Lets be perfectly honest with one another – there are literally thousands of reviews out there for the iPhone 3G. For example, a quick search of Google for the term “iPhone 3G Review” spits back a dizzying 5,140,000 results. Granted not all these results are individual reviews, but it proves that the iPhone 3G has been reviewed to death.
That may then beg the question then as to why you should keep reading this article, which by all accounts is another such review. The answer is that unlike all the other generalized reviews floating around, we are reviewing the iPhone 3G with the real estate professional in mind. Moreover, this review seeks to illustrate the benefits and drawbacks the iPhone 3G has when you are using it to help your real estate business. In this review, we will focus on four aspects: the hardware, the call quality, and the software, and the App Store – as it relates to how a real estate professional would utilize it on a daily basis.
From a purely technical standpoint, the iPhone 3G is a remarkable piece of hardware. Its construction is so remarkably solid that after a month of heavy use, I constantly forget that the surface is made of glass. Also, as delicate as the device may appear it is incredibly resilient to surface scratches and scars – however due to its construction it is quite prone to fingerprints and smudges. The form factor is slick and fits quite well in your hands thanks to the molded plastic backing, which has been substituted from the earlier model’s brushed aluminum backing to accommodate all the new antennas, receivers, and radios that Apple has stuffed into the phone.
Another welcome addition is the inclusion of a flush audio jack, rather than the recessed version that was found on the previous generation. This means it is now possible to use any conventional set of peripherals without having to worry about an adapter. In addition to a conventional audio jack, the iPhone 3G is Bluetooth enabled, meaning you can pair it was a hands free headset for driving – which is handy seeing how much time real estate professionals spend on the road.
The gorgeous 3.5 inch, 480 x 320 screen is probably one of the most greatest strengths of this device. In a side-by-side comparison to some other mainstream Smart phones we were amazed how bright and high resolution the screen was – and then we found out the brightness was only set to half its maximum! (which is set by default to conserve battery power). You would have no problem viewing this screen in direct sunlight or in less than ideal conditions.
Another feature that is prominent in the design of the iPhone 3G is the front-facing 2 megapixel camera. While, this camera has not been updated over the previous generation of the iPhone, most users will note that is takes marginally sharper pictures. You can judge for yourself by checking out all the photos that have been tagged as taken by an iPhone 3G on Flickr. While you would obviously not want to use the built in camera for taking listing photos, it is terrific for taking quick snapshots of properties or features for future reference or to show prospects.
So with all these features, how does the battery hold up? Surprisingly, after a month of use I have found that average battery life matches, if not exceeds, the claims made by Apple of 10 / 5 hours talk on GSM / 3G respectively. To put that in perspective, I have found that I can typically go for 3-4 days of consistently being on the phone, checking my email, and listening to music before I have to recharge. For a real estate agent this is a huge advantage since, as you do not always have guaranteed access to your computer for a recharge. Thankfully, Apple has bundled the iPhone 3G with a tiny outlet adapter that makes an easy addition to any overnight bag.
Generally speaking call quality is terrific on the iPhone 3G. Some GSM phones have the tendency to sounds rather “tinny” when making calls, but voice comes across quite clear. Also, voice over speakerphone comes across loud and audible – I was able to make out minor enunciations with ease, a testament to the quality of the built in speakers.
Also, it is important to note that when you are making a call on a 3G network you will experience significantly greater battery drain than if the call was made on the EDGE network. For a complete 3G coverage maps check out the AT&T website for American customers, and the Rogers website for Canadian customers.
Built upon the venerable Mac OS X, the software that comprises the iPhone 3G stays true to form by delivering solid stability and an extremely intuitive user interface that makes accomplishing most tasks a simple affair. For example, want to check your email? Simply open up the Mail application and be able to check virtually any type of email instantly, from POP3 (like Point2 email) to Gmail, the iPhone handled them all without any complicated setup. Or, let’s say that you want to find out where the home you are showing is located? Simply open up the maps module (powered by Google Maps) and type in the address – the built in A-GPS can even track your progress to your destination.
I should also note that at this time there is no support for turn-by-turn GPS navigation but companies like Garmin have hinted that it is coming in the future. In addition to this gripe, fellow iPhone owners and I have experienced substantial keyboard lag when typing. However, this seems to have been addressed by the latest version of the operation system firmware (2.0.2) which was released on the 18th of August.
The App Store
Much of the hype surrounding the iPhone 3G can be attributed to the launch of Apple newest initiative, the App Store. Essentially this companion to iTunes lets iPhone users download programs written by 3rd-party developers directly onto their phone, and it is up to the developers to charge whatever they choose for the application. After spending some with this feature I can safely say that it is a great tool for users. You can browse through applications by category, price, or popularity and are given a brief description and user reviews before you download them to your phone. Also, any updates to applications you have already purchased are pushed out to you when they are ready so you don’t have to worry about finding the latest version. The one thing I have noticed though, is that occasionally an application will quit functioning and you must re-download it in order for it to work again – don’t worry though, if you purchased it you will not be billed twice!
This is probably the most exciting advantage of the iPhone for real estate professionals given that developers will be able to write programs to fill the niche needs of Agents – such as gathering information from an MLS or searching listings. While the initial offering of applications available is, in my opinion very underwhelming, there are a few applications that stand out. For instance, Puluwai, a located-based mobile real estate search, or Sketches, a drawing application where you can add markups to pictures you take – like property photos.
In summary, the iPhone 3G is a very remarkable piece of hardware for the price of $200. While it does not have every feature that you could every possibly hope for in a smart phone, it does have a wide array of features that are so well thought out that it makes up for the shortcomings. In addition, the potential of the App Store platform for rich-media applications makes a compelling case for real estate professionals never having to look anywhere else when they need a new smart phone.