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4 iPhones replaced, Fixes & Updates

Jul 3, 2007 (Updated Jul 8, 2008)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Amazing combination of phone/music player/video player WHEN IT WORKS!

Cons:Screen suddenly dies or freezes during task. Firmware update may kill it!

The Bottom Line: Fantastic WHEN THEY WORK! DO NOT KEEP IT PLUGGED IN AFTER BATTERY IS FULLY CHARGED or be prepared for screen blackouts or task freezes. Firmware updates can be deadly!

This is an online iPhone review & diary of someone who got one of the first iPhones, is now on his 4th iPhone and things I learned OVER THE PAST YEAR that may help you. This is NOT meant to a long repeat of specs or observations you can find on a bazillion other reviews.

My 8GB iPhone arrived 7/3/07 (bought on eBay for $650 including overnight delivery).

First impressions ...

If you've purchased any recent Apple product, you know how contemporary and minimalistic they are. No exception here. Besides, does anybody want to open a box and find a User Manual that weighs more than the product?

Apple gives you a tiny guide that basically says "download iTunes 7.3, install it, and then use the USB cable to connect to your computer.

After reading a few negative headlines about having problems activating the phone with AT&T, I was prepared for the worst. Not sure if being an existing AT&T (formerly Cingular) customer gave me an edge, but entire process took about 3 minutes with very little input required of me. I had a 450min/month plan and it simply asked me for an OK to add the $20/month unlimited data and 200 text messages. Thus, the $59.99/month plan I expected.
For the curious, I upgraded from a 2 year old Motorola MPX220.

iTunes software then proceeded to copy all my Outlook Express email accounts and internet favorites. After that it offered to transfer music, photos and videos too. This entire process could not have been ANY easier. Note: You will have to manually enter your passwords for each email account you import. At the same time, you can turn each account ON or OFF with ease.

One slightly annoying thing I may modify is that every time you replace the phone in its desktop cradle or reconnect the USB cable, iTunes automatically opens and starts syncing files with your computer.

Bluetooth Headset. After my discouraging attempt to get a phone on June 29 and before I thought to look on eBay, I was bothered by the lack of intelligence shown by the people at my local AT&T store. Why did they make over 100 people stand in line in 105 degree heat for an extra 90 minutes if they knew they only had 20 phones left? I vented my feelings by calling the Apple 800# on their website to see about ordering direct. As soon as I repeated my store experience to a very cordial gentleman on the phone, told him I wanted to order an 8GB phone and asked him for advice about using Bluetooth with it, he politely put me on hold. Less than a minute later he came back and said that due to my bad store experience, he got permission to give me the $129 Bluetooth headset for half price AND at no extra charge my phone would be shipped 2Day as soon as possible. So, if you don't already have an iPhone, can't find a good deal on eBay and don't mind waiting about 2 weeks, you're welcome to use this information to your advantage.

Sorry for digressing. Here's what happened when I attempted to connect and use my Cardo Scala 700 to the iPhone. No problem! I was a bit surprised because the salesperson at Apple hinted that iPhone might be a bit fickle about Bluetooth headsets. I might still try the Apple headset when it arrives, just to see if it's better or worse. BTW, before settling on Cardo Scala for my prior phone, I tried a number of Bluetooth that either hurt my ear, were hard to position or resulted in complaints from people I called. The Cardo is so good, I bought a few and gave them as gifts. Every user I've met say it's the best.

Wifi. As soon as I selected Safari icon from bottom of the HOME window, I was asked if I wanted to connnect using my Netgear (wireless router). One click and it instantly had me on the web. Scrolled down my favorites with a fingertip, selecteed my NEWS page and it downloaded in less than 2 seconds. Took 2 fingers, spread them over a headline and like magic, it zoomed so I could read everything crystal clear. If you never get an iPhone for yourself, you gotta try this on somebodies iPhone!

Javascripts. Contrary to what I read in several other reviews, webpages with common scripts for drop-down menus and form functions work perfectly in the Safari browser.

Phone voice quality. Several early reports had me concerned that iPhone might not sound as good from receivers end of a call so I phoned my landline and left myself a message. Sounds as good as my Motorola MPX220 did.

