The arrival of the iPhone has been greeted with the expected euphoric reaction by all converts of the ‘Church of Macintology’. It may be the “best ever iPod” as claimed by Jobs. It may indeed! But the world’s most advanced phone? I don’t think so.
Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing at Apple, suggests that it is “the world’s most advanced phone.” Can a 2G or 2.5 G phone be described as the most advanced phone? Can a phone that has been designed to make texting difficult be called the world’s most advanced phone? Text messaging has succeeded by accident as an alternative to QWERTY where other systems have tried but failed i.e. Agenda’s Microwriter of the mid 80’s. The iPhone doesn’t have the keypad layout, predictive texting or even keys that give the sensory feedback necessary for fast texting. The automatic input techniques of expert texters who barely have to glance at either the screen or the keys have been totally overlooked. With the iPhone you need both hands as opposed to ‘the dexterous thumb’. Texting is far more important than talking to a very large percentage of people on this side of the Atlantic (Near East). It’s the language of a generation. The iPhone is too big, cumbersome and precious. It demands too much respect for what is essentially a very utilitarian tool. Phones end up in bags and pockets with keys and loose change. The iPhone won’t inspire mobile operators.
The bigger screen size combined with the touch screen finger input allows for easy typing of URLs. This is a good thing. But it is still a small screen to view a whole web page of content. It’s a compromise. On websites that you are familiar with navigation should be easy enough. But on a first hit you’re going to have a lot of zooming and panning or “pinching and scrolling” to do. Not to mention download times of ?? 30 to 60 secondzzzzzzzzzzz on the not so advanced 2.5 G networks.
The album “cover flow” mode of browsing through your record collection rocks, to use an appropriate parlance. I think they’ve really nailed the digital age version of flicking through the 12” vinyl at the record store on your way home from school. (The artwork of record sleeves was probably the first intro into, if not the only experience of the world of visual arts for a lot of people). From the demo I saw, Apple have really got something here.
It’s a techie’s dream, it’s fun, it’s a gadget. It’s sexy but it is not, as Jobs has claimed “five years ahead of any other mobile phone.” Face it Steve, it’s an iPod with phone, web, camera and email capabilities.
To quote Jonathan Ive “it’s very easy to be different, but very difficult to be better.”
Oh yeah, and as for the social consequences of this device? In an ever more alienating world, some people wear their iPods all night long in bed. Now with the iPhone they can just stay plugged in 24/7 and get all their news, do all their chatting, shopping, playing, without plugging out. Matrix anyone….?