In January, I talked about the iPhone announcement. Since then, the Internet has been abuzz with speculation and rumors. There were more rumors since it was announced than in the 3 years of it's development. Now that it is out, I have been hard pressed to read a review that is actually balanced, as everyone seems to either defend it to the death or go out of their way to create FUD about it. That said, I am not going to try and give a balanced review, but it will be honest. I tried to get one from the AT&T store on what ZDNet called iPhone Day, but they were sold out when I got there. They offered to have one shipped to my house when and if one ever became available again, and I complied. The next day I got impatient and drove to an Apple Store and bought one. A few days later mine arrived, so now I have 2. The second one will either be sold to someone or returned to the AT&T store, so it's not a problem. Now that that story has been told, on to the review.

It took about 2 hours for my iPhone to be activated through iTunes. I felt that the iTunes activation was easier than when the half-awake pot-head in the mall activated my original cell phone.

Physically, the iPhone is slim and light, and actually very tough. Last weekend I dropped it and it went sliding down the sidewalk face down. After catching my breath, I picked it up only to find the screen was completely unharmed, though the silver border was a little scratched. I heard tale of an AT&T employee actually tossing one across the room to demonstrate the durability. I'm sure the screen is crackable, but it will take more than a drop or two, even directly on the screen.

The monitor is ridiculously gorgeous. The resolution is very high and the colors are bright and vibrant. Video on this thing is just amazing to watch. Since iPhone has a speaker, you can watch your movies or listen to your movies without headphones, which is useful if you want multiple people to watch something.

The accelerometer is very sensitive and accurate. I like how it doesn't matter which way you rotate it into landscape. The photos app even lets you turn it upside down. The proximity sensor seems to take just a little too long to turn the screen back on, making it difficult to glance at the screen quickly while on a phone call.

I have crashed a few iPhone apps already, and like Mac OS X, the thing just returns to the home screen when a program crashes instead of freezing up the whole thing like my RAZR used to.

I was most surprised by the presence of a physical button whose sole purpose is to turn the ringer on and off. I wish more phones had that.

The headphones come with a button that starts and stops media playback and answers phone calls. It is the only set of headphones that fit in the jack hole without a $10 adapter. I'm told this is due to the extra button on the headphones.

Pressing the button on the top turns the screen on. After sliding a slider, the phone unlocks to the main screen. This prevents it from doing stuff in your pocket or purse. The touchscreen is surprisingly accurate. It can track very fast finger movements with relentless accuracy.

Now on to the apps. The phone app is fine. I could ask for nothing more. It is simple and lets me make calls. There are many ways to organize your contacts, including a favorites list. Visual Voicemail is cool as expected, and I assume that more and more companies will adopt this paradigm.

Mail can do everything Mail can do on a big ol' Mac, except there seems to be no way to organize messages into subfolders, and there is no spam filtering built in. Other than that, I have had no problem getting the thing to access my accounts, even ones with custom smtp ports. Some attachment types can not be viewed as well.

Safari actually has most of the functionality of the full sized version, which must be seen to be believed. It has it's limitations like no Flash or Java support, but we can expect that to be fixed with a software update eventually. I'm blown away at how it can zoom into the column with of the DOM element I double tapped on. That is a great touch. The iPhone Internet is fast on wi-fi, and on EDGE it is tolerable, and actually quite fast if you can get full bars.

The iPod app is arguably the coolest thing ever. I've been using a 4G iPod forever, so this is quite the step. Cover flow is fun, but I always wanted the ability to be listening to a song on shuffle and then switch to listening to other songs on that album.

The other apps are ho-hum. SMS is the same just with an iChat skin. Complain all you want about the keyboard, but the keys are larger than on any other smartphone I've seen. They adjust their clickable area based on what it thinks you mean to type. At first I didn't like this, since the equivalent feature on my RAZR was not very accurate. However. the iPhone is almost always right, in my experience so far. The best way to go is to just type what you want to type, then go back and correct the few mistakes. It's easy since you poke it with your finger and drag the cursor around. A magnifying glass actually pops up above your finger so you can see where the cursor is.

Calendar is fine, but it lacks a to do list, which is really the whole reason I decided I needed a smartphone some 8 months ago. However, given that iPhone runs a version of Leopard, and Leopard will have a system-wide todo service, I suspect that will come about once the Macs get their upgrade.

The camera is 2 MP, which is nice, but there is no zoom, which sucks. Photos lets you look at them either individually or in a slideshow. You zoom in by pinching with your fingers.

The YouTube app lets you watch any video on YouTube that has been converted into H.264. They all should be converted in a few months, according to YouTube.

I don't use the stocks app, but it's pretty standard. Maps is a shiny interface on Google Maps. It does almost anything Google Maps does, but sadly not the street level view thing. Weather gives you forecasts but not radar. Clock, calculator and notes are very simple and self explanatory.

In the settings app you can choose your preferred wireless network, wallpaper, ringtones, and set the preferences for other apps. Wallpaper can be any picture, but your ringtone must be one of Apple's lackluster included sounds.

Many people have been complaining about the cost of battery replacement, especially thanks to this quote by Bob Sullivan of MSNBC: The iPhone battery will only survive about 300-400 recharges, the company says. Now, Apple's website says this: A properly maintained iPhone battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity after 400 full charge and discharge cycles. That to me is quite a bit different. I believe only the most dedicated iPhone users will need to replace the battery before they upgrade to a new phone. Let's be honest. No one keeps their phone for more than 2 years, and only a few ever make it that long, especially not the kind of people who would buy an iPhone. The battery wont be a problem as long as it functions properly.

Finally (for now), I will mention that the iPhone contains one feature I wanted in an iPod forever. I can pull it out of it's dock at any time during sync. The syncing process will pause until the next time you plug it in. You don't have to eject it. Since the phone can't sync through Bluetooth (another drawback), flexibility in the dock sync is very important.

I'll have more as I think of it, and as I use it more.