Simplicity Perfected

The iPhone has four physical buttons on it, and honestly you don't need any more.  On the front of the phone is the home button, which takes you to the home screen regardless of what you're doing.  The home button isn't an iPhone exclusive, many phones have it, including Samsung's Blackjack.  The button is key for switching between tasks; say you're writing an email but decide you want to check a fact on wikipedia or you just remembered something that you want to SMS to a friend, hit the home button and fire up Safari or the SMS client, do what you need to do and then switch back to your email to pick up where you left off. 


Take me home tonight

Hitting the home button doesn't close any applications, it merely switches back to your iPhone desktop.  The home button is your iPhone's Alt (or Cmd) Tab, it's your ticket to quickly switching between applications; one press of it and a touch later and you're in another application.  The functionality is perfected by the fact that the iPhone's user interface is incredibly responsive, switching between applications works like a computer, not a mobile phone. 


The ringer toggle switch is set to silent, hence the visible red dot

Along the left hand side of the iPhone are two switches: a volume rocker and a ringer toggle switch.  The volume rocker works as you'd expect it to, during a call or audio playback it will adjust the volume of the earpiece or speaker, otherwise it will adjust ringer volume.  Mac users should find the on screen display comfortingly familiar:


Home sweet home...for OS X users

The ringer toggle switches between normal and silent ringer modes; these are the only two profiles you can configure on the iPhone and even then, they aren't very configurable:

In silent mode, all audible notifications are disabled and the iPhone will only vibrate to alert you of an incoming call/message/email.  You can disable the vibrator so that the iPhone is completely silent and motionless in this mode, but that's all.


Silence!

In normal mode, the iPhone will ring, bark, beep or boing at you as loudly as you have the volume set.  In addition, it will also vibrate to give you the complete aural and tactile experience.  You can control what events will trigger sounds, but that's as far as the customization goes.

For me personally, this is all the configurability I need when it comes to custom profiles.  I usually keep my phone on vibrate, and if I want an audible notification as well a flick of a switch is all I need on the iPhone.  I've never really used profiles on my Blackberries and Windows Mobile Phones of years past, mostly because there are way too many keystrokes associated with switching between them all. 

On the Blackberry Curve, you have to scroll to profiles and select the one you want.  It seems silly to complain about using a trackball and having to make two clicks to change a profile, but compared to flicking a single switch that you can do without staring at the screen, it is a big deal.


Profiles on the Blackjack

To switch profiles on the Blackjack you have to hit the power button and select from a list.  Thankfully Samsung included a silent mode button on the keyboard itself, just hold it down and your phone is silenced.  The only issue with Samsung's implementation is that the button is sandwiched between the spacebar and comma keys, not the easiest to blindly select.


From left to right: sleep/wake button, SIM tray, 1/8" headphone jack (recessed and very particular about what headphones it'll work with)

The only remaining button on the iPhone is along the top of the device, and it is Apple's Sleep/Wake button.  The button is stiff enough where it won't accidentally get hit in your pocket, and just like the ringer toggle you can easily activate it without looking at the phone.  Hitting the sleep/wake button while your iPhone is on and active will shut down the screen, pause whatever you're doing (e.g. web pages will not continue to load while the phone is asleep) and lock the interface.  Tapping on the screen won't wake it back up, you either have to hit the home button or the sleep/wake button again.  Doing so will bring up this screen:

And simply slide your finger where indicated to unlock the phone (which is very cool by the way); if you've got a password set, you'll be asked to enter it next.  Just like the ringer toggle, the sleep/wake button is ridiculously useful yet overlooked on many cellphones.  The Blackjack lets you lock the phone by holding down the end call key for a few seconds, while the Blackberry  requires you manually select the lock button from the phone's interface (or if you have dial from home disabled, just hit the 'k' key).  Both competitors at least offer an alternative, but neither is as easy as the iPhone's dedicated button.

The rest of the iPhone's interface is completely virtual, driven by the 3.5" mult-touch LCD.  Know what you're getting into with the iPhone; on first glance it seems overly simplified, but if your needs and its abilities mesh, it truly is a phone interface done right. 

Pulling its Weight Oh Hashmir, Multi-Touch Me Down There
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  • icruise - Monday, July 16, 2007 - link

    Excellent review that (surprisingly, given that this is a very tech-oriented site) "got" what the iPhone is about. It may not be the perfect cell phone, but it's certainly an amazing one, and the first really fresh take on the concept that we've seen in a long long time.

    One quibble, however. The review states that Yahoo charges $3 a month for push email support. Yahoo does in fact provide free IMAP push email to anyone using a Yahoo Mail account on the iPhone. However, there appears to be some issues involved in the implementation and I couldn't find any mention of using push email with Yahoo in the Apple documentation, which may be why the reviewer didn't realize this.

    It seems that if you have any other email accounts active on the iPhone, push email doesn't work reliably. It may take quite a while (many minutes) to show up. I tested this on my iPhone and when I had my Yahoo Mail account as the only active account, messages sent to it showed up pretty much instantaneously. When I enabled the other accounts, that changed, whether I had mail checking set to "manual" or a special interval. So in short, I think the iPhone's push capability is there, but they haven't quite ironed out the bugs. Hopefully they will do this soon with a software update, and also enable push email for .Mac mail as well.
    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, July 07, 2007 - link

    How bout horizontal/landscape mode for the keyboard? With all this talk about fingers not being small enough for crammed keys, I'm blown away this wasn't addressed. Based on the aspect ratio of the keyboard in front of me, and the aspect ratio of the iphone, I don't see why you'd possibly want to type in portrait mode. Reply
  • ViperV990 - Friday, July 06, 2007 - link

    I'm curious if meebo.com (a web-based multi-protocol IM) works on the iPhone. Can anyone please give this a try and report back? Reply
  • Icehawk - Monday, July 09, 2007 - link

    Great article, I really hadn't read or watched too much on the iPhone so it was nice to see it all laid out clearly.

    Sadly the phone, like my Tivo S3, is missing some very basic features (voice activation?!) and has some weird ergonomic misses.

    However I think this is a big deal, if the interface is as much of advance overall as it sounds that is big. IMO the next major advance computing (and these MFDs by extension) is the interface - we are still using pretty much the same paradigms as 20 years ago.
    Reply
  • Calista - Friday, July 06, 2007 - link

    Hi Anand!

    I would like to know how you judge the value of the iphone. We fully understand that you find it an awesome device but it's no denial that it's also a fairly expensive and $600 will buy you both a normal feature phone (2MP cam and the rest) and a well-working internet-tablet like the Nokia N800 - which by the way support up to 16 GB of memory, carry a screen with higher resolution than the Iphone and support Skype. It's another device to carry for sure, but only another 200 grams and it can be left safely in your home when doing things more ..action-packed than sipping coffee at Starbucks.

    Quite frankly, I would feel fairly uncomfortable carrying a $600 device in my pants all the time.
    Reply
  • Justin Case - Friday, July 06, 2007 - link

    I'm sure you realise there's an obvious joke lurking in that last sentence... ;-) Reply
  • Justin Case - Thursday, July 05, 2007 - link

    Any chance of a comparison with the Qtek 9000 or Nokia's N700...? Reply
  • 2ManyOptions - Thursday, July 05, 2007 - link

    Why the hate? Its not something which you can totally reject or totally throw like trash ! It does look good when compared to it's competitors.

    The price tag for the iPhone is an individual's concern. If he/she thinks spending 700$ on iPhone is cool, so be it, i wouldn't lose anything !! Does that mean the person who bought an iPhone is stupid?? I wudn't agree with that, its his money n his idea of fun n spending.

    I would like to buy something like an iPhone but not unless its below 250$ or something like that...And maybe something new, something better than iPhone will pop up by then.
    Good marketing by Apple though.
    Reply
  • Koing - Wednesday, July 04, 2007 - link

    to pick the 4GB instead of the 8GB version! :P Reply
  • aGoGo - Wednesday, July 04, 2007 - link

    http://www.unwiredview.com/2007/07/04/htc-omni-pic...">HTC Omni

    If Steve was holding this phone a million idiot will be standing in line from now till October :p
    Reply

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