iPhone 3G Madness!

I am just over a week with my iPhone 3G. What an awesome device!  After messing with it for a while now, I am convinced that Nokia and Windows Mobile (the only real competitors in this space at the moment) have real reason to be concerned.

It is the first phone that is easy and intuitive to use by the average person – yet powerful and flexible to also be used by the 371t3 uber geeks (especially after a Jailbreak!). No mucking around with special key combinations to do certain things – everything is available via the touch screen in a clean user interface.  

Rather than yet another boring review, I thought I would write about a few things I have been trying to get working over the last week.

Firstly, I chose Optus as my preferred carrier.  Quite frankly they are the only option to buy an iPhone from in Australia (unless you need rural coverage).  The other major carriers Vodafone and Telstra have priced themselves out of the market.  I have 700 MB on my plan per month – I am pretty sure that will be more than enough.  Although Optus are not providing a data usage meter at the moment. I am not sure if one will eventuate or not.  So we are all reliant on the internal iPhone usage meter for now which is probably accurate enough.

A couple of things that bother me a little but I can probably live without them

  1. No MMS capability
  2. Unable to tether with a laptop and use as a modem

Mainly for reason 2) – people will not need as much data in their monthly plan as they think they might need.  If laptop access to 3G is required then Optus and Vodafone bundle pretty cheap wireless data plans these days.

There appears to be an issue with YouTube which really annoys me.  YouTube over 3G is fine.  As soon as you try YouTube over WiFi the player continuously plays/stops while buffering which makes YouTube videos unwatchable.  It appears many people have reported this issue on the Whirlpool forums.  It seems that YouTube over 3G is lower quality while over WiFi it streams the full quality video which explains the problem only happens when connected to WiFi networks.

I also noticed that where I live in the North Western suburbs of Melbourne, the 3G bar is usually one or two bars in strength.  Many other people have noticed this as well in various places around the world.  The 3G signal on an iPhone 3G appears to be not as good as the signal that a Nokia receives using the same SIM card (ie: same carrier).  I did a couple of rudimentry tests by comparing the indoor signal strength my Nokia N95 receives vs my new iPhone 3G.  The Nokia appears to sit between -94dBm and -100dBm – however the 3G signal bar is almost full (I used CellPos to get this info).  The iPhone signal however is a bit more erratic with signal strength between -94dBm and -113dBm with mainly one bar of 3G signal strength (the magic field test service code will give you this information).  So really its just a matter of how the manufacturer interprets the signal from the cell tower and how that should be translated into a signal strength bar graph.  Occasionally I lose 3G completely and the 2G signal comes up with full bars – so I should never have a problem with any dropped calls.  Even data transfers over 3G on the one bar are still respectable at around 500-600 kbps.  With 3G on full bars in the middle of Melbourne the highest I have got has been around 900 kbps.

One of the things I love about the iPhone is the fact that if Wifi mode is switched on and you are in an area with a Wifi network it knows about, Wifi seamlessly switches on and you can browse at high speed.  Then when it goes away the phone switches to 3G mode.  All without you not needing to configure anything.  The best bit is – if you get interrupted with something else and the phone goes into sleep mode, the Wifi will switch off – thereby saving your battery.  This is something Nokia should take notice of.  The most annoying thing about the N95 was that if it was connected to a Wifi hotspot – it would continue to stay connected until the battery ran down to empty!

When I first got the phone – I was disappointed that there appeared to be no support for LEAP for WEP Enterprise WiFi networks.  However, apparently this support was announced earlier in the year as part of the 2.0 firmware.  And sure enough support is there but not enabled by default.  You need to download the iPhone configuration utility (Mac or WIndows).   There is a manual available here.  The process is basically entering your enterprise requirements (which can include Mail/WiFi/VPN settings) which then generates a configuration file.  The configuration file can then be emailed to yourself, then when you read the email you open the attachment which imports the configuration to the iPhone.  Its a bit clunky and not very enterprise friendly – but it works and I am sure Apple will improve the process in a later version.

Finally, been playing with the “Push” email/contacts/calendar.  It works pretty well.  I tried MobileMe (60 day trial). Also, I tried mail2web.com (free hosted Exchange service) and also the free www.nuevasync.com, which syncs your Google calendar and Google contacts to a hosted Exchange server.

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