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Up close and personal -- the iPhone in India

August 22, 2008
The iPhone is set to launch in India today and the hoopla surrounding the world's most talked-about mobile handset is understandable.

View the video for a quick walkthrough on the features of iphone

With its smooth curves, chrome lining, and lightly brushed aluminum finish, there's no denying that the iPhone looks trendy -- and it's sleek build and size allow it to fit easily into the palm.

Network service providers Bharti Airtel and Vodafone have tied up with Apple and the latter is offering the 3G model of the phone at a staggering Rs 31,000 (Bharti is yet to quote a price). Indian network services, however, do not even offer the range of services that a 3G model cellphone can avail of, so you're hardly going to get everything you pay for.

Is the iPhone going to live up to the hype? Let's take a look at its features.

First off, there's no denying that the phone looks great. That being said, the phone isn't really tough -- the high-gloss body doesn't allow a proper grip on it at all times and if it falls, rest assured it will dent.

Also, the phone has no buttons, except for a 'Home' button below the screen which take you directly to the cell phone ‘desktop', so to speak; a volume switch to the left; and a small sleep/wake button on the top. This allows the phone to remain inactive, without being switched off.

So how do you punch in numbers? You use the touch-screen to perform practically every other operation the phone is capable of. With the touch of a finger, you can access the keypad, the main menu, call directory, photo gallery and whatever information is stored on it. To type out messages and emails, an onscreen keyboard appears on the touch screen, which you can use to punch in the alphabets. There is also a feature combining a dictionary and predictive text to help out with your typing. The touch-screen keyboard is rather sensitive and in this sense, rather inconvenient -- if you're on the move, for instance, you'll find yourself re-typing words several times over.

An electrical field around the screen allows for very natural, smooth action to browse through the features. The screen of the iPhone is scratch-resistant and 3.5 inches long, easily one of the largest and most stunning displays to be seen on a cellphone so far. The quality of imagery is excellent -- you can zoom in and out of an image using the touch feature with your fingers.

Photographs can be taken using the iPhone's inbuilt 2.0 mega pixel digital camera. The image quality is pretty decent, but there are no settings that can be altered to click photographs -- no flash, no zoom, nothing. It's just a wide-angle camera and that's all there is to it.

You can't shoot video clips on the phone -- either use your network connection and install the video recording programme, which will allow you a measly 4 seconds of recording time, or then pay more to download a compatible software.

The iPhone also has a motion sensor which detects whether the phone is being held upright or horizontally and automatically shifts the image on the screen to the angle you're viewing it from. When you're scrolling through your video clips and photographs on the phone, therefore, you'll find that turning the screen in any direction will not allow the images to flip to the side.

The favourite feature of many iPhone users is the inbuilt iPod, which allows users to transfer songs and other media files to the phone. You can use your PC to make the transfer or access Apple's iTunes programme directly from the phone for the same purpose. Everything you store is available to you at a touch. Also, powered with a hardcore 412 Megahertz processor, the iPhone's performance is fast and a user can multitask very easily -- you can listen to music while accessing your mail or surfing the Internet, for instance. The main catch here is that one way or another, you have to use iTunes. Also, file transfer can be pretty tricky -- don't try to transfer anything from the phone back to your PC without knowing exactly what you're doing. Because it's very likely that you'll end up losing your personal data from your computer!

The iPhone does not offer MMS support either, so there is no way you can transfer photos or any other files to or from other cellphones. It does not pair with any device to swap info other then a Bluetooth headset, which makes you wonder why it has a Bluetooth facility enabled in the first place!

The voice quality of the iPhone is crisp and clear and the hands free set that comes with it works well too. But one thing that's really annoying about making calls is that you have to scroll through your whole directory in alphabetical order to find the number you're looking for – no shortcut here!

Also, your cheek brushing against the touch screen when you're on a call will often accidentally activate the speakerphone. This is both annoying and embarrassing.

Apple claims that there is a sensor on the phone which turns off the screen during a call and thus contact between the cheeks and the screen should not have any effect. In turn, the phone saves on battery life, which is only 8 hours. But humidity often results in the screen remaining active for longer -- in the duration you find that your speakerphone has activated and everybody around is privy to the conversation.

When it comes to games, movies and other add-on utilities, the iPhone has an apparatus called 'Installer', which will help you install almost an programme off the net on your phone. But you will need a constant Internet connection to download and install these softwares, most of which you have to pay for -- otherwise settle for the trial versions.

Given how heavy the iPhone is on features, like a computer, expect yours to hang occasionally. But it's not as simple to fix a frozen iPhone as removing the battery/ power source and restarting, like in other cellphones. You see, the batteries of the iPhone are built-in and there's nothing you can do besides connecting to a PC and rebooting the phone. If you're on the move or a computer is not at hand -- tough luck!

All in all, the iPhone is trendy and different, but not in all ways that are convenient. It looks great and offers a lot of out-of-the-way features, but it is also lacking in some basic ones. Moreover, fixing a defective handset isn't exactly a breeze and every downloadable addition to your phone will come at a price. Add that to the Rs 31,000 bill you're already footing and decide for yourself whether it's worth it.

Review & video: Rajesh Karkera
Voiceover: Matthew Schneeberger
Also see: Apple's iPhone 3G: Is it for you?

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