Tuesday, June 24, 2008

3G iPhone: Questions and Answers

Judging from my overflowing inbox, you've got questions about the new iPhone—a lot of questions. Well, never fear; your answers are here.
I've scoured my email and your comments for iPhone 3G questions that I haven't covered yet, and the best of the bunch are below. Have a burning iPhone question that no one's addressed yet? Post them below, and I'll do my best to hunt down the answer.

And now, your questions:

Will there be a pre-pay version of the 3G iPhone?
Unfortunately, no. AT&T offered the original iPhone through its pre-paid GoPhone plan, but carrier reps have confirmed that there won't (for now, at least) be a GoPhone variety of the iPhone 3G.

Is the camera on the new iPhone gonna be as useless as on the first iPhone? What about a flash?
Apple has confirmed that the camera on the iPhone 3G is the same 2-megapixel model as on the original—and nope, there's still no flash. Personally, I'm fine with the iPhone's camera, and besides, the little flashes on most camera phones are too weak to appreciably improve picture quality. That said, if you hated the iPhone camera before, you'll still hate it on the 3G version.

What about tactile feedback on the touchscreen? Does Apple have any plans to include it in the future?
Still no touch feedback on the iPhone 3G. There were rumors recently that Apple was in talks with Immersion, the company that develops tactile feedback technology for phones and gaming controllers, but either the rumors were false or a deal couldn't be struck before the iPhone 3G announcement. However, since Immersion's technology is software-based (it controls the existing vibration motor in a phone), there's no reason that a future firmware update couldn't enable tactile feedback for the iPhone.

I already have an iPhone; do I have to sign a new contract to get the new one? How much will I have to pay?
Yep, you'll have to sign a new two-year contract with AT&T, even if you're already under contract (the new service agreement will simply supercede your existing one). You'll pay the same price for the iPhone 3G as a new customer would: $199 for the 8GB version, or $299 for the 16GB model.

Do you know if the iPod Touch will have a new, lower price as well?
Not for now, at least. The new iPhone is cheaper because AT&T is subsidizing a substantial portion of the cost. (Why? Because AT&T wants as many new iPhone subscribers—all paying $30 or more a month in data fees—as possible.) The iPod Touch isn't a phone … hence, no carrier, and no subsidies.

Has Apple done anything to allows end users to replace the battery themselves?
Nope—the iPhone battery is still sealed inside the casing, as it was before, and Apple's shown no indication of changing its mind. Now, there are replacement kits you can buy (which involve prying the iPhone apart with a tiny screwdriver, which I don't recommend), as well as external power packs that'll boost your battery life. Apple also has its iPhone battery replacement program (free in-warranty, $79 plus shipping out-of-warranty).

What about search? Cut? Paste? These are the main reasons Crackberry-heads haven't switched to the iPhone.
No searching, cutting or pasting yet, although I'm guessing that third-party developers will come up with their own solutions down the line. There is a web app that lets you cut and paste but again not the best thing out there.

Will the new iPhone also be available here in the Philippines?
Yes—the iPhone 3G is "coming soon" to the Phillippines, although Apple hasn't given a specific date yet. Here's a complete listing of countries slated to get the iPhone.

Will this new phone work outside the U.S.?
Yes indeed—it will work on any GSM network, including those in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Take heed, however—if you go abroad and start making calls and browsing the Web willy-nilly, you could wind up with an enormous bill (roaming on overseas networks ain't cheap). Get an international calling plan from AT&T before you go (both voice and data plans are available); I also recommend you disable data roaming on the iPhone (go to Settings, General, Network) so you don't unknowingly rack up hefty data charges.

Can you send pictures between iPhones?
The iPhone doesn't support picture mail, a.k.a. MMS (multimedia messaging). Then again, there's nothing stopping you from sending pictures to iPhone-toting pals via the iPhone's email client. If you have a jailbroken iPhone you can send MMS with an application called "swirly MMS" but it is highly undeveloped and crashes at its own will. You can find it in Installer under Multimedia Folder.

Heard any rumors about the old iPhone getting updates?
The upcoming firmware 2.0 release—which will add Exchange support, the App Store, and other features to the iPhone—will work just fine on the original iPhone. Due in early July, the update will be free for iPhone users; iPod Touch users will have to cough up $9.95.

Any news about when we can use an iPhone with other phone companies besides AT&T? I'm not a big fan of AT&T, and I have family that is committed to the Verizon family plan. How long do we have to wait to use an iPhone with Verizon?
Don't hold your breath. AT&T is believed to have a five-year exclusive on the iPhone, which started last year—so we're probably looking at 2012 before another U.S. carrier gets a crack at the iPhone. Also, keep in mind that the iPhone is based on GSM technology, and Verizon Wireless and Sprint both run CDMA—not GSM—networks. So unless Apple builds a CDMA-based iPhone (and I haven't heard a peep about such a thing happening), getting an iPhone on Verizon seems pretty unlikely.

Is it at all possible to just buy the iPhone 3G without a contract, just an outright phone purchase?
The short answer: No, at least initially. The long answer: With the original iPhone, you were able to buy it at the Apple Store and then activate it—or not—online via iTunes. However, AT&T now says that you must activate your new iPhone in the store (either the Apple Store or an AT&T location), and that means signing a new two-year contract—no exceptions.

More questions? Post 'em in the comments or email me.

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