By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
First the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg jumped the gun, publishing his online review of Apple’s new iPhone 3G, days before his usual column.
Then, about an hour later, the New York Times responded in kind, posting their own review, by David Pogue, on the NYTimes.com front page. Like Mossberg’s, Pogue’s review is datelined Wednesday, July 9.
About the same time (we’ve lost track of the sequence), America’s third national paper, USA Today, followed suit, posting a review by Edward C. Baig.
And so Apple (AAPL) fans eager to hear if the new iPhone is worth buying get their answer — or rather three answers — well before they have to decide whether or not to stand in line.
Once again, Steve Jobs has tightly controlled the initial wave of critical commentary by handing out advanced copies to his favorite reviewers — two of whom make a nice living publishing books about Apple products (Pogue writes “Missing Manuals” and Baig writes “For Dummies” books).
But if he sought to curry special favor — or control the timing — Jobs was only partly successful. Although Baig’s review is quite enthusiastic (”two thumbs up”), Mossberg’s and Pogue’s are what is known in the theater as mixed positive.
The money quotes:
Mossberg: “If you’ve been waiting to buy an iPhone until it dropped in price, or ran on faster cell networks, you might want to take the plunge, if you can live with the higher service costs and the weaker battery life. The same goes for those with existing iPhones who love the device but crave faster cellular data speeds. But if you already own an iPhone, and can usually use Wi-Fi for data, you probably should hold off and get the free software upgrade before deciding whether it’s worth getting the new hardware.” (link)
Pogue: “So the iPhone 3G is a nice upgrade. It more than keeps pace with advancing technology, and new buyers will generally be delighted….But it’s not so much better that it turns all those original iPhones into has-beens. Indeed, the really big deal is the iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store, neither of which requires buying a new iPhone. That twist may come as a refreshing surprise to planned-obsolescence conspiracy theorists — and everyone who stood in line last year.” (link)
Baig: “Extra, extra: iPhone 3G: The Sequel, is worth the wait….It’s cheaper, faster and a lot friendlier for business. Apple’s blockbuster smartphone already had nifty features such as visual voicemail, a splendid built-in video iPod and the best mobile Web browser I’ve ever used. With GPS newly added to the mix, this handheld marvel has no equal among consumer-oriented smartphones.”