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Apple iPhone: Almost all of what I wanted


By Scott Bradner, Network World, 01/10/07


Apple (itÕs no longer ÒApple ComputerÓ) has joined the mobile telephone fray in a big way with CEO Steve JobsÕ announcement and demonstration of the iPhone at last weekÕs Macworld trade show.


AppleÕs Web site still is quite lacking in details about the iPhone, but based on what Jobs said and what is available on the site, itÕs a very impressive piece of work. I hope the next version is exactly what IÕd like in this type of device.


Apple calls the iPhone an Internet communications device, and that is a reasonable description. The iPhone is a lot more than a cell phone in an iPod suit. Even as a cell phone it is quite impressive, however, mostly for its user interface. Almost all user interaction takes place via an advanced, touch-sensitive screen that can be changed to suit individual tastes. The interfaces for the phone, photo and contacts applications that Jobs demonstrated look fine — even good — but they are not stop-the-presses great.


The iPhone includes a fully integrated widescreen video iPod with some very neat hacks; for example it figures out if itÕs being held vertically or horizontally and adjusts the picture to match. Most importantly, the iPhone is a full-fledged portable computer that runs the Mac OS X operating system and includes the Apple Safari Web browser with the Google and Yahoo search engines built in. In its role as portable computer, it includes Google Maps, a Post Office Protocol- and IMAP-compatible e-mail client, and a bunch of widgets (for example, one that gets the weather). It communicates over Wi-Fi, Enhanced Data for Global Evolution (enhanced GSM cell phone service) and Bluetooth, and uses the GSM cell phone technology and other wireless at the same time. The first cut at pricing is not too bad (the 8G-byte version lists for $599 with a 2-year Cingular contract, just twice as much as the 8G-byte iPod Nano).


There is a lot that Apple does not say. For example, can the iPhone be a dual-mode phone (using Wi-Fi when itÕs near a hot spot and GSM otherwise)? Will iChat work on it? How hard will it be to install additional applications — for example, a PowerPoint reader that uses Bluetooth, an adapter plugged into the iPod port to control a projector or maybe Skype)? Will universal binaries designed for my desktop or laptop Macs run properly? Can the user get to an OS X terminal (along with a keyboard display) to use Secure Shell to communicate?


Assuming the answer to all these questions is yes, a hard disk is the only thing IÕd like to see added to make the iPhone fit my ideal. There are a lot of times when I find it hard to carry my laptop, and a machine like the iPhone would do just fine if I could install the software I need. Now that would be a cool device!


Disclaimer: As far as I know, Harvard (the institution) does not use a cell phone or portable computer, so the above must be my (drooling) review.