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ISSUE 120 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/23/2007

Apple stuns industry with new iPhone: Steve Jobs' new wonder gizmo innovates, carries high price tag

By Ryan Maus
Staff Writer

Friday, February 23, 2007

“The iPhone holds over two billion songs – that's billion with a “B,” said Steve Jobs-impersonator Fred Armisen on a recent episode of “Saturday Night Live.” According to the show, other notable features of this “revolutionizing” communication device include the ability to store over 150 “kabillion” contacts, a flashlight, a Starbucks and, most importantly, an iGenie (which will grant you three iWishes when you rub it).

Now before you think this was simply another installment of SNL’s popular fake iPod “announcements” (Jobs/Armisen debuted the iPod “invisa” early last year, which somehow packed eight million songs into a device too small to actually see), let it be known that the iPhone is indeed real. It was announced by Apple’s CEO, the black-turtlenecked Jobs, in early January and was the talk of the technology world for weeks. Everyone knew the iPhone was coming – it was only a matter of time before Apple found another multi-billion dollar portable device market to dominate – but the ambitious nature of the company's most recent product stunned nearly all observers.

In many ways, the name “iPhone” is a misnomer. This device is far, far more than a mere cell phone and trumps all phone/portable computer hybrids (known as “smart phones”) on the market today.

The iPhone’s most intriguing feature is its interface. The device will be controlled exclusively via a slick-looking touchscreen (no buttons here), which will afford you the power to browse through music, edit photos and type out instant messages using only your fingertips. The iPhone runs Apple’s critically-acclaimed operating system, OS X, plays movies and music, has a built-in web browser, e-mail client, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS capabilities, a 2.0 megapixel camera and comes in 4GB or 8GB versions (essentially an iPod Nano built right in).

Even better, all these features are packed into a package barely bigger than an iPod video, with a sleek aluminum body weighing in at 4.8 ounces.

Just how much are you going to pay for all this “high technology?” Get ready for some sticker shock – the iPhone will run you $499 for the 4GB version and $599 for the 8GB, plus a two-year Cingular contract (initially the only carrier that will feature the phone).

Will we see a run on iPhones when the product debuts in June, as we do whenever a new iPod variation is announced? Due to the prohibitively high price tag and Cingular-only carrier support, probably not. The iPhone may someday revolutionize the way we communicate (the way the iPod revolutionized the way we listen to music), but that day isn't coming anytime soon. For now, the iPhone will appeal to an extremely limited segment of the population, i.e. those who have the means and the need for a portable computer/phone/iPod/movie player hybrid. And of course, Apple enthusiasts who automatically buy everything the company releases the minute it becomes available.

There are many experts who also say that, for its plethora of features, the iPhone is lacking in some key areas, including battery life (just five hours while watching videos or surfing the web), lack of third party support and the inability to download iTunes Store content wirelessly (you'll still need to sync your iPhone with your computer).

The iPhone isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it does hold to the Apple mantra of “it just works.” The iPod became a financial and cultural phenomenon because it simplified the digital music-playing experience, and the iPhone promises to do the same for the smart phone category with its big display and easy-to-use touchscreen interface.

It may not be for everybody (and unfortunately does not come with an iGenie), but the new Apple iPhone will definitely raise the bar in the cell phone industry this summer.

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