Is the iPhone worthy of the buildup?
Ed Baig, personal technology columnist for USA Today, has tried one, and offered his thoughts on its pros and cons on The Early Show Wednesday.
Basically, says Baig, it's very good, but not perfect.
Its hype though, he told co-anchor Hannah Storm, is "remarkable. I've been covering tech for more years than I can remember, and this product has had such a mania and attraction that I've never seen it with any other product."
Storm wondered if the iPhone make other products obsolete.
"I don't know about that," Baig replied. "If you have a Blackberry or a Trio, don't throw them away just yet, but it's pretty cool."
Apple says the iPhone — which combines the functions of a cell phone, iPod media player and Web-surfing device — will be easier to use than other smart phones because of its unique touch-screen display and intuitive software that allows for easy access to voice mail messages, the Internet, and video and music libraries.
But skeptics question whether even the most innovative product can live up to the iPhone's lofty expectations.
AT&T is its exclusive carrier, and Baig calls the network AT&T is using for the iPhone the device's "biggest drawback." The iPhone is on AT&T's Edge data network, and Baig says Edge is slow compared to other "third generation" or "3G" networks.
AT&T's service plans for the iPhone will cost $59.99 to $99.99 a month, the companies say. The monthly fee is on top of the phone's price — $499 for a model with 4 gigabytes of storage and $599 for one with 8 gigabytes. Users have to agree to be with AT&T for at least two years.
Baig described the iPod's screen as "beautiful," and said it displays "really great" pictures and is indeed "really easy to use."
The photos display is "superior to anything I've seen on any kind of portable device like this."
He likes a feature he calls the "pinch pics": You take your two fingers and you can scroll through your pictures, isolate ones you want to see, make them bigger, or move things around. "It's a very cool feature," Baig says.
The iPhone's iPod is "terrific, too," Baig continued. "It has a wide screen, larger that any other iPod. One of the iPhone's features that the regular iPod doesn't have is that you can flip through the cover of the albums that you have in your library."
The cell phone part of the iPhone "works better than I expected," Baig says. "My concern at first was that there was no keyboard, but the touch screen is so easy to use that it works very well." The favorites list is easier to use than Baig anticipated.
The best part, he says, is the visual voice mail: When you need to access your voicemail, you actually have a list of who called you, and you don't have to listen to the messages in the order they came in.
All this works together, meaning that if you have a call, it will stop the music and you'll be able to take your call. It is very interactive in that way, Baig opines.
You can merge calls with the touch of a button: If you're on a call and someone calls in, you can conference everyone in without putting anyone on hold; your screen will tell you who's calling you as you're on a call already.
The iPhone's camera is OK, Baig adds, though there's not much to it.
A feature Baig found particularly appealing is the iPhone's Google map search. It doesn't have GPS, so it can't tell you where you are, but you can find a lot of what is around when you tell it your location. For example, want to know where you can order a pizza? Enter your information and it will show you on a map where to find a nearby pizza place.
As with the iPod, the iPhone enables users to watch movies and videos.
One feature the iPhone doesn't offer is games, which could be a problem for some people, Baig points out.