The Apple iPhone. OK, I give

OK, I was just gonna stay out of it, but everyone’s asking if I’ve pre-ordered mine, so figured I’d chime in.

First, I should say my favorite version of the keynote was on Mad TV this last weekend. “iPhone, disappear me!”

What I think is groundbreaking: The interface. After seeing a “direct desktop manipulation” demonstration a few years ago (it’s since found it’s way to YouTube, a big whiteboard/Star Wars like translucent screen you manipulate with your hands) I knew some form of that would find it’s way to real application. Apple’s been moving away from menu/form based interaction to direct interaction for a while now. the next evolution of drag-n-drop. iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand all visualize your content, and allow you to directly manipulate that data as objects. A small leap from there goes to manipulating it with your fingers, not just a mouse. One advantage you get from fingers you don’t with a mouse what Apple dubbed “multi-touch”, being able to resize/select by using multiple contact points and gestures. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m sucked into Job’s Reality Distortion Field here, in fact, Apple didn’t actually invent this, they’re just bringing an implementation to market. But, this kind of manipulation/interaction is going to be as groundbreaking and widespread as the mouse is today. I’m expecting my wall-display, and my desk-surface-display, with direct touch interaction, will be as common as an LCD monitor is in 5-10 years. Likely I’ll have a portable device (like, um, an iPhone) which will act as my “universal” remote, mirroring these displays, so I don’t have to get out of my easy chair to manipulate the screen.

The rest of the interface. I expect that to have the characteristic “Apple gets how to interact/navigate in a new way”. And others will inevitably follow. Apple and often Adobe generally “get” how to make things lovely, and generally easy to interact with (yeah, I know all about Photoshop, I’m thinking Lightroom though :-).

The hype. OK, now as to the rest. It’s just a phone/internet device, and a first generation one with compromises to get it to market. Palm, Windows Mobile, and Nokia/Psion/Symbian have had this basic concept for a long time. And, a device without add-on software from 3rd parties all the others have (for now). It won’t replace my Nokia E61, ’cause I won’t have VOIP, I won’t have an easy to use calculator I like, and it won’t have an IM application (I use IM+ on Symbian). I won’t have TomTom navigator on my phone (or a choice of 2 or more navigation options, for that matter). Practically speaking, surveys stated that something like 2% of people ever added software to their phones (including games). Using that logic, the iPhone has the right tradeoff. But, those 2% are the bleeding-edge early adopters, so you’ll loose them right off.

For example, I heard you saying “but it WILL have an IM application!” No it won’t, it’ll have an SMS application. That makes great sense to cellular operators. They love text/multimedia messaging, and they charge per message, or charge you a goodly amount for unlimited messaging. A chat-like program will likely boost the number of messages sent and received. Good for Cingular, not really good for me. IM services, even the commercial ones, are FREE. I have accounts on Jabber (and my own server), AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Google, since I have friends on all of these (but most only one one or two). I can use them from my phone, and my computers. My friends use IM, almost universally. I understand the under 30 crowd (or under 25 crowd maybe) use SMS constantly, and pick service plans based on how cheap unlimited messaging is. But, in my crowd, it’s 50/50 IM and SMS. This isn’t iChat, this is an SMS messaging front end, and as a big for instance, my wife does IM, but doesn’t do SMS. She doesn’t want an iPhone, she likes her simple basic “dial-by-number” mobile phone. She’s not alone.

The address book is probably prettier than my E61, and might integrate even better with my Mac. I can find things pretty fast with partial searching on the keyboard. I use that mostly to dial too, not typing numbers, so I don’t need an iPhone for that. I think that’ll be the same with all the “productivity” apps. Prettier, easier to use, better integrated with my Mac. Good for us Mac folks, probably only slightly compelling to others (except those who’ve added custom apps to handle this on their phones, but we’ve already gone over why they won’t be jumping on this wagon).

Speaking of typing, I can’t easily touch-type with a virtual keyboard I’ve met yet. If anyone can make that work, it’ll be Apple, so I’ll try. You gotta look at this thing to manipulate it, almost certainly. That theoretical issue has been widely mentioned, we’ll see how it works in practice. Maybe it will work as well as the click wheel of my iPod, we’ll see.

Oh, and I can listen to music on my E61, and it fades out when a call comes in, and fades back in after the call. It was embarrassing to tout that as a feature in the keynote. I’m sure every Windows smartphone does that too. The music player isn’t nearly as good as an iPod, but it works in a pinch. Oh, and I can download Podcasts on the road for later listening, and given my E61 has wireless and cellular coverage, that happens pretty quickly. That’ll happen eventually on the iPhone, they’ve gotta enable on-the-phone iTunes purchases and downloads sooner or later.

Thinking of it as a better PSP for movies (’cause I can convert my movies a lot easier than it is now) with at least twice the battery life, I’d use it as a mobile video viewer (which I do on airplane flights). And as a mobile calendar/address book/email appliance with full Mac integration, it’s cool. Not “$600 with 8GB and no memory card support cool” for most, but cool. Wonder if it’ll be able to play music using Pandora?

Will I buy one? I’m a total gadget freak, so almost certainly. It won’t replace my E61 though until it can do real multi-platform IM at a minimum, and hopefully some form of real-time navigation as well (I saw Google maps, I didn’t see the “I also know where you are now” component shown, or discussed), so it’ll be another device to carry, but it will replace the iPod I carry, and the PSP I carry when I travel, so for me it’ll be conservation of Gadget.

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