iPhone: The $1,975 iPod
Apple's and AT&T's high-price gadget is a heartbreaking triumph of greed over genius
iPhone might be the perfect mobile device if it weren't for a certain pair of CEOs. iPhone users are forced to buy into an extremely narrow range of overpriced rate plans (with no option for a data-only plan), a mandatory two-year contract term, slow EDGE wireless data service, no device discount, and no handset protection. They built the only smartphone that does not function, not even as a calculator, until the buyer pays a $36 activation fee and signs up for a two-year service commitment at a minimum cost of $59.99 per month, plus the usual small-print charges.
Paying full retail ("unsubsidized") price for any other smartphone or PDA in AT&T's catalog frees the buyer from a term commitment and opens up pay-as-you-go and data-only rate plans, as well as plans that let you use your device as an Internet gateway for a notebook computer. Not iPhone — it is truly in a class by itself.
Screen meets keyboard
You already know iPhone. It's a 3.5-inch glass LCD with just enough metal and plastic wrapped around it to hold it together. There are four tactile buttons: home, volume up, volume down, and power. Everything else, including the QWERTY keyboard, shows up on the display.
iPhone's display is touch-sensitive to the extreme. It is designed for fingertips, not for styli. Most stylus-sensitive mobile devices also respond to the touch of a finger, but the stylus comes in handy as a proxy for a mouse, which most Web 2.0 applications expect.
iPhone needs a stylus as an option: There are places where the pad at the tip of an adult finger spreads out on pressure to cover an awfully large swath of display space. The result is a human interface that responds beautifully to grand gestures such as one- and two-finger sweeps to scroll content, and two-finger pinching and spreading to zoom out and in, respectively.
But if user interface controls are packed too closely together, which applies to most Web sites with forms, it's impossible to aim for a radio button or a check box without slipping and activating an adjacent control.