The iPhone, after years of spec­u­la­tion, rumor, hope, and antic­i­pa­tion, finally debuted yes­ter­day. The flurry of acco­lades and crit­i­cisms (for a demo prod­uct mind you) exploded over the next 24 hours, as Asia and Europe woke up to the news, and the com­men­tary hasn’t slowed down since. I’m going to hold off on my final judg­ment until June, but as far as first impres­sions go, this one was amazing.

I’ve been shop­ping for a new phone for the past year or so. I appre­ci­ate music and all but I’m far from a col­lec­tor and con­nois­seur. In fact, instead of an annual bonus, 2 years ago my bosses gave out iPod Nanos which I imme­di­ately regifted. In any case, a phone where music play­ing was an addi­tional fea­ture wasn’t going to swing my deci­sion. So when the Motorola ROKR was intro­duced I saw it more as a curios­ity and when I real­ized how crip­pled it was with regard to its pri­mary mar­ket­ing fea­ture, iTunes, I only fore­saw failure.

An early con­tender for my pur­chase was the SE w800i which was soon unseated by its suc­ces­sor the w810i. A cam­era phone sounded more appeal­ing. A capa­ble point-and-shoot cam­era that I could have with me at all times would be great. I have no qualms of using tech­nol­ogy that was good enough 2 to 3 years ago if it meant not hav­ing to carry mul­ti­ple devices. The k750i, on which both phones are based, had already proven itself the king of 2MP cam­era phones.

Then the SE Cyber­shot k800i was intro­duced in Europe and so began the ago­niz­ing wait for the k790a to be brought here State-side. The k790a was 3.2MP cam­era phone with Cyber­shot optics, elec­tron­ics, and pro­cess­ing. I’d be able to cre­ate accept­able (if not great) 8x10s rather than be lim­ited to just 4x6s. As expected, like its pre­de­ces­sor, the k790a became king of the 3MP cam­era phones. Unfor­tu­nately the expected car­rier, Cin­gu­lar, never picked it up instead opt­ing to stick with the Walk­man line of SE phones, despite the incred­i­ble suc­cess the k800i had in other parts of the world. k790a is only offered via a few regional car­ri­ers (none of which are near me) or via resellers as an unlocked phone (expensive).

The k790a’s major rival was the Nokia N73 which was a full-featured smart­phone rather than just a cam­era phone. I had con­sid­ered the N73 but like all other smart­phones, they fall short of a true mobile com­put­ing device because UIs are slow and clumsy albeit still usable. Plus appli­ca­tions are often crip­pled. The major draw­back to the N73 was the lack of wifi. Given Cingular’s prices on data plans, I wasn’t really look­ing for­ward to pay such a pre­mium when I’d rather go to a local cof­fee shop and logon for free.

So come this past New Year’s I was at the point where I was about to go buy a w810i. The price at Cin­gu­lar dropped to $50–75 with a 2-year con­tract. I’d be able to get a phone with 80% of the k790a’s capa­bil­i­ties at 1/4 the cost. I held out on the pur­chase just to see what Apple was going to intro­duce at Mac­world 2007. What debuted was not what I expected. It exceeded my expec­ta­tions. It was a rev­o­lu­tion­ary step, not the typ­i­cal evo­lu­tion­ary step more com­monly seen in this industry.

This was not just an iPod with a phone slapped on to it (i.e. the oppo­site of the ROKR). Each fea­ture was well-thought out from hard­ware to soft­ware and like most Apple prod­ucts, very well inte­grated. As jaw-dropping as some of the indi­vid­ual fea­ture demos were, it was the final “real-world” usage demo that floored me. Here was a smart­phone with fea­tures that not only I can use but would want to use. Plus Apple being Apple pre­vented Cin­gu­lar from being Cin­gu­lar and that was to crip­ple the phone and bend it to Cingular’s will and brand. The lack of orange was very appar­ent to me and am very much happy to see it that way.

I haven’t seen any­thing this cool in a mobile com­put­ing device since the Palm was intro­duced. Things I hope to see come to fruition with regards to the iPhone is a ter­mi­nal shell app. The abil­ity to dock the device and use full-size periph­er­als not unlike a lap­top. GPS capa­bil­ity whether its through cell tower tri­an­gu­la­tion or an actual GPS addon. An eBook reader app. VoIP. Pur­chase and then sync apps and wid­gets via iTunes. (Apple should rename the pro­gram iSync, Dock Cen­tral, or some­thing since it’s evolv­ing past just the iPod.) A full func­tion­ing browser (though I did not see Javascript or Flash dur­ing the demo) means web appli­ca­tions will work right out the door (i.e. all those lovely AJAXy Google apps) which sorta gets around the closed doors Apple cur­rently has around the platform.

This is not to say the phone doesn’t have its short­com­ings. No one has yet to see the cam­era in action. The plat­form is cur­rently closed and may require the pur­chase of a dev license not unlike those for con­soles. Dev kits are rumored to be two years away, any­way. So the chance we may see home­brew soft­ware on this plat­form is very unlikely if these rumors hold true. Video iChat was notice­ably miss­ing as were inter­net IM clients. I expect video con­fer­enc­ing will most likely be intro­duced with the 3G ver­sion of the phone in 2008.

Still, I am admit­tedly very likely to be an early adopter of this phone. I had thought my Apple switch would have begun with a Mac Mini or Mac­Book Pro. Regard­less of this phone’s lin­eage, it’s going to leave its mark on the world much like the Star­TAC and the RAZR V3 (which, if I may remind those price balk­ers with short mem­o­ries, debuted at $500 w/contract).

2 Responses to “Good Phone Hunting”

  1. HailerStar said on May 28th, 2007 at 11:16 pm:

    Hmm. Now I want an iPhone!

  2. Caden Alexander said on August 12th, 2010 at 4:49 am:

    Cam­era phones are in great demand these days, i own at least two of them’*;