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New cool The Apple iPhone

By Michael Waskiewicz

Fort Wayne Reader

2007-01-23


The big news over the past few weeks has been Apple's announcement of its new iPhone. Steve Jobs predicts that "Apple will do for communications what [Apple] did for music." He is, of course, referencing the uber-successful iPod. But is the iPhone really that good? And can Apple really "change" the way we communicate?

I think the answer is simple. Yes, the iPhone is really that good. And no, it won't change the way we communicate.

The iPhone is a spectacular piece of hardware that is an impossible thing of beauty. I think only Apple could deliver a device as elegant as the iPhone seems (it's important to note that only a handful of people have even seen the iPhone, much less used it). It has everything your current phone has, but like most Apple products, it does it better. iPhone boasts a giant, gorgeous widescreen display and a built in accelerometer that will adjust the display depending on which angle your viewing the screen.

The iPhone is a PDA, an iPod and phone all at once. It seems to excel at all of these functions, which is good news for those that would like to replace all or any of these devices. The iPhone has a streamlined version of Apple OS X on board, which means that the phone has the potential to be tremendously expandable. New applications (although third-party software support seems tenuous at this point) can be added at anytime, just like your computer, making your phone a device that can evolve over time. Look at your current phone and chances are it is exactly the same now as when you originally bought it.

The inclusion of OS X on iPhone cannot be understated. It is, in my opinion, the nicest and easiest to use operating system out there. The applications on iPhone are pretty, they're integrated, uncannily easy to use and match in use to their desktop cousins. The phone contains obvious applications like an address book, calendar, and notes, and barely useful apps like clock and dialer. But because iPhone also includes wi-fi, it contains a fully-capable internet browser and e-mail application. It also has integrated weather software and a custom-built Google Maps program. And, of course, it has a built-in iPod. All software is intuitively controlled with your fingers on a proprietary new type of touch-screen.

One of iPhones most important technological advancements is the multi-touch display. Touch screens, like those on PDAs, only have one point of contact. iPhone has, at least, two. This makes fast and practical touch-screen typing faster and more accurate. There is also built in photo-app that allows to stretch and cut images by using two fingers.

So the iPhone is great, will it change the way we communicate? As stated earlier, "No." Aside from probably being the coolest portable device ever created, it's still just a phone. It dials numbers like other phones. It keeps your contacts like other phones. You can text-message like other phones. It will make communicating easier, and maybe more fun. But the iPhone doesn't create new ways in which we talk to each other. This isn't to say it won't be very successful; I think it will. But communications history won't be looked at in "before and after the iPhone" terms, the same way we regard the iPod. One thing Apple could do (and I'm sure it's already on their plate for version 2) to really change communications is add practical, hi-resolution video communication.

I do think the iPhone has two glaring flaws. One flaw is an issue I've brought up before, overly-shiny devices. The iPhone is completely touch-controlled and is encased in a shiny metal and plastic enclosure. This means every time you touch the phone, your fingerprints will stain your beautiful piece of hardware. I'm tired of having to wipe down my devices from normal use, and I'm tired of this being an issue that Apple, the biggest culprit, won't recognize and fix.

The other problem with the iPhone is a little harder to grasp. It is a strategy that Apple uses by leveraging the "cool" factor of their devices against our constant desire to have something bigger and better. I'm talking about the inevitable fact that one year after the expensive iPhone launches, Apple will release a new iPhone with larger capacity and some other must have feature. This means that gadget-freaks like myself will drop another $500 down to get the iPhone Plus (or whatever they call it). Nintendo and Apple both have an ability to re-release an identical product and make me want to buy it again. A portable phone is something that should be kept for at least three years before replacing. And I know Apple too well to believe that iPhone will be on a three-year development cycle.

The iPhone will be released in two different versions. The 4GB model will retail for $499 and the 8GB model for $599. Apple will be using the Cingular/ATT network for service. iPhone is set to be released this Summer.

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