Reviewing the reviews: Walty and Davy like it — geez, everyone does

[Synopsis of the following post: The embargo for the “first reviews” of the iPhone dropped tonight. If you boil them all down, here’s what they all say: “The cellular broadband it uses is painfully slow, but you’ll appreciate having all that extra time to ponder how envious your friends are that you own the coolest gizmo ever.]

In something akin to election night, I found myself tuning into the web tonight to see if the “early reviews” were trickling in. Sure enough, the two bell-weather precincts have reported and it looks like the iPhone will carry all 50 states. Or, to chase another analogy rabbit, if this were a Broadway opening, those big blub signs outside the theatre would have been rushed into production.

The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and The New York Time’s David Pogue have issued-forth the two most highly-hyped reviews of the most highly-hyped gizmo I can recall. I’m sure those in the tech-punditry who have Mossberg-envy since reading the recent New Yorker profile that says he makes $1 million a year –will claim Mossberg is a dupe of Apple. (For example, in what was surely a joke, surely, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, who didn’t receive a review iPhone, suggests Pogue and Mossberg gave positive reviews to ensure “they will continue to receive new Apple gadgets in the future.” Again, that surely was a joke.) However, no matter what is said in the tech press and blogosphere, nothing will change the fact that every CEO in America will be reading one of these reviews tomorrow morning. Gadget envy will set in and that whole “IT won’t support the iPhone” issue will be a distant memory.

The two pretty-much deliver on what every one has predicted: AT&T’s EDGE network sucks. They both agree, emphatically. Pogue even gives some sobering examples to display how sloooowwww it is:

“The New York Times’s home page takes 55 seconds to appear; Amazon.com, 100 seconds; Yahoo, two minutes. You almost ache for a dial-up modem.”

Mossberg’s biggest surprise — and, frankly, this is where he’s at his best — is dismissing the “there’s no keyboard” protests as a “non-issue.” Pogue agrees and says the leaflet accompanying the phone says “trust the keyboard.” Despite the “new-age” sound of the instructions, it’s true, he says.

Quote from Mossberg:

“The iPhone’s most controversial feature, the omission of a physical keyboard in favor of a virtual keyboard on the screen, turned out in our tests to be a nonissue, despite our deep initial skepticism. After five days of use, Walt — who did most of the testing for this review — was able to type on it as quickly and accurately as he could on the Palm Treo he has used for years. This was partly because of smart software that corrects typing errors on the fly.

On the Mossberg video (embedded), he admits that after the first three days of using the keyboard, he was ready to throw it away — that it took him a full five days before having the breakthrough that caused him to drop his skepticism. I say, this is where Walt Mossberg is at his best because he’s one of the few reviewers I’ve read over the years who spend weeks testing products before issuing reviews. If you test something at your desk for an hour and issue a review — something you’ll be reading a lot of on Friday night and Saturday morning — you miss the nuances of performance that can only be noticed after a couple of weeks.

In my review of the reviews, I’m going to give the nod to Pogue as he threw in a Dizzy Dean quote, something one rarely, if ever, hears in a tech/gadget review:

“But even in version 1.0, the iPhone is still the most sophisticated, outlook-changing piece of electronics to come along in years. It does so many things so well, and so pleasurably, that you tend to forgive its foibles. In other words, maybe all the iPhone hype isn’t hype at all. As the ball player Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t bragging if you done it.”

That’s what reviews need: More Dizzy Dean quotes.

Later, more reviews:

  • USA Today: “With a few exceptions, this expensive, glitzy wunderkind is indeed worth lusting after.
  • Newsweek: “One of the most hyped consumer products ever comes pretty close to justifying the bombast.”
  • Via Hudge (in the comments), the most entertaining review of the iPhone has to be this one from Dave Barry.
  • Later: When I started out earlier this evening, I thought I’d compare and contrast the reviews. However, they all seem to be written by the same person. Everyone loves the same things, hates the same things, and says the same things. 1. Edge sucks 2. Having one will bring you eternal joy.

    • Hudge
    • scott

      mossberg’s “review” was horrible – a cut n’ paste hackjob from apple press releases, keynote statements, and general iphone website information. outside of a brief rant re edge, it was a total fluff piece.

      pogue, on the other hand, at leat bothered to get into some of the actual issues surrounding the iphone – like when gives you load times on various websites via an edge connection (something uncle walt couldn’t be bothered to do).

      55 seconds for the nyt site? 100 seconds for amazon? 2 minutes to load yahoo? yeah, pass on that. here’s to waiting to the next version.

    • It’s got to make AT&T happy that one of the constants in all of the reviews is how bad/slow their data network is.

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