My breakfast, lunch and dinner (times two) with the iPhone 3G

My experience testing the iPhone 3G over the weekend

Eric Franklin Former Editorial Director
Eric Franklin led the CNET Tech team as Editorial Director. A 20-plus-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, chauffeuring his kids around town, or absorbing every motivational book he can get his hands on.
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Eric Franklin
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Our MP3 player testing tool in action Eric Franklin

So last Friday (7/11, "iPhoneday") I'm getting ready to do some performance testing on the iPhone 3G. Well, if by "getting ready" I mean stealing pizza and pop (hey, I'm from Chicago) from the poor saps--I mean fellow CNETers that were in the office since 4 a.m. that day to cover the second coming of the Second Coming. Don't hate. This is how I roll at CNET, and my colleagues respect me for it. I mean, why else would they suggest I do First Look videos like this?

Anyway, my plan was to use the testing tool you see pictured here to test the battery life of the phone while it's first playing audio and then while playing video. This is an in-house developed testing tool that allows for the unattended drain and subsequent recharge of an MP3 player's battery. I need only be present to start the test initially and then again after the recharge (more on this tool in a future post). I figure with the 3G I can get at least one run of each the audio and video drains in over the weekend and since the first-gen iPhone lasted over 25 hours last year with the audio battery drain, I'm thinking I can get the 3G tested within one, maybe two trips to CNET the whole weekend.

Mr. Kent German, however, would see things differently. Kent usually does the talk time tests himself, and at about 3 p.m. that day he says that this test is the highest priority and that it should be done ASAP. Well, my first thought was, "I guess you need to get on that then, huh, Kent?" Alas, after a few seconds of my brain catching up--fueled by Kent's blank stare--I realized he was referring to me. So, there go my plans for a very productive weekend of WoW.

The testing tool I mentioned before is not compatible with our cell phone talk time test, so I'd have to do it manually. This entails taking an MP3 player and connecting it to a laptop or desktop via USB (to keep it powered). I then tape one earbud to the mic on a landline phone and the other earbud to the mic of the iPhone 3G. I call the landline from the iPhone 3G, pick up the receiver on the landline, and the test begins. Thanks to the call duration feature that every cell phone I've ever owned in the past has, it'll be extremely easy to determine the talk time. So I charge the phone, start the test, and head home to sleep off some pizza.

What I didn't realize until Saturday morning (other than the fact that unrefrigerated, leftover pizza keeps horribly) when I came in to recharge the phone after a night of draining the battery, was that the iPhone does not have a call duration feature. Nope, it does not natively record how long individual calls last.

At this point I'm desperately trying to figure out how I can access the duration of the last call, cause I mean, come on, there has to be a way, right? Also, it would suck if the last 12 hours had been a complete waste. Now, I could access the account for the phone at AT&T's Web site, but this phone was activated by Apple, and who knows if they have the login info for the phone. Also, it's Saturday and I'm sure our Apple contact has something better to do than to be checking her e-mail at 7 on a Saturday morning. So I call my girlfirend, who has an iPhone to ask her if I've missed anything. After a few minutes, she figures out that although there is no call duration feature, there is a Usage feature.

In General Settings/Usage you can see how long the phone was in use since its last full charge. Luckily I'd charged it to full the night before, so the usage duration is accurate. So, all I have to do is start charging the battery again, drive home, come back in 3 hours (about how long it takes to charge when plugged into the wall) start the talk time test, come back 5 or 10 hours later (depending on if I was testing with 3G on or off), check the usage duration, start charging the phone again. Wash, rinse, repeat...repeat...repeat. Yeah, this was pretty much my weekend. I ended up visiting CNET a total of six times over Saturday and Sunday. Once each day in the early morning, the afternoon and at night. Yeah, I pretty much became a creepy stalker for this particular iPhone 3G over the weekend.

The Usage feature saved me from at least one wasted night, but I'm still perplexed as to why there is no call duration feature. I'm hoping Apple will implement this soon, as I plan to eventually get an iPhone and I like to know how long my conversations last sometimes.

So, what did I learn during this ordeal?

1. Kent German is cold-blooded.

2. Apple needs to add a call duration feature into the phone if for no other reason than to make the lives of the people that have to test this thing a lot easier.

3. CNET owes me gas money.

4. It would be helpful to plan better for future testing of high-profile products.

5. Free parking in the CNET parking garage on the weekend is win.