Saturday, June 30, 2007


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This post was featured on Broadside Online.

The most sought after item of the last few months has finally arrived and the crowds met it with the force of a thousand suns. Apple, Inc's new iPhone (part phone, part iPod, part internet device), has been rumored for at least a year on the internet and was announced back in January at Macworld 2007. On Friday, the iPhone was released and since then I have hunted both stores and the vastness of the internet (mostly with the help of Digg) in order to bring you the finest iPhone coverage possible. If you need more info than is contained need to just buy an iPhone!

The iPhone has found a place in many people's hearts. Apple fanboys (and fangirls, too) automatically love this new tech toy because their demigod, Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, made this his pet project and pretty much reworked the phone to scream "Apple!" In fact, it is a Mac in all truthfulness. It runs a full version of Mac OS X (the Mac operating system) and has Apple's Safari browser built in. Applications from Apple and its partners are most likely going to work very seamlessly because they will be designed within Apple's closed architecture. Outside developers for the iPhone were sated when Jobs described how Safari will allow them to design web applications that are analogous to the on-board programs that come with the iPhone. Overall, users long frustrated with stripped-down, mobile versions of various operating systems (Palm, Windows Mobile) will be overjoyed if the iPhone turned out to be as stable as promised.

Mac nuts are not the only crowd targeted by the hype of the last few months. Until now, the Palm Treo and the RIM Blackberry have held the majority of the smartphone market in their grasp. Smartphones are the traditional tool of corporate executives, as they can send and receive email, browse the web, and have a full QWERTY keyboard. They are the baby of advanced cell phones and PDAs. Unfortunately, the parents are entirely different species (if you will allow me to carry my metaphor a little longer) and often smartphones are confusing and too complex for their own good. The tiny keyboards especially aggravate users because they are hard to type on for a long time.

Apple seeks to fix some of the aggravations in the iPhone by delivering a much more intuitive interface. The screen is all touch screen, with the exception of one button that returns the user to "home" (read: Show Desktop). The menu is foolproof, the applications cover most of the bases (calendar, mail, web, stocks, weather, etc), and they keypad can be summoned from a designated button. The typing has been described by some as being different from what they're used to, but reasonably learnable. Walt Mossberg's review in the Wall Street Journal noted, "After five days of use, Walt [...] 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." The smart software the review refers to is a very cool program that anticipates what words the user is in the process of typing and where they are most likely to type next. Its a thing better seen with one's own eyes and Apple's video on the subject does a good job explaining it.

The thing that impresses everyone, Apple fanboys, Crackberry addicts, and luddites alike, is the brilliant screen and the integration of touch functionality. The screen, first of all, is 3.5in and is covered with a protective glass surface (unlike most iPods, which have a plastic coating that is more easily scratched). The screen's orientation changes with the way it is being held. When going from vertical to horizontal, it senses the motion through an accelerometer and flips the screen for cinema viewing. This allows for different dimensions of content without distorting the picture. TV shows, movies, music, and photos call all be viewed on the iPhone, just like a regular iPod. It syncs with iTunes and can take in calendar appointments and contacts from a number of organizer programs.

The touch screen, as mentioned above, is very responsive and intuitive, and even allows for actions with more than one finger at a time. When viewing photos, a "pinch" will zoom closer into the photo. Albums can be viewed in "Coverflow," as in iTunes, and a user can "flick" from one end of their collection to the other. Even the key lock for putting it in one's pocket utilized a swipe of the finger.

The phone will only be carried on AT&T (who bought and rebranded Cingular) and will support WiFi, EDGE (AT&T's wireless web service), and 2.5G networks. Many are hesitant to change from their carrier to AT&T because they either don't like the brand or don't want to break their current contracts. Also, many are skeptical about the absence of 3G support, the current standard for phone-to-internet connectivity. When away from a WiFi hotspot or EDGE area, the connection will slow to about the same speed as dial-up.

Bluetooth is supported on the iPhone and for business execs who like to stair at wait staff while talking to a far away colleague, they will find the minimalistic iPhone earpiece (looks like a pen cap) to their liking.

There are two models, a 4GB version for $499 and an 8GB version for $599. The price is high, but obviously not high enough to keep down the long lines of tech enthusiasts who showed up to purchase iPhones at AT&T and Apple stores. I took a trip down Lee Highway and counted about 20-30 people lined-up outside of the two closest AT&T stores to campus. This was about two hours prior to the iPhone launch at the stores. The line waiters had lawn chairs, coolers, and almost everyone there had a book to read. They were there for the long haul. At larger stores around the country, the lines grew to hundreds.

Here's what you get in the package: iPhone, new "cut away" dock, charger + cord, earbuds/microphone, and documentation. The image below is from Engadget's step-by-step unboxing. Check out their whole gallery if you really want a good look at all the parts.

iPhone AssortmentThe iPhone is a complex device to say the least. The technology contained within is just as intricate as in any computer, but in a much smaller form factor. A number of critics are quick to point out a number of features that are missing such as Flash support and interchangeable SIM cards [Edit: This post at Engadget seems to indicate that old SIM cards will work for AT&T customers...conflicting reports at this point]. Then again, the battery life is very impressive compared to many smartphones, and it has some novel features such as "visual voicemail," which puts an end to irritating voice messaging menus. In the end, time will tell whether the iPhone flops, becomes a success, or even changes the phone market on the whole.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

iPhone Coverage Coming Soon!

Just so you know, two things will be happening soon. First of all, the iPhone will be released tomorrow (Friday the 29th) and I will be writing a comprehensive outline of everything you NEED to know about this crazy new device. Second, after its release, I will dedicate myself to not talking about Apple products so much. Apple pretty much overshadowed everything cool that has come out recently, so finding other stories has been challenging (plus I've been busy drooling over the iPhone...). If you're not familiar with the mighty iPhone, go to ( and check out the main video that they have put out. It is very well done and explains all of the important features.

Look for my article sometime near the end of the weekend. And yes I plan to get one at some point (maybe when it gets 3G support).

Happy line-waiting!

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Time for Your Comprehensive WWDC Coverage!

I waited until the end of this week and of my vacation to begin writing, as I thought it was best to ensure that no further news would come out.  WWDC, as I explained in two posts back, is a conference for developers who work with Apple products.  Steve Jobs always gives an interesting keynote to unveil the season's Apple updates.  I won't cover every single detail for brevity's sake, but feel free to watch the keynote yourself (high def version), it is always a fun show.  As a nifty side note, Steve and his wife drive cars with no license plates at all (according to Cali's "Geek Brief" podcast at GeekBrief.TV) because they kept getting stolen.  Instead they have a much harder to remove bar code sticker.

There were three main components to the keynote: Leopard, Safari, and iPhone (in that order).  Before Steve began his main spiel, he invited a number of big wigs from the gaming and graphics people over to talk about the newfound support for games on the Mac.  Personally, I found this to be a rather feeble attempt to break the stereotype that Mac users can't be gamers.  Coming out and announcing that someone will in fact be making games of quality for the Mac seems to reinforce such a stereotype instead of nullifying it.  Even so, it is a promising move and the new graphics stuff looked sweet.

Steve finally started the keynote in his usual calculated and charismatic way that makes Mac fanboys drool.  He began with a few of the changes to the desktop of Leopard, outlining, among other things, a new look for the dock that allows for better integration with windows sharing the same space on the screen.  The dock will be further updated with something called stacks, which basically creates graphically browsable folders that live on the surface of the dock.  Finally, windows will be more uniform across all Apple applications (in response to an old complaint of some Mac users).

The next area rose up one level from the desktop and related to the new interface for Finder.  This includes all regular file windows.  If you are truly interested, I would suggest viewing the keynote itself as the changes are very detailed but the interface can be summed up in one word...iTunes.  Basically the cool sidebar and coverflow of iTunes have been cast over the [I thought] confusing sidebar of the original OS X.  Also, the search feature has been expanded to include other Macs in a network and .Mac content. 

There is also new functionality called Quick Look that allows almost any native document to be previewed without actually opening the host program for that document.  This is handy when looking for old documents and needing to look for specific pieces of those documents. 

An exciting little system upgrade note...Leopard is entirely 64 bit and seems to be backward compatible with 32 bit apps.  This is great because it really pushes developers to develop for 64 bit and does not separate the operating system into a 32 bit version and a 64 bit version.  To demonstrate, Steve did a demo showing 32 bit and 64 bit versions of the same program running the same task, side by side.  Aside from the fact that that is a neat trick, the 64 bit version ran much faster.

Running along with the system performance train, Steve introduced the new "core animation" for Leopard, which integrates specific animation packages into Leopard's interface so that application designers need only invoke those packages to produce some really neat effects.  Again, this is a developer conference, so this kind of announcement is really only important to those hoping to design in the Mac format.  That being said, Steve showed off a cool modification of the Apple TV video where he could interactively sort a lot of movies graphically.  It was pretty neat and I think future Leopard users can likely expect more cool stuff of this type in their daily usage.

One of the coolest, though probably predictable, announcements was the integration of Boot Camp into Leopard.  For those who don't know, Boot Camp allows users to dual boot, or switch operating systems on restart, between Mac and Windows.  The beta of this software has been out for some time, but now it will become a fully supported part of the Mac OS.  This step breaks down another obstacle between user conversions from Windows to Mac.  Steve also noted that the virtualization and emulation softwares, VMware and Parallels, will continue to be developed for users who don't quite need to dual boot.

Another cool feature will be Spaces.  This was already announced to some degree, but basically Spaces allows the user to divide their applications into up to four panes that they can switch between.  This way games, music, and other applications can all be in their own dedicated desktop without having to share the space and clutter it.  This is already a feature in many Linux distrobutions (such as Ubuntu, which I'm experimenting with) and AOL's browser has something similar, but seeing it hit a mainstream interface is pretty nifty.

Widgets got a new update.  Safari has had new functionality added to it in order to clip boxes and frames off of the web and turn them into widgets.  Those widgets then stay updated just as though one were visiting the website itself.  Not a huge deal but a nice functionality add-on.

The audio and interface of iChat are both going to be upgraded and now will include tabs.  Also, some of the flashy funtionality from Photo Booth will be added to the video capabilities.  This includes a new backdrop feature that allows for sweet looking "green screen" effects (sans green screen).  Finally, iChat, via Quick Look, will now have the capability to play different types of media that everyone videochatting will be able to see.  That last feature is called iChat Theator.  I've always thought iChat was a cool program because the video aspect is not just a neat option but truely a solid feature with the advent of built in cameras. 

Time Machine might just be the most important change to OS X.  I say this because backing up files is rapidly becoming necessary, yet often complex, process.  Time Machine simply backs-up all files automatically (though the interface for that was not shown) and has an easy graphical interface for finding old files.  The interface uses a combination of Spotlight and Quick Look to enable quick browsing through thousands of historical files.  Best of all, it's all streaming out of a crazy, glowing nebula so as to easy the stress of finding lost stuff. ;)

Well that's it for Leopard, no need to dwell any longer on here's the last two bits:

Safari is on has tabs...they can's being bundled with

Finally, iPhone will allow 3rd party developers to create apps for the iPhone through Safari.  Basically iPhone apps will be compliant AJAX mixed with any other standard Web 2.0 technologies that come along.  They look very similar to the normal applications of the phone, but of course, the require an internet connection, so there could be some limitations down the road.  Here are some of the early apps for live preview.

It should come as no surprise that this was a rather uneventful keynote (like no new hardware announcements or unexpected major updates).  WWDC is all about the developers and often consumer electronics take a backseat and must wait for their own announcements (like what the iPhone will invariably have) or until MacWorld, a truly consumer-oriented event.  Have faith that the iPhone release (on June 29th) will be much more ostentatious than the rather underwhelming WWDC keynote.

Whew!  What a long article.  Well those darn keynotes keep getting longer and longer.  Please leave feedback and any questions you have about these updates.  Also, I'm going to simply list my as of yet unmentioned sources instead of trying to sneak them in parenthetically:
These sites have been very helpful in getting all of the info together.

PS: This is the second version of this article, as the first draft was destroyed by a system crash...hope it turned out as well as the first, though I suppose you'll never know!

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The content of this page is completely the creation and opinion of James Rogers. He is affiliated with Connect Mason and formerly Broadside Online but the relationship only governs republication, not content.

Further, in the interest of full disclosure, this author holds minor financial investments in Apple, Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices.