new iPhone a better computer than phone
Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business
July 28- August 3 2009 issue #1031
High Tech Office column
Last week’s column
looked at HTC’s Dream and Magic, a pair of smartphones powered by
Google’s Android, perhaps the best of the current crop of challengers
to Apple’s iPhone. Ironically, both are available locally only from
Rogers/Fido – also the sole Canadian iPhone providers.
rival phone companies and manufacturers search for an iPhone
challenger, Apple isn’t standing still. A few days after Rogers’
Android announcement, Apple released new and improved iPhone models and
The “S” in the iPhone 3G S moniker stands for speed –
speedier main and graphics processors cutting boot time in half and
letting applications start and run faster. Improved game performance is
especially noticable. Even web access, though limited by network
connection speeds, feels faster.
The new phone also adds several
features that users of the earlier models have wanted: an improved
camera (jumping from 2.0 to 3.2 megapixels) with focusing improvements,
video capabilities, basic on-phone video editing and YouTube uploading.
Easy-to-use copy and paste. Voice control – though I found it somewhat
hit-and- miss. A model with 32 gigabytes of storage for the price of
the previous generation’s 16-gigabyte model ($299 with plan; $199 for
the new 16-gigabyte model). Somewhat better battery life. A
grease-repellent screen coating.
Canadian customers get
tethering – the ability to plug the iPhone into a computer and access
the Rogers’ data network to use the computer online and MMS messaging.
Neither of these are available to U.S. customers yet. (However, when
comparing Rogers’ Canadian iPhone offering to AT&T’s U.S. offering,
note that AT&T signs customers to a two-year plan with unlimited
data access for US$30/month while Rogers ties customers to a three-year
plan with one gigabyte of data per month for $60 or two gigabytes for
Subscribers to Apple’s MobileMe service can now use it to locate a
missing phone or wipe its data.
of these new features – the speedier processor and the
higher-resolution camera, for instance – are hardware-based; these are
only available on the new models. Others – like copy and paste – are
software-based. The software features are included in a new version of
the phone’s firmware, a free upgrade for owners of earlier iPhone
models. Rogers is continuing to offer the eight-gigabyte version of the
earlier iPhone GS with the price reduced to $99.
Also updated to
the new firmware: Apple’s iPod Touch, which is in many ways an iPhone
minus the phone, camera and GPS features, but also minus the monthly
service charge. Owners of older Touch models can get the new software
features, but for them it’s a $10 upgrade. Owners of both the iPod
Touch and the iPhone can pick from the 50,000 (and growing)
applications and games available at Apple’s AppStore.
missing: unlike the Android phones, there’s no multitasking. Yes, you
can receive a phone call while playing music, but otherwise it’s pretty
much one application at a time. The web browser, while generally best
of breed for smartphones, still lacks support for Flash animations and
multimedia. And phone performance remains, at best, so-so.
the HTC models discussed last week offered removable (and hence
expandable) storage and batteries, the iPhone continues to build these
in – potentially a limitation. Some may prefer the physical keyboards
on most BlackBerry models or last week’s Android-powered HTC Dream to
the iPhone’s touch-screen keyboard. And though Apple, last time around,
improved iPhone compatibility with Microsoft Exchange servers widely
used by large organizations, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones play
better with corporate networks.
Owners of last-generation iPhone
3G will find the new version appealing but not a must-have upgrade;
owners of previous generations will find it more compelling. PC
Magazine calls the new iPhone 3G S the “most flexible handheld
computer.” Too bad it’s not equally compelling as a phone.
to come: Palm’s entry into the touch-screen smartphone race: the Pre,
expected later in 2009 on Bell Mobility. I’ll keep you posted. •