End User

Waiting in line to hear Steve Jobs’s MacWorld keynote speech this January, I thought I heard my Palm Treo ring. I looked down, but the screen was dark. I looked up, and saw five other people looking at their own Treos — only one of them was getting a call. That week, I had to condition myself to check for telltale vibrations before digging the bulky rubber-wrapped brick out of my pocket.

When Jobs paraded out the iPhone, I felt every Treo owner in the audience want to stand up, pull out their bricks, and cast them to the floor, dancing and stomping on the flimsy cases in a whooping, violent massacre of silicon, plastic, and solder.

Because the Treo is stunted. Because “smart” phones aren’t. Because Windows Mobile crashes quicker than a Dallas debutante on a bender. Because even if you don’t want your phone to take terrible pictures and play music videos `ohh, pleeease`, the things you do actually want it to do — e.g. efficient text messaging, syncing your contacts and appointments — happen slowly, or with complication, or duplication, or not at all.

So what lies ahead? We know what the iPhone purports to do. We think it’s coming in June, and we know how much it will cost, but a lot of people have been asking if it will be worth it.

My predictions for the average mobile Joe and Jane: You’ll really have to want an iPhone. You’ll have to want to tolerate hoisting a communicator about as big as your hand. You’ll want a thick, serious case for it, which will add heft and bulk along with reassurance. You won’t really care about watching movies on it, but you’ll love music between calls if it
doesn’t drain the battery too fast. You’ll love browsing the web and Google Maps, and you’ll annoy your drinking buddies by whipping out Wikipedia to settle arguments. You won’t be disappointed.

Will it rock? Likely. I’ve bought Apple products for years, and have never been disappointed by a first release. Perfect? Rarely, but always impressive.

Will it sell? Oh, yeah, baby. Because of all of my “becauses” above.

But I won’t buy an iPhone this summer, and here’s what I’m waiting for:

1) someone else to test the toughness of that big, beautiful, expensive screen;

2) a camera on the front for videochat with Skype;

3) Skype itself (Skype.com) — Apple claims they won’t allow non-Apple software on the iPhone, which is a deal-breaker for me on a device with that much power and WiFi and OS X, the best operating system in the world;

4) faster Internet — the iPhone will only have Cingular’s EDGE network, possibly because the faster 3G technology is not widely available (Cingular.com/coverageviewer) and possibly because 3G eats battery faster;

5) wireless syncing with my computer — I’ve got no apologism for this; it makes zero sense to me.

My bet is that Apple has plans to make most of that happen, but it has to placate its provider-partner Cingular by crippling the first model. Skype, for example, could massively chomp into Cingular’s per-minute charges. But, unlike an iPod, my phone is too crucial to my day-to-day; I can’t spend $500 to be a guinea pig.

Once the iPhone catches on, however, and unless another gadget catches up to it, that smell you’ll smell is the burning plastic and solder from a giant Treo-filled bonfire. 


Jonathan Marcus publishes online at Themacwhisperer.blogspot.com.

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