Reporter’s Notebook: Part II—Hands-on with iPhone

| Dr. Mac's Rants and Raves

Episode #75

When last we spoke the keynote was about to begin. Since you've no doubt heard all about the keynote by now, and if you haven't, you can download the video at the iTunes Store for free, I'll cut right to the chase...

I've been to a lot of Steve Jobs keynotes over the years and while I was a little taken aback by no mention of Leopard, iLife, or iWork, it was still one of the best I've ever seen. Maybe the best. The singleness of purpose and dedication of three quarters of the show to the iPhone served to make it a very special keynote indeed.

As I left the great hall after John Mayer finished playing I overheard many discussions and opinions, and almost everyone was saying the same thing: iPhone looks awesome and I can't wait to get my hands on one.

Fortunately, I didn't have to wait very long. While the two iPhones in Apple's booth were encased in glass and untouchable, like artifacts from King Tut's tomb, I was among the chosen and got a hands-on product briefing early Wednesday morning.


Ladies and Gentlemen...Introducing the iPhone GUI.
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image.)
Photo courtesy of Apple, Inc.

And bright and early the next morning I walked into Apple's private press suite and met with Greg Joswiak, Apple's Vice President of Worldwide iPod Product Marketing, and David Moody, Vice President of Worldwide Mac Product Marketing.

Now you have to understand that I didn't expect to see a working iPhone in this meeting, much less get to touch one, but that's just what happened. I walked in the room and after a couple of minutes of schmoozing, they handed me a working prototype iPhone and told me to go to town.

So I tried it all -- typing text messages, dialing, browsing, zooming, and more. And as much as I was sold on the iPhone when I walked out of the keynote, I was sold on it even more after using it for just 10 minutes. In a word, it rocks. It's light years ahead of any existing smartphone and the only one I've ever even considered buying.

You know me. You know I am rarely tongue-tied over anything. But I could barely form coherent sentences during my briefing. In fact, I had to explain to Joz and Moody that while I knew it was completely unprofessional for a journalist to gush during a briefing, I just couldn't help myself.

After a few minutes I managed to get my tongue working properly and began asking questions from the list I had prepared after the keynote. My first question was, "can you have additional rechargeable batteries or is it a sealed system like an iPod." I was pretty sure I knew what the answer was going to be and it was -- the iPhone is sealed just like an iPod so users can't easily swap batteries. Bummer.

My next question was, "can iPhone be used as a cellular modem for a MacBook or MacBook Pro?" This time the answer surprised me -- no, it can't. While it's possible a future iPhone model will be capable of this functionality, the first iteration will not.

I was also curious whether iPhone had its own GPS capabilities. In other words, does iPhone know where in the world it is located? The answer is no...while you can access Google Maps (or Yahoo Maps or MapQuest maps), the phone cannot determine your current location all by itself. Again, a future model could add this capacity but the iPhones scheduled to ship this summer won't have it.

Another question I had was which Windows software iPhone would sync with. I mean, for Mac users it's a no-brainer -- iCal, Address Book, iPhoto, and iTunes. Since only iTunes runs under Windows, which programs would Windows users use to synchronize their appointments, contacts, and photos? The answer was vague -- the Apple guys told me it would support "several popular Windows programs" which they were unwilling to name at this time.

Finally, I asked about the dispute with Cisco over the iPhone trademark and was told that Apple didn't believe it was going to be a problem. For reasons that should be obvious they were reluctant to tell me much more. I hope they're right. We'll see.

Bottom line: The iPhone is, hands down, the coolest product I've seen from Apple since...well, since the Mac itself. I would be happier if it didn't cost quite so much, but I realize that like all technology, it will only get better and cheaper over time. In any event I plan to be one of the first on my block to own one.

To be continued...

In the next installment, Reporter's Notebook: Part 3, I'll cover the best products I saw for the first time at Macworld Expo.

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