Friday, July 20, 2007


Free to go anywhere, Steve Francis came home to the team and city he never wanted to leave.

Once celebrated as the Rockets' Franchise, the point guard will come back to Houston seeking a return to more than just his adopted hometown, where he began his NBA career.

Three seasons and three teams since the Rockets traded him, Francis signed a two-year deal Thursday. He was a three-time All-Star with the Rockets before getting traded to Orlando after the 2003-04 season.

"I think he sees this as a rebirth," Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said, "as a restart of his career."

Francis, the cornerstone of the Rockets' post-Hakeem Olajuwon rebuilding plans, passed on more lucrative offers from the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers.

Dealt by the New York Knicks to the Portland Trail Blazers after the season, Francis accepted a buyout of the last two seasons of his contract, worth roughly $30 million, to become a free agent.

"It's a combination of a variety of factors, including the fit with the team, a comfortableness with the organization and a familiarity with the surroundings," Francis' agent Jeff Fried said. "He has a home in Houston. In so many ways, it has remained his home, despite some interim stops, Orlando and New York.

"For Steve, it's coming home."

The Rockets were limited to the portion of the mid-level exception remaining after acquiring forward Luis Scola last week. Francis' two-year contract is worth $2.4 million the first year. He can opt out after one season.

Francis, 30, played five seasons for the Rockets, averaging 19.3 points, 6.4 assists and 6.1 rebounds. He was traded in June of 2004 to the Magic along with Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato in the deal to acquire Tracy McGrady. After one strong season with Orlando, he was dealt to the Knicks during the 2005-06 season and generally struggled to regain the form of his first years in the league. He usually came off the bench in the Knicks' crowded backcourt and battled knee troubles last season.

Morey said he had been told of no complications with Francis' physical Thursday afternoon.

"Steve has a sense we're real close," Morey said. "We think he can be a big part of getting us there. I always thought it was a long shot. Credit to Steve, he chose what he thought was the best chance to win over options that were better financially.

"There was always a chance that Steve would choose Houston. Until Steve told me himself he was coming, it felt like a long shot. Jeff Fried was doing a great job as an agent creating options. It came down to Steve focusing on what was the most important to him, and that was winning."

Alston accepting of move

The addition of Francis likely will trigger more changes. The Rockets currently have five point guards. Morey has said he is seeking to move John Lucas III.

Several teams, the New Orleans Hornets in particular, have indicated interest, but Morey said nothing is imminent. With Francis on the roster, he also could seek to deal Rafer Alston.

"It's a logjam," Alston said. "I've been a starter there for two years. We've picked up three point guards (Francis, Mike James and rookie Aaron Brooks) this summer. Obviously, they're trying to address that need and go in another direction.

"You can never get mad because a team decides to improve. It will be tough for myself and John and all of us that are point guards to see much playing time. I want the best thing for both. If me being starter and closer is the best thing and what Rick (Adelman) and Daryl Morey want, great. If that's not what they want, if they see something better, I hope they would do something that is also good for me."

Good sales pitch

Francis had been recruited by Adelman, Morey, former Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson, Yao Ming and McGrady. He had considered offers to reunite with Mobley, a friend and former teammate, and Sam Cassell, a friend and business partner, with the Clippers, and to play with each of the 2006 NBA Finals teams, the Mavericks and Heat.

"It's a chance to win," Morey said. "Both Yao and Tracy really helped with the recruiting process and are excited about our chance to win with the additions in the offseason. We're feeling good we've addressed a lot of our goals.

"When you have a chance to add a talent like Steve who really fits what coach is trying to do, you do it."


Ajax have signed Charlton winger Dennis Rommedahl on a three-year contract for €1million (£675,000).

Rommedahl, who was strongly linked with a move to Michael Laudrup's Getafe, has passed a medical and is now set to join up with his new team-mates at their training camp in Holland.

The Dane previously played for PSV Eindhoven and left the Netherlands for Charlton in 2004, but failed to really make his mark on the English game.

Alan Pardew could now be on the look-out for a wide-man to replace the pacey midfielder before their Championship campaign gets underway.

The Denmark international spoke of his delight at the move and also explained how during his time in England he has become more versatile.

"Ajax suits me perfectly. I hope I also will suit Ajax perfectly. I wanted to return to the Netherlands. I have spent years in the Dutch league and I like the positive way football is played here. Of course that is really Ajax. They always play attacking, offensive and always for prizes.

"After I moved to England I have become more all-round. With Denmark I have played some matches as a right back recently, however I don't think Ajax signed me for that position. "

Rommedahl made 84 appearances during his time at The Valley scoring six goals.

