Like the star on a Christmas tree, iPhone is perched atop all the top 10 gadget lists for 2007, and with good reason. Not only did iPhone revolutionize the way people think about their mobile phones -- as many writing those lists crow -- but in my case, it has changed the way I live. Let's be clear: I'm not your typical gadget or technology geek. I didn't have a cell phone until 2000, and even then I purchased a refurbished Nokia handset for $30 that resembled the Motorola brick phone Michael Douglas used in the 1987 film "Wall Street."
2008 will mark the first year in as long as I can remember that I won't be buying a leather-bound dayplanner to keep track of appointments, and I still read more books than blogs. Though I rampantly text-message, instant-message and e-mail, I'd still rather open my mouth and speak than send a series of virtual messages to have a "conversation."
I covered the iPhone launch here in New York in June and didn't quite understand what all the fuss was about, especially as I interviewed people who lined up for days in the broiling heat just to be among the first to buy the gadget. I am a huge fan of Apple products and own several iPods and a PowerBook, but like many others, I didn't plan to buy an iPhone until the price dropped or Apple came out with the product's second wave.
When someone gave me an iPhone in late August, I surprised myself by being giddy. I immediately chucked my AT&T-powered Motorola Razr in favor of what would become my new main squeeze. At close range, iPhone, like other Apple gadgets, was just so -- for lack of a better word -- adorable. Even before I opened the box, I realized that my love affair with iPhone was about to begin.
Four months later, I'm still smitten. Until iPhone, I never though a mobile device could so drastically change my daily life. Its cousin iPod was certainly a revolutionary product, disrupting an entire music industry that is still feeling the repercussions. But for the average person, iPod really only changed the form of device that plays your music or videos and how you purchase entertainment. iPhone, on the other hand, affects daily human behavior on a much broader scale.
Soon after iPhone came into my life, I was heading to Brooklyn to see a friend's band perform. Like any self-respecting cabbie in Manhattan, my driver had no idea how to get to the venue, even when I gave him the address. Like most Manhattan-dwellers, I didn't either.
But as we were zooming over the Williamsburg Bridge in the direction I knew we had to go, I used the Google Maps application on iPhone to find the best route. I had it before we exited the 1,600-foot-long bridge in Brooklyn.
Now, iPhone isn't the only mobile device that provides maps or driving directions. But do any of them do it quite as niftily as iPhone does, with just a few taps on a screen? And do they mark your destination on the map with a cute little red pushpin icon so resembling a cherry lollipop that you just might want to lick it?
This is the fundamental reason why my heart, like many others, is aflutter over iPhone. It's not just what the gadget does that makes it a life-changing device, it's HOW it does it -- and, more importantly, how it lets a user do it.
Much of the functionality of iPhone can be found on many current handsets. But even when I could access my Gmail account on my Razr, I found the steps I had to take to launch and use the application, and then the interface on which I was reading my e-mail, a frustrating and, frankly, ugly experience. The Web-browsing experience was pretty much the same, if not worse.
But iPhone actually presents an e-mail and Web-browsing experience the way they are meant to be on a computer. To sweeten the deal, you can also play your favorite music, map out your destination for the night and perform many other functions of typical handsets, all on a simple, engaging touch-screen that is not just easy to use, but an actual pleasure.
This is why, for the first time, my entire appointment schedule is digital, and why I check the weather and my e-mail before I even roll out of bed. It's why I never worry about buying maps or printing out directions anymore and why I sometimes forget I own a digital camera.
iPhone also makes you seem really smart, even when you're only medium-smart or not bright at all. Ever find yourself in the middle of a conversation with friends and someone asks, "Who invented that?" or "What actor was in that movie?" or "Who wrote that Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel?"
Now instead of being befuddled, I excuse myself and privately fire up Wikipedia on iPhone. Then I return to my friends with all the correct answers. Suddenly, I am as erudite as Jeopardy's Alex Trebek.
I've used a similar tack to get answers to trivia questions at a local pub quiz, though I don't recommend doing this because it's against the rules and competing players get really angry if they catch you. But did you know the full name for the Statue of Liberty is "Liberty Enlightening the World"? Neither did I until a recent pub quiz in Queens. (And neither did anyone else, because my team was the only one that got the question right and thus received two points instead of one.)
Of course, iPhone 1.0 is not without its flaws, which have been widely documented. It's true that AT&T's network sometimes crawls about as fast as an inchworm on Valium and anyone whose fingers aren't the size of a stylus (that is, just about everyone) will likely send a text message or two in pig Latin if they're typing too fast and skip proofreading.
Actually, while the message bubbles in the text-messaging interface are super-cute, they also can lead to embarrassing recipient flubs if you haven't returned to the home text-message screen after sending someone a message. I learned this the hard way when, in an early-morning fog, I sent a text message about a wild night out meant for a friend to my ex-boyfriend's number.
But overall, unlike said ex-boyfriend, iPhone has never disappointed me, and has so far been an unfailingly loyal and faithful companion. Since we're still in the honeymoon phase, I know there is much more to discover about the joys my new companion can bring to my life. It may be early to say, but I think my relationship with iPhone will turn out to be an affair to remember.
IDG News Service
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