Apple Buyers' Guide: Apple's Amazing iPhone - InformationWeek

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10:39 AM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner

Apple Buyers' Guide: Apple's Amazing iPhone

The phenomenal success of Apple's iPhone doesn't mean that everyone should immediately go out and buy one. Does it?

Should you buy an iPhone now? I've been a satisfied iPhone owner since June 29, 2007, the day they came out. My iPhone works great, I'm very happy with it, and I think it's very reasonably priced considering what it does. Nonetheless, I advise against buying one. Why the contradictory advice?

The newly-introduced iPod touch features the iPhone's multi-touch user interface and incorporates Wi-Fi wireless networking.
(click image for larger view)

The newly-introduced iPod touch features the iPhone's multi-touch user interface and incorporates Wi-Fi wireless networking.

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The iPhone is Apple's attempt to revolutionize the cell-phone market, the same way that the iPod revolutionized digital music players. Like the iPod, the iPhone's specs and capabilities aren't particularly innovative. It's a combination cell phone, music and video player, cameraphone, Web browser, and e-mailer, with built-in mapping through Google apps. It connects using either Wi-Fi or the AT&T EDGE network. Other cell phones, like the Nokia N95 do all those things, and have more impressive hardware specs.

But, like the iPod, the iPhone has an intuitive user interface that is superior to the competition's, making it a potentially revolutionary device.

The iPhone is a slim, black slab that fits into the palm of a medium-sized hand. It's got an intuitive interface for dialing and managing calls, including "visual voicemail," which displays a list of your voicemail messages, so you can pick and choose which messages you want to listen to, rather than having to listen to all of them in sequence, like conventional voicemail.

It displays video and photos in sharp detail. It does e-mail and text messages. A Google Maps application shows maps and driving directions.

But the most remarkable thing of all is that you can easily browse most Web pages on that little device. Most smartphone Web browsers are pathetic, crippled compromises, unable to display the overwhelming majority of the pages on the Web (see David DeJean's article Smartphone Browser Shootout: Palm, BlackBerry, HTC Vs. iPhone). But the Safari browser built into the iPhone can take pretty much any Web page you throw at it, with the exception of pages that require Flash. (That means no YouTube -- but don't worry, there's a YouTube application built into the iPhone, so you can carry your cat-falling-off-table fun with you wherever you go.)

All of this functionality is controlled by technology that Apple calls "multitouch." The iPhone has a very sensitive touchscreen which you control with more than one finger. For example, the iPhone makes large Web pages readable on the tiny interface by artfully zooming in and out on sections of the pages. Some of that zooming is automatic -- if you tap twice on a column of text, the iPhone will zoom so that the column fits the whole screen. But if you hold your index finger and thumb pinched together on the surface of the iPhone, and spread them out, the iPhone zooms in on the section of a Web page underneath your fingers. Pinch the spread fingers together, and the iPhone zooms back out again.

The iPhone synchs with your Mac or PC through iTunes, synching music and videos, photos, e-mail, address book and calendar. On the Mac, you can just drop it in the cradle and forget about it. PC users, however, report problems.

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