$$ - Hype, Phones And Knitting

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past six months, by now you will have gotten wind of Apple’s latest innovation, the iPhone.

Developed secretly by Apple over a number of years, the device represents the company’s first foray into the mobile telephone market.

Currently only available in the US, the iPhone is sold exclusively for use with the country’s largest mobile carrier, AT&T. The device is available in versions sporting 4GBs and 8GBs of memory, retailing for $499 ($587) and $599 ($704) respectively.

In addition to the purchase price, customers are required to sign up to a two year data and voice plan.

The iPhone measures 11.5cm long, 6.1cm wide, and a slim 1.16cm deep. It features a revolutionary “multi-touch” screen that dominates the face of the device. Unlike other smart phones that rely on a stylus pen or traditional buttons, the iPhone is designed to accept input from the users fingers alone.

The iPhone supports a multitude of networking and connection capabilities, namely quad band GSM, EDGE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB.

Customers in the US are able to access the Internet via AT&T’s EDGE network, or via a Wi-Fi network if one is available. Either of these connections can be used to access email, or the web using Apple’s bundled Safari web browser.

A dedicated YouTube viewer is also included, allowing iPhone users to browse the latest videos posted on the popular site.

As with most modern mobile phones, the Bluetooth capabilities can be used to connect wireless headsets and perform other short range wireless functions.

Driven by a compact version of Mac OS X, the multimedia functions of the phone are very impressive. Music and other audio, pictures and videos can all be uploaded to the phone for play back on the device.

As the phone doesn’t contain a hard drive like the currently shipping Video iPods, the more restricted capacity of the iPhone dictates that users will only be able to carry a selection of the digital media they have stored on their computers. Fortunately, the iTunes software allows users to easily manage their media and sychronise it with their iPhone.

One interesting feature of the iPhone is its integrated “accelerometer”. This technology is configured to allow the user to switch the device’s screen between portrait and landscape mode, by simply rotating the device onto its side!

Despite receiving an overwhelmingly positive reception by the US market, some aspects of Apple’s strategy and the phone itself have been criticised. The main criticism is leveled against Apple’s decision to lock the phone to AT&T, and hence the antiquated EDGE data network. Critics believe that Apple should have courted other carriers with faster and more advanced third generation (3G) networks.

Despite containing a 2 megapixel camera, another problem cited with the iPhone is its lack of video calling support, a feature present in many other phones.

Finally, in typical Apple fashion, the device does not allow the user to readily change the battery. Instead, the unit needs to be shipped to a service centre to have the procedure performed by a technician. This limitation has already prompted a class action lawsuit against Apple, however given the fact that Apple still manufacture iPods in the same way, many believe that this lawsuit will be of little consequence.

AUSTRALIA?

The iPhone isn’t expected to be released in Australia until next year, by which time Apple is likely to have updated the device to take advantage of 3G network technology deployed widely in both Europe and Australia.

At this stage, it is unclear whether Apple will pursue an exclusive arrangement with a telco, or retail the device under other commercial arrangements.

Despite Telstra having the network most conducive to supporting a 3G capable iPhone, derogatory statements made earlier in the year by Chief Operations Officer, Greg Winn, will have done little to win the favour of Apple.

“There’s an old saying - stick to your knitting - and Apple is not a mobile phone manufacturer, that’s not their knitting”.

This remains to be seen.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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