More on iPhone: Spooky Action at a Distance

July 2, 2007

1. A woman at a cafe asks me if I know how pawns move in chess; she and her boyfriend are playing a game at the next table. I say I don’t know, sorry. She goes back to her game. But then I remember: iPhone, Google, “rules of chess,” Wikipedia; here you go.

2. It’s not clear to me how well or poorly other smartphones have accomplished the task of putting the internet in your pocket, but my understanding is that they haven’t done it very well. The iPhone has it’s flaws, to be sure, but the web looks like the web and email looks like email, complete with attachments.

3. I’m driving home and get stopped by a train. I pull out the iPhone and read Salon.

4. I’ve never seen another computer, PDA or phone operate with the almost total absence of physical buttons. It has its drawbacks, but ultimately I can see that most small electronic devices will one day operate this way. The necessary interface elements – keyboard, icons, OK buttons – appear when needed, and when they’re not needed the entire face of the device is dedicated to displaying content.

5. The Apple tax. That’s what I call it when Apple implements cutting-edge technology which causes you to spend time and money to get your other stuff to work with it. Case in point: I can’t use any of my headphones on the iPhone. Why not? Because the headphone jack is deeply recessed in order to accommodate an additional connector for the microphone. Microphone? Yeah. The supplied earbud-style headphones come equipped with a small macaroni-sized plastic nub which hangs at roughly the level of your chin. It’s not only a microphone for talking on the phone, but a squeeze button for answering and hanging up incoming calls, pausing and playing music, and for advancing to the next track if you’re just not in the mood for whatever just came on random. Cool? You bet. But I have to buy an adapter to get standard minijacks to work with it. Meanwhile I can’t plug the iPhone into the car stereo, as I used to do with my iPod. $10 should remedy this, but still.

6. In many ways this a device I have been waiting ten years to get my hands on. Back in 1994 or 95 I was introduced to the internet, having only a few months prior acquired my own computer. Since that time, I have known – everyone has known – that access to this global network should be at one’s fingertips at all times. What’s the population of Iraq? I don’t have to let the question hang anymore: wherever I am, I can know what that number is. Multiply that by the number of facts that one wishes one knew throughout the course of any given day and you start to understand what it is to have the internet in your pocket.

7. Motorola, RIM and Palm must have shit themselves when they saw this thing. But should they really worry? I think not. This one product put smartphones on the map, so to speak, for a lot of people who otherwise were scarcely aware of their existence. The market for such devices – no matter who makes them – just grew larger. Let a thousand iPhones bloom.

8. I realize that when I’ve been out, leaving my laptop behind, I no longer have that irresistible itch to open the lid and check email and RSS feeds. I’ve been connected while I was out. I say goodbye now to that I’ve-been-away-from-the-net-too-long anxiety.

9. Things I’d like to see: better music management in iTunes, more browser compatibility such as flash or java, a faster EDGE network for when I’m out of WiFi range, downloadable ringtones, and full Exchange integration.

10. This thing is as amazing as everyone says. Don’t want one? That’s okay. A year from now its influence will be seen in many other phones on the market – including yours, probably.


No comments yet

  1. F**K!!!! I dropped it. F**K!!!! There’s a tiny ding in the edge of the case (right where the protective case I bought ends) and I want to cry. It’s really small and insignificant and it’s only about 1/16” big and the phone still works better than I ever could have hoped but F**********K!!!!

    Anyway, I think we’ll see 2 software updates before the end of July. If you dig around in the latest iTunes update, there are hidden ‘Ringtone’ features just waiting to be enabled. I’m calling mp3 ringtones and Java sooner than later.

  2. Sounds pretty neat. And I think you’re right that classic mechanical keyboards will gradually start to go away.

    “Motorola, RIM and Palm must have shit themselves when they saw this thing. But should they really worry?”

    RIM doesn’t need to worry at all (more on that in a sec). Motorola should worry somewhat. Palm have been shitting themselves for a while now – very poor marketing & and some technical troubles with their email system.

    While iPhone may be all the rave among the Starbucks and SUV set, the business world won’t touch it. It’s not secure enough (There’s a reason they left out a lot of Java capabilities. Could we see the first iPhone virus by Christmas?). And to date: nobody can do handheld mail as securely and reliably as RIM. The Blackberry Enterprise Server is the platinum standard. Apple doesn’t even want to go there. They will make millions from what they know best: the young hip consumer. [and Scott πŸ˜‰ ]

    I’ll have to find someone who bought one so I can play around with it. Not ruling out one for myself, but I need a test drive first.

  3. I want one.

    I cannot rationalize the cost right now, and that’s only because I’d have to buy out four phone contracts, plus the cost of one phone, plus the cost of three other new phones.

    But I really want one.

  4. Andy: take a deep breath, man. It’s gonna be okay. I dropped my phone once already, too! There’s no visible damage, but still. I feel your pain.

    Have you seen the PC World’s “stress test” video? I think the phone can take a few knocks.

    Remember – things could be worse!

  5. Someone sent me a video last night where they took a knife to the glass. and didn’t leave a mark. πŸ™‚

    And I think Jason Kottke wrote something about just trimming some of the plastic from his headphone jack to get it to fit.

  6. While I appreciate that Apple has certainly innovated here and browsing the Web is very different on the iPhone than some other handhelds, much of what you wrote about in this post I’ve been able to do for years now on my Treo (e.g., the anecdote to describe in #1 or #3).

    Something happened to my previous Treo’s screen and it would no longer react to touch. It turns out that one can replicate about 98% of the Treo’s functionality by using the keyboard. I was thus able to use it for a whole year past when this happened. When something happens to your iPhone’s touchscreen, that will be it for the device.

    Regarding the Apple tax, the Treo came with a headphone jack hole smaller than most devices. Three and a half years ago this meant paying for a $15 adapter. Today’s Treo ships with a headphone jack that works with the gadget.

  7. Definitely true, Eszter. In some cases I am going on about something Apple has done that is new, in other cases I’m simply gushing about technology that is new to me. I’ve never owned any kind of smartphone, although I once had a Palm III and I’ve had several “dumb” phones made by Motorola, LG and others.

    I’m not terribly worried about screen damage. I’ve seen stress tests on this thing that are pretty encouraging. And besides, lots of electronic (and non-electronic) devices have single points of failure; that’s just part of what they are. Who frets over the fact that if your car’s engine blows you have to get a new car? Should cars be equipped with horse hitches on the front to provide an alternate method of locomotion? Okay, that’s a silly example. But there are lots of things that have single points of failure and we accept them. In the case of the iPhone, it’s a risk we take to reap the benefits of having a full-face touch screen with no real estate lost to hardware buttons.

  8. Did you read Maddox’s reveiw of the iPhone?


  9. Yeah, there’s an “unbiased” review πŸ™‚

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