At Macworld today, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced two new products: Apple TV, a set-top box that allows media from your computer to stream wirelessly to a TV, and the iPhone, a gadget that seamlessly melds iPod with smart phone. While both products were the subject of speculation and rumor long before Macworld, it was the iPhone that enraptured the crowd and inspired a standing ovation at the end of the show.
The new iPhone is a sleek media-playing device, thinner than any other smart phone available. But it looks like neither an iPod nor a phone: the screen takes up most of the front of the iPhone, and there is only a single small button at the bottom. No keypad. No scroll pad. Instead, Apple opted for a touch-screen interface that’s designed for fingers, not for a stylus. Using the touch screen, the controls that you’d expect with an iPod, phone, or Web browser appear when you need them and disappear when you don’t. Want to send a text message or an e-mail? A keypad shows up. Want to watch a movie? The video fills the entire screen (for a wide-screen view). If you need to adjust the volume, just tap the screen, and the controls appear. And when you put the phone to your ear, the display turns off, thanks to an onboard sensor that detects when your face is close.
The touch screen is at its best when used for scrolling. With a flick of the finger on the screen, the user can scroll through the thousands of songs, pictures, movies, television shows, and e-mails that the iPhone can hold. A distinctive tap selects the song of interest. In addition, the screen is responsive to two fingers: the iPhone supports a sort of pinching function that allows you to zoom in on pictures, Web pages, and Google Maps. (Google partnered with Apple to provide a specialized version of Google Maps for the iPhone.)
The features roundup:
- Wide-screen video iPod
- Integration with iTunes
- OS X operating system
- Automatic syncing with Mac applications such as iCal and Address Book
- Touch screen
- Visual voice mail that allows you to see and listen to specific voice mails
- Conference calls
- GSM and Edge network support
- Two-megapixel camera
- Bluetooth 2.0
- Fully functional Safari Web browser
- Yahoo Mail
- Google Maps
- Four-gigabyte and eight-gigabyte versions
- Five hours of battery life for continuous talk/video/Web browsing
- Sixteen hours of battery life for audio play
- Predictive text software
There are more features, of course, and they can be found on the Apple iPhone site. Although Jobs announced the phone today, it won’t ship until June. At that time, the low-end version will run you $499, and the high-end will cost $599.