I have a confession.
Unlike millions of people the world over, I have never been crazy about Apple products. Mac computers, iPods, Minis, and Nanos did nothing for me. I scoffed at Apple loyalists, likening them to religious zealots who fanatically believed Apple products to be vastly superior to comparable electronic devices. In my eyes, they were weak-willed trend chasers who were intimidated by complicated user interfaces and easily swayed by slick packaging and even slicker marketing. After all, I had never seen an Apple or Mac product that I felt was truly superior to anything else on the market.
But on Monday, all that changed after I had a close encounter with the iPhone, Apple’s first foray into the world of mobile telephony. And I have to admit, I was impressed.
The iPhone has, by far, the best interface I have ever seen on a mobile device, or any other electronic gadget for that matter. At 4.5 inches (115 mm) tall, 2.4 inches (61 mm) wide, 0.46 inch (11.6 mm) thick and weighing in at 4.8 ounces (135 grams), the iPhone is not the smallest phone out there. But it is by far the most revolutionary.
First off, there is not even a keypad and with only three external buttons, all functions and features are accessed through the touchscreen. On the left side of the iPhone is a mute switch. No need to access menus to look for profiles or the mute option. The power button is also external and, at the bottom of the front panel, is a single button that takes you to the default screen, from where you can access all the other programs and features included in the phone. There is no stylus so you use your fingertips to select menu options and scroll through photos or contacts. If you rotate the phone from its normal upright position to a horizontal position, the screen image automatically reorients itself. To zoom in on an image, simply place your thumb and index finger on the part of the screen you’d like to enlarge and move them apart, as if you’re literally stretching the image. The included browser shows the full web page and you can move around on the page the same way you scroll through contacts or photos; with your fingertip. To access a link, simply tap it with your finger. To zoom in on any part of the web page, simply stretch the image with your thumb and finger.
For phone calls and text messages, simply tap an icon to summon a numbered keypad or QWERTY keyboard, which appear on the bottom of the screen. I assume most mobile phone users make calls directly from the contacts list anyway, so there’s little need for a real keypad. I wasn’t too crazy about the virtual QWERTY keyboard, though, because it seemed a little crowded and I didn’t get a chance to check whether the keyboard would widen itself if the phone is tilted horizontally. Minor detail. Oh, did I mention the iPhone also plays music through it’s built-in iPod function, boasts a four- or eight-gigabyte internal hard drive, and has a camera?
Perhaps the worst thing about the iPhone is that the battery is non-replaceable so users have to send their phones back to Apple after a couple of years to have the battery replaced. But that was the same deal with the iPod and it didn’t seem to hurt its sales. Also, the iPhone only works through AT&T’s mobile network. It would have been be nice if non-AT&T mobile customers could also own an iPhone. Also, I don’t know how/whether the iPhone works outside the US.
Now I’m no slouch when it comes to mobile phones and, in terms of features and functionality, I’d put my Nokia N80 up against any phone on the market, including the iPhone. But the iPhone wins hands down for its revolutionary user interface.
Finally, Apple has created a product that lives up to its hype.