Just As I Thought


I am one of those gadget freaks that will be standing in line, pushing my way to the front, to get an iPhone next month. I’m hanging on every scrap of information that appears, fabricated or otherwise, to serve my obsession.

I am one of those gadget freaks that will be standing in line, pushing my way to the front, to get an iPhone next month. I’m hanging on every scrap of information that appears, fabricated or otherwise, to serve my obsession. It all reminds me of 1992, when I was chomping at the bit to get a Newton — and before you make comments about that I should point out that I still have a Newton. Granted, it spends big chunks of time in its case if only because it is too big and bulky to carry in my pocket, and it doesn’t play easily with my 21st century Macs (which no longer have serial ports or run the software without fiddling with adapters or emulators).

I never had trouble with my Newton, it reads my handwriting just fine — and while this was an amazing technological breakthrough, I think that the problem here is that handwriting is a terrible way to interface with a computer. It’s just too slow and tedious. In my opinion, this is why Newton was a technological cul-de-sac; although it certainly did jump start the PDA market.

So. iPhone. For me, there are two compelling reasons for it. First, it is a lust-worthy gadget; not for its industrial design (which I am not impressed by — the curvy chrome edges look so 1980s to me) but for its innovative interface. Second — and probably much more important — it is the first gadget to competently (it seems, I haven’t touched one yet) combine all the different gadgets I’d normally have to carry. In one small package you get an iPod, a mobile phone, a PDA, and an email/internet device. For me, this will replace four different devices that I carry in various situations — my iPod, my mobile phone, my Palm Tungsten, and my MacBook Pro.

Granted, I can’t run InDesign on the iPhone — I assume — so I will probably continue to carry the laptop. But still, one small device to replace three? And a device that promises to easily sync my data without having to use weird software? Wonderful simplicity.

Last weekend I spent hours fixing up all the data on my Mac, especially in my Address Book. I’ve never really used that application because it didn’t work very well with my gadgets — the Palm PDA prefers that I use its own software; my Motorola mobile phone doesn’t work well with the Address Book phone number formats. But the looming realization that I will finally be able to have one method of dealing with my contacts, calendars, etc. is really exciting and I had fun consolidating all that info, along with pictures of people in my Address Book.

I’m a weird kind of techno gadget early adopter freak: I love gadgets, but I hate all the nonsense involved in making them work together. It looks like this is where the iPhone will shine, at least for Mac users. “It just works” is possibly the most valuable thing about Apple products. Never underestimate the value of something “just working.”

The funniest — and most frustrating — thing about the iPhone anticipation is reading what the nay-sayers have to say: that the iPhone will be an expensive flop. I freely admit that I am what they would term as an “Apple fanboy” (in the same way that I am what the conservative right would term as a “bleeding heart liberal”) but these people are as fanatic in the opposite direction. They ignore facts, data, and history, closing their eyes, sticking their fingers in their ears, and chant “nyah nyah nyah i can’t HEAR YOU” when presented with the obvious. And the obvious in this case is that Apple has already virtually pre-sold millions upon millions of these devices without anyone having put their hands on one. The nay-sayers use two tired arguments: first, that the iPhone is too expensive. This is silly. It is no more expensive than a Blackberry (I tried a Blackberry last year, and with the price of the device plus the data plan, it cost me $700 just to get the thing). Second, they claim that it doesn’t do all the things they want to do. Well, this is just like complaining that the iPod doesn’t come with a radio tuner or Bluetooth headphones: these devices are designed to provide the largest audience with the most frequently needed functions. If they were to add functions for a small subset of users who think that some obscure function is necessary, they’d end up with… well, a Zune.

Take the AppleTV. I felt the same way about this device, thinking that I didn’t want one and it wouldn’t be successful because it is somewhat limited in functionality. But after using one for a month now, I find that it fulfills my needs beautifully and is a model of simplicity.

(I know this is rambling on, but I haven’t written about the iPhone in the last five months, so I’m just catching up with the blogosphere here.)

Anyway. I predict that the iPhone will be a smash hit, with a far more impressive debut than the iPod… and we all know now what happened to the iPod. Well, all of us except the nay-sayers.


  • When asked, the Apple folks say the iPhone won’t run any third-party apps, so don’t hold your breath on using any features or apps that are not on the phone from the get-go. And while it appears to have a slick UI, you can expect quirks that will not be fixable by third-party apps, the way Palm and Blackberry’s do. I think it’ll be an interesting and cool device, but I’ve learned to temper my excitement over Apple products because a good idea always has to survive Apple’s “we’re Apple so you’ll have to live with our idea of perfection and any complaints are just the whinings of MSFT-sympathizers… until we fix them all in version 2.”

  • I’ve tried both a Treo and a Blackberry, and had nothing but terrible experiences with the third-party software; it invariably makes the device unstable and I had crashes daily. And having third party software “fix” interface quirks just means that the interface is suddenly inconsistent; those “fixes” generally require low-level hacks that affect the stability of the device.
    We already know that iPhone will be updated in the same way the Mac OS is, so I’m far less concerned about that aspect — unlike a regular cell phone, which once purchased will never have its OS updated (except by hard-core phone nuts who know how to “flash” their phones).
    Again, these issues affect only a small subset of users. And even as a fairly high-level Mac user and tech-savvy guy, I almost never find a need to hack or “fix” my Mac. I don’t anticipate that I’ll need to do that on an iPhone, either. But I *did* need that kind of thing for the Treo and Blackberry, right out of the box.

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