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Apple iPhone: Product Summary (Updated 6/2009)

    by Douglas Dixon

Interface
Features
Timeline
Products - iPhone, 3G, 3G S
References

Find related Apple articles in the Manifest Tech Blog

 

Recent Smartphone articles:

See my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on smartphones

The Apple iPhone has been a tremendous success in revitalizing the smartphone concept (www.apple.com/iphone). The iPhone (and its companion iPod touch without the phone features) provides a much more integrated and pleasing experience that combines phone, PDA, and Web usage with Wi-Fi wireless networking -- plus the full iPod player experience (syncing content with iTunes). 

At first look, the iPhone has an impressive 3.5 inch widescreen touch display, at 480x320 resolution, with battery life rated at up to 24 hours for audio and up to 7 hours for video. And the design is attractive: The front of the iPhone is all display, with just one power/menu button, filling out the hand-held form factor at under 4 1/2 x 2 1/2  x 1/2 inches, and under 5 ounces. Plus, the price has dropped (complete with a rare Steve Jobs mea culpa) from the original $599 to $399 with 8 GB.

To use the iPhone as a media player, of course, you just synch it with Apple's iTunes software on any Mac or PC, like any other iPod -- including music, podcasts, photos, and video. 

For Internet use, the iPhone aims for the best of both communications worlds -- fast Wi-Fi connectivity when available, or otherwise falling back on the mobile network. But the current iPhone uses the relatively slow AT&T (Cingular) EDGE mobile data network, with average data speeds between 75 to 135 kbps (www.wireless.att.com).

The iPhone connects immediately over Wi-Fi to surf quickly in public sites like hotels and coffee houses (even with other near-by networks), and can keep downloading when you go out of range, as it quietly switches over to the cellular network.

And with the opening of the Apple App Store, iPhone users can add additional applications including games, business, news, sports, health, reference, and travel (www.apple.com/iphone/appstore).


iPhone Interface

The iPhone interface has that Apple strength of design -- friendly and appealing, and also implemented in a way that is consistent and responsive. The functions fit together well, and work in similar ways. For example, when you tip the iPhone on its side for a wider view, most (but not all) the applications automatically switch from portrait to landscape orientation. Plus there's the cool gesture of pinching your fingers together which can be used to zoom in on websites, photos, maps, and in other contexts.

   

The user interface is smooth and delightful, with gentle animations that provide visual transitions from one activity to the next. When you shoot a picture, for example, you see a camera iris close and then reopen -- the animation confirms that you've taken the shot (and also cleverly masks the delay while the photo is shot and stored).

And the touch-screen interface is even better -- just flick your finger to scroll, faster or slower. As you scroll, a very subtle scroll bar appears along the side to give you some sense of the context (where you are relative to the full size of the document). Even better, the scrolling motion actually bounces at the end of document, as a physical indication that you've hit the end of the scroll region.

The downside of this interface design, however, also is its simplicity. There's no room to provide additional options that might be helpful for more advanced users, or even context about what you are looking at. For example, without scroll bars as part of the standard interface, you can't tell whether you are looking at an entire document / photo / Web page, or whether there is more information hidden off-screen.

The simplicity of the iPhone interface also is a disadvantage  when you try to use it for serious business -- for example, using it as an organizer to store multiple thousands of contacts and calendar entries -- that cool finger-flick to scroll becomes a lot less fun as you wade though thousands of entries.


iPhone Features

  • Touch-screen Mobile phone
        Quad-band GSM phone, (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
            UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz)
        Wireless data networking: AT&T EDGE, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
  • Widescreen iPod with touch controls
        Cover Flow interface, browse music library by album cover artwork
        Automatically switched into Cover Flow by rotating into landscape position
        Watch TV shows and movies, touch controls for playback control
  • Internet communications device
        POP3 or IMAP email, web browsing, searching, maps
        Safari web browser: surf over Wi-Fi or EDGE, view full page, zoom in with finger
        Built-in Google Search and Yahoo! Search
        Google Maps - view maps, satellite images, traffic information; get directions
  • Multi-touch display with new user interface, control with finger tips
        Predictive touch keyboard to prevent and correct mistakes
  • Multi- megapixel camera
  • Built-in sensors
        Accelerometer detects when rotated from portrait to landscape
            automatically displays entire width of web page, photo in landscape aspect ratio
        Proximity sensor detects when close to ear
            turns off display to save power and prevent inadvertent touches
        Ambient light sensor automatically adjusts display brightness
  • External controls: Sleep/wake (top), Ring/silent & Volume up/down (side), Home (bottom front)
  • Connectors: Speaker, mic, 30-pin dock; 3.5mm stereo headphone minijack; SIM card tray
  • App Store - 6/09 - Download 1 billion applications in 9 months; largest applications store in the world
        35,000 apps, available in 77 countries
  • OS X Operating system
  • iPhone OS 3.0 software -6/09 - over 100 new features
        Cut, Copy and Paste, MMS, Spotlight Search: across iPhone or within Mail, Contacts, Calendar and iPod
        Landscape keyboard for Mail, Messages, Notes and Safari; Expanded parental controls for TV shows, movies, apps
        Capture and send audio recordings with new Voice Memo app
        Find My iPhone works with MobileMe to locate lost iPhone on map, send message, erase all data with Remote Wipe 
        iTunes wireless download movies, TV, audio 
  • iPhone 2.0 software - 6/08 - App Store
        MobileMe Internet service pushes email, contacts, calendars