Meanwhile Ajax are looking to further strengthen their side with the signing of 20-year-old Debrecen striker Balazs Dzsudzsak, according to reports in Hungary.


Everton have confirmed the signing of Borussia Dortmund's Steven Pienaar. revealed Everton's interest in Pienaar, and that they had agreed terms with the player - and now The Toffees have confirmed the deal is done.

The 25-year-old is now awaiting a work-permit before joining up with his new team-mates.

The deal is initially a 12-month loan, with a view to a permanent deal.

Pienaar will be looking to kick-start his career on Merseyside following a less than satisfactory season with Dortmund, following his move from Ajax last summer.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Carlos Tevez's representatives have accused West Ham of making misleading public statements about the player.

The Argentine's proposed move to Manchester United has been held up after a dispute between West Ham, Manchester United and Tevez's agent Kia Joorabchian.

Tevez arrived in Manchester on Tuesday to undergo a medical, but West Ham refused permission for the medical to go ahead and the player has now gone away on holiday with his future still up in the air.

The wrangle over his ownership rights continues with West Ham claiming they own Tevez, while Joorabchian's Media Sports Investment group say they own the economic rights of the player.

Manchester United have asked Fifa to intervene to try and resolve the dispute, while West Ham have also referred the matter to football's world governing body.

Joorabchian has now also revealed he plans to take the affair to Fifa and the Football Association to try and sort out the wrangle and he has accused West Ham of lying over what they are saying about Tevez.

In a statement released by the businessman's lawyers, Joorabchian said: "Press statements both today and over last few weeks are wholly inconsistent with the real circumstances and the situation presented to us by West Ham concerning Carlos Tevez.

"We as a company have patiently kept away from the issues including West Ham in order to give the club the opportunity to resolve the matter in a legal and agreeable way acceptable to all parties.

"West Ham have consistently provided private assurances while at the same time making contrary statements to the public at large.

"We can no longer allow these inconsistencies to continue unaddressed.

"During his time at West Ham Carlos Tevez performed at a high standard. He was voted Hammer of the Year by the club's fans.

"There was a period at the end of last year when Carlos had the opportunity to leave the club and yet he decided to stay to successfully help West Ham survive in the Premier League.

"We wish to make clear that at all times it has been our intention to find an amicable solution and Carlos Tevez has, at no time, acted improperly in relation to his move to Manchester United Football Club as he was given permission via his representatives to talk to other clubs to reach an amicable agreement.

"Over the last six months West Ham have made repeated promises and assurances which they have not acted upon or performed. It is now time for these inconsistencies to be brought to an end.

"We see no alternative but to bring the true circumstances to the attention of a higher authority to aid a rapid conclusion to this issue."


Kobe Bryant headlines the list of 17 players who are expected to report for U.S. national team minicamp this weekend in Las Vegas.

The three-day camp on the campus of UNLV will be used to select the finalists for next month's FIBA Americas tournament, the regional qualifier for the 2008 Olympics. The roster must be trimmed to 12 players before the tournament starts on Aug. 22.

There are 32 players in the national team program, but 15 are unavailable for minicamp, leaving the Americans with fewer players than expected. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said last week he thought 18 or 19 would be in camp.

Bryant, the league's scoring champion, had knee surgery last summer and was unable to play in the world championships, where the Americans finished third. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Shane Battier and Kirk Hinrich are the only players from that team scheduled to take part this weekend.

They will be joined by Chauncey Billups, Amare Stoudemire and Michael Redd, all members of the program last summer but unable to participate. Kevin Durant, Jason Kidd, Mike Miller, Tyson Chandler, Tayshaun Prince, J.J. Redick and Deron Williams will also attend.

Dwyane Wade and Greg Oden are among the players who can't play because of injuries or other reasons, though Wade, one of the team captains, is expected to be in Las Vegas. The Clippers' Elton Brand, a key member of last year's team, and Shawn Marion are among the recent injury withdrawals.

The Americans will train for two days before dividing up the roster for a blue-white game on Sunday.


July 18, 2007 (updated) – The Chicago Bulls announced today that the team has re-signed forward Andrés Nocioni to a multi-year extension. Per team policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed.

“We are very happy to have Andrés remain a member of our organization. During his three seasons with us, he has played a key role to help change the culture of our team,” said Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson. “His passion and energy for the game of basketball are second to none, and he has been a key member of our team because of that.”

Nocioni, who missed a total of 28 games last season with right foot plantar fasciitis (02/05-02/20, 02/23-04/06), said on Wednesday that he is focused on getting his foot ready for the start of the season and will not be playing for Argentina in this summer’s FIBA Americas Championship tournament in Las Vegas.

