MacWorld SF kicked off this morning, and as is customary, Steve Jobs got the show off and running with his keynote address. Each year, the Apple CEO showcases the new software or products that showcase Apple’s creativity in the personal computer market. This year was no exception. Jobs finally took the veiled off the long rumored iPhone.
Rumors of the iPhone have been circulating for so long that it might actually be hard for Apple to live up to the hype. With so much wild speculation, how could Apple possibly meet with expectations? I wondered… and now I know. Apple simply put all of the functionality a customer could ask for into a single device and did it in a way the was truly revolutionary.
The Apple iPod was made famous by the click wheel. It was the center piece of the systems well crafted navigation system. That navigation and organization system made the iPod and the click wheel made that possible. Following on that idea, Apple engineered a new user interface for the iPhone. Knowing that the new interface had to be simple, intuitive and easy to use, simply made the entire interface a touch screen. What could be easier than using your finger to point and click on screen? One large touch screen was simple and offered remarkable flexibility. With the physical buttons replaced with icons, suddenly there were no limitations for the user interface. No buttons that only worked in one more and not in another. No confusion for the user.
With the device interface constraints no longer an issue, Apple really took the device to the next level. Not only is the iPhone a cell phone with all of the normal functionality, but the device was literally turned into a next generation iPod that could play music and wide screen movies. While they were at it, engineers added Safari based web browsing, Google and Yahoo support, and even a powerful SMS based text messaging.
Apple partnered with Cingular for the service and even developed a new interface for voicemail. Google added a powerful new software package that allows the iPhone to tap into Google Maps without the need to touch a full fledged computer. Yahoo partnered to develop a new push based email system that works with Yahoo Email accounts, bringing functionality similar the those of the Blackberry. All the major players jumped on the Apple bandwagon.
So what are the specs? The screen size is 3.5 inches, 320×480 at 160 pixels per inch. The device runs a version of OS X. The device is offered with storage capacities of either 4GB or 8GB. The iPhone is 2.4 inches wide, 4.5 inches tall, and .46 inches thick. The battery will run for up to 5 hours when used for video, talk, or browsing and 16 hours when used for audio playback only. Wireless support includes quad-band GSM, 802.11b/g, EDGE, and Bluetooth 2.0. The entire phone weighs just 4.8 ounces. Bluetooth support is included making it compatible with wireless headsets in addition to its built-in speakerphone. A gyroscope in the phone makes it possible for the screen to be used in either portrait or landscape mode.
Pricing information isn’t currently available on Apple.com. According to the information provided during the keynote presentation, one of the models will be offered for $499. Further information was not available at the time of this writing. Unfortunately the phone is not expected to ship until June of 2007 which means that those chomping at the bit to lay down their hard earned money will have to wait.
Jobs did hint at additional product announcements coming over the next few months. With the great features found in the iPhone, it seems logical that a new version of the iPod will be forthcoming. The iPhone’s max capacity will be 8GB. That still leaves a great deal of need for high capacity iPods with the new interface, screen size, and functionality.
With an unprecedented, and largely unfounded series of rumors preceding the iPhone’s announcement, it’s impressive to see Apple delivering on a product that looks like it will actually surpass expectations. With months to go before the product reaches the market, all we can do is sit back and see if the average consumer will be willing to a hefty price for a product that might well do for the cell phone what the iPod did for portable music.