MacDirectory Magazine

Fall-Winter 2008 (#39)

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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Page 60 of 179

MacDirectory 59 FIRST PERSON of the interface, from the slider that unlocks the phone to the spinning dials used to set appointment times. The physics of all the motions have a natural, almost organic feel. There is an incredible degree of human/machine bonding that forms with such a delicate response. It was as enthralling as the first time I pointed, clicked and dragged with a mouse after years of hammering my instructions onto a keyboard. I eventually discovered the numerous "hidden" features, not surprising since the instruction manual was nary more than a thin pamphlet and a web link. My overly thick fingers took a good deal of time to find the right letters on the keyboard, but I discovered some of the typing and editing shortcuts and the intelligence of its self-correction features. Hit the space bar afterward and the next letter will automatically be capitalized. Hit the space bar twice after a word and you'll get a period, a space and the next letter will be capitalized. There wasn't just thought behind the phone, there was genius. Some of the other surprises were less exciting. One of the most amazing omissions was the lack of cut, copy and paste, something even the earliest versions of my Palm PDA could do with ease. Another feature I sorely miss is the ability to sync notes easily. Oh yeah, you can use it as a phone, too In part because it represents on one of the numerous, colorful icons on its shiny face, it's easy to forget that the iPhone is primarily a mobile phone. In that it is, for the most part, exactly what you would expect from an Apple take on a relatively common product. In other words, it's a masterpiece of design and engineering. The phone can be silenced and switched to vibrate mode with flip of a conveniently placed switch. The audio, whether through the earpiece, earphone or speaker phone is clear and bright. Visual voicemail is absolutely brilliant, giving you the ability to decide which messages to retrieve first. Another great feature of the phone is its understanding of your need to multi-task. Once a call is connected, the iPhone is free to run nearly all of its other applications. The motion sensor knows when you take the phone from your ear and frees the phone for other tasks (or distractions, if the call is really boring). The iPhone is the first mobile device that works reliably in my house, sitting in an electronic shadow on the side of a hill. 3G service, however, has been a totally different story. It generally remains off unless I am completely stationary and really need the download speed. Location, Location, Location The other major hardware improvement in the 3G is "real" GPS. Working in conjunction with Google Maps, the phone will literally pinpoint your location on a street and/or a satellite map and provide directions to another location searched out in Google. The downside is that the GPS is useless if you're out of range of your phone service. If you're a hiker or even simply took a wrong turn on a mountain road, this could be a lifesaving feature. TomTom is reportedly working on an application and map database for the iPhone but would not respond to MacDirectory's queries about the release date. In spite of being literally overwhelmed by its popularity with developers and customers (see sidebar), the iTunes App Store is unquestionably the phone's most important new feature. With it, Apple's mobile hardware becomes a platform and not just a device. Whether it's being used as a phone, PDA or music player, the iPhone interface is revolutionary. However, unless the GPS feature is extremely important to you or Apple/AT&T dramatically improve the 3G service, there may not be enough in the new package to tempt original iPhone owners to upgrade. When Apple opened the App Store, it formally unleashed the energies of Apple's greatest asset: its developer community. The store's 10 million downloads in the first weekend attests to its popularity. All the applications that are released must be tested and approved by Apple. The approval process is designed to protect users, phones and, quite probably the AT&T network from poorly crafted or intentionally malicious software. One of the downsides of the process is that important updates can get trapped for a week or more in that review cycle. One of my most used programs, 1Password from Agile Web Solutions, is the iPhone-native version of its popular browser plug-in that automatically fills in login information for often-visited sites. The iPhone app, when used in conjunction with the desktop version, can also wirelessly sync and securely store notes. This was an ideal solution for one of my work sites that requires password authentication for each connection to their wireless network. Unlike many iPhone developers, Agile had a strong Web presence and a number of active user forums, thanks to its desktop products. Still, according to the program's co-author, Dave Teare, releasing a product through the App Store was a challenge. "We had 50,000 people download 1Password in the first few days, and were bombarded by support requests, feature requests, kudos, and configuration specific gotchas. Our heads were spinning for well over a week!" At that point, however, he started developing an appreciation for the pressure this had put on Apple. The approval process for applications had a few drawbacks. He told MacDirectory, "Version 1.2 of 1Password was rejected when the reviewer found an obscure bug. This bug was present in versions 1.0 and 1.1. Sadly this obscure bug prevented the new version (which contained several critical fixes for common situations) from being approved." He still considers the iPhone "a pleasure to develop on" and is optimistic that the reviews will proceed more smoothly. IPHONE 3G > THE APP STORE

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