Thursday, January 11, 2007


Apple announced iPhone on 1/9/2007. This is a news the industry has been expecting, so there's no surprise here. Many news media report the event, whether it's newspaper, TV, or online-only. It's big, of course. But it's been 2 working days and I have seen few editorials or true journalism. All they do is reporting what happened, what feature the iPhone has, or what Steve Jobs said. Well, I can get all that from the keynote speech video. So I thought I'd like to through in my 2 cents.

Apple excels at user interface and design, I reiterate. Not just the look, but the usability as well. Here are some highlights that I feel are innovations or good reinventions.

  • With so many features, the device is only 11.6 mm thin, and weighs only 135 grams.
  • I often find the QWERTY keyboard on other smartphones clumsy. Most of the time, I don't type. But I do want to preserve the possibility to type. My current phone offers a sliding solution, which satisfies my need. But the drawback is a thicker body. The iPhone has a soft keyboard only. It addresses my concern of clumsiness, but iPhone is definitely not the first that has a soft keyboard. Let's see how well it does.
  • "Multi-touch" control where you can use two fingers to zoom in and out things by the distance between the two points. Innovation. Period.
  • Proximity sensor that shuts off display and touch screen input while the phone is near the ear. This is a problem all smartphone users have. Apple has solved it!
  • Ambient sensor that adjusts the brightness according to, um... amount of ambient light. As above. But see my counterpoint below.
  • Accelerometer determines if the device is portrait or landscape. Nice feature, but many cameras have that already.
  • Random access voice mail. You don't need to go through the first 5 message to get to the 6th. Again, a solution everybody can use.

Those being said, I would like to give my constructive criticism as well. These include things that are questionable or never discussed.

  • No stylus. Steve said this as if it were a feature. Perhaps the touch screen is so sophisticated that even people with larger fingers can type the virtual keyboard with no problem. In that case, more power to iPhone and I give the credit where it is due. But what if I want to prevent my sweaty fingers to smear the pretty screen? Some of us like to preserve the phone so that it would have higher resell value.
  • While the ambient sensor is a good thing, is there a manual override?
  • It runs OS X. Really? True OS X or a scaled down version? Forget about whether or not the OS is shrunk down version. Is it easy to develop software on iPhone? Is there any developer tools?
  • – Which leads to the question – how many software will there be? How easy is it to install? No demo, no mention at all. What about Skype?
  • Steve and the official website briefly mentions synchronizing contacts and other stuff between the phone and your PC or Mac. Great, but no demo. What kind of contact does it accept? Outlook? Thunderbird?
  • The keyboard was shown with 3 lines of regular keys and 2.5 lines of symbols and numbers at the demo. What about international characters? How easy is it to mix different languages while typing?
  • Steve demoed the contact with scrolling. It would suck if I need to call multiple members of the Zellwegers. Can it display by categories? Go to Z? How easy is it to transfer a contact to another device?
  • When talking about the price, Steve combined the price of an iPod nano, $199, and an average smart phone with 2 year contract, $299, because "these phones sort of do music, but nobody uses them for music". False, 2 of my co-workers and I have the Windows Mobile phone and we all use the phones for music (not that Windows Mobiles phone are good phones). The point is, a simple addition doesn't justify the $499 cost.
  • No expansion slot.
  • There is no way to replace the battery easily.
  • In the U.S., iPhone users are stuck with Cingular. I'm not against bundling two products or services that are highly related. I am against offering the bundle as the only choice while its products are totally separable. Why do they have to pick Cingular for me?? This will suck for frequent travelers. But Steve has the amazing ability to spin this as "partnership of innovation". We all know better.

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