Today at MacWorld expo Apple introduced the iPhone. I am rarely inspired to write about any product introduction, but I think this one is as paradigm shifting as the original Macintosh, QuickTime, and the iPod. And this device presents many new creative opportunities for media makers. No longer will getting good video to a smart phone be a hassle like it is now with so many formats. Just publish your video as an iTunes compatble video podcast and that’s that. I was expecting Apple to introduce a 16:9 video iPod and a separate iPhone, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the iPhone (in the best Apple design tradition) combines a phone, widescreen iPod, e-mail, and web browsing in one small elegant Internet connected device. Like earlier major milestones in Apple history this new device introduces a whole new platform and a reinvention of an entire product category. Unlike the ill-fated interface of the Newton (remember those?) the new iPhone user interface seems well suited to the form factor of the device.
Rather than introduce a device that tries to do it all (again, I’m thinking of the ill-fated Newton concept), iPhone seems to focus on doing a few things very well. The interface is the most interesting aspect of the device, replacing the many tiny keyboard buttons found in SmartPhones with a multi-touch display that alllows you to control iPhone with your fingers. And for filmmakers, this device provides the best viewing experience of any of the small devices with the combination of being Internet connected (in other words, you can simply create an iTunes compatible video Podcast, no other special trickery or format coversions are needed to to get video onto the device. One very disappointing thing is tha Apple chose to go exclusively with Cingular in the US. Given the fact that it’s a GSM phone, it should be simple to work with any carrier with a SIM card change. Why another walled garden? We need an open device that allows us to choose our carrier for mobile phone service. Every perfect product has to have at least one annoying flaw and this is one of them.
People may object to the weight, price, choice of single carrier, and all of the usual critiques (sounds very similar to what people were saying when the iPod was introduced). And there’s lots of concern over the screen and lack of keys. These are all valid critiques. But the thing to consider, this device, like the initial iPod, represents a whole new product category. It will evolve. And like the iPod that started off as Mac only, I’m sure iPhone will extend it’s reach to other carriers. As long as Apple is accountable to shareholder, they will have to build the largest market they can and that means talking with multiple carriers. But in the Apple tradition, they will do it all in good time and on their own terms. This device may not be perfect, but it’s an order of magnitude more elegant and functional than anything dreamed of by Nokia or Microsoft to date. And this announcement was the perfect antidote to the Bill Gates Keynote at CES.
Here are the basic features:
- works with either a PC or Mac
- 2 megapixel camera with a photo application that syncs with PC or Mac
- quad-band GSM phone
- EDGE, Bluetooth 2.0 EDR, and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi wireless technologies
- Safari-based web browser
- 3.5-inch widescreen (320 x 480 @ 160 dpi) video iPod with finger based interface
- Cover Flow provides an interesting way to browse your music library by iTunes album cover artwork
- email client which retrieves your email from POP3 or IMAP services with inline display of images, Yahoo! Mail will offer “push” IMAP email service to iPhone users
- fully multi-tasking Mac OS X operating system allows you to work on the device while email downloads in the background
- built-in sensors (accelerometer, proximity sensor and ambient light) automatically detects orientation of the device and changes the contents of the display accordingly, I guess it might not work properly in space. The proximity sensor detects when you lift the device to your ear and turns off the display to save power and prevent inadvertent touches. Screen brightness is adjusted to match surroundings.
Apple ciaims that iPhone will be available in the US in June of 2007, in Europe in late 2007, and Asia in 2008, in a 4GB model will list for $499 (US) and an 8GB model for $599 (US). iPhone will be sold in the US through Apple’s retail and online stores, and through Cingular’s retail and online stores. Several iPhone accessories will be available in June, including a new compact Bluetooth headset from Apple.