Apple iPhone, Nokia Killer or is 2008 Too Late for Thailand? (Asia)

Apple iPhone, Nokia Killer?

Heads blew up around the world of technology today after Apple CEO Steve Jobs long-awaitedly announced the high-tech Apple iPhone during his Macworld 2007 keynote address in San Francisco. The iPhone, as Jobs proudly named the device to riotous hand clapping, is foreseen to be three devices in one: A cell phone, a wide-screen iPod with touchscreen capability, and an Internet communications device (WIFI).

Cellular operator Cingular was chosen for the iPhone after Verizon contracts got too sticky. We at CNet have YET to actually touch and hold an iPhone yet, but we’re excited to do so… hear that anyone? someone? We’re anxiously awaiting one so we can give it the first thoughts and in-depth review that it deserves. We’re guessing another couple months for a working prototype to fall from the hands of the Apple gods and into our own.

Availability in Thailand (Asia)
As has been widely rumored for months, Cingular (soon to be AT&T) will be the sole iPhone carrier in the USA. Both Apple and Cingular stores will sell the phone on their shelves starting in June 06. Europe will have them fourth quarter, and Asia (Thailand too) will have to wait until 2008 hopefully during the first quarter. This is a bit of strangeness for the USA to get a technology product BEFORE Singapore, Japan, and Thailand. Don’t get too excited though – because that means Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, and the rest of the great mobile phone manufacturers will have a year to surpass what Apple has done. For that reason, I believe the iPhone is almost a non-event here in Asia!

Prices are high, and yet not stratusphere… The 4GB iPhone will cost US $499 with a two-year contract and US $599 for the 8GB version (also with a two-year contract). People in the USA are used to this being locked into a 1 year contract, but a 2 year contract???? WHO is going to go for that? Even a 1 year contract is stifling.

Design
Touchscreen for everything? The iPhone has a smooth design and an innovative interface. Say good-bye to traditional cell phone buttons–this phone is all touch screen, all the time. There is just one hard button on the phone – the “home” key. There is a 3.5″ touchscreen. Resolution of 320×480 with 160 pixels per inch which is the most detailed resolution on an iPod yet. The videos and photos all switch to landscape mode at a touch.

The stylus is not needed – they hope everyone can use their fingers. SUPPOSEDLY the touchscreen will be faster than a traditional pda QWERTY keypad for typing. I’ll believe it when I’m actually doing it.

The huge display necessitates a large phone: iPhone measures 114.3 x