Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Build-Up to iPhone

The iPhone. Released last year to much fanfare only to run headfirst into a wall of scorn six weeks later when the price was slashed by several hundred dollars. It’s like Steve Jobs himself was pointing at the early adopter Apple fanatics and quoting Nelson from The Simpsons.

“Ha ha!”

But now the new generation is ready for me to pick up. I played with my dad and sister’s iPhones over the Christmas break and I thought I was hungry for it before. Oh no. I just wanted one and if I got one when my contract with Sprint was up in the spring then so much the better. But now I’m actually going to pay double the cost just to break the contract.

Because I have to have one. RIGHT. THIS. INSTANT.

This thing is hands down the sexiest piece of tech to come down the pipe in years. I mean that goes without saying. Look at it! It is stunning. What’s better? Touch screen tech that is just about flawless. Oh sure, there are certain quirks here and there (just try playing Pac-Man on it, or better yet don’t) but on the whole it is a giant leap forward in terms of user interface.

You can have 3-D. People want to know that what they see and touch is real. That’s why I firmly believe, and this is a slight digression, that the current top guys in Hollywood (Spielberg, Cameron, Zemeckis, Jackson) who are obsessed with developing a new generation of 3-D are missing the point. People love special effects and marvel at what a computer can do.

But you heard genuine gasps of awe in “The Dark Knight” when that truck flipped over. Even before that, the way that car chase on Lower Wacker Drive through Gotham left people gripping their seats and shouting from excitement? Why is that?

Because what they were looking at was real. It was tangible. They knew instinctively they could reach out and touch what was on screen, in spite of some CGI thrown in here and there. For the most part, it was real and the stunt work was amazing. At the beginning, when the two robbers slide from one building to the next the audience was in the moment more so than if they were CGI figures because it was real and the IMAX presentation made it seem as if they were there with them. That’s the next big thing – finding a way to IMAX everything. It brings reality so close you can touch it.

Which is exactly what I love so much about the iPhone. I’m not just pushing buttons and cycling through menu after menu. I’m sliding through menus with the touch of my hand. Or I’m shaking the iPhone so that the slot machine style interface of an application will bring up local delis in my price range. I’m interacting with it beyond just hitting a button and waiting for my call to go through. I’m stretching pictures out, finding a mind-boggling amount of information out about local eateries, and more.

But the bottom line is this – it’s not cold and impersonal. I can do a gazillion things with this little device and never once do I lose sight of it being a phone too. I’ve railed in the past about phone carriers packing more and more features into their devices transforming them from phones into PDAs. The iPhone is no different, but it does so many things so well and so smoothly that I am happy to gloss over the fact that a phone is one aspect among many.

Oh I can’t wait to get my hands on one tonight. I’ll report back on whether my lust translates into a full blown love affair or a crash-and-burn.

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