Will iPhone be for you? Here's what to expect

You can be forgiven if you're under the impression that Apple's iPhone is right up there with the wheel in the category of world-changing inventions. While the iPhone, unveiled amid much hype by Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs two weeks ago, combines a cell phone, music player and PDA in an easy-to-use package, it's not the only product of its kind. Ask the owners of Treo, BlackBerry and Chocolate devices.

But in keeping with Apple's tradition of innovation, the iPhone is intended to lap its competitors with ease of use and improved features. Here's what you can look forward to later this year, and why you may or may not want one.

The Basics

The basic product is a cell phone that can run PDA-type applications, access the Internet, receive and send e-mail, store and replay music and videos, and take photos. None of these are new capabilities for cell phones, although it is hard to find all of them done well in a single product.

What's New

The phone is designed to be operated with your fingertips, not a stylus. The "multi-touch" screen processes two finger movements at the same time, so you can grab a photo on the screen and pinch it smaller or stretch it bigger. Mac-type Internet-enabled widgets (stock quotes, weather) are available, a first for cell phones. Sensors determine how you're holding the phone (upright or sideways) and auto-switch the display to match. In conjunction with a proprietary version of Google maps, you can locate a business in Web mode on the map, then place a call to it with just a touch.

What's Improved

The color screen is bigger, with a higher resolution (480x320) and more colors. Sensors adjust screen brightness to ambient light, and cut off the screen when you hold the phone to your face to talk. The way you interact with the contact list to find and call someone is a big improvement over current technology. The 2-megapixel camera gives offers better resolution than many cell phone cameras, but is not the best available.

What's Cool

The music volume automatically lowers when you receive a call, and returns to normal when you hang up. Listen to voice-mail messages in the sequence you want to hear them. "Push" e-mail powered by Yahoo! Mail is free, in contrast to the fee-based e-mail service of the BlackBerry. The screen fits widescreen-formatted videos. Internet access automatically locks on to available Wi-Fi access points, or defaults to Cingular's EDGE network if Wi-Fi is not available. Quad-band GSM means you should get good cell phone coverage worldwide.

What's Not So Cool

Doesn't sync e-mail and contacts with Microsoft Outlook. Won't open Microsoft Word and Excel documents, as will many of its competitors. Music can't be downloaded directly to the iPhone (like Verizon VCast), and must be purchased from iTunes. Storage options of 4 GB or 8 GB seem anemic, compared to iPod storage of up to 40 GB. Voice dialing is not an option. Rechargeable battery not owner-replaceable. Doesn't use AT&T's (formerly Cingular) fastest (3G) network for Internet access, which mostly limits Internet service to the United States.

Legal Cloud

The name "iPhone" is a registered trademark of Cisco, used in marketing Cisco's line of Internet-based telephones. Apple negotiated with Cisco for rights to the name, but announced the product without those rights. Cisco is now suing Apple. Maybe by the time it reaches retail stores, it will be called the "Oops-Phone."

Compare To

Many Internet-capable phones use higher-speed networks. Verizon's Treo 700w SmartPhone syncs with Outlook and includes "Pocket" versions of Microsoft business applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), supports a much broader selection of music and video media formats, and costs half as much. Sprint's BlackBerry 8703e doubles as a GPS navigator, giving turn-by-turn audible directions, and tracking its own GPS location to help rescue crews find you in an emergency.


iPhone is scheduled to be available in June from AT&T (the new name for the old Cingular network) and Apple. Expected price is $499 (4 GB storage) or $599 (8 GB storage). Sold only in a package with an AT&T service contract. Reboot Rod

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