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iPhone is iConic and Cultic but … June 30, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Convergence, Journalism, News, Reviews, Trends.
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What? No video? The new lingua franca of the Web?

The wait for the wizardry is over. The brew is bewitching. The masterful buzz orchestrated around the machine and its rollout on Fifth Avenue in New York has finally put the Apple iPhone in the possession of a privileged few.

When a gorgeous piece of technology does so many things so well so nicely, you forgive its foibles. The 4.8-ounce device is pricey. An 8GB (surely you wouldn’t take the 4GB for US$500?) weighs in at $600. The reviews have been mostly breathless, superlative. It certainly scores in the cool department. But as a toolkit, I want more.

iPhone is set to become one of those iconic and cultic devices that brings new meaning to convergence culture. Dubbed the “Jesus Phone” by bloggers, it’s the subject of 11,000 articles, and 70 million hits so far on Google.

Fun and full of eye candy, iPhone is cellphone, wide-screen iPod, and Internet communications device all in one. This slab of a computer with touch-sensitive glass lives up to its pre-launch hysteria with SMS, e-mail, Web browsing, Wifi, Google Maps and more.

Its fast, menu-free and simple to run software is touted as its biggest achievement. The Home page has icons for 16 functions. David Pogue on the New York Times says the thing lives up to its hype for music playing, emailing and video but falls short as a phone.

To make a call takes 6 steps: wake the phone, unlock its buttons, summon the Home screen, open the Phone program, view Recent Calls or speed-dial list, then select a name. When you’re a journalist juggling way too many deadlines, that’s way too convoluted.

Journalists need a lot more than eye candy to do the job on the road. Thanks to Ezra Shapiro who listed them in Poynter Online, here’s a wish list for the missing features on iPhone that would have made it the perfect journo toolkit:

Bluetooth profiles for keyboards, printers, or file transfer.
Video recording
Audio memos
Call recording
Slot for a data card
Internal memory for data
Notes application that syncs to computer
Java and FlashComputer-style IM.RSS

iPhone will be launched in Europe late 2007 and Asia in 2008. It will catalyze the concept of multimedia devices embedded with media player, a phone and a mini computer and will help drive sales of a new breed of ‘multimedia smartphone’ among Asia’s gadget-hungry young consumers.

Just get ready to pledge a lifetime commitment to the iPhone as your only cellphone. Its music-playing function is limited by a factory-installed software for copy protection. Which means you will always have to buy Apple stuff because iPhone will not work with any other hardware.

The term for this copy-protection software is the euphemism: Digital Rights Management. Here’s how it works: when you buy songs at the iTunes Music Store, you can play them on only the iPod or iPhone. And when you buy an iPod or iPhone, you can play copy-protected songs bought from only the iTunes Music Store.

Related articles:
Often-asked iPhone questions
Tour of the iPhone
iPhone Matches Most of its Hype
iPhone draws long lines, bullish forecasts
Accessory makers ready for iPhone launch
A Closer Look at the iPhone – CBS clip on YouTube
According to Asia, the iPhone sucks – CNN clip on YouTube

Apple’s website has videos and tutorials on the iPhone.

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