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CJD's brush with the iPhone

I mentioned earlier that I was out in Southern California this time last week -- Santa Barbara, specifically -- for some pre-birthday festivities with my family. (Yes, my birthday is coming up on Sunday Aug. 12.) And I had mentioned earlier that my brother-in-law got an iPhone. And then my sister got one for her birthday, so I'm going to be the last in my family to get one? (Hint, hint!?!)

So I did get some time to use their iPhones, the much hyped device. But I have to say, it is a really marvelous device. Even aside from the fact that it is Apple sexy -- it just really is a gorgeous device -- I think it is an important technological advance.

CJD-fav David Pogue gave the iPhone a pretty glowing review in the NYT recently, with the caveat, "So yes, the iPhone is amazing. But no, it's not perfect."

So I got to spend several hours with it and found it really amazing. Then, coincidental enough, I was reading MacWorld on the flight home -- with the iPhone on the cover, of course -- and read editor Jason Snell's column on the iPhone. I think he gets it exactly right. I'm not sure any device could live up to the hype that the iPhone got. That being said, it is a big step forward because, really for the first time (sorryBlackBerry folks) it really makes you feel that there is a truly mobile computer in your hand.

Here is how Snell put it:

Apple's iPhone is not just a phone, either. It's also a full-featured iPod and—more importantly for Macworld readers—the smallest Mac ever. The iPhone might weigh less than five ounces and rely on a revolutionary new touch-screen interface, but it runs OS X. When you browse the Web on it, you're using the same WebKit technology that drives Safari on your Mac.

I think the MacWorld review's pros and cons captured it very well:

Pros: Beautiful hardware; bright high-resolution screen; elegant touchscreen interface; impressive e-mail, Web, and phone features; built-in iPod functionality; Wi-Fi networking; twice the storage of the $499 model.

Cons: Browser can't display Flash content; text-messaging tool supports SMS but not iChat; no support for text selection, cut, copy, and paste; no support for stereo Bluetooth headphones; limited Bluetooth support; inline headphone jack incompatible with many third-party headphones; only supports slower EDGE cellular data network.

My BlackBerry 8800 has a crude browser -- it works relatively well. Many sites now have 'mobile' sites, which make the information more accessible for the smaller screen. FCW's sister publication, GCN, has a mobile version on its Web site. If you go to GCN.com on your BlackBerry or mobile device, it will automatically take you to the mobile version, which is streamlined.

And I have a number of mobile programs on my BlackBerry. Google has an whole mobile suite of applications -- mail, search, Google news, and, the CJD-fav, mobile Google maps. You can find them and download them on your mobile device by visiting mobile.google.com on your device's browser. (Microsoft has apparently added a map program for many decices as well, I'm told. I haven't tried it out.) Google Maps mobile version is nothing short of wonderful. Yes, I have GPS in my little Prius, but my Prius is now almost six years old and there are some streets that aren't in there. There are also businesses that aren't in there. Google Maps mobile edition has essentially replaced me ever having to dial "4-1-1." I can search for a business and it provides me with phone number, address... and shows it to me on a map. It's quite delicious.

But there are business reasons to think about this too. As an editor, I think about this quite a bit, to be honest. I know when I'm out and about these days -- and that is more and more often -- I am often reading various publications on my mobile device.

There are other business applications. In February, on another trip to Santa Barbara -- this one to celebrate our anniversary -- we went to see the FBI spy movie Breach and we found the movie theater using theBlackBerry browser and Google Maps -- all on the go.

What are the government business applications? We already know that Census workers are going to have handheld devices for the 2010 Census. There are many others.

So I think the iPhone taps into this growing movement of mobile, mobile, mobile. And that is the real power of the iPhone. You're not looking at a mobile version of a Web site. (FCW.com, for example, is horrible on the BlackBerry browser. Sorry about that! We're migrating the Web site soon, and we hope to have the GCN.com mobile version on FCW.com soon after that migration takes place.) With the iPhone, you're looking at the real Web site. Yes, the page comes up on the iPhone screen, but you can literally 'pinch' the screen to zoom in on certain parts of a Web site -- say, a specific story you want to read. Then you take your fingers and 'push' it back to get the full view again. Remarkably simple -- and very powerful.

Some other nice features of the iPhone... The iPhone's text messaging comes across like instant messaging -- a big improvement. And I can have my iPod songs there as well? (Well, at least some of the more than 12,000 songs I have downloaded -- all legally, I might add.) One real disappointment: I don't get why you can't use your downloaded songs as ring tones, so when my sister calls, it can play a Madonna song. People would love that.

So, if I get one in the next few days, then I can tell you more, but for right now -- and even if I do get an iPhone -- I'm keeping my belovedBlackBerry. That being said, I think this device could be an important step in the development of true mobileness, if that is a word.

Census -- start getting ready!

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Aug 09, 2007 at 12:16 PM


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