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Test driving iPhone 3G (Verdict: mediocre)

I finally took the plunge into the iPhone. So far, not great, but not terrible. We'll see what happens next.

I went out and got myself a shiny new iPhone 3G yesterday from the AT&T store on Geary Street in San Francisco (which was only out of stock once, they said.) The cell phone buying process is typically akin to some circle of hell, but overall I had a very pleasant experience.

I've been accused of being an Apple fanboy a number of times, but I have stuck with the BlackBerry both for functionality and Verizon's network. I wanted to test some of the features (and play the games) on the iPhone and decided to give AT&T another shot.

I had been waiting for the 2.1 firmware upgrade before I got the phone because in the past I couldn't even get one bar in my house in San Francisco. All reports said the problems were solved so I went for it. When I got home I checked and I did have 3 to 4 bars pretty consistently. I made a test call which took about 10 seconds to initialize and all seemed well.

I plugged the iPhone into my MacBook Pro, iTunes launched and the set-up process began. And ended. Three times. Then suddenly it worked and I was registered with Apple and AT&T.

I decided to grab a few things from the App Store's free section. Every item failed multiple times. After my fifth attempt on Pandora, iTunes told me I already had it, and so I did.

Hard to believe it was an Apple product that was going this wonky on set-up.

My quick take? The iPhone is good, but not great. It doesn't replace a computer and has enough idiosyncrasies to deter the business user from choosing it over a BlackBerry. For consumers it's great, provided you can get AT&T to work for you.

The good stuff:
- The applications are fantastic and the user experience is truly unmatched
- Sound is great
- Integration with the Mac is great
- Camera is surprisingly good
- The onscreen keyboard is usable (though I still prefer the BB keypad)

The problems:
- AT&T network is shockingly bad. Verizon blows it away by a huge margin.
- Launching applications is slow (like three to four seconds)
- I have yet to get 3G coverage in San Francisco. It only worked for me in Burlingame, Calif., when I was down there for a meeting
- The time it takes to initialize a call is laughable. I did a test of the iPhone vs. my VZW BlackBerry and I had already finished the conversation before the iPhone had connected.
- For some reason Mail won't consistently log in into Gmail. I don't know which app is to blame.
- Shifting from portrait to landscape is highly inconsistent

I'll give the iPhone the full 30 days before AT&T punishes me for rejecting them. My hope is that I find the positive to outweigh the negative. So far I'm evenly split.