Sure Apple gets millions worth of free advertising by releasing its products in their glitzy, spectacular way. At the same time, it is hard for a geeky Mac fan not to comment.
Everyone expected Apple to announce the iPhone at Macworld, though there does seem to be more to this device than most people expected. Everyone expected it to be an iPod and a phone, in this case it has 8GB of storage, and most expected it to be widescreen. The two megapixel camera is probably pretty poor – as telephone cameras universally are – but it could be useful regardless. The biggest surprise is that the thing runs OS X, rather than the proprietary and limited systems generally associated with smartphone and Blackberry type devices. Combined with the embedded sensors (proximity, ambient light, and an accelerometer), I imagine people are going to come up with some pretty amazing hacks for these devices.
The iPhone is a quad-band GSM + EDGE phone with WiFi and Bluetooth 2.0. A lot of people probably expected it to be 3G, but this is a better move for Apple. 3G has pretty much been a disaster for everyone who bet on it. The fact that it seems capable of talking to WiFi networks is also a big plus, especially if it can be used to do VoIP in an elegant way. The fact that it does not is unsurprising, but also a letdown. I am personally looking forward to the days when mobile phones automatically form mesh networks to pass traffic between themselves. That would circumvent the need for network infrastructure for calls within densely populated places and really change the business circumstances in which cellular service providers found themselves.
The mundane issues are more what concerns me: it looks like the starting price is US$499 for a 4GB model and US$599 for the 8GB and they will start shipping in June. Those prices are based on signing up for a two year phone contract, also. There’s no way it makes sense to buy the release version, as there are usually a couple of serious flaws that get sorted out in the next version. (Not that I will be spending $600 on such a device any time in the foreseeable future.) The battery life is supposedly sufficient for five hours of talk time and sixteen hours of audio listening. If true, that is better than my iPod Shuffle, and enormously better than my old 20GB 4th generation iPod.
Like a lot of people, I am curious about whether this device will stand up to everyday abrasion better than the iPod Nanos do. There’s also no way I would even consider buying this platform before Skype or something similar can be run on it.