Tech Toy of the Month: Apple iPhone, part II

In last month’s Tech Toy article, I previewed the Apple iPhone. Now that the iPhone has been released, I have had a chance to read reviews and spend some time with one myself.

One of my main concerns with the iPhone was the interface. Since there are no hard buttons on the iPhone, I figured Apple would need to hit the proverbial home run with their touchscreen interface. So I started reading reviews. I can sum up what I read with the following few quotes:

It’s fast, beautiful, menu-free, and dead simple to operate.

… it works like magic.

The lure of the iPhone is that it makes you want to use it. It’s actually fun. Do we say that about any phones? Hardly.

It’s also the best phone that anybody has ever made.

… every moment of user interaction has been quietly stage-managed and orchestrated, with such overwhelming attention to detail that when the history of digital interface design is written, whoever managed this project at Apple will be hailed as a Michelangelo, and the iPhone his or her Sistine Chapel.

Given this build-up, when I had a chance to use the iPhone, it was sort of a let-down. Not that I found any serious problems with the iPhone. To the contrary, the iPhone basically did everything it was supposed to do, exactly as I’d been reading about it. Having used and researched Apple products for so many years, perhaps I’ve become a little jaded to such breakthroughs. I expect this level of excellence from Apple, so it’s not a surprise to me when they release products like this. However, when I “step back” and put everything into perspective, it is very uncommon in the technology industry to create a breakthrough product that delivers everything it promises. And given the long lead time and the unprecedented hype surrounding the iPhone, this is all the more impressive.

To be fair, the biggest nit I have to pick with the iPhone is the virtual keyboard interface. In trying to type with my thumbs like I do with Blackberries or Treos, I had a small bit of difficulty. Perhaps I would get better with practice, so I won’t call this a big problem yet. However, I can see that people with larger thumbs or with longer fingernails will have problems. While people like this will have problems with any mobile keyboard, the lack of tactile response combined with the possibility of accidental “key” presses on the iPhone’s touchscreen will probably aggravate the situation.

To sum up, the iPhone lives up to the hype. If you see the iPhone in action on Apple’s web site, you should expect that you will get exactly what you see if you purchase one for yourself.

For all things Apple, Marcel is your expert.