iPhone, youPhone, he-she-itPhones

By Peter Mavrik in News on Jul 12, 2007 5:15PM

2007_07_iphoneCIST.jpgSometimes we long for the old days when there were no cell phones. Text messaging was only for the über-rich Skytel set, and there was no reminder to silence your phones at the beginning of every concert, movie, poetry reading, dance recital, etc.

It was much quieter then. And much, much cheaper.

But in 2007 we are all carrying around computers in our pockets. Just over thirty years ago, in order to get a fraction of the amount of computing power you have on your cell, it would have taken a computer the size of several rooms. The punch cards needed to run such a beast would have taken up another room. And there was probably not a screen or a keyboard.

But we like change. Change is good. Different isn't always better, but change is good.

So when Steve Jobs and the folks at Apple announced on January 9, 2007, that they were moving deeper into the mobile phone market (they were there already, remember ROKR?) some of us laughed. Some of us cried. Some of us began drooling. And some of us started saving our change for the mysterious iPhone.

Ever since it officially came out, we've been scraping and saving. Yesterday, all that saving from swearing jars, strip-a-thons, outdoor bartending gigs, poker games, and more proved useful. With the help of our bank we transformed it into a pile of cash, marched into a Cingular store, and purchased an 8GB iPhone.

You're reading this thinking, "They MUST be crazy!" And we admit, yes, we are a bit touched at times. But to repeat — change is good. And we're here to say the iPhone will change the way people use their cell phones.

The iPhone isn't just another CrackBerry for the masses. It's a hand-held Mac that makes phone calls, wrapped in some pretty bad-ass hardware, coated in the sexiest software interface to date. Everything is touch activated. We just can't stop touching it. Seriously.

The biggest breakthroughs, aside from pairing a true iPod with a cell phone with a mail client with a browser with a date book with some widgets, are the voicemail and the touch interfaces.

2007_07_iphoneAlbum.jpgStarting with the touch interface, Apple has done this better than anyone else thus far. Fluid animations, a hallmark of Mac OS X, let you do everything from flicking through your phone lists to swiping through a virtual stack of album covers. Menu items pop up and disappear with a touch of the screen. Even the keyboard, which has no physical keys, is touch controlled. Yes, you've heard it's a bit cranky, but even after only a day we are getting better at using it. Remember how slow you were when you first started to text? It just took time, and so will the iPhone's keyboard.

If just one feature of the iPhone will be copied by the masses, we suspect it will be the voicemail interaction. There is really nothing like it on the market at the moment, and the seemingly dismal exclusive pairing with AT&T was necessary in order to provide this kind of spectacular feature.

2007_07_iphoneVoicemail.jpgBasically every time you receive a voicemail, it shows up in your voicemail list. From there you touch the one you want to play. There's a slider so you can drag the audio back and forth (the tech term is "scrubbing") as much as you like. Miss that number your friend left you? Just use your finger to scrub the audio back a bit, and it'll repeat. Best of all, you can listen to your voicemail in any order you like. Have 10 messages? Pick the ones you want to listen to first, and save the others for later. We're pretty sure other phone carriers will eventually offer visual voicemail in a similar way.

We could spend another 10,000 words singing the praises and lamenting the shortcomings of the iPhone (no cut/paste, no Flash/Java support, no customizable ringtones), but we're going to leave it at the real breakthroughs for now. The screen interface can't be beat, and the voicemail is truly stellar. Everything else (the iPod, the Mail client, true Safari browsing) is great, and we love it unconditionally. But some folks just won't want to spend the cash for an iPhone. We wish we weren't such a gadget addict. Time will tell if this becomes one of our better investments.

Skeptics, take a trip to the Apple store, and play with one. You may find yourself saving a pile of change....