Walt Mossberg

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The 3G iPhone: First Impressions

I’ll have a full, detailed review of the new 3G iPhone in a few weeks, but here are some first impressions based on Apple’s (AAPL) announcement today.

The Biggest Pluses

iphone3g_white.jpg

Speed: Because the biggest problem with the original iPhone was the slow AT&T (T) network, moving the device to the much faster 3G network, while no surprise, will have a huge impact. This is especially true since data already show that it is by far the most heavily used smart phone for Web surfing. It means that you won’t have to search for a Wi-Fi network to do decent Web surfing.

Price: Less than one year after it was introduced at a hefty $599 price, the 8 GB model of the iPhone will now be two-thirds cheaper, at just $199.

Third-party programs: Until now, in order to get third-party programs on an iPhone, you had to hack it. Now, there will be hundreds of them coming soon, and the handful that were demonstrated by Apple looked impressive, from blogging-on-the-go, to news and sports, to games and even medical software.

The Biggest Minuses

Still locked to one carrier: Even though the greater speed is a huge deal, it only matters if you have good AT&T reception. If AT&T’s coverage in your area is poor, the iPhone is still a bad choice, because Apple, unlike its competitors, doesn’t sell it through multiple carriers in one market.

Still missing some features: They haven’t added a real way to cut and paste, or to save files, other than emailed photos. And there still isn’t any MMS capability–the ability to instantly send or receive media files over the phone network without resorting to email. There’s also no instant-messaging program, though third-party developers are likely to offer these.

Still has a wimpy camera: The original iPhone camera was OK, but, given the phone’s brilliant screen and tight integration with computer photo software, it could stand to be better. It isn’t in this new model.

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