In the first reviews out of the gate, the iPhone received somewhat mixed reviews from the two highest profile Apple fans in the country.
Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal’s influential columnist and avowed Apple fan, called the iPhone a “breakthrough handheld computer” but said its typing feature doesn’t work as well as a BlackBerry.
New York Times’ reviewer and Mac enthusiast David Pogue said it’s great but also flawed:
As it turns out, much of the hype and some of the criticisms are justified. The iPhone is revolutionary; it’s flawed. It’s substance; it’s style. It does things no phone has ever done before; it lacks features found even on the most basic phones.
Pogue gushed about the screen and the device in general, but his comment about the phone functionality really stood out:
Making a call, though, can take as many as six steps: wake the phone, unlock its buttons, summon the Home screen, open the Phone program, view the Recent Calls or speed-dial list, and select a name. Call quality is only average, and depends on the strength of your AT&T signal.
It looks and feels great, Walt said, but he was critical of the “pokey” AT&T EDGE network. The phone also has built-in W-iFi, Mossberg and co-reviewer Katherine Boehret wrote, “But this Wi-Fi capability doesn’t fully make up for the lack of a fast cellular data capability, because it is impractical to keep joining and dropping short-range Wi-Fi networks while taking a long walk, or riding in a cab through a city.”
The device is “simply beautiful” and Walt overcame his skepticism about the touchscreen, though it’s not perfect:
In general, we found this interface, called “multi-touch,” to be effective, practical and fun. But there’s no overall search on the iPhone (except Web searching), and no quick way to move to the top or bottom of pages (except in the Web browser). The only aid is an alphabetical scale on the right in tiny type.
There’s also no way to cut, copy, or paste text.
And the lack of dedicated hardware buttons for functions like phone, e-mail and contacts means extra taps are needed to start using features. Also, if you are playing music while doing something else, the lack of hardware playback buttons forces you to return to the iPod program to stop the music or change a song.
Keyboard: The virtual keys are large and get larger as you touch them. Software tries to guess what you’re typing, and fix errors. Overall, it works. But the error-correction system didn’t seem as clever as the one on the BlackBerry, and you have to switch to a different keyboard view to insert a period or comma, which is annoying.”
Most interesting to me is how Walt’s review focused on the device primarily as a pocket computer.
Also, the concerns about call quality and the touchscreen typing will probably raise enough concern among CIOs that they’ll wait before authorizing too many iPhone purchases at their companies.
Although the reviews are generally positive, the niggling concerns of Mossberg and Pogue could also make a lot of consumers think twice before making the big investment that an iPhone requires.