“I’m going to practice for myself,” he said of his summer plans. “I know that in Argentina the media is starting to talk about if I’ll play with the national team now that I’ve started to exercise and practice a little bit. But it’s almost impossible. I want to play for the national team, but my leg is not normal. It is not strong enough to play basketball right now.”

Nocioni has lost 10 pounds to maximize his recovery, but the drop in pounds is just for the summer. He hopes to bulk up to a playing weight of 230-235 pounds for the regular season. Lately, he has been shooting more and more and says things feel “right.” However, the 6-foot-7 forward is carefully keeping his enthusiasm to be back at full speed in check.

“Right now I feel like I can do whatever I want,” Nocioni said of his foot injury. “But I want to take care of it. I don’t want to have any problems. So my exercises have been light. I’ve been doing some running on the court and I feel good. I feel normal. It’s much better.”

While there was talk of the Grizzlies showing interest in Nocioni this summer, the high-energy forward said there was nothing to it and that he was certain he would be back in Chicago.

“It was really quick; we just talked for a little bit. I was doing my job and Memphis was doing theirs. My dream is to play in Chicago for the Bulls. My agent and everybody knew that. I feel great in this organization and I love this team. I want to leave everything on the court for the Chicago Bulls.”

When asked if he spoke with Pau Gasol, the Grizzlies star power forward and a native of Spain, during his contact with Memphis, Nocioni confirmed that they had been in touch. But it was not to talk hoops or how he might fit in with the Grizzlies.

“We were talking about Barcelona—the city and the weather,” he said. “We didn’t talk about basketball though. Why? It’s not his job to recruit me.”

The extension of Nocioni coincided with the signing of Joe Smith, a 12-year veteran who was the Bulls’ No. 1 target from this summer’s free agency pool.

“He’s a great player and he’s the same kind of player as P.J. Brown,” Nocioni said of his new teammate. “I believe he can do even better though. He’s a very impressive guy and he plays with a lot of heart and passion. I like that, when somebody plays for the love of the basketball game.”

At the end of the day, Nocioni is glad to remain with an Eastern Conference contender.

“I’m very grateful to be with this organization,” he stated. “I like playing for Scott Skiles and with my friends on the team. I think we have a great thing and we’re a much better team than last year. We hope to go deep into the playoffs.”

Nocioni, 28, is preparing for his fourth NBA season since the Bulls signed him as an undrafted free agent on Aug. 11, 2004. In his three seasons with Chicago, he has started 112 of his 216 regular season appearances and has posted career averages of 11.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 1.4 apg in 25.6 mpg. He has shot .445 from the field, including .364 from behind the arc, and .816 from the free throw line.

Last year with the Bulls, Nocioni averaged a career-best 14.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg and 1.1 apg in 26.5 mpg and shot .467 from the field, .383 from three-point range (39th in the NBA) and .848 from the line. During Chicago’s playoff run, he appeared in all 10 postseason contests and averaged 8.8 ppg and 3.5 rpg in 19.7 mpg.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


CNET editors' review

From the moment Apple announced its iPhone at Macworld 2007, the tech world hasn't stopped asking questions. Because Apple has kept many iPhone details under wraps until very recently, we've been forced to speculate. Until now. Is the iPhone pretty? Absolutely. Is it easy to use? Certainly. Does it live up to the stratospheric hype? Not so much. Don't get us wrong, the iPhone is a lovely device with a sleek interface, top-notch music and video features, and innovative design touches. The touch screen is easier to use than we expected, and the multimedia performs well. But a host of missing features, a dependency on a sluggish EDGE network, and variable call quality--it is a phone after all--left us wanting more. For those reasons, the iPhone is noteworthy not for what it does, but how it does it. If you want an iPhone badly, you probably already have one. But because you'll have to sign an iPhone-specific two-year contract with AT&T to activate your iPhone after you've already shelled out $499 for the 4GB iPhone or $599 for the 8GB model, we suggest you wait until the phone comes down in price and the network improves. Hopefully, both will happen soon.

On with the review: the iPhone boasts a brilliant display, trim profile, and clean lines (no external antenna of course), and its lack of buttons puts it in a design class that even the LG Prada and the HTC Touch can't match. You'll win envious looks on the street toting the iPhone, and we're sure that would be true even if the phone hadn't received as much media attention as it has. We knew that it measures 4.5 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.46 inch deep, but it still felt smaller than we expected when we finally held it. In comparison, it's about as tall and as wide as a Palm Treo 755p, but it manages to be thinner than even the trend-setting Motorola Razr. It fits comfortably in the hand and when held to the ear, and its 4.8 ounces give it a solid, if perhaps weighty, feel. We also like that the display is glass rather than plastic.

