I’ve just been watching part of Steve Jobs’ keynote speech that he delivered yesterday, focusing the latest innovation Apple is releasing on the world soon. The iPhone is truly awesome in every respect, it is simply amazing in design, craftmanship, functionality and concept. We’ve seen smartphones before in various guises, some looking like phones trying to be computers, others looking like computers trying to be phones, neither of which really did the job as well as we might have liked. Seeing the iPhone in action show just how this 21st Century mobile phone experience should be – seamless and beautiful.
I’m not going to go into all the details here, because Apple are far better at explaining their product than I will be, but there are a few things I’d like to share with you to encourage you to check it out. Firstly let me tell you about the hardware itself. Instead of lots of buttons, querty keyboard or stylus, this iPhone has an intelligent touch screen that fills pretty much the entire front of the device. You get the controls you need for each application displayed on the screen. No function keys, no shortcut buttons, just limitless functionality. There are similarities with PDAs in this respect, except that you use your fingers (which is good, because you can’t lose a finger like you might lose a stylus). The screen is undoubtedly the most beautiful part of the hardware design, it’s so elegant and easy to use.
Next up there’s the MP3 player built in. It’s like the iPod in functionality, with a slightly better interface and more similarities with the latest iTunes program (plus a really cool scrolling action). Like the latest iPods, the iPhone also plays videos, and this is where it gets really cool – turn the iPhone on its side and the display automatically turns its display around to give you a widescreen view. Awesome.
Working with the 2 megapixel camera built in, the picture manager is another work of art. At first glance it looks like a small-screen version of iPhoto, but here’s the iPhone’s next party trick – when viewing an image on the screen you zoom in and out by using two fingers on the screen in a pincer movement. It’s reminiscent of the sort of image manipulation seen in Minority Report, and it’s so effective. Check out the videos on the Apple web site to see it in action, it has to be seen to be believed.
Making phone calls is of course important, and has by no means been forgotten in the design process. Syncing with your Address Book you can quickly find anyone’s contact information and phone them quickly and easily. And because Apple are making best possible use of their enormous screen, everything is visual, making conference calls easy enough that your grandmother could work it out. SMS texting is quick and easy too, showing up in conversations as if it was an iChat conversation. Very neat.
Next up is the internet. And by internet I don’t mean those simplified scaled-down WAP sites, I mean the actual internet. The iPhone comes with the Safari browser, allowing you to actually see real web pages, as you would see them on a normal computer. Now, I know what you’re thinking, how can you possibly get a whole web page on such a small screen. Well at first glance you see the whole page, nicely laid out and exactly as the web designer intended it to look, but it’s far too scaled down for you to read. So you just double-tap it to zoom in, drag your finger to scroll around, tap to click links. Tabbed browsing is also built in, and the whole thing uses Wi-Fi access to stream all this information to you wherever you are at incredible speeds.
Google Maps are built into the device, meaning you can bring up maps of anywhere in the world in seconds, even the satellite images. And of course if you wanted to find a certain business in that area, you just search for it and it’ll bring up the company’s contact details, at which point you can click the phone number and call them up, there and then.
E-mails can be checked and sent via POP3 or IMAP and show up in rich HTML format. None of this text-only stuff, you get text formatting, images, attachments, the lot. And because it’s all seamlessly linked into the Address Book you can tap into all those contact details quickly and easily too.
I could go on, but I really shouldn’t. Check out www.apple.com/iphone and read more about it, and if you’ve got an hour or so to spare I’d really recommend watching the video of Steve’s presentation on iPhone, you get to see exactly how it all works.
To sum up then: awesome, gorgeous, elegant, seamless. I want one.