More iPhone stuff

So here’s a hodge-podge of additional thoughts after using an iPhone for a day or two.

About the Speakers

I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me sooner, but the iPhone is the first iPod ever to have built-in stereo speakers. That’s pretty significant. It means you can see and hear your videos and music from this device without needing any headphones. I think I had just assumed the speaker would only be useful for the iPhone ‘speaker phone’ option, and wouldn’t really be good enough for playing music. But the quality is actually pretty good. I wonder how many other portable music/video devices are in that category?

Matching Socks

The iPhone fits fine in iPod socks. Yes, I own a pair of iPod socks. And I feel less silly today about buying them. They’re much cheaper than the $30 or $40 cases made for the iPhone. They also cover the whole thing in case you are worried about scratches, etc.

Headphones and the Built-in Mic

The built-in microphone in the iPhone earphones is genius. And also genius that you can click and double-click it to pause and advance music (although I wish you could rewind as well). The microphone also makes it possible to know which side is the right-side earpiece without having to hunt for the ‘R’ on the earpiece.

With these headphones it becomes possible to listen to your music and receive calls without ever pulling out your phone. So if you see someone chatting while they appear to be listening to their iPod, they’re not crazy… they probably have an iPhone tucked in their pocket some place. Of course, if you see they have no microphone on their headphones, then maybe they are just crazy.

No Wheel

I can’t tell you how many iPhone mockups we’ve seen over the years on the Internet. You can find scads of them by doing an image search. Most of these incorporated some variation on the iPod click-wheel control. Even the ones that had a full-surface touch-screen; they still had some kind of click-wheel shown on-screen. Some transparent overlay that you could use to control the music being played.

Yet, the iPhone has no click-wheel control anywhere.

Yes, the click-wheel was revolutionary (heh) for the iPod, but the iPhone is capable of much more responsive and reactive UI. Finger scrolling left and right using Coverflow is a far more realistic and appealing interface that scrolling over a list of items. Even for lists, it’s far more natural to slide up or down through them than to rotate some kind of semi-transparent wheel that may be obscuring your view while you’re using it. I’m sure Apple experimented with prototypes that used such an interface, but in the end, decided to throw that patented feature out the window because it wasn’t best suited for this device.

Nonetheless, this was a brave move— to abandon a user interaction that had been so well embraced by their users for something entirely different. That’s what “Think different” is all about though. And Apple doesn’t let history interfere with innovation.

Third Party Applications

Finally, I think Apple has a plan for the next step in supporting third-party applications on the iPhone: Widgets. The current solution— running web-based applications— is a poor substitution for local applications that don’t require a net connection to use. Widgets are basically also web-based applications; they do have access to run local services though. And Apple can sandbox them further if they wanted to.

Several of the iPhone applications are in fact widgets on Mac OS X. Stocks, Weather, Calculator (reskinned for the iPhone), Google Maps— these are all widgets you can run on OS X today. The other front-door applications are probably also developed as widgets. The bottom applications— “Phone”, “Mail”, “Safari” and “iPod” are probably not widgets, but actual Cocoa-developed applications (MobileMail.app as some have found already).

Full-blown third-party applications on the iPhone would awesome, but I’ll take third-party widgets as a runner-up. There are thousands of these available today. Not all of them would run well on an iPhone though. They’ll have to be tweaked to support the resolution of the device of course. But many would run well without many changes at all. I’ll bet that by the time Leopard rolls out, we’ll be hearing support for third party widgets on the iPhone. At least, I hope so. I really want the BART widget on my phone.

Update: Georgia would very much like the Dictionary/Thesaurus widget. I would also like the Wikipedia, Translation and Flight Tracker widgets. And why not some game widgets— like Tile for instance. Or a multi-touch Tetris widget, where you slide falling pieces into place with your fingers?

iPhone Halo Effect

Much has been written about the iPod halo effect, and how Apple computer sales have been affected by the success of the iPod. I imagine they will be even more affected by sales of the iPhone. Sure, an iPhone works with a PC, but that isn’t an ideal counterpart. Mac OS X is the big brother to the flavor of OS X running on the iPhone, and will always be a better match as a host to the iPhone than Windows.

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3 Comments

Paul Tomblin said:

Of course Widgets are the iPhone's apps. And Safari is the development environment. That's why Apple ported Safari to Windows - they didn't want to get into the web browser wars, they wanted people to develop iPhone apps on Windows!

Brad Author Profile Page said:

@Paul Tomblin: They've made it possible to develop widgets on Windows, but it's far fron ideal. Have you seen Dashcode?? That is the development environment for making widgets.

JackTown said:

To rewind or FF a track on the iPhone, just tap and hold either the rewind or FF button (visible when iPhone is held vertically)....

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This article was published on July 1, 2007 7:04 PM.

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