iPhone Product Timeline

  • 6/09 - iPhone 3G S introduced - 16 GB $199, 32 GB $299
                    Faster, 3 MP autofocus camera, Video recording, Hands free voice control, Compass app, Accessibility
  • 6/09 - iPhone 3G - reduced - 8 GB $99
  • 6/09 - iPhone OS 3.0 software
                    Cut & Paste, MMS, Spotlight Search, Landscape keyboard, Voice Memo,  Find My iPhone / Remote Wipe 
  • 6/08 - iPhone 2.0 software - App Store, MobileMe sync
  • 6/08 - iPhone 3G introduced -16 GB $299, 8 GB $199 - 3G networking, built-in GPS, App Store, MobileMe 
  • 2/08 - iPhone - new 16 GB $499, 8 GB $399
  • 9/07 - iPhone - reduced - 8 GB $399
  • 6/07 - iPhone introduced - 4 GB $499, 8 GB $599

iPhone Products

The original iPhone, introduced in mid-2007, enthralled its fans, but was a tad pricy at $499 for 4 GB of storage (with no expansion card slot) and $599 for 8 GB. This was reduced a couple months later to an 8 GB model for $399, followed in early 2008 with a 16 GB model for $499.

The iPhone 3G, introduced in mid-2008, upped the Internet access speed with 3G networking, added GPS tracking, and picked up the iPhone 2.0 software, especially with access to the Apple App Store for downloaded applications. The price dropped to $299 for 16 GB and $199 for 8 GB.

A year later, in mid-2009, saw the introduction of the iPhone 3G S, which runs up to twice as fast, and added several obvious features found in competitive products, including a 3 megapixel camera with autofocus (was 2 MP), video recording (was photos only), and hands free voice control (as in mobile phones). Apple also released the iPhone OS 3.0 software, again with much-requested features including cut & paste (finally), MMS multimedia messaging, Spotlight Search, landscape keyboard, and a Find My iPhone feature for lost phones (via MobileMe) with a Remote Wipe self-destruct option.

iPhone 3G S - 6/09

  • 6/09 - introduced - 16 GB $199, 32 GB $299, black and white 
        (AT&T upgrade existing plan 16 GB $399, 32 GB $499)
  • Improved speed and performance (up to 2X iPhone 3G), longer battery life
        OpenGL ES 2.0 for high-quality 3D graphics; Supports 7.2 Mbps HSDPA for faster networking
  • 3 MP autofocus camera, adjusts focus, exposure, color, contrast
        automatic macro focus, "tap to focus" touch area of interest on display
  • Video recording, trim start and stop points
  • Send photos and video by email or MMS, post to MobileMe or YouTube with one tap
  • Hands free voice control for iPhone dial and iPod player functions, built-in or headset microphone 
  • New built-in digital Compass app, orientation and GPS, Orients Maps direction
  • Accessibility: VoiceOver screen reader, universal Zoom entire screen, White on Black higher contrast, Mono Audio
  • 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.48 inches (115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3 mm) (same), 4.8 ounces (135 grams)
  • PR 6/09 - www.apple.com/pr/library/2009/06/08iphone.html

iPhone 3G - 6/08

  • 6/09 - reduced to 8 GB $99 (no 16 GB), black only
  • 6/08 - 16 GB $299; 8 GB $199
  • 3.5 inch (diagonal) widescreen multi-touch display, 480 x 320 resolution (same), 163 dpi
  • 2 MP camera, no video recording
  • 3G networking - 2X faster, built-in GPS, iPhone 2.0 software - App Store, MobileMe 
  • 3G: 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.48 inches (115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3 mm), 4.7 ounces (133 grams)

iPhone - 6/07  (OLD)

  • iPhone - 2/08 - New 16 GB $499; 8 GB $399
        9/07 - 8 GB $399; 6/07 - 4 GB $499, 8 GB $599
  • 3.5 inch (diagonal) widescreen multi-touch display, 480 x 320 resolution, 160 dpi
  • 2 megapixel camera
  • 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inch (115 x 61 x 11.6 mm), 4.8 ounces (135 grams)
  • Talk time: Up to 5 hours on 3G, 10 hours 2G, Standby 300 hours
        Internet use: Up to 5 hours on 3G, 6 hours on Wi-Fi
        Video playback: Up to 7 hours, Audio 24 hours

AT&T Cellular Service

  • AT&T (Cingular) is exclusive iPhone carrier partner in the U.S.
  • Most popular carrier in the US with over 58 million subscribers
  • Edge network offers average data speeds between 75 - 135 kbps
  • Voice and unlimited data plans start at $69.99 per month (e-mail and Web browsing)
  • AT&T FamilyTalk starts at $129.99 a month for two lines, Up to 3 additional $39.99 each
  • www.wireless.att.com/iphone

References

For the full Steve Jobs treatment on the iPhone, see his keynote introducing the product at the 2007 Macworld conference -- a tour de force of magnetic personality and marketing to the faithful:

For a quick look at the original iPhone's interface and key features, see David Pogue's fun YouTube video -- also addressing some of its trade-offs:

Shelly Palmer also discussed some of the nitty-gritty trade-offs in the original iPhone design:

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