Oh, iPhone, how I desire you. While I was distantly intrigued when first I heard rumors of the iPhone's future launch last fall, I have had to have this phone since seeing photos over the internet in January. The iPhone is everything: mobile phone, e-mail device, internet browser, iPod, movie viewer, photo sorter. The iPhone is beautiful. The iPhone employs a touch screen and has virtually no buttons. The iPhone makes me drool.
But let's get into the nitty-gritty:
What is it? The iPhone is a mobile phone that, like any good smartphone, does everything you could possibly need done while mobile, and does it with a touch screen instead of buttons (score two cool points, and one usefulness point). While no one but the hand models in the TV ads know exactly how easy to use this will end up being, let's recall that Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) does have a reputation for being more user-friendly than anyone else. Hence its ever-rocketing stock price. The iPhone does e-mail via IMAP, the only really sensible protocol for a smartphone to use (score one usefulness point); it plays music and movies (score two cool points), it takes photos (score one each on usefulness and coolness), it browses the internet.
How much? The iPhone is advertised at $499 for 4GB of storage, and $599 for 8GB, with a two-year AT&T (NYSE: T) mobile phone contract. Although it's certainly possible there might be larger discounts at launch (or thereafter), we'll stick with the base price of $499.
What are the cool features? What's not cool about the iPhone? I think the really revolutionary-and-fun things include the ability to view movies in a widescreen format (that's definitely a cool point), to move your photos around into albums with the touch of a finger (score another cool point), and -- if it works anything like it does in the advertisements -- the map feature (score a final two cool points, and two usefulness points). It seems that mobile phones are used more than anything to help you get somewhere, whether that be by calling for directions or finding your girlfriend in a crowded outdoor festival. I remember one awful very late night, after 10 hours on the road, when my husband and I were driving madly around Sacramento trying to figure out which street lead to his sister's house. Or that time last Saturday I just wanted to stop and get bricks somewhere (but where?) before we had to return a borrowed car. With the iPhone, I could have Googled "landscape" or "garden," found the nearest place, and with the touch of a finger called to find out if it was open past 5. Let me tell you: this would solve a large number of my family's arguments.
Why would I buy one? If you want a mobile phone that does all those things you always wanted a mobile phone to do, the iPhone is for you. If you haven't yet made the jump into smartphones, the iPhone is for you. If you want to be able to IM and e-mail and browse while you're out and about, the iPhone is for you. If you are disgusted with the limitations of your iPod, or your video iPod, or your current camera phone's capabilities: yep, the iPhone is for you. The very most useful part of the iPhone, that no other smartphone seems to have, is its ability to zoom in and out on web pages (score two final usefulness points). I can see that really coming in handy.
Why wouldn't I buy one? OK: the iPhone isn't cheap. If you already have a Treo, or a Blackberry, or if you don't care ever to use AT&T/Cingular, well, you probably want to steer clear. If you just spent a bunch on a video iPod and you have a cell phone that's early in its contractual life, you won't find this very useful. But if you're blessed with a few hundred dollars and an open contract, ohmigod you should run to the Cingular store nearest you by June 28th at the latest. If you're one of those people who is easily frustrated by the typical screwups present in early models of products, you'll want to wait; or if you'd rather hold out for the eventual discounts. But the only "don't buy 'em" reasons are in common with every smartphone: in my opinion, this baby is the superhero of smartphones launching this summer.
What's the final tally? Usefulness: Six points; Coolness: Nine points.