Cult or Klutz?

Cult or Klutz?
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First Published: Wed, Jun 20 2007. 12 26 AM IST

Updated: Wed, Jun 20 2007. 12 26 AM IST
Will the Apple iPhone be the ultimate convergence device? There’s nothing official about it yet. But by all accounts, as the clock strikes 4.30pm on 29 June 2007, some 1,840 AT&T wireless boutiques across the US will evict their customers and down their shutters. Ditto for all 160 Apple stores. Ninety minutes later, they will reopen, storefronts showcasing one of the most hyped and hankered after cellphones today, the Apple iPhone.
This pricey 21st century gizmo, that few have seen and even fewer have handled, comes buoyed by both Apple’s pedigree to deliver revolutionary cult products and the sweet smell of media excess.
For those who’ve just tuned in, this 135-gram GSM quad-band (850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz) cellphone is akin to a widescreen iPod. The 4.5x 2.4x0.46 inch black and beauteous bundle boasts a 3.5 inch super-brilliant screen that lights up only during interaction, a screen resolution of 320x480 pixels (160ppi), a Mac OS X operating system, 4GB or 8GB of inbuilt storage, and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g)/EDGE/GPRS/Bluetooth 2.0+EDR for wireless data transmission.
For shutterbugs, there’s a two megapixel camera. Input? No keyboard pecking, no stylus jabs, just a fully-functional, “multi-touch” screen with a full Qwerty virtual onscreen keyboard. The screen is made of the same polycarbonate that’s used in iPods (read scratch- prone, though substantially improved). The phone is Windows PCs- and Mac-compatible and comes with an integrated version of Apple’s Safari-tabbed Web browser and Google Maps software.
It will also have software applets (called widgets) to bring users weather and stocks updates, etc. As for juice, the embedded (non-user removable) battery is claimed to last five hours for talk, video and browsing, and up to 16 hours of audio playback.
The iPhone will be for sale only in the US—and exclusively available from Apple and AT&T (formerly Cingular Wireless) for the first two years. Pre-launch pricing for the iPhone has been set at $499 (Rs20,459) for the 4GB model and $599 for the 8GB one. This pricing is for “locked” handsets that are purchased with a two year AT&T service plan contract. No one is willing to set a price for illegally “unlocked” handsets that will hit the grey market soon, just yet.
Apple’s brand reputation aside, the iPhone’s shiniest promise is its innovative appeal of being “more than a music phone”. The idea of owning a gadget that integrates the iconic iPod with cellular phone capabilities, touch-screen functionality, intuitive user interface, email/Internet, video and the inbuilt two megapixel digital camera are the device’s biggest USPs.
So much for the eye candy. What’s the downside? No 3G or HSDPA high-speed Internet yet, no games (that’s very odd), no iChat, no GPS either. It doesn’t run the vast base of existing Palm, Symbian, or Windows Mobile programs. No Flash or Java support. Voice recognition? Voice dialling? Voice memos? Video recording? No clue yet. No Word or Excel docs. No Outlook syncing either. No user choice programme additions. No battery swaps on the trot on your own—the battery pack is locked and barred similar to the iPod’s.
While the touch-control screen and innovative means of command/data input via its simulated keypad are being touted as its killer features, they could also prove to be its Achilles’ heel in terms of ease of navigation, one-handed use, and rain/sweat/moisture/grease/grubby finger factor…
Does that shatter the iPhone fairy tale? No, not just yet. Because, as the Bard said, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. Veteran wisdom tells us that Apple has the technological fortitude to better the best. So devout is the industry’s belief that Apple will keep the faith that it just took Apple head honcho Steve Jobs’ emphatic announcement of launching the iPhone in January 2007 to send his company’s stocks rocketing 8.3%, while BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd’s shares tumbled 7.7%. In fact, Apple ranked as the fourth most desired multimedia handset brand in the US even before the iPhone was announced. Needless to say, there’s a lot at stake for Apple (and AT&T) than just reputations.
When will the iPhone come to India? Officially, it can’t until mid-2009. Unless AT&T beams down on us before that… The question right now is: Will the keyless iPhone reinvent mobile telecommunications just as the iPod revolutionized the way the world listens to music? All we can say is: Stay tuned
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First Published: Wed, Jun 20 2007. 12 26 AM IST
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