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 here...you 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.
The 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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