home Science & Technology iPhone 4G: Boys, toys and the power of mobile web

iPhone 4G: Boys, toys and the power of mobile web

A week ago Apple announced the fourth generation of toy/world’s sexiest smartphone – iPhone 4, which, according to some bloggers “now has a tiny heart, so it can love you back”, and they say it’s officially no longer “gay”.

The heart is a new A4 processor, and it’s also got a new mineral glass skin, gorgeous display, can see in HD with the eye on its back, and look in your face with a little plastic one in front.

Only four years ago, it seemed that Apple would laugh at anyone who said that they would sell more phones than computers one day, yet now they are on the top of the smartphone market, if not yet in quantity, than at least in the hearts of their fans.

When the first iPhone hit the market, it was a revolution, not so much because of its features, but because of the ideology shift it brought. It turned out that a phone can be so much more than a phone.

Apple pioneered a touch-based user interface for the mobile device and developed an ad-hoc operating system for it instead of putting up a Microsoft-style crippled desktop operation system, which used the approach and interface cliches of its bigger sister and offered stylus-based input.

Since its introduction, the iPhone dramatically changed the number of things you do with your phone, and contributed greatly to the new era of mobile web. Sure, you could do web browsing, read emails and a bunch of other things with your Nokia – you could, but you didn’t. The user interface and the screen were not made with that things in mind, in was a phone, the same thing one Motorola engineer invented many years ago and meant it to be used to make calls.

They later squeezed a camera and an mp3 player into the Nokia and it was a huge success, but it still was and is a device which primary use is to make calls – it has a tiny keyboard and a tiny screen.

Right from the start, it was different with the iPhone. At the recent All Things Digital conference Steve Jobs shed some light on the iPhone creation, and, just as we thought, the idea was born as a tablet computer – touch based input, gorgeous capacitive screen…and no market at the time. They shelved the device that was to become the iPad and built a phone.

They made it four times smaller, let it make calls and play music and said it was an iPod and a phone, categories that were widely understood. In less then four years time, iOS based devices are close to selling 100M units worldwide.

I probably use my iPhone as much as I use my computer, to read emails and news feeds, talk over Skype, plan my agenda, consult maps and avoid traffic jams, check current weather, play chess, listen to the online radio and TV, watch TED podcasts, read books, and a ton of other things.

With all the “magical” and “revolutionary” rhetoric Apple lately adopted, they’re often mocked for being “great innovators” who discover video calling 5 years since it was introduced, or support multitasking on their mobile devices years later than the competition.

Apple has always been an innovative company, yet it’s not the always the technical innovation you might think of, it’s about the adoption of the new technologies – not only prototyping the flying car, but putting it in your garage.

I seldom did Google or Wikipedia searches on a mobile phone before the iPhone, I never browsed the web from it, I almost never used Google Maps Mobile. I do all of these things on a daily basis now. So if you ask me if Apple can “pioneer” video calls on a mobile device, I’m tempted to say yes – since without the per-minute pay (and this is how they used to work) and fuzzy setup – the mobile video calls can become mainstream.

It’s also important to understand, that the adoption of mobile technologies and real-time web gives you a head start in a lot of professions, and the sooner more people understand it, the faster it will go.

Consulting Google for every thing you need to know and using your computer as an form of external memory gave a bump to all researchers, journalists, and everyone else who earns their living processing and presenting information.

The fact that you can do all of these thing everywhere with a pocket size device, in the words of Apple itself “changes everything, again”.

It puts all the world information in your pocket, and ignites the information exchange at a speed that was never possible before. The accessibility and speed of information exchange changes our world more radically than cameraphones change image capturing or mp3 players the recording industry.

So the question is – should I get a smartphone now, or wait till it can cook dinner? New developments are always around the corner, the moment the new model hits the shelves the next one is being developed in an underground bunker and washed with unicorn tears.

Still, we are in 2010 and can’t be too far from flying cars, so carrying around a device that only makes calls is almost as diehard as wearying a wrist watch. Yes, there’s nothing to be proud of, and I hope you feel ashamed.


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