Keyboard. This is the feature that seems to have garnered most complaints and when I first tried it, I was frustrated for a few seconds. The keys are tiny. I quickly realized "the trick" is to touch very lightly and become aware of exactly where very tip of your finger really is. Once you understand this, it's much easier and more accurate.

Free Additional Apps Although iPhone has been out less than a week, there's already a handful of handy utilities and a couple of games you can get at

JULY 5, 2007 UPDATE: Went to Apple Store in Las Vegas to buy a protective case and was told that MANY people have suggested keyboard should offer larger buttons when phone is turned to widescreen mode for messaging. Also found out that the larger keyboard DOES appear when you're using the Safari browser on the web and need to fill in a form or username. I tried it. Widescreen keyboard is MUCH easier to use so I look forward to the software update that offers the same feature for typing emails.

JULY 11, 2007 UPDATE Past week left me feeling like I was performing "show & tell" no matter where I went. I'm not complaining because each time, I seemed to discover a new or faster way to use this amazing technological feat. As I think back to long ago (1 week), it's hard to imagine how I remained satisfied with the Motorola tiny screen and slower ways of performing routine tasks. Without a doubt, the 2-finger zoom function is my favorite feature which allows me to do things that were reserved for my desktop computer prior to last week.

JULY 12, 2007 UPDATE Just found a feature that might pay for the entire iPhone the next time my DSL service fails.
iPhone WI-FI receiver is picking up signals from neighbor homes, meaning I can instantly switch from surfing & emailing through my wireless router and use any unprotected signal from a neighbor who has DSL or broadband service with another carrier. This will also be a handy tool when traveling and trying to find WI-FI to use with my notebook. Aside from listing all nearby signals, it shows which ones are password protected and gives you signal strengths (1, 2 or 3 bars).

JULY 15, 2007 UPDATE: July 14, 2007, 11 days after receiving & using my 8GB iPhone it suddenly died. Unit was plugged into USB cable for recharging after approx. 4 hours usage that day without problems. After realizing the phone would not respond to any commands (black screen) I also noticed back of phone felt very warm. I immediately suspected a problem related to the battery possibly overheating and causing a system shutdown. Phoned Apple Store in Las Vegas and was instructed to bring it in for an immediate replacement. Hmmmmm ... store personnel did not question me and they have a replacement phone in stock when new customers are told there are no phones?

Arrived at Apple Store 25 minutes later. As I stood waiting for service, a woman appeared next to me and pulled two 4GB iPhones out of a shopping bag and said both suddenly stopped working and she had noticed them getting "very warm." Long story short: I suspect Apple is aware of a major problem with overheating batteries and to avoid customer backlash or bad media coverage, they are quickly giving customers new phones. I'm now wondering if this is somehow related to the huge Sony battery recall in 2006 that affected millions of notebook computers worldwide.

JULY 15, 2007 UPDATE #2: Just did some online research about the battery in the iPhone and found this:
"The iPhone uses a 3.7V Lithium Ion Polymer battery, with manufacturer part number L1S1376APPC, and Apple service part number 616-0290. Dissassembly by Think Secret reveals a similar 3.7V Lithium Ion Polymer battery, but with manufacturer part number P11G59-01-S01 and Apple service part number 616-0291. The differences, if any, between these batteries are not known at this time." Thus, it appears that Apple is using at least 2 different batteries which poses the question, are one or both of them failing during use?

JULY 15, 2007 UPDATE #3: New problem. As they were handing me the new phone last night at the Apple Store, they said A&T servers were down until 3PM EST (noon Pacifc) on Sunday so I could not activate the new phone until then. I connected the iPhone to computer and ran ITunes. After 5 unsuccessful attempts to activate the new phone and an hour past that time, finally gave me a pop-up screen that says "Unable to verify account Please disconnect and go to a cingular store." Just phoned the store closest to me and it's closed on Sunday. Then phoned the AT&T support hotline at 866-801-3600. Recording says "due to heavy call volume you may experience an extended hold time" which is now going on 14 minutes. Person named Danial Downey finally answered my call and says the AT&T systems are still updating and should be working in next 2 hours. Before hanging up, I informed Mr. Downey that I am a journalist, that I suspect there is a major problem with the iPhone batteries and asked if he would care to comment. He said he could not comment. Is the overall iPhone/AT&T experience becoming a nightmare? Check back for more updates.

