Unexpected Results with iPhone Launch

I didn’t think the iPhone would do so well in the opening weekend, but I did expect them to sell most of their inventory. I guess they had more in stock than I thought, and people waiting in line seemed to be very pleased with their new $600 phone. A little too much for my taste, but after hearing and reading from real users of the phone I have to admit that I would love to have the money lying around, and be willing to switch carriers. Alas I do not.

The phone has many neat and cool features, Apple has managed to fit an amazing amount of technology into a sleek slim form factor, and the tests have shown that the iPhone lives up to many of the claims made earlier in the year. Also, as discussed at the WWDC the iPhone has no real 3rd party support, but instead relies on the Safari browser and quicktime to bring users all the good and bad of AJAX and web applications.

Some of the Cool Features
The photo experience is very good with the touch capabilities making it seemless and intuitive to use. Visual Voice Mail is a neat feature that allows you to treat voice mail just like you do email and play any individual message and manage them through an inbox. Using the Safari engine and having a great interface to navigate the internet experience is very good as well. The touch screen itself is an amazing feature, and will continue to invade other areas of our lives as the technology progresses, it allows both innovative UI like the pinch and slide, but also allows such things as the keyboard to change over time with software updates. The last cool feature I’ll mention is google maps, even though no GPS is built in, having a map available anywhere is a great feature in my opinion. Maybe in the next generation of the iPhone we’ll get a real mapping experience with GPS.

Real World Tests
According to CNET’s German the iPhone has a very good battery life, with talk time around 8 hours, and video and music playback times around 7 and 24 hours, respectively. This is very good in my opinion, and is close to the limit with the current technology, only efficient utilization can extend it much further until new technology arives. The WIFI device drains the battery, so beware of using it for surfing all day long without a power source near by. I’m sure an extra battery accessory will be available shortly.

Also people are raving about the photo experience on the iPhone, especially showing off the photos. The intuitive nature of the experience is what makes it actually fun to show people photos on your phone. The camera is okay, but not great. It’s only 2 Megapixels, and there is no optical zoom, or flash (not that phone flashes work), but it does take decent photos in daylight, and you can always bring along your hefty camera for any real photography work, as I’m sure no one is using their smart phone yet for any real photography.

Applications

Steve Jobs introduced the SDK for the iPhone at the WWDC Keynote. He said that it is the web standards, bleh to that! No native 3rd party support from Apple, but instead all of the technology used to create web applications can be immediately used with the iPhone.

Even though this makes it much easier for people to develop for the iPhone, at least if they’re currently in the web space, it doesn’t allow for any creative, and ingenious uses of the full technological capabilities of the phone. I support the use of AJAX and web standards, and even think this is a strategic move, but I’m not sure that such a capable media device is benefited by limiting technology.

Currently, you have to use Quicktimefor any video content you want to share with iPhone users; except for Youtube, which is converting their videos to use the H.264 standard that natively plays in Quicktime. No Flash, Java, Silverlight, AIR, or any other media and rich application technologies are currently incorporated into the iPhone and probably won’t be for a while, if ever.

All this said, web applications are powerful and even without these other technologies the iPhone will indeed have a decent if not excellent application experience, especially since anyone can put up a website in a few days or weeks and have a fully capable application that works on the iPhone and on any browser. Once you start to see the apps that are coming out on lists like Rev2.org’s Top 25 Web Apps or iphoneapplicationlist.com you realize that Apple’s move wasn’t such a terrible idea or strategy. It makes sense to want to have people be able to make and use the apps as quickly as possible.

Shortcomings
There are a few drawbacks to the iPhone currently. The price is high, but comparable. You can only use this with AT&T for now, at least in the US and this will likely be true for a year or two until people make Apple break their contract with AT&T. Hackers have already claimed that they have made an iPhone unlocked and didn’t need to activate it through iTunes.

The display is great, but be careful as it is made of glass and can break easily from a hip height drop [link]. Another thing that’s tough to use is the keyboard, as it provides no tactile feedback. It would have been great if they used a little vibrating device to have each keypress give a slight haptic feedback to the user. No real 3rd party applications will be allowed for now, unless partnered with like YouTube. Finally no GPS is a downfall, but would have hampered battery life as well as the size and weight of the device.

Conclusion
As a final thought I believe that the iPhone is an amazing and even revolutionary device, with some shortcomings that will hopefully be resolved in the near future through firmware updates or hacks. If you already have an iPod, and use iTunes regularly than this phone will definitely be a great device for you. If you are a hard core Apple fanboy, or a disciple of Steve Jobs, then I you already have one of these and you shouldn’t have read this post.

I will, however, stay away until the following generations before I’d purchase this phone, and I’ll probably never switch to AT&T so hopefully there will be a way to get an unlocked version eventually.

Resources
Info
http://www.iphone.com/
http://www.engadget.com/2007/01/09/the-apple-iphone/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone
http://www.cnet.com/apple-iphone.html
http://www.everythingiphone.com/
Video
Will it blend
WDDC Keynote
A look at the iPhone @ WWDC enclosed in glass
Funny Conan Spoof
Audio
Macbreak Weekly on the iPhone
Revision3’s Systm Cracking the iPhone
The Apple Phone Show Podcast

Surface Computing

Microsoft recently unveiled their Microsoft Surface Computing technology that they have been demoing and perfecting over the past six years or so. It looks like this is a great idea that will unlikely to take off any time soon. I would love to see it used for many of the scenarios they present such as syncing to cell phones, paying with plastic by dragging bill items to your card that has been placed on the table, or having a video puzzle which shows the potential of the technology. They would most definitely make this into a platform technology as well, sort of like the tablet where applications can utilize all the different functionality that is available.

This is similar to Jeff Han’s Perceptive Pixel’s touch screen technology. He showed off his research at the TED conference a few years back, but this technology is different from Microsoft’s. I’ll go into details in another post.