With the arrival of Apple's [NASDAQ:AAPL] new iPhone 3G nigh, the big three tech reviewers of the print journalism world — Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal [NYSE:NWS.A], David Pogue of the New York Times [NYSE:NYT], and Ed Baig of USA Today — have weighed in early on their thoughts about their test devices. Each one of these guys individually has the power to make or break entire gadget companies, so their combined advice will account for a sizable percentage of sales (or not-sales) at AT&T and Apple stores this Friday. So what'd they say?
All three were quick to point out that while the original iPhone was a serious game-changer a year ago, the new one is nowhere near the breakthrough that the first iPhone was. In fact, it's not even a substantial revision; the addition of 3G speeds is the flagship feature, but won't mean much unless you live inside a major metropolitan center where 3G coverage exists. GPS is also being touted as a worthwhile add-on by Apple, but as Pogue notes, the iPhone's compact GPS antenna isn't strong enough to give turn-by-turn driving directions, and is easily confused by large metal objects like cars and skyscrapers.
All three were also in agreement that sound and speaker quality has taken a giant leap forward. While the iPhone was rarely criticized for poor-quality audio, it wasn't lauded for its high fidelity, either — the new 3G version apparenly sounds and transmits in crystal-clear audio, and makes use of a stronger speakerphone as well.
Baig lamented that the device still won't have a user-replacable battery, support media cards or Java, or natively shoot video, but Pogue was quick to point out that many of the phone's existing shortcomings — no video, for example — will be quickly and easily ameliorated by the iPhone's phone-based applications store, where third party apps will be downloadable for free (or a nominal price.) Mossberg fumed that he couldn't sync Exchange contacts as well as personal contacts (from Apple's own address book application) at the same time; they erase each other.
For all their small gripes, Baig, Pogue and Mossberg were quite clear that the second iPhone is a near-perfect device that can manipulate email, surf the Web (now faster), and serve as a mini-computer better than any of its legions of imitators. None of them recommended upgrading from the old iPhone, as most of the improvements to the device will be software upgrades that are backwards-compatible, but if you passed on the first generation, the experts agree: now is the time to buy.