Sci-tech: iPhone: finally a smartphone that glitters

Wael Elazab
5 Min Read

First of all, it’s not technically a smart-phone, some are saying it is a smart-iPod.

Not that Apple’s latest gem needed help de-geeking its image; Apple has always been led by design, but this has so often been at the cost of practicality. The iPhone may be no exception.

Though its name may already be under dispute, courtesy of Cisco Systems’ having held the iPhone trademark since 1996, Apple’s new device is a well-dressed multimedia and wireless communication combo, with some phone capabilities included. And yes, they seem to have relegated the phone for last, bringing me back to that impracticality point.

The device also lacks a keyboard. More worryingly, you can’t run any third-party applications: nothing that isn’t Apple approved. It will initially ship with a choice of a mere four or eight gigabyte flash memory capacity; neither is outstanding, though this is just its first generation. And it will initially only function on the Cingular mobile network in the US launch, locked into a two-year contract.

But it’s not all bad news.

Just as iPods helped change the way people thought about their music collections, can Apple’s iPhone change the way people think about the whole range of wireless multimedia and communications? Apple still manages a much higher coolness rating than other electronically inclined manufacturers – not solely shown by the iPod, but also the 1998 iMac and its ever evolving MacBook – and is successfully carrying this charisma through to its latest product.

One might say that this is a VoIP phone that you want to take with you. It can use services available over the Internet, including video conversation, instant messaging or data file exchange with your online contacts – but is not solely for your home and is for use via any available wireless router (or Wi-Fi/WiMax hotspot).

This new all-in-one toy also has a two megapixel camera, a global positioning system that liaises with Google maps, a Web browser, e-mail, iTunes music downloads, and naturally a phone. It is quad-band and Wi-Fi enabled; supports Bluetooth, GSM and Edge technology; and will run all Mac OS X applications. And did I mention how attractive it looks? It measures a svelte 11.5 by 6.1 by 1.16 cm, and nearly 80 percent of its front is taken up by a sparkling screen offering 160 pixels per inch with its 320 by 480 pixel resolution.

But remember that if this is to be used as a phone, then it’s going to get fairly battered about. If our grubby paws are man-handling it for the full five hours of its useful battery life; will it be easier to take care of than the iPod with its notorious class action lawsuit over its easily scratchable screen?

Even though everyone is excitedly talking about Apple’s new phone since its announcement by Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Tuesday, Jan. 9, at MacWorld, what is disappointing is that you won’t be able to get one in Egypt for quite some time. The US is expected to see it in on shelves in June and parts of Europe not until the end of 2007 – Asia might not see it until 2008. One good thing to note, is that by the time it does ship, Europe, Asia, and Egypt may skip the first generation iPhone altogether, and actually receive a super-charged second generation version.

The big announcement at MacWorld, an obligatory move each year at the tradeshow, certainly caused a ruckus, as shares in mobile phone makers have already slipped and Nokia’s fell 2.2 percent.

But who will it affect really? Back to the point of it not really being a smartphone, word on the street is that Blackberry users and the like won’t be rushing to trade in their devices precisely because of the multimedia abilities of the iPhone which seems to have taken priority over the phone, email, sms, and other communication functionality. Perhaps it’s inevitable that version one has this stigma, since many will see it as the evolution of the iPod primarily.

The iPhones’ initial prices are set at $499 (LE 2800) and $599 (LE 3400) for the 4GB and 8GB versions respectively.

And for those who can’t wait for a regional launch? Well, there’s always eBay.

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