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11/1/2007
06:39 PM
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iPhone Named 'Invention Of The Year'

The device's critical shortcomings did not overshadow Time's endorsement of the touch-screen smartphone.

Time magazine has named Apple's iPhone "invention of the year," citing is design, innovative touch screen, and potential for changing the tech industry's approach to mobile computing.

While bestowing the honor on the popular cellular phone/handheld computer, Time acknowledged the iPhone's flaws: the device's on-screen keyboard is too hard to type on, the gadget is too big for a mobile phone, there no instant messaging, it doesn't work on most people's work e-mail, and it's locked to service provider AT&T.

Nevertheless, those shortcomings didn't overshadow the five elements Time listed as making the device special.

First is its design. The iPhone and its software let someone discover, understand and use its features without having to read a manual. "All the cool features in the world won't do you any good unless you can figure out how to use said features, and feel smart and attractive while doing it," Lev Grossman, Time book and technology writer, said in an article announcing the magazine's choice.

Second was the iPhone touch screen, which offers a new kind of interface that gives people the illusion of physically manipulating data with their fingers. People can use their digits, for example, to flip through album covers, click links, and resize photos. "This is, as engineers say, nontrivial," Grossman said. "It's part of a new way of relating to computers."

Third is more to do with Apple chief executive Steve Jobs than iPhone engineers. In negotiating the deal with AT&T to carry the iPhone, Jobs made sure that Apple held the right to build the device anyway it saw fit. This was unprecedented in an industry where carriers often have a hand in the development of mobile phones. Now that Apple has shown that manufacturers know more about design than carriers, other cellular phone makers are expected to demand more freedom, which should lead to more innovation, according to Time.

Fourth is Apple's decision to make the iPhone a genuine handheld computer. Because the device runs on a mobile version of the Mac OS X, the iPhone is truly a platform on which we can take Web applications, such as Google Maps, from cyberspace and onto the streets where they'll be most useful.

Finally, by selling 1.4 million units since the iPhone's release June 29, Apple has shown that there's enough of a demand to keep the gadget around for a while. As a result, the iPhone is likely to evolve into something far better, much like the first iPod over the last six years. "It'll be very cool," Grossman said of the future iPhone. "And it'll be even cheaper."

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