Dose of phone iExistence delights early customers

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The iPhone delivers. It’s awesome. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

That’s the message from bloggers, gadget reviewers, journalists and others who have bought iPhones and then shared their initial impressions on the Web.

In an ever-growing stream of offhand blog posts and blow-by-blow accounts of the iPhone’s every feature, the “early adopters” have given their verdict: The hype is justified. Though some qualms remain – namely about its use of AT&T’s EDGE network – it is clear the iPhone is a revolution.

The phone will never be the same.

Though just about all of the reviews have caveats about the iPhone, what comes out loud and clear from them is how wild people are about it, how it is unlike any other phone or hand-held computer, and how its touch display, iPod, maps, Web browser and e-mail make you want to use it for a lot more than phone calls.

“Overall day one impression: the iPhone is 95 percent amazing, 5 percent maddening,” wrote John Gruber in a detailed review at his blog, Daring Fireball (www.daringfireball.net). “I’m just blown away by how nice it is.”

That’s not to say you should run out and buy one. Gruber, for instance, noted some problems: “The iPhone Mail app has crashed for me twice so far.”

Others reported dead screens and trouble activating their iPhones. Macworld, a longtime source of Apple news, bought several iPhones, and one was DOA, leading writer Dan Moren to label it a “shiny new $600 paperweight.”

As for me, I was wowed by the iPhone from my limited amount of time with one at an Apple Store. What struck me wasn’t just what a leap it is for the phone, but how it is almost guaranteed to ignite a revolution in computers and other devices with screens.

After using an iPhone for a half-hour, then sending an e-mail on a MacBook computer, I felt like the computer was a dumb, clunky, antiquated device. That is entirely because of Apple’s touch display and the interface magic behind it.

The iPhone’s touch display completely changes the way you use a computing device. Rather than pressing keys and buttons, your fingers effortlessly scroll through lists of contacts, flip through photos or album covers, and zoom in and out of Web pages. The touch display was completely natural for to me use in a way that a mouse or a trackpad is not. And I say that as someone who has felt completely at ease using a mouse and trackpad for years.

Here is a sampling of the avalanche of reviews, commentaries and videos about the iPhone:

Only a few technology journalists got their hands on iPhones before the device’s launch on Friday, and their reviews were generally raves, calling it “a breakthrough” and “amazing.” Now others are offering their own quick takes on the device. The Boston Globe’s Hiawatha Bray said she was tempted to trash it, given all the hype. But she couldn’t. “The iPhone is exactly as cool as you’ve heard, and then some,” she wrote.

Plenty of the iPhone’s first adopters, even those who love the thing, are noting various software glitches or limitations. Macworld’s Rob Griffiths said some of his contacts came across as duplicates when imported to the iPhone’s address book; deleting them wasn’t as easy as it could be. And Gruber (of Daring Fireball) said the calendar doesn’t import to-do items from Apple’s iCal software and doesn’t let you create them on the iPhone.

Paco Hope (www.paco.to), who snapped what may be the first baby photo with the iPhone’s camera, was wowed by what he aptly called “the whole drag-your-finger-across-the-screen (gesture) interface.” As he said, “It’s totally like sliding paper or something.” Others have called it “realistic,” which is a way of saying it almost feels like you’re touching something “real” rather than images and words on a screen.

Engadget (www.engadget.com) has cobbled together what it calls “the definitive iPhone user interface gallery” – a collection of nearly 300 images of just about every menu and screen on the iPhone.

Student and snowboarder David Chartier at the Unofficial Apple Weblog (www.tuaw.com) may have written the most over-the-top “first impressions” review. “I just need to get it out of the way: Words cannot describe how incredibly wonderful this thing feels to touch and hold,” he wrote. “It is an absolute marvel of engineering. Gorgeous in every way.” And: “Have I mentioned yet that this seems to be a device designed and engineered by angels? Because it is.”

Search for “Shawn drops iPhone in Houston” at YouTube, and you will see a video of just that. Yes, YouTube is your spot for crazy iPhone clips and parodies, as well as serious video reviews.

And the big picture? Forget about what the iPhone can do. Plenty of phones can do the same things – surf the Web, retrieve your e-mail, play music, and even display videos. But today’s phones don’t really make you want to do those things. The iPhone does, and that’s largely because of a natural and intuitive reinvention of the computer interface – the way people connect with the screens all around us, from microwaves to digital cameras to car navigation systems.

Whether you buy an iPhone or not, you will inevitably see its impact in the next few years in the design of phones, computers, gaming gadgets, ATMs and other everyday tools and toys with screens.

JM END HOFFMAN

(Allan Hoffman wrote this article for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. He can be contacted at netscan(at)allanhoffman.com.)

2007-07-03-IPHONE-IMPACT

AP-NY-07-03-07 1233EDT

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