Jan 10, 2007

Reach out and touchscreen someone

Your phone will never be the same. At last, that was the theme of yesterday's announcement that Apple will indeed be launching its iPhone in June. Is all the hype justified? It might be.
The new device is so groundbreaking because of its radical implementation of touchscreen technology. Yes, various PDAs and the iPod itself have been using some forms of touch technology, but that was only in a limited form -- not nearly what the iPhone promises to deliver. I think the main lesson from this is that touchscreen will be the main method users will interact with their devices. Buttons and styluses (styli?) are gone. Machines as versatile and complex as the iPhone will make physical buttons obsolete sooner rather than later.
Check out what Time had to say about Apple's approach:

They began by melting the face off a video iPod. No clickwheel, no keypad. They sheared off the entire front and replaced it with a huge, bright, vivid screen—that touchscreen Jobs got so excited about a few paragraphs ago. When you need to dial, it shows you a keypad; when you need other buttons, the screen serves them up. When you want to watch a video, the buttons disappear. Suddenly, the interface isn't fixed and rigid, it's fluid and molten. Software replaces hardware.

One area of the launch that wasn't so inspiring, though, was Apple's "singular" to offer the iPhone through only a single U.S. cellular provider. The rumors before the phone's launch were that Apple would offer the iPhone as an "unlocked" device -- meaning customers could use it with any cellular provider they wished. To the frustration of a lot of people, it won't happen right away. And that's too bad, because Apple's foray into unlocked phones could have had a massive effect on the industry overall. Customers willing to pay the $500-600 cost of an iPhone probably won't want to also be stuck with a contract for cell phone service. They'll want to shop around.

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