BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

Apple iPhone

Originally posted January 11th, 2007, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated June 29th, 2007 with more on lack of 3G data network support.

Comparisons to other smart phones are inevitable. I looked up the specs to the latest models of other smart phones (Blackberry, Palm Treo, and Motorola Q). The Q is the same thickness as the iPhone. The rest are twice as thick. In terms of length, width, and weight, they are all about the same.

In terms of battery life, the talk time varied from 4 to 6 hours, with the iPhone in the middle at 5 hours talk/video/browse.

The Motorola Q was the most impressive of the three alternatives to the iPhone since it supports 3G (EV-DO) mobile broadband, has a mini-B USB connector (allowing it to be used as a broadband modem), does streaming video/music (Windows Media Player), and includes a miniSD memory expansion slot.

One big advantage the smart phones have over the "genius" iPhone is a removable battery. If your battery goes kapoot, you have to ship the iPhone to Apple. What do you use for a cell phone in the meantime? Is AT&T or Apple going to give you a loaner?

But none of the existing smart phones hold a candle to the "power and sex" of the iPhone's touch-screen interface, automatic portrait/landscape orientation, advanced feature set, desktop-class apps, multi-tasking OS, and easy sync-ability with a Mac or PC.

The iPhone's iPod function works fine connected to the iPod adapter in my MINI Cooper. I'm able to play tunes, controlling them from my radio buttons and steering wheel track and volume controls. However, the iPhone must be switched to "Airplane Mode" (where wireless features are disabled so you canŐt make calls, send text messages, surf the web, or check for new email).

Apple chose to use EDGE (2.5G) for mobile data networking. According to AT&T, that averages 70-135Kbps download speed (even though Steve Jobs claims 300Kbps). Buyers of the iPhone will not have the 400-700Kbps download speed of AT&T's "true" broadband mobile UMTS/HSDPA (3G) data network. NOTE: It's come to our attention that AT&T upgraded EDGE to run as high as 270Kbps just before the iPhone intro. So Steve wasn't exaggerating too much when he said "300," though some users may see only 80Kbps -- depending on where they are in relation to the towers.

One excuse given is that EDGE is available in more cities. That's lame because AT&T's latest earnings report states they have UMTS/HSDPA (3G) in "165 (US) cities, including 73 of the top 100 markets." And EDGE and UMTS/HSDPA are not mutually exclusive. If you aren't in a service area that supports UMTS/HSDPA, your cell phone should automatically "downshift" to EDGE.

Another excuse is that you don't need mobile broadband with all the WiFi "HotSpots" around metro areas. But that requires you to drive around until you find a HotSpot that isn't password protected. I've wandered all over San Diego metro area. They only non-passworded HotSpot I've found is the Apple Retail Store. And what if I want to access internet while riding in a car or bus?

The third excuse is that the 3G chipset uses too much power and would shorten battery life. That's interesting since my Verizon RAZR phone is 3G built-in for VCAST access. I didn't notice the battery life being necessarily short.

FYI, the current "smart phones" offered by Verizon like the Blackberry, Treo, and Motorola Q support 3G (EV-DO). And Verizon Wireless has EV-DO mobile broadband access in "242 major metropolitan areas."

NOTE: Since we wrote this article, reports are circulating that a 3G version of the iPhone will be released in Summer of 2008.

Oh and BTW, did you know you can use your iPhone to access both Sprint's and Verizon's 3G network? All you need is to be sitting near someone with a 3G broadband PC card or ExpressCard plugged into their PowerBook or MacBook Pro. Then convince them to use the Internet Sharing mode to allow you access to their connection.

AT&T's 3G (or 3rd generation) wireless broadband data network uses HSDPA/UMTS (High Speed Downlink Packet Access/Universal Moblie Telephone System) technology. It's sometimes marketed as "3GSM." For more info, see Wikipedia's discussion of HSDPA and UMTS.

Verizon and Sprint's 3G wireless broadband data network uses EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) technology. For more info, read Wikipedia's discussion of EV-DO.

The competing smart phones varied from $99 to $399, depending the model, the rebate, and the contract length. In fairness to Apple, the $499 starting price includes many more features, much more memory, better screen, superior interface, and a 4GB Video iPod. Like I said, none of them hold a candle to the "power and sex" of the iPhone. NOTE: Since we wrote this article, the price dropped $100 and early adopters received a $100 Apple Store credit.

One financial analyst on Fox News believes most techno savvy consumers already have a cell phone under contract and already have a 30GB or 80GB Video iPod. Would they really be tempted by the advanced features and interface to toss aside their existing phone and iPod for a $499 or $599 combo device with a snazzy interface -- especially if they had to change cellular services -- and are still under contract to their existing service?

Small business owners and professional employees are likely to have separate cell phone contracts (one for personal, one for business). In my case, my business phone happens to be AT&T and my current contract runs out in March. I was going to cancel my contract and switch the business phone to Verizon. Now I'm tempted to stick with AT&T just so I can qualify for the iPhone in June -- if only to have the latest techno toy -- ahem -- as a sacrificial gesture so I can evaluate it and report on it to Bare Feats readers. ;-)

If you are on the fence, I recommend you check out the online demonstration pages of the phone, iPod, and internet features of the iPhone. Also, read about the advanced technology so you can see it's more than JASP (Just Another Smart Phone).

See Bare Feats' list of 9 suggested enhancements to the iPhone.

Bare Feats compares the Apple iPhone to the LG Voyager.

Ambrosia Software has released iToner, an easy-to-use utility that can turn your iTunes into ringers. Now when I get calls, my iPhone plays "Who Are You?" by the WHO.

USA readers can help us earn a commission by using this Apple Store USA link or by clicking on any Apple display ad. For UK readers, visit Apple Store UK.

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© 2007 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist