The iPhone 3G reviews are in: It's pretty good

But battery life suffers, and the GPS isn't as great as you hoped.

Published July 9, 2008 5:59PM (EDT)

Walt Mossberg (WSJ), David Pogue (NYT) and Edward Baig (USA Today) have been using the new iPhone 3G for a couple of weeks now, and today they all dish on their experiences.

They were all fans of the first model, and they're pretty happy about the new model's new features. The reviewers say the phone's 3G network access leads to a much zippier Internet experience, that its audio quality has been dramatically improved, and that it cozies up to Microsoft's corporate e-mail system.

But there are some drawbacks, too: Mossberg finds the battery life lacking, and Pogue says that that the phone's GPS antenna is too puny to be of much use.

Here's Mossberg on the battery life:

More important, in daily use, I found the battery indicator on the new 3G model slipping below 20 percent by early afternoon or midafternoon on some days, and it entirely ran out of juice on one day. I overcame this problem by learning to use Wi-Fi instead of 3G whenever possible, turning down the screen brightness and even turning off 3G altogether, which the phone permits.

The iPhone 3G's battery life is comparable to, or better than, that of some other 3G competitors. But they have replaceable batteries. The iPhone doesn't.

And Pogue on GPS:

Unfortunately, there's not much you can do with the G.P.S. According to Apple, the iPhone’s G.P.S. antenna is much too small to emulate the turn-by-turn navigation of a G.P.S. unit for a vehicle, for example.

Instead, all it can do at this point is track your position as you drive along, representing you as a blue dot sliding along the roads of the map. Even then, the metal of a car or the buildings of Manhattan are often enough to block the iPhone's view of the sky, leaving it just as confused as you are.

None of the reviewers were provided with applications that third-party developers are creating for the iPhone (these will go on sale at Apple's online App Store). Mossberg, though, writes that he tried out some of these apps on an older phone, and was pleased with the results:

I tested a game that used the phone's motion sensors to control the action, and I tested several programs from America Online (TWX), including AOL Instant Messenger; AOL Radio, which streams music from the Internet; and AOL's Truveo video search engine. All worked very well.

These apps will also work on old iPhones as well as on the iPod Touch.

The iPhone 3G goes on sale Friday at 8 a.m. But some enterprising folks have gotten a hold of them already -- check out the Boy Genius Report blog's unboxing photos.

I talked about how to get an iPhone in my video for Current TV this week:

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

MORE FROM Farhad Manjoo

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