The wait is finally over. It’s here in all its multi-touch glory – at long last Apple’s eagerly anticipated iPhone is on UK shores.

Since it was announced at Macworld back in January and every tech blog, gadget mag and newspaper declared it ‘the greatest thing since oxygen’, any self-respecting gadgeteer has been clamouring after this Holy Grail of technology. And can it live up to the hype? Of course it can – in almost every way.

Hold the iPhone in your hand and it feels space age (the image of planet earth that’s set as the default wallpaper might have something to do with that) while the huge 3.5in screen and one-button front make it look like a prop from a sci-fi movie.

The wow factor

The ‘wow’ moments start at the very beginning. Unlike most phones – which require a certain combination of button presses to unlock – the iPhone has an on-screen bar which you slide to the right with your finger to be immediately plunged into its icon driven main menu.

And it’s these wonders of the multi-touch interface that really make the iPhone so special. Touchscreen tech is nothing new in itself but Apple is the first to implement it in a way that makes something as every day as navigating menus so fresh, fun and so gloriously intuitive. Browsing the web is the same and in some ways is even more pleasurable on an iPhone than a PC or Mac.

Rather than just the single-fingered prodding that we’ve seen so many times before, the iPhone’s multi-touch screen can detect the presence of more than one digit. Pictures can now be browsed with a flick of the finger while pinching your fingers together or moving them apart again zooms in and out. Reading about it can only achieve so much so watch our hands-on video to see it in action.

Despite the choice of merely 8GB or 16GB of storage, the iPhone’s also up there with the Touch as the greatest iPod ever made. CoverFlow browsing (which, thanks to the accelerometer, activates automatically when you turn the iPhone on its side) is easily the coolest way to flick through your music, and the new iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store lets you download tracks from any hotspot directly to the iPhone – you can even choose from the high-quality DRM-free fare on iTunes Plus.

Don’t believe the hype?

Any gadget that gets hyped as much as the iPhone will always have some niggling issues which let it down and with the iPhone it’s really the lack of 3G. The EDGE network that O2 has put in place is noticeably quicker than the snail’s-pace GPRS but it still somewhat cripples what is normally an awesome browsing experience. Luckily iPhone owners on O2 contracts get free access to all 7500 Wi-Fi hotspots run by The Cloud.

The much-criticised on-screen keyboard is also an issue, although we found that if you just put a bit of trust in your finger and try not to think about it too much, nine times out of ten it’ll hit the right letter. A little bit of haptic feedback would be nice, as would proper Bluetooth functionality; right now it’s limited to just pairing headsets and doesn’t support A2DP.

The recessed headphone jack is another puzzler. It means that the only buds that’ll work with your iPhone are the sub-standard pair bundled in the box. To use any others you’ll either need to hack away at the rubber on the jack or invest in a special adaptor – Griffin and Belkin both make one.

Yes, there are more powerful phones out there than the iPhone; Nokia’s N95 is a veritable Swiss army knife of features and Sony Ericsson’s K850 is a better camphone but neither have anything even approaching the incredible ingenuity of multi-touch.

You’ll want one, your friends will want one, and your dog wants one. Admit it to yourself and embrace a tech legend.

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