The iPhone's display is the handset's design showpiece and is noteworthy for not only what it shows, but also how you use it. We'll start off with its design. At a generous 3.5 inches, the display takes full advantage of the phone's size, while its 480x320 pixel resolution (160 dots per inch) translates into brilliant colors, sharp graphics, and fluid movements.

In true Apple style, the iPhone's menu interface is attractive, intuitive, and easy to use. In the main menu, a series of colored icons call out the main functions. Icons for the phone menu, the mail folder, the Safari Web browser, and the iPod player sit at the bottom of the screen, while other features such as the camera, the calendar, and the settings are displayed above. It's easy to find all features, and we like that essential features aren't buried under random menus. Fluid animation takes you between different functions, and you can zip around rather quickly.

Much has been made of the iPhone's touch screen, and rightfully so. Though the Apple handset is not the first cell phone to rely solely on a touch screen, it is the first phone to get so much attention and come with so many expectations. Depending on what you're doing, the touch screen serves as your dialpad, your keyboard, your Safari browser, and your music and video player. Like many others, we were skeptical of how effectively the touch screen would handle all those functions.

Touch screen
Fortunately, we can report that on the whole, the touch screen and software interface are easier to use than expected. What's more, we didn't miss a stylus in the least. Despite a lack of tactile feedback on the keypad, we had no trouble tapping our fingers to activate functions and interact with the main menu. As with any touch screen, the display attracts its share of smudges, but they never distracted us from what we were viewing. The onscreen dialpad took little acclimation, and even the onscreen keyboard fared rather well. Tapping out messages was relatively quick, and we could tap the correct letter, even with big fingers. The integrated correction software helped minimize errors by suggesting words ahead of time. It was accurate for the most part.

The Apple iPhone features a virtual QWERTY keyboard.

Still, the interface and keyboard have a long way to go to achieve greatness. For starters, when typing an e-mail or text message the keyboard is displayed only when you hold the iPhone vertically. As a result, we could only type comfortably with one finger, which cut down on our typing speed. Using two hands is possible, but we found it pretty crowded to type with both thumbs while holding the iPhone at the same time. What's more, basic punctuation such as periods or commas lives in a secondary keyboard--annoying. If you're a frequent texter or an e-mail maven, we suggest a test-drive first.

We also found it somewhat tedious to scroll through long lists, such as the phone book or music playlists. Flicking your finger in an up or down motion will move you partway through a list, but you can't move directly to the bottom or top by swiping and holding your finger. On the other hand, the letters of the alphabet are displayed on the right side of the screen. By pressing a letter you can go directly to any songs or contacts beginning with that letter. But the lack of buttons requires a lot of tapping to move about the interface. For example, the Talk and End buttons are only displayed when the phone is in call mode. And since there are no dedicated Talk and End buttons, you must use a few taps to find these features. That also means you cannot just start dialing a number; you must open the dialpad first, which adds clicks to the process. The same goes for the music player: since there are no external buttons, you must call up the player interface to control your tunes. For some people, the switching back and forth may be a nonissue. But for mutlitaskers, it can grow wearisome.

Criticisms aside, the iPhone display is remarkable for its multitouch technology, which allows you to move your finger in a variety of ways to manipulate what's on the screen. When in a message, you can magnify the text by pressing and holding over a selected area. And as long as you don't lift your finger, you can move your "magnifying glass" around the text. You can zoom in by pinching your fingers apart; to zoom out you just do the opposite. In the Web browser, you can move around the Web page by sliding your finger, or you can zoom in by a double tap. And when looking at your message list, you can delete items by swiping your finger from left to right across the message. At that point, a Delete button will appear.

Thanks to the handset's accelerometer (a fancy word for motion sensor), the iPhone's display orientation will adjust automatically when you flip the iPhone on its side while using the music and video players and the Internet browser. Also, a proximity sensor turns off the display automatically when you lift the iPhone to your ear for a conversation. All three are very cool.

Exterior features
The iPhone's only hardware menu button is set directly below the display. It takes you instantly back to the home screen no matter what application you're using. The single button is nice to have, since it saves you a series of menu taps if you're buried in a secondary menu. On the top of the iPhone is a multifunction button for controlling calls and the phone's power. If a call comes in at an inopportune time, just press the button once to silence the ringer, or press it twice to send the call to voice mail. Otherwise, you can use this top control to put the phone asleep and wake it up again. You can turn the iPhone off by pressing and holding the button.

The Apple iPhone speakers are located at the bottom of the phone.

Located on the left spine are a volume rocker and a nifty ringer mute switch, something all cell phones should have and which is a popular feature of Palm Treos. On the bottom end, you'll find a pair of speakers and the jack for the syncing dock and the charger cord. Unfortunately, the headset jack on the top end is deeply recessed, which means you will need an adapter for any headphones with a chubby plug. Is this customer-friendly? No.

Unfortunately, the Phone does not have a battery that a user can replace. That means you have to send the iPhone to Apple to replace the battery after it's spent (Apple is estimating one battery will keep its full strength for 400 charges--probably about three years' worth of use). The cost of the replacement is $79 plus $6.95 shipping. No, you don't really need a removable battery in a cell phone, but like many things missing on the iPhone, it would be nice to have, especially for such an expensive phone. And just what are you supposed to without a cell phone during the replacement period? Contrary to earlier reports, the SIM card is removable via a small drawer on the top of the iPhone, but other AT&T SIM cards will not work in the iPhone. That's especially troubling, as it completely defeats the biggest advantage of using a GSM phone with a SIM card. Some people have multiple phones and like to change the SIM card between their different handsets. Also, you can't use the SIM card to import contact information from another handset.

The iPhone's phone book is limited only by the phone's available memory. Each contact holds eight phone numbers; e-mail, Web site, and street addresses; a job title and department; a nickname; a birthday; and notes. You can't save callers to groups, but you can store your preferred friends to a favorites menu for easy access. You can assign contacts a photo for caller ID and assign them one of 25 polyphonic ringtones. We should note, however, that there's no voice dialing and you can't use MP3 files as ringtones. Other basic features include an alarm clock, a calculator, a world clock, a stopwatch, a timer and a notepad. There's a vibrate mode but it's a tad light.

The calendar offers day and month views, and you can use the calendar as an event reminder or a to-do list as well. The interface is clean and simple, though inputting new appointments involves a lot of tapping. There's no Week view, however. We were able to sync our Outlook contacts and calendar and our Yahoo! e-mail address book with no problems.

Bluetooth and wireless
The iPhone offers a full range of wireless functionality with support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. The Wi-Fi compatibility is especially welcome, and a feature that's absent on far too many smart phones. When you're browsing the Web, the iPhone automatically searches for the nearest Internet hot spot. Bluetooth 2.0 is also on board, which delivers faster transmission and a longer range than Bluetooth 1.2. You can use Bluetooth for voice calls, but you don't get an A2dP stereo Bluetooth profile--another item that's not necessary but would be nice to have.

Though Apple CEO Steve Jobs has explained the iPhone's lack of 3G support by saying the chipsets take up too much room and drain too much battery, we'd like the option anyway. Yes, the Wi-Fi network is great when you can get it, but AT&T's EDGE network just doesn't cut it for all other surfing. EDGE Web browsing is so slow, it almost ruins the pretty Web interface. More on this in the Performance section.

Messaging and e-mail
For your messaging needs, the iPhone offers text messaging and e-mail. As on many smart phones, a text message thread is displayed as one long conversation--a useful arrangement that allows you to pick which messages you'd like to answer. If you use another function while messaging, you can return to pick up that message where you left off. We just don't understand, however, why Apple doesn't include multimedia messaging. Sure, you can use e-mail to send photos, but without multimedia messaging you can't send photos to other cell phones--pretty much the entire point of a camera phone.

The iPhone's e-mail menu includes integrated support for Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, and Mac accounts. You can set up the phone to receive messages from other IMAP4 and POP3 systems, but you'll need to sweet-talk your IT department into syncing with your corporate exchange server. It's rumored that Apple will update the iPhone to support ActiveSync but Apple hasn't confirmed that as of this writing. You can read--but not edit--PDF, JPEG, Word, and Excel documents. Worse: you can't cut and paste text when composing messages.

iPhone's iPod
Sandwiched between all the iPhone's features lives Apple's most amazing iPod yet. The display, interface, video quality, audio quality--all of it is meticulously refined and beautiful. Unfortunately, it's trapped within a device that will cost you more than $1,000 a year just to own. CNET recently reviewed a Rolls-Royce that had a top-notch umbrella hidden inside its passenger door. Buying the iPhone for its iPod feature is a lot like buying that Rolls-Royce for its umbrella. Regardless, the iPhone is an exciting glimpse into what Apple hopefully has planned for its sixth-generation iPod. Apple has redeemed itself following the Motorola Rokr E1 debacle.

The Apple iPhone's music player lets you view album art.

On paper, the iPhone's iPod doesn't offer any features not already on a fifth-generation iPod: podcasts, videos, music, and playlists are all here, and content management with iTunes is identical. The difference rests entirely in the iPhone's interface. We've used other MP3 players that use touch interfaces, such as the Archos 704, iRiver Clix and Cowon D2, but the iPhone's unique integration of multitouch technology and a graphic user interface put it in a category all its own.

From an iPod perspective, Apple's biggest triumph with the iPhone is the fact that it has returned album artwork back into the music experience in a way that goes beyond a token thumbnail graphic. Physically flipping through your music collection in the iPhone's Cover Flow mode really brings back the visceral feel of digging through a CD or record bin. It's a tough feeling to quantify, but the real music lovers out there will appreciate how well the iPhone reconnects their digital music to a form that is both visually and physically more vivid. Even iTunes users who may already be jaded about using the Cover Flow mode on their personal computer will be surprised at how the experience is changed by using the iPhone's intuitive touch screen.

Truth be told, there is one feature that is new to the iPhone's iPod--the integrated speaker. While the iPhone's speaker sounds thin and is prone to distortion, it works in a pinch for sharing a song with a friend. Apple was also smart enough to manage its speaker volume independent of the headphone volume, so if you're listening to the speaker full-blast and then decide to plug in your headphones, you won't be deafened.

The bad news is that the iPhone's iPod leaves out the ability to manually manage the transfer of music and video content. Unlike any previous iPod, the iPhone does not allow an option for manually dragging and dropping content from an iTunes library directly to the iPhone device icon. Instead, the iPhone strictly uses defined library syncing options for collecting and syncing content from your iTunes library to the device. This should work out fine for most people, but for a device with limited memory the inability to manually manage content seems like a misstep. Our 8GB iPhone was already a quarter full after only a few hours of testing, giving us the impression that users will need to be vigilant at grooming their iPhone library. An external memory card slot is another one of those "nice to have" features.

The iPhone's music sound quality seems right in line with our experience using the 5G iPod. All the same EQ presets are available, only now they are found on the iPhone's main Settings tab. The included iPhone earbuds did a passable job for casual listening in a quiet environment. Unfortunately, the iPhone's recessed headphone jack prevented us from using many of the test headphones we're familiar with. We were just barely able to squeeze the plug of our Etymotic ER6i earphones into the jack to do the comparison.

Watching video on the iPhone is not quite as luxurious as a Creative Zen Vision: W or Archos 504, but its wide screen and bright contrast beat the fifth-generation iPod by a mile. As with previous iPods, video playback is automatically bookmarked so that playback resumes where you left off. And because the iPhone is a phone, it includes an airplane mode that will keep the music player activated while turning off the call transmitter.

The Apple iPhone's video player really takes advantage of its wide screen.

Safari browser
The Safari browser really sets the iPhone apart from the cell phone crowd. Rather than trudging through stripped-down WAP pages with limited text and graphics, the browser displays Web pages in their true form. It's a completely and surprisingly satisfying experience to see real Web pages on a screen of this size. Our only regret is that the browser does not support Flash or Java. To pan around a page, just swipe your finger across the display, and the page moves accordingly. Tap your finger on a link to open a new page and double-tap your finger to zoom in and zoom back out. You can use the arrows on the bottom of the display to move back and forth, while a multifunction button at the bottom of the display lets you open new pages and flick among them.

The Apple iPhone comes with the Safari Web browser.

Google search is the iPhone's default search tool, but you can use Yahoo search as well. When searching for information or typing URLs, you use the onscreen keyboard. It's just like typing an e-mail except that the spacebar is replaced with Web-appropriate language like ".com" and a slash. That's a nice touch.

Thanks to the accelerometer, you can tip the phone on its side for a more comfortable landscape view. It doesn't matter which direction you rotate the phone, as it will work either way. It's also nice that the onscreen keyboard appears in landscape mode when using the browser. Most Web pages looked great on the screen, but visually busy pages like can be too crowded. And because you can zoom in only a set amount, some text can still be too small to read clearly. You can store bookmarks and sync your favorite pages from your PC, but it works only for Internet Explorer and not Firefox.

You can activate the iPhone's integrated YouTube player straight from the main menu via a colored icon. Videos are organized using many of the same criteria as on the YouTube site, including Featured Clips, Most Viewed, Top Rated, and Most Recent. You can read the information attached to a video, such as the date posted and the poster's name, but you can't read comments. It doesn't appear, however, that the YouTube connection updates in real time. We uploaded a video of our own, and it didn't show up until a few hours later.