JULY 15, 2007 UPDATE #4: 21 hours after the first iPhone died, I am finally restored. By that I mean when I opened iTun on my desktop computer, rather than asking me to go through the entire activation process again, it simply asked if I wanted to restore my phone to last known settings (yesterday at 5:30PM) or start from scratch? I selected restore and in less than 1 minute my new iPhone had all the accounts, messages, photos, music from the prior one! The only thing I had to re-enter manually were the passwords for each email account and I had to reinstall my Bluetooth headset. Other than that, this was amazingly easy so once again there is a smile on my face as I hold MY NEW iPhone!

JULY 17, 2007 UPDATE: I'm starting to suspect that the iPhone may be affected by static electricity. In Southern Nevada we have a static electricity problem due to very low humidity most of the time. The inside of the leather case for my iPhone may be generating some juice that causes random "black-outs" because sometimes the screen goes black or simply fails to respond immediately to touch commands. When this happened last night, I took the phone out of the case and it came back to life. I don't want to portray the wrong impression. My 2nd iPhone is functioning perfectly 99% of the time but the 1% will keep me digging until I find the real answer and solution.

JULY 21, 2007 UPDATE: Now in 6th day with replacement iPhone and everything working perfectly EXCEPT for the random blackout which I cure by removing the phone from the leather case. Thus, I still suspect static electricity as the culprit. When i remove the unit from leather case, I also notice that it is quite warm, especially on the back side. The wi-fi signal detection on this thing continues to amaze me wherever I go.

JULY 29, 2007 UPDATE: The replacement iPhone I got on 7/14/07 has same overheating & blackout/freeze problem as first one. Spoke with Apple Tech Support today by phone. Apple is acknowledging that this is a widespread battery-related problem. When they have a solution, iPhone owners will be notified via iTunes and/or posting on website.

AUGUST 2, 2007 UPDATE Today I waited in line at the local Apple Store to get my THIRD IPHONE .. that's right, between July 3 (receipt of first one) and today, Apple has replaced my iPhone twice due to blackouts (it freezes or screen goes black without warning). Today's explanation is that it could be bad batteries, bad charger, this week's update may have solved a firmware charging issue. Or, the phones may simply need an exorcist (my thought). In other words, APPLE DOESN'T KNOW. While I was there, they replaced an iPhone for another customer over the exact same issue. The other customer said his died for a full 24 hours. Thus, including my 2 replacements, in the past month I've gone through 2 and while inside the Apple Store I witnessed 3 others being replaced with similar complaints.

On a different note, 3 days ago I received the Apple Bluetooth headset for the iPhone. It is amazingly tiny. Aside from not liking to stick something inside my ear, it works very well and people at the other end of my calls say it sounds fine. There is no volume control on it (you adjust from the phone). Just one button on the end of the tiny headset performs the on, off, call transfer and call-waiting functions. The initial syncing with the iPhone is automatic. You simply put the phone and headset in the desktop cradle and they mate up. When both are recharging, you get 2 separate green line indicators on the phone showing the status of each.

Will my 3rd iPhone last more than 2 weeeks without having blackouts? Come back to this review in 2 weeks and you'll find out!

AUGUST 3, 2007 UPDATE My iPhone saga is becoming a nightmare. I'm about to head back to the Apple Store for my 4TH IPHONE ... After only 1 day, this one refuses to unlock when I slide my finger, it freezes halfway across, or if it does go all the way across, there's an unusual delay before the desktop icons appear. Until now, I've kept my overall rating of the product very high. After having 3 bad iphones in a row, my opinion is sinking quickly.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2007 UPDATE: Spoke to a top Apple tech today and learned the following about all iPhones and possible causes of the problems I've experienced with 4 different units:

1. iPhones don't like being plugged into USB cable if your PC goes into standby (sleep mode).

2. iPhones have a RAM memory. Much like any PC, they can & should be rebooted if iPhone starts acting erratically.

HOW TO REBOOT: Hold down the HOME button (indented button below front screen) and at the same time, press & hold the POWER button (top right black button). Hold both until a white Apple logo appears, then release buttons. iPhone will reboot which refreshes the RAM memory but it will NOT damage any of your data.

