Get up their email on the smartphone: I chose to use my Gmail account on the iPhone 3G. This was pretty easy. The mail certainly isn't push email though. Unless I click on the email app, there isn't any new emails in my inbox.
  4. Use their smartphone to get directions at least once: I had fun with the built-in GPS getting directions. I got directions to several places. I love the satellite view and zooming in on places. It's neat how you can track your progress by walking or driving in a car. As you move toward your destination, your little location pin moves on the map.
  5. Use their smartphone with a bluetooth headset: I paired up my iPhone 3G with my BlueAnt V1. The first time I called out the commands, the voice would say that the phone was calling the number, but nothing ever happened. I rebooted my iPhone and tried again, and it worked correctly. The same thing happened when I first tried using the V1 with another phone, but I can't even remember which one it was now. Maybe my Centro.

  6. Install at least two 3rd-party apps (if possible) on their smartphone: I installed Smart Dial to make it easier to call people. Now instead of having to go to my Contacts and scrolling endlessly, I can simply type in a few letters and the number of the contact I want to call pops up at the top of the screen, and all I have to do is press "Call". Sweet!

    I also installed "Backgrounds", which has a crapload of wallpapers to choose from. Backgrounds is Free too! Check out my Christmas wallpaper. I love it! And there are several categories to choose from, such as Nature, Automobiles, Sunsets, Mountains, etc. I'm a wallpaper freak so I really like this app.

  7. Play a game: Well, I've played several games. I've checked out several free games, and one of my favorites is "Free Hangman" by MobilityWare. This is the traditional paper and pencil guessing game and is really fun. There are themes for the different holidays and the Christmas theme is going now. Free Hangman is ad supported, but the ads don't bother me in the least. There are some very challenging words so it's not always easy, which makes it more interesting.
  8. Browse the internet: Browsing the internet on Safari is one of the best things about the iPhone. You can a full web experience but on a smaller sized screen. Smaller than a desktop PC or a laptop, that is. When I was setting up my iPhone 3G, I was asked if I wanted to sync my internet bookmarks. Hmmm, that was interesting. I clicked on "Yes" and sure enough, when my iPhone was finished syncing and I went to Safari, all, and I do mean "ALL" my Internet Explorer bookmarks were in Safari! Sweet! I'd been using Fire Fox of late so I saw a crapload of bookmarks that I hadn't seen in a long time. Now when I'm surfing on the internet, it's much easier to get around as I don't have to hardly ever type in a URL. It's just like surfing on my desktop PC. At least it's the closest thing to it I've seen on a smartphone so far.
  9. Add music to their smartphone and use it as their music device: Absolutely a piece of cake with icing on top! I love music! I have all kinds of music on my iPhone. Pop, rock, country, classical, gospel, bluegrass, and movie soundtracks. Too bad I can't listen to music while I work. My peabrain can't concentrate on more than one thing at a time. If I try to listen to music, I get lost in it. I can listen if I'm just resizing and cropping photos at least. ;-) Anyway, with the iPhone, you simply go to the iTunes Store and buy songs or albums, or get the freebies on Tuesdays. You can also put music from your own CDs on your iPhone.
  10. Watch a video on their device: Another piece of cake with extra icing and a cherry on top! I miss a lot of my favorite television shows and can get them in the iTunes Store. Sometimes I watch them on my laptop, but I get really annoyed when the video freezes and I hate having to wait for the commercials! I love to rent and buy movies in the iTunes Store too. Plus I watch lots of YouTube videos.


The iPhone is one of the best smartphones I've ever used or owned. It's almost the perfect smartphone, but there are a few things that could be improved or "added". Below are some of my gripes with the iPhone 3G. I can hardly comprehend that Apple didn't add A2DP on the iPhone 3G. I mean, they do have The mobile music device. I was surprised when I heard that the first generation iPhone didn't support A2DP, but I was absolutely shocked when the iPhone 3G came out and Still there was no A2DP support! What the crap?!

There's no voice dialing but my BlueAnt V1 voice controlled Bluetooth headset pretty much takes care of that. There's no slot for expanded memory but since I have the 16GB model, it's not really a problem at the moment. I've already talked about the the battery not being user replaceable.

  • No voice dialing
  • No cut and paste
  • No A2DP (Unbelievable!!)
  • No slot for expandable memory
  • No video camera function
  • No user replaceable battery

Even with those gripes, I still love the iPhone 3G and am in awe at what a great smartphone it is.

Final Thoughts

I mostly use the iPhone 3G as my entertainment device since I can enjoy music, games, movies, and surfing the Web on a wonderful web browser. It's not too bad of a phone either. The sound quality is great, sometimes even better than on my Centro. I still can't type very well on the virtual keyboard but the keyboard is really nice.

I remember not too long ago when the iPhone was just a rumor, and there were all kinds of mock-up photos floating around on the different tech sites. And when the iPhone was a reality and Steve Jobs demonstrated the iPhone 3G that first time, my jaw literally dropped. I was mesmerized by the multi-touch technology and I still am. I knew that I had to have that smartphone, no matter what it cost. And yes, I was one of the early adopters of the first gen iPhone who plunked down over $500. I wasn't one of those who waited in the long lines though. I waited and bought mine online.

I guess I'll be switching between my Centro, Treo Pro and my iPhone 3G after the Round Robin. I'm sure the iPhone will remain my entertainment device because it's a clear winner in that department.Next week I'll be back home with my Treo Pro. The other editors will be back home with their everyday smartphones too, and I'm sure they're all happy.Head over to our forums and discuss this article to be automatically entered into our Round Robin contest.

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