The iPhone: We Had Hoped It Would be Great, and We Weren't Disappointed

The iPhone: We Had Hoped It Would be Great, and We Weren't Disappointed

During Steve Jobs's keynote presentation, he made "the first public iPhone call" to lead Apple Designer Jonathan Ive.


The fact that Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in his Macworld Expo keynote this morning was a surprise to few. The capabilities of the device, on the other hand, astonished everyone in attendance.


In the most-focused keynote in memory, Jobs first gave a quick overview of recent Apple successes - the Intel transition being completed in seven months rather than the planned year, the fact that over 50 percent of all new Macs sold in all U.S. retail channels are purchased by first-time Mac buyers, the recent sale of the two-billionth song from the iTunes store (which currently sells over five million songs per day), the new partnership with Paramount pictures to distribute their films on the iTunes Store, and more.


Jobs then spent a few minutes reintroducing the media-streaming device first code-named iTV and now dubbed Apple TV. Newly revealed features include auto-syncing of all media with one Mac through iTunes, support for the new 802.11n high-speed Wi-Fi technology, and the ability to auto-detect and stream media from up to five Macs - say, for example, from the MacBook that your friend brings over with a copy of her latest edit of her new music video. The Apple TV will cost $299, and will ship in February, with orders being taken starting today.


The rest of the entire keynote was devoted to the iPhone. It deserved it.


Jobs positioned the iPhone as the third genre-changing product in Apple's history, with the other two being the Mac in 1984 and the iPod in 2001. If it performs as well as it demos, he may very well be correct.


Here's a brief overview of its highlights. Tune in for later postings here on for further details.


> Wide Screen: The iPhone, which is a bit larger than the current 30/80GB iPod and 11.6 millimeters thick, has a 3.5-inch high-resolution display (160 pixels per inch). A built-in accelerometer senses whether the iPhone is being held in portrait or landscape orientation, and adjusts the display accordingly. Simply put, the display is gorgeous.


> Touch Controls: A new technology called Multi-Touch enables all of the phone's controls to be accessed through fingertip control. All of the controls are in software, and appear on the wide-screen display - accessing them, scrolling, zooming, dialing, and the like are all done through the touch screen. The elegance of the interface and the seeming ease of its use cannot be overstated.


> Enhanced iPod Capabilities: Full iPod capabilities are, of course, included, with tthe addition of wide-screen Cover Flow, and an Album View that takes good advantage of the iPhones large display.


> Multiple Sensors: In addition to the aforementioned accelerometer, a proximity sensor detects when the phone is next to your ear, and turns off the touchscreen, and an ambient light sensor adjusts the illumination of the touchscreen as needed. Both should help lengthen battery life (and keep your earlobe from dialing your bookie).


> Mac OS X: The software underlying the iPhone's capabilities is Mac OS X, and thus benefits from such OS X technologies as syncing, networking, multitasking, power management, security, the Cocoa framework, Core Animation, and more. The iPhone is more a pocket computer than a mere phone.


> Visual Voicemail: This is Apple's term for something we've all wanted for years: non-linear access to voicemail. It essentially works like email for voicemail. All your voicemail messages are displayed in a list on the iPhone's display, and you can pick and choose which one you want to listen to first, next, and last.


> Wi-Fi and Bluetooth: The iPhone automatically detects when it is in range of a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signal, and upgrades to Wi-Fi when it's available.


> Address Book Integration: The iPhone is tightly integrated with contacts in Mac OS X's Address Book, syncing with them, and using their data and images extensively in phone, email, and SMS services.


> HTML Email: A full-featured, graphics-rich email service is included - Yahoo Mail has partnered with Apple to provide free push IMAP email service. Inline photos and rich text are fully supported in email messages, both received and sent.


> Photo Management: In addition to photos taken with the iPhone's built-in two-megapixel camera, all iPhoto images and iTunes videos can be synced with the iPhone, where they can be viewed and shared over email with full multi-tasking capability. For example, while you are in the middle of a phone call, you can search your photo library and email a photo to the person with whom you are speaking.


> Multi-Session SMS Messaging: Using an interface reminiscent of iChat and a touch-screen keyboard that has both predictive and auto-error-detection/correction of spelling, you can hold multiple concurrent SMS chats.


> Conference Calls: Multiple phone calls can be "merged" with a one-touch control for easy conference calling.


> Safari: Web browsing is nothing short of amazing, with full Safari support. Full Web pages can be displayed in both portrait and landscape modes. Zooming into Web page areas for readability is accomplished either through double-touching the desired area, or using a two-finger "pinch" maneuver that's also used for zooming into photos.


> Google Maps: Not only is Google Maps fully integrated, but Google Earth is as well; you can now, for example, use Google Maps to find your favorite sushi restaurant in Manhattan, call them up to make a reservation with a one-touch button click, then view them in fully rendered Google Maps images.


> Widgets: Two Dashboard style widgets will ship with the iPhone at launch: a stock ticker and a weather indicator. No mention was made about third-party widget development.


The iPhone is far more than a phone - it's an OS X-based computing platform. We look forward to talking with Apple reps to find out how open the iPhone will be to third-party developers.


The iPhone will ship in June (Jobs said that the delay is due to the need for FCC approval), and will come in two models: a 4GB unit for $499 and an 8GB unit for $599. The exclusive carrier will be Cingular (the two companies announced a "multi-year exclusive partnership"); the iPhone will be sold in both Apple and Cingular stores. Two accessories were also announced: an earbud set that includes an on-cord microphone and phone on/off switch, and an exceptionally tiny Bluetooth headset. Battery life was reported to be five hours for full-featured use, including calls, mail, video, and so on, and 16 hours for audio.


And that was the keynote. No iLife '07, no dual quad-core Mac Pros, no revelation of Leopard's still-secret "extra features," and no "And one more thing..." Just the announcement of a device that's has a very good chance of changing the way we communicate by voice and text, share media, and access information on the Web. Change for the better that is. Much better.



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