The Apple iPhone has a built-in Google Maps application.

The iPhone doesn't have integrated GPS, but it does have a widget for accessing Google Maps. You can get turn-by-turn directions between two points, with traffic information. We tried mapping routes from CNET's offices to various places. The directions were accurate. But with no GPS, the iPhone can't tell you where you are, so you'll have to figure out that yourself. Also, the lack of audio instructions will limit its usability while driving. The map interacts well with the calling functions; you can find a point of interest and ring it in just a few taps. We also like that you can get the Google satellite view.

Additional widgets point to stock information and weather reports. You can program your own tickers and get information like a share gain or loss and see the chart of a share price over time. The weather function gives you a six-day forecast for your choice of cities. For more options, there is already a selection of third-party iPhone apps. No games are included on the handset

Visual voice mail
One of the most intriguing features on the iPhone is the much-touted visual voice mail. iPhone's voice mail works much like a text-message folder in that it displays the caller's name or phone number and the time. What's even more fantastic, however, is that you can listen to the message instantly by pressing the individual message--you don't have to call your voice mail first.

The Apple iPhone has a 2-megapixel camera on the back.

The iPhone's 2-megapixel camera offers a spiffy interface with a graphic that resembles a camera shutter. You're offered no camera editing options, which we didn't expect. That means you can't change the resolution, choose a color or quality setting, or select a night mode. There's no flash either, and with no self-portrait mirror, those vanity shots are going to be tricky. The camera performed well in our tests, however. Photo quality was excellent with rich, bright colors and distinct object outlines. White looked a bit too soft, but we approve overall. On the downside, you can't shoot your own video, which is disappointing on a phone at this price.

As we said earlier, the photo menu is attractive and easy to use, particularly due to the pinching motion. You can also flip between photos by swiping your finger across the display. When selecting a photo, you're given the option of assigning it to a contact, using it as wallpaper, or e-mailing it to a friend.

Call quality
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Apple iPhone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was good for the most part, but it wasn't dependable. Though voices sounded natural, the volume was often too low, and the microphone has a sensitive sweet spot. When we moved the phone away from our ears ever so slightly, the volume diminished noticeably and we had to move the phone back to just the right place to hear clearly. The volume wasn't so bad that we weren't able to hear a friend who was in a crowded bar, but it just could be better. The speakerphone was also too quiet though conversations weren't too muffled.

CNET users have also reported volume problems, and a few people we called said they heard a slight background hiss. We didn't hear the hiss on our end, but more than one of our friends said they noticed it. Automated calling systems were able to understand us, but only if we were in a quiet room. On the whole, the call quality stayed the same in most environments.

Browser speed
Our first test with the Safari browser was over CNET's internal Wi-Fi network. Web pages loaded in 5 to 10 seconds, though sites with heavy graphics took longer. It was a smooth experience overall, though it not quite as zippy as we had hoped. We thought that could be due to CNET's network, but it seemed to be more or less the standard. Pages took about the same time to load on a home network and just a couple seconds longer in a café. When not using Wi-Fi, you're stuck with AT&T's EDGE network, which is just too slow to render the lovely Safari interface enjoyably. With speeds in the 50-to-90Kbps range, it reminded us of a dial-up browser. In other words, it's pretty intolerable. We can only hope Apple adds 3G soon, especially since AT&T has a robust UMTS/HSDPA network.

Activation was easy using iTunes 7.3. Our computer recognized the iPhone right away, and the activation system started automatically. After a few prompts, it asked us if we wanted to automatically sync contacts from Yahoo and Windows mail and contacts from Outlook. It also asked us to if we wanted to sync Internet bookmarks but, as we said earlier, it won't import Firefox bookmarks. The integration with AT&T's account service is also seamless. We were able to select a plan and indicate whether we were a current AT&T customer. It even asked us if we wanted to port a current cell phone number. In all, it's much better experience than dealing with AT&T.

It's important to note that the iPhone is little more than an expensive paperweight until it's activated. You can make emergency calls, but you can't use any other functions, including the iPod music player. What's worse, if you cancel your AT&T contract, the iPhone becomes a paperweight again.

