Yes, I touched an iPhone 3G: At Apple's big developer event kickoff on Monday, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone 3G. Later that day, in a briefing, I was able to handle and use the phone briefly. It's lovely. But its inclusion of 3G service coupled with Wi-Fi, as well as a real GPS chip coupled with assistive cell-tower triangulation and Wi-Fi network location approximation means that you have a device that might fairly replace a computer for many purposes. I've had an iPhone with 2G (EDGE) service since its release, and I recently took a two-day trip with my older son leaving my computer behind. (I was able to use a relative's machine, but only did so to be able to type email more efficiently.) If Apple would simply allow the use of the Bluetooth HID profile (human interface devices) for keyboard and mouse support, a compact foldable keyboard would be the only accessory I would need.
Note that the iPhone 2G and 3G aren't more powerful than other, similar devices. Symbian platform devices from Nokia and others are in notably short supply in the US, but come in great quantities and varieties elsewhere, and have some pretty impressive computational power; Nokia owns nearly 50 percent of the worldwide smartphone market. Likewise, you can run desktop-to-mobile programs under Windows Mobile that let you have real computer applications repackaged for better use in the smaller form.
But that's not what the iPhone is about. It's a non-compromise device, even when a little compromise might help. The lack of a touch-typist keyboard hinders data entry, but it doesn't restrict any other purpose of the device. The inclusion of those keyboards is a huge compromise for all its competitors, even though it allows those competitors to act more like little computers.
And that's where it's odd for me. The iPhone is much more like a full-blown computer than any smartphone I've used. It might be the superior browser, and the fact that a single company and design vision has ensured the maximum CPU is available for each current task, and that the interface and actions are nearly always consistent across every piece of software. Contrast that with many smartphones that don't just have ugly interfaces, crippled Web browsers, and varying input methods, but also require you to learn a different approach to using nearly every different piece of software on the phone.
Apple isn't about to kill its competitors, but they are providing an odd amount of support for killing a laptop.
On a slightly tangential front, Apple CEO Steve Jobs claim that their phone's 3G speed was nearly that of Wi-Fi requires some explanation. Jobs needed a footnote: "compared to typical Wi-Fi hotspots that have about 1.5 Mbps of downstream backhaul." The iPhone is clearly processor limited for how fast it can render Web pages and handle network processing. If you stick an iPhone on a 10 Mbps-backed network via Wi-Fi, the browsing experience isn't very different than on a 1.5 Mbps-backed Wi-Fi hotspot, in my experience with the current phone.
So clearly, there's more optimization to be done and more hardware upgrades to come in order to have a mobile device that can live up to whatever network it generally works on. For the iPhone 3G, Wi-Fi is an alternative, but it's clearly not intended as a superior alternative.