Is that the combined sound of a few million geeky jaws dropping blended with the desperate smashing of piggy-banks? That’s right, friends and cellphone addicts, Apple has finally given in and announced the iPhone. And blimey, what an iPhone they’ve given us! Take an 11.6mm thin slip of aluminium, garnish with a 3.5-inch eye-popping 160dpi screen running at 320×480 that will respond to multi-touch and gesture, and then bless it with what has been labelled the easiest and most straightforward operating system to date: Apple’s own OS X.
Forgive me if I’m excited; what was once a guaranteed hot-bed of rumour has now been laid to rest… only the resting place is quad-band GSM together with b & g flavours of WiFi, EDGE and Bluetooth 2.0. The 4.8oz (135g) handset, which also packs a 2.0 megapixel camera and either 4GB or 8GB of storage, can squeeze up to 5 hours of talking, browsing the net or viewing video, or a glee-inspiring 16 hours pure audio playback from its (sadly non-removeable) battery. That’s right, throw out your iPod because the iPhone is the widescreen PMP that media hungry Apple-lovers have been begging for. More photos (apologies for the mediocre quality – ever security conscious, Apple had imprisoned the handset inside photography-unfriendly glass!) after the cut, and video coming as soon as it finishes processing.
But the thing that really grabbed our man Vincent Nguyen while he was sat, sweaty-palmed in the Macworld audience, is the user interface. Now OS X on a big laptop is one thing, but when we get down to 3.5-inches of display you really have to be imaginative with the interaction. Thankfully fingers are the best thing to use with the iPhone, in a system that’s insanely clever. Mouse, click-wheel, touchscreen, all are emulated with a screen that can differentiate between intended selection and accidental brushes, between one finger or two, even track pinching, swiping and other gestures.
A few solitary buttons are all that’s left of the old school of interaction – controls to sleep and wake the handset, a “home” button to easily whip through the UI, and a strip that handles volume and a silent-profile. Proximity sensors track the position of the handset, together with an accelerometer that can tell in which orientation it’s being held (so that widescreen video flips round into landscape automatically); that, together with its ambient light sensor, ensures that the screen is turned off when you’re holding it to your face in conversation.
Context-sensitive buttons, visual voicemail that can be accessed out of sequence, photo caller ID and a popup QWERTY keyboard with a responsiveness our guys called “amazing”, all are built on top of OS X. And that means the usual software is present: office documents can be handled natively without needing to convert them or work with cut-down or feature-stripped interfaces, iPhoto manages the photos you take with the built-in camera, allowing simple resizing with a pinching gesture, then there’s messaging with full POP, IMAP and Exchange compatibility, in plain- or rich-text, with support for push-email.
In collaboration with Yahoo! and Google, the iPhone will take 250 million Yahoo! email users and turn their inbox into instant delivery. Apple is also positioning the iPhone as the first fully usable HTML phone browser, with Safari handling everything from interacting with Google Maps, continuously updated news widgets, live traffic updates and more, all delivered in ultra-fast time through either WiFi or EDGE cellular wireless.
Apple have picked lucky old Cingular to partner with, and the iPhone will be an exclusive to them on its US launch. Priced at $499 for the 4GB model and $599 for the 8GB, it’ll hit the US in June 2007, Europe in late 2007 and Asia in 2008. Surprisingly, both Mac and Windows compatibility will be present from the start.
We’ve only grazed the surface of this amazing handset, but already I can feel the fear from the old boys of the cellphone industry. You can rely on SlashGear to have more details for you soon!