Apple iPhone - here at last

Apple iPhone
It's finally reality! At today's Macworld 2007 keynote speech, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the imminent arrival of the long-awaited iPhone. Despite widespread speculation over the last couple of years, the three-in-one device still managed to smash many preconceptions by essentially combining an iPod Nano, a Nokia internet tablet, and a keyless touchscreen mobile phone into one relatively tiny unit. Our friends at Gizmodo have provided a bevy of photographs - and what a beauty the device is!

The device (it feels totally inadequate to refer to it simply as a phone) boasts an array of features all packed into a tiny 115 x 61 x 11.6mm package. By way of comparison, Sony-Ericsson's flagship P990i phone measures 114 x 57 x 25mm - more than twice the thickness - and isn't nearly as impressive. Notable features of the iPhone include:
  • Huge 3.5 inch 160ppi 16:9 format widescreen
  • 2 megapixel camera
  • Accelerometer to detect changes in orientation (automatic portrait/landscape modes)
  • Proximity sensor which turns the screen off when the phone is held to your ear
  • GSM, WiFi, EDGE and Bluetooth
  • "Multi-touch" touchscreen with gesture support
  • Integrated Google Maps
  • Free Yahoo 'push' IMAP email
  • Animated CD cover art a la Coverflow
So, we hear you ask, which operating system does it run - Symbian or Windows Mobile? The answer is neither. In a totally unexpected move Apple claim to have somehow shoehorned OS X into the device. We're not quite sure how they managed this seemingly impossible task, but given that a minimal OS X installation consists of several gigabytes we can only presume the iPhone's OS consists of selective parts of OS X and not the full kit and kaboodle.

The device also boasts some wonderful eye-candy in the form of widgets lifted straight from OS X's Dashboard. This is in our opinion a cynical but typically brilliant move by Apple. OS X's Dashboard has, after all, strictly limited functionality but the eye-popping visual effects make it one of the best tools in any Mac salesman's arsenal. Furthermore where the average computer geek might scorn CPU-hogging eye-candy effects, the typical fashion-conscious mobile phone consumer will no doubt lap it up. Apple have provided several short animations which highlight the 'widgety' interface.

So what's missing? Among other things - technical specifications! Apple's site is glaringly short of hard technical data. Sure, the basics are listed, but there is a dearth of further details. For instance there is an iPod-style dock, but no word on whether the phone features USB host mode or some other iTunes-based method of data transfer. There is also virtually no information about the OS X interface - Apple say that it will run "desktop class" applications, whatever that means. One report also mentions GPS functionality, however we are unable to find any confirmation of this (GPS would perhaps be too much to hope for in what is already an astoundingly feature-rich phone). The phone's EDGE connectivity is also an eyebrow raiser. One can only hope that the European release will feature a 3G version.

It's also worth noting that each and every page on Apple's site devoted to the iPhone bears a disclaimer warning that the phone has not yet been FCC-approved. Which is not really surprising considering the FCC's "leaks-like-a-seive" website is the first place tipsters look for unreleased mobile phones. This leads us to assume that some of the specs listed are still subject to change.

On the financial side of things news of this phone pushed Apple stock up by 7.5%, and left Palm and Research In Motion (makers of the Blackberry) stock down by 5% and 7.5% respectively. Given that RIm in particular has based its entire busines strategy on 'push' email this appears to be a reaction the Yahoo tie-in. The device also seems to be set to make an impact on the mainstream media. In fact while writing this we saw it featured on television on the BBC's evening news! Pretty unusual for a mobile phone - even one that is also an iPod.

The iPhone will cost $499 for a 4GB version and $599 for a 8GB version, both on 2 year contracts with Cingular in the US starting in June 2007 in the US. The European release is slated for Q4 2007, with Asia bringing up the rear in 2008.


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