The new iPhone

The iPhone has just been unveiled at Macworld in San Francisco. According to Steve Jobs its screen is 3.5" across its diagonal (with a resolution of 160 pixels per inch), and it’s only 11.6mm deep. Funny how he mixes his imperial and metric lengths.

He could have gone for 88.9mm across (with 6.3 pixels per mm), or else gone for 0.45" depth.

Incidentally, the iPhone itself looks sweet.

Update: Nasa’s going metric, as of today, for moon activity.

Further update: more detail on the iPhone. The phone itself is fricking unbelievable. I love it. The interface is poetry, and 95% of the functionality is beautiful, both in its simplicity and its offering.

The iPod part of the phone has advanced in leaps and bounds. Most of these advances relate to the fact that the whole thing is running OS(X), but I also love its "accelerometer", which is essentially a gravity-detector, orienting your screen according to the way you hold it. That’s particularly neat, although I have no idea why they chose that name.

The traditional phone bit is also great. They’ve taken all of the annoyances with regular phones, and simply addressed them all—switching between calls, accessing contacts and a particularly snazzy visual voicemail, allowing you to listen to specific voicemails rather than trawl through a plethora to listen to the one that you want.

However, there is one area that is dreadful, but which is a symptom of keyless devices: typing. SMS texting and writing emails is cumbersome to say the least. Jobs says "I’ve got this little keyboard which is phenomenal. […] It’s actually really fast to type on".

He’s lying. It took a long time for him to type a one-line text message, which was no doubt rehearsed many times over. With traditional mobile phones, there used to be a comfort factor. The feedback that the keys gave me (a little click with a tangible pressed/released state) confirmed that my press had been recognised, and I could move on to the next letter. Intelligent texting allowed 90% of the QWERTY user experience, without needing the space for all those keys. (When I typed QWERTY just then, I actually touch-typed it, instead of swiping my finger across the top row. Weird.)

My current phone (T-Mobile’s MDA) has a slide-out keyboard, which offers similar, vital feedback, although the QWERTY keyboard is a little cumbersome for the two thumbs that remain free (hooray for opposable thumbs!) while my fingers cradle the unit.

The touch-screen for typing doesn’t work for me—nor, it seems for Steve, who undeniably had trouble. (This in spite of the whoopings of the notoriously "Apple did it so it must be good" crowd.) It’s not as if it’s the lack of SMS take-up in the US that has driven the weakness, as the "keyboard" is similarly important for web browsing and email, fundamental offerings of the iPhone, what with its Google and Yahoo! partnerships.

Lastly, Apple’s introduction of Safari onto the phone doesn’t work too well for me either. It displays the full webpage as it would appear on my 15.4" laptop monitor. It’s illegible, but you can zoom in easily. But how do I know what to zoom into? I don’t. But I can zip around the screen to try and find what I’m looking for, as long as I know where to zip. I’d prefer a linear view on such a relatively small screen. The whole idea of graceful degradation and the beauty of stylesheets goes out of the window.

But neat nonetheless…


4 Responses to “The new iPhone”

  1. Shanahan on January 9th, 2007 22:12

    My take: this is a phone for posers. The lack of feedback will make it unusable. You can’t type on a flat panel. Just doesn’t work.

    Also, I took the accelerometer to be intended to detect when you put the phone to your ear, not an “orientation” detector.

  2. Dan on January 9th, 2007 23:31

    No, the accelerator is the gravity thing. Then there’s a proximity detector (for disabling screen presses when you’re talking) and an ambient light detector (for automatic screen brightness).

  3. Woznot on January 14th, 2007 07:19

    My take on the phone was:

    * Section when Steve rattled off the number of games consoles, digital camera, mp3 players, computers and mobile phones. He said, he was going to target 1% of the phone market for iPhone.

    * Texting: The killer app is not making calls (that is for people who can afford contracts (the minority)), the killer app for the majority of pre-paid mobile users is texting.

    The weakspot of this phone is that I can’t use my opposable thumb to touch type using T9. Qwerty is what the minority computer population use forced onto mobile users.

    * I would buy it because it would effortlessly give me full synch with my Apple contacts, a rolls-royce MP3, and my iPhotos. May sometimes use the browser and video player.

    Only reservation is that it won’t pass the drop test and the form fact is bulky for my suit jacket.

  4. Dan on January 14th, 2007 07:46

    Bulky, yes, but bulkier than your phone/camera/iPod combined?

Leave a Reply