Review: First Look: Apple iPhone 3G tested on Optus, no visual voicemail but still glorious

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Review: First Look: Apple iPhone 3G tested on Optus, no visual voicemail but still glorious

Surprisingly there's no visual voicemail on our Optus iPhone, but otherwise the phone performs brilliantly with a massive speed boost over the 1st gen model.

- 3G
- excellent web browser

- no cradle
- no visual voicemail on Optus
- disappointing plans

Design - slightly fatter, but in a good way
Opening the iPhone 3G box, the most obvious omission is the recharge cradle, which came bundled with the first iPhone. Picking up the phone and peeling away the protective plastic, it quickly becomes clear the black back of the phone is a finger print magnet.

The iPhone 3G is slightly thicker than its predecessor, thanks to the slightly curved back, which means it doesn't fit in the recharge cradle supplied with the original iPhone. The port on the bottom of the new phone is still the same, so the iPhone 3G should be compatible with some first-gen iPhone accessories. The curved back, along with the fact it's plastic rather than chrome, means you get a slightly better grip on it than the first-gen iPhone.

The old iPhone (bottom), and new 3G version on top, showing you can make a device bigger but still hide it with good design
The old iPhone (bottom), and new 3G version on top, showing you can make a device bigger but still hide it with good design

The supplied headphones feature a built-in microphone for hands-free calling. Thankfully the headphone jack is no longer recessed, which means you can use any 3.5mm headphones without an adaptor. The switch from a chrome back with black plastic buttons, to a black plastic back with chrome buttons, is the other obvious physical change.

Interface - what happened to visual voicemail?
Power up the iPhone 3G and you're faced with the original's interface, with the addition of a link to the Apps Store and, in the case of our Optus review unit, a link to the Optus iZoo content portal.

The call interface is also the same, but from our calls it's clear the redesigned speakers offer significantly improved call quality for both hands and hands-free conversations. The speakers also improve the quality of music plackback with the headphones removed.

Surprisingly there's no visual voicemail option, at least with Optus - a major disappointment. Visual voicemail displays your messages in a list, like an inbox, so you can choose which message to play rather than listening to them in order.

Visual voicemail was one of the few incentives to buy an iPhone 3G locally rather than import one from overseas, and its omission could come back to haunt Optus. The iPhone 3G does offer threaded SMS, a handy feature which displays conversations in the style of instant messaging.

Web and email - goodbye Nokia
Of course the iPhone 3G isn't just about calls and Safari on the iPhone is certainly the world's best mobile browser. We experienced a significant speed boost when surfing web pages using the Optus HSDPA network rather than the Telstra EDGE network on our first-gen iPhone.

The PC Authority home page rendered in 23 seconds, as opposed to 63 on EDGE, and we saw similar speed boost on other multimedia-intensive websites. Surprisingly YouTube videos didn't start playing faster using the Optus network.

When turning to email, we found new set up options for Microsoft Exchange and mobileme along with the Gmail, Yahoo! and AOL options found on the first-gen iPhone. The menus also feature a new icon - "Fetch New Data" - which lets you enable push email. You can also schedule the phone to automatically check non-push email services every 15, 30 or 60 minutes, or else only manually.

GPS - works well, though no turn-by-turn
The much touted GPS feature took around 90 seconds to locate our position in suburban Melbourne, whilst indoors near the front window.
It managed to drop the pin in our front yard, less then 10 metres from where we were sitting. While the phone can generate turn-by-turn driving directions, it's not capable of guiding you on your journey in real time.

Overall - Great phone, pity about the prices
The iPhone 3G is truly an impressive device, although those familiar with its predecessor will lament the lack of features such as MMS, cut and paste and tethering (using the phone as a wireless modem for a
notebook) - all features found on most other smartphones. The camera has remained at a measly two megapixels, with no option for video capture or video calls.

Unfortunately the iPhone 3G is also let down by mediocre plans from the three major local operators - Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. It's believed Hutchison's 3 network will offer the iPhone 3G by August. See our iPhone Plan Picker here.

The iPhone 3G is certainly an amazing internet device, impressive media player and a decent phone - although a slightly disappointing upgrade from the first iPhone. This said, all but the Apple zealots might want to ride out the iPhone 3G hysteria to see if better plans emerge.

Also: Watch the Exclusive Hands on video of the iPhone 3G from our friends at

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