3. Keeping iPhone in a case MAY allow the unit to heat up and affect touch screen responses. If screen freezes or goes black, remove it from case & lay it on a cool surface.

SEPTEMBER 28, 2007 UPDATE: Installed the latest software/firmware update last night and immediately noticed the following:

1. New icon in lower right for connecting to iTunes. With a wi-fi connection you are instantly connnected to site where you can sample snippets of singles and albums or purchase them for immediate download at 99cents per tune.

2. Text size in Mail mode seems to be slightly larger and bolder.

3. Response time moving from one screen to another seems to be a bit faster.

4. Update has NOT corrected the sudden " screen freezes" I encounter, despite frequent reboots (see details below).

NOVEMBER 13, 2007 UPDATE: iTunes alerted me to another firmware update today. I believe it was 1.1.2 or something similar. After downloading a large file (Apple doesn't tell you the file size but it took several minutes via my DSL connection) pop-up appeared saying update could not be installed. Since then, my iPhone is trashed! Rebooting phone, reinstalling iTunes 7.5 ... NOTHING helped. Until I visit local Apple Store (a 30min. drive) I'm stuck with a screen that shows USB cable with an upward arrow pointing to the iTunes icon. In other words DO NOT ATTEMPT THE UPDATE UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED TO SEE YOUR IPHONE GO INTO A COMA !

NOVEMBER 14, 2007 UPDATE: Visit to Apple Store yielded a fix in about 15 minutes and some info. The 1.2 Update is a large file of firmware & software changes, with lots of "bad news" for anyone trying to unlock a phone for non-USA or non-AT&T use. Once my phone was restored, immediately noticed more speed. Update also allows automatic import/syncing of Outlook Express email accounts. You still must manually enter the passwords for each. Reinstalled iTunes 7.5 one more time on my desktop. This time when connected the USB to phone, it found it.

JUNE 7, 2008 UPDATE. Here I am a year and 4 iPhones later. Nobody on this planet (or any other) has been able to cure the sporadic screen freezes and blackouts. Can't wait to see what the next generation (iPhone not humans) will be like. Recently started noticing 2 new quirks. When I receive a text message and click to open/read it, I'm taken to a different message from months ago. When I receive a voicemail message and click to hear it, the screen goes black. Taking it out of the leather case revives it so I can hear the voicemail. A friend that got one (also June 2007) has been having problems with wi-fi settings. He turns it on and a minute later, his iPhone turns it off. Neither Apple personnel nor I could find a fix for his problem.

JUNE 17, 2008 UPDATE. Even my friends on Mars are now aware that Apple has announced iPhone 2 (a/k/a 3G) with availability scheduled for 7/11/08. Although it's still not set in stone, Apple and AT&T have hinted that current owners will be able to upgrade to the new 3G units and receive a refund of up to $200 per phone. While that sounds amazingly good, keep in mind that they've also said that monthly service on the new models will be $10 higher and we'll be locked into new 2 year contracts. Bottom line: They'll give us $200 but take back $240. Lest you still think this is being generous you might also consider that the new phones will NOT have voice dialing capabilities and supposedly have "unlockable" new operating systems. Sad thing is, you can unlock the current iPhones in less than a minute AND purchase software that does a great job of adding voice dialing. Stay tuned for more updates.

JULY 7, 2008 UPDATE Before you sit in a line for days like some "geniuses" are already doing, consider these FACTS: Apple still hasn't fixed problems with iPhones from a year ago & you're going pay even more for version2 (cost of phone + higher monthly fees = higher cost than V1). I am on my 4th iPhone & still have tech problems with it. So does a good friend who got one and gave up trying to get help from Apple tech. Apple still hasn't added voice-dialing. V2 will be even harder to unlock if you try to add any outside apps. I mention voice-dialing because there is an outside app that has gotten good reviews but you can only add it to a V1 iPhone and only AFTER you unlock it. You can't view or edit word or excel files which is something nearly EVERY other SmartPhone has been able to do for 3+ years, yet Apple has totally ignored this feature which many (myself included) consider essential for business.

I will post more news as it happens and how my replacement iPhone performs Now back to my original review ...

Recommend this product? Yes

Amount Paid (US$): 650

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