Battery life
The Apple iPhone has a rated battery life of 8 hours talk time, 24 hours of music playback, 7 hours of video playback, and 6 hours on Internet use. The promised standby time is 10.4 days. When we tested the iPhone with the Wi-Fi function turned off, we got about 7 hours, 45 minutes of talk time. When we tested it with the Wi-Fi activated, we came away with 4 hours less. Video time, however, clocked in at an impressive 7.3 hours. Music-only time was also satisfactory. We got 28.4 hours of music playback time on a single charge. Just keep in mind that it's rare you'll be using just one feature for hours on end. As such, your battery life will vary widely as you switch between functions. Large color screens such as the one on the iPhone tend to be battery drainers, so you'll most likely need to charge your handset every couple of days. According to the FCC, the iPhone has a digital SAR rating of 0.974 watts per kilogram.


Design: 9
Features: 9
Performance: 8

The final score for every game we review is generated automatically from the individual scores that our reviewers give it. The final score is not an average of these five scores. Each of these components is weighted differently to come up with the final overall score. GameSpot has consistently applied this same rating formula since its launch in 1996.

This includes technical use of graphics, as well as the aesthetic quality of a game's appearance and presentation. Games that look impressive in still images do not automatically earn high graphics scores, because the graphical performance of a game weighs heavily into our consideration of its visuals.

This includes the quality and use of sound effects, voice acting, and music in the game. Any of these may potentially have a significant impact on the overall sound score. For instance, a game with an excellent soundtrack and sound effects may still lose points for sound if the voice acting is of low quality.

This includes everything, from the game's interface to its control to how well balanced it is. Basically, this represents how well a game plays and how enjoyable it is to play. Games very rarely earn a 10 in this category, due to how elusive games with perfect or near-perfect gameplay actually are.

For the most part, a game's value score is an indicator of the game's longevity. It represents how long you'll be able to both play and enjoy the game, and it also signifies how much replay value you'll get out of it. Breadth of gameplay options and overall volume of content both weigh heavily into this score. The retail price of a game can also figure into the value score, as can the presence or lack of similar, competitive products in the market. Finally, the overall quality of the game has some impact on its value, so, for instance, a bad game that's extremely long is still probably not worth playing.

Reviewer's Tilt (Tilt)
This score basically lets a reviewer sway the final score--either higher or lower--based on the reviewer's overall experience with a game. Here's an example: A game might have really good graphics and sound but only mediocre gameplay. As a result, it gets a low tilt score to keep the overall from being boosted too high, since the game ultimately isn't fun. Likewise, a game might have mediocre graphics and sound, but it might include a really good story and a lot of original ideas. As a result, it might get a high tilt to boost the overall score a bit, which suggests to you that you should look beyond the game's production values.

What the numbers mean

10.0 (Perfect):
This exceedingly rare score refers to a game that is as perfect as a game can ever aspire to be. A game that receives this rating could not reasonably be improved upon in any meaningful way. GameSpot is not intrinsically opposed to doling out perfect scores; we just haven't played very many games that deserve them.

9.0 to 9.9 (Excellent):
We absolutely recommend any game in this range, especially to fans of that particular genre. However, games that score in the 9 range are also well suited to new players. Games that score in this range are highly uncommon and automatically earn GameSpot's Editors' Choice Award . In practice, these games are the best of the best, so we only dole out a relatively small handful of such scores in a given year.

8.0 to 8.9 (Very good):
This score range refers to great games that are excellent in most every way and whose few setbacks probably aren't too important. We highly recommend games in the upper half of this range, since they tend to be good enough to provide an enjoyable experience to fans of the game's particular genre and to new players alike.

7.0 to 7.9 (Good):
A game within this range is good and is likely worth playing by fans of its particular genre or by those otherwise interested. While its strengths outweigh its weaknesses, a game that falls in this range tends to have noticeable faults. A low 7 represents the average score on GameSpot, which is suggestive of the fact that the typical game found on store shelves is actually pretty good.

6.0 to 6.9 (Fair):
A game within this range has certain good qualities but significant problems as well. Games that score in the 6 range may well be worth playing, but you should approach them with caution.

5.0 to 5.9 (Mediocre):
A 5-range score refers to a game that's "merely average" in the negative sense. In other words, it's mediocre. These games tend to have more weaknesses than they should, which dampens their strengths. A much better game probably exists--and it's one that you should sooner try.

4.0 to 4.9 (Poor):
Games that just don't work right and maybe didn't spend enough time in production tend to fall into this category. They simply lack the cohesion and quality that make other games fun.

3.0 to 3.9 (Very poor):
You probably shouldn't get too close to a game in this range. Any of its positive qualities most likely serves only to make the rest of it seem even more disappointing.

2.0 to 2.9 (Terrible):
Beware. A game within this range is almost entirely devoid of any effective or fully functional features.

1.0 to 1.9 (Abysmal):
Ouch. The rare game that falls in this lowest of the low ranges has no redeeming qualities at all. Don't play this game.