Apple Finally Releases the IPhone

The iPhone is now a reality, and it looks like a very handy device running an embedded form of OS X. By combining all the best features taken from Palm, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Apple's own iPod, the company has created a device that doesn't do everything, but does all the fun stuff very well. This could just be the single device that a lot of us have wanted, but be prepared to wait. The domestic rollout isn't until June, and Asia won't see the phone until 2008!

The form factor is similar to an iPod: 4.5 inches tall, 2.48 inches wide, but still very slim at 0.46 inches thick. There are no controls other than a single Home button as everything else is done through the touch screen. The official numbers are 5 hours of talk time, and any video usage comes out of that five hours. Strictly as a music player, the iPhone will deliver sixteen hours of play, and that's about on par with my Nano. The 4GB model is going to cost $499 with a two year cellular contract, and the 8GB is $599.

Go below the fold and dish through the demo screens with me!

I'd just like to say a mighty thanks to MacRumors. I jumped on their feed to watch the keynote live because my other sources were having technical difficulties. The above image is from the nice kids at Engadget's coverage.

First, it's an iPod audio/video device, and the 3.5 inch screen works great for video in portrait mode with a resolution of 480x320. The iPhone will reformat the display depending on the orientation, and wide screen video has been on a lot of wish lists. The form factor is similar to a giant sized iPod Nano: 6.26 inches tall and 3.296 inches wide, but still very slim at 0.68 inches thick.

The actual A/V interface reminds me of a prettier Zune; so there's nothing exciting there. Scrolling is pretty neat, though. Accelerometers in the touch screen allow for "flicking" through a list. Drag the finger across the screen quickly and lift the finger; the list will continue to scroll until it runs out of momentum. Great idea, Apple.

Sadly, there's no downloading songs and video directly from iTunes. You'll have to sync up from a computer to add media.

As a phone the iPhone looks acceptable if a bit large. The sound quality in the samples were good, and it's easy to merge conference calls. The biggest feature is the Visual Voicemail that was unveiled, and it's something that we've all been eagerly awaiting. No more listening to all the messages in my inbox now that I can just select the one I want to hear on the phone screen. I've been using GotVoice for the same type of thing, but Apple's implementation on the device is all kinds of wonderful.

The contacts interface isn't as easy to use as it could have been. My Treo allows me to scroll all numbers in the list, and the iPhone user first selects a name, and then the individual number. Bad idea, Apple.

Where the iPhone shines is as an internet device. By making full use of the multisensor touch interface Apple's team has implemented an intuitive method for zooming, moving, and typing. To zoom in on an area: Put two fingers apart on the screen and drag them together to close. This "Pinch" tells Safari to zoom in on a small section. It's invaluable for reading webpages on a small device, and I've been waiting for a company to use the technology.

Google and Yahoo integration both figure heavily into the integrated experience of the phone. Integrated GPS combined with Maps.Google will deliver localized search, and Yahoo's push IMAP email will offer service comparable to what Blackberry users love. Innovative? No. Convenient? Aww yeah.

The last really great web feature is the use of Widgets. These little end user apps allow for single minded functionality, and work the exact same way as their OS X counterparts.

Wireless earpieces are a definite with Bluetooth, but data service is via EDGE as the phone is currently a Cingular exclusive (I'm very disappointed). Hopefully users will be able to avoid big data transfer fees by using the auto sensing b/g Wifi, but expect iPhone plans to be a bit pricey.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at the other MacWorld announcements, and go in-depth on the new AppleTV!

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