Google Search


Monday, August 6, 2007

iPhone Poised at Top of Class

Apparently, Apple CEO Steve Jobs didn't get around to mentioning all the features of the iPhone when he unveiled the company's prized gem at the Macworld conference last January — at least according to a spoof commercial that's being circulated on YouTube. It seems the widely anticipated gadget — which will boast a widescreen iPod, Internet communicator, and digital camera — also serves as a bottle-opener, electric shaver, cheese grater and children's thermometer.

And you thought your cell phone was versatile.

Even without those make-believe features, among the class of handsets dubbed smartphones, iPhone has all the makings of a Phi Beta Kappa. I'm often asked what makes a smartphone, anyway. I've always thought of them as phones that pile on a bunch of features and excel at e-mail. Apple enters the freshman class with neat capabilities that may help redefine the category.

Here are a few key features:

Finger-controlled touch-screen. Virtually every cell phone in the world has a physical (typically plastic) dialing keypad, if not also a more complete QWERTY-style keyboard to help you bang out e-mails and text messages. With iPhone, Apple adheres to an old company-advertising slogan, to "Think Different." So, with the lone exception of a "home button," iPhone dispenses with all physical keys and buttons. Instead, only the buttons and controls you need in the context of what you are doing show up virtually on iPhone's 3.5-inch multi-touch screen display.

Don't bother searching for a pen-like stylus to manipulate those controls. Apple wants you to navigate with the ultimate pointing device — your finger. It's all deliciously simple: You make calls by pointing at a name or number. And since iPhone isn't just about telephone functions, you can also use your finger to flick through album covers and songs, photos, and to zoom in on Web pages through an iPhone version of the Safari Web browser.

For sure some people will miss a physical keypad. Lots of people make calls on cell phones today without even looking at the handset. They rely on tactile feedback. That doesn't seem possible with iPhone. I'm expecting third-party companies — and who knows, maybe Apple itself — to produce physical keyboard accessories of one type or another.

Visual voice-mail. You know the drill all too well. You must typically wade through all your voice-mail messages in the order in which calls were received rather than give priority to messages that matter most — those from your spouse, your kids, your boss. Through a clever visual voice-mail feature, you can peruse a list of the callers who left messages (assuming their names are known through caller ID) and select the ones you want to listen to first.

Sensible sensors. Talk about cell phone smarts, iPhone has internal sensors to make sure the device is always oriented properly and the screen looks its best:

  • Accelerometer sensor. iPhone knows when you've rotated the screen from portrait to landscape mode and alters the content of the display accordingly.
  • Ambient light. The display is adjusted based on the ambient light where you are using iPhone.
  • Proximity. I think this is the coolest one in principle. A proximity sensor automatically detects when you hold iPhone up to your ear. And when you do so, it knows enough the turn off the display to save power and prevent you from accidentally hitting onscreen controls. Move iPhone away from your ear and the screen wakes up.

No comments: