When we first reviewed the InfoGear iPhone (then called the Cidco iPhone) a year ago, we were very impressed. For the low price of $499, it combined Internet and e-mail access with a phone chock full of advanced features. A year later, we're more impressed than ever. The second-generation iPhone, the 2000 series, not only improves on the original's features, but also does so for $100 to $200 less.
The heart of the iPhone has always been its ability to offer easy Internet access for those who couldn't afford or didn't understand personal computers. Setting up an account, then browsing the Web with the iPhone's stylus and touch-screen is a breeze. Users start by setting up an ISP account with InfoGear. Prices are $9.95 per month for 10 hours, or $19.95 per month for unlimited access. Users can also rely on their existing ISPs, but will still need to pay InfoGear $4.95 per month for the server-side processing of optimizing Web pages for the iPhone.
Web surfing is speedy with the 2000 series, since the biggest iPhone improvement is a 56K modem. The previous model had a 14.4K modem. Both models seem faster because server-side processing of Web pages reduces graphic size dramatically. The 2000 series iPhone also supports two phone lines, so users with two lines can surf while they talk. The new iPhone runs on a 32-bit processor, with 2MB storage and 2MB DRAM.
The iPhone's proprietary browser fully supports HTML 3.2, and finally understands cookies, animated GIFs, and frames. The 7.4-inch, 640-by-480 screen is sharp, with contrast and brightness controls located on the side. The browser defaults to the InfoGear Network, a skimpy site featuring local news, weather, entertainment news, and shopping.
For e-mail, the iPhone supports standard POP3 accounts, and can now remember four different mailboxes. It can be set to check one mail account twice per day automatically. If users have multiple accounts, it will check the most recent one used. A flashing light indicates new messages. Users can also compose e-mail off-line to send later.
The iPhone can serve as an answering machine capable of holding 15 minutes of messages. Though not ready in time for this review, a free software upgrade slated for early September can activate the answering machine function.
Advanced telephone features include Caller ID with a memory of 100 calls, speed dial, and a directory that can hold up to 800 phone numbers in an alphabetized list. The phone is now black instead of white, measuring 10 by 12.75 by 9.5 inches (HWD, when the screen is upright). The 10- by 3.75-inch keyboard pulls out from the base and is equivalent to that of a standard notebook PC. The keys are full-size--a dramatic improvement over the first model--but are placed somewhat tightly together. Our only complaint about the design is the stylus niche. Removing the stylus can be tricky, so often we didn't put it back in place when finished.
Currently, the iPhone is available only online, through Big Planet, where it sells for $408.89. It's due to go into wider distribution in the fall and should sell for around $300 to $400, depending on the distributor. Full retail distribution may be in place in time for the holiday season. A printer is also planned, but when it will hit the stores is uncertain. Note that the external keyboard and printer developed for the first generation iPhone will not work with this model.
The iPhone is a model of how to do something right. It combines everything we'd expect in an Internet appliance and then some. This second-generation model will have some people asking, "Who needs a PC?"
InfoGear iPhone. Direct price: $399 at Big Planet. Requires: Phone line, InfoGear ISP account. InfoGear Technology Corp., Redwood City, CA; 650-568-2900; www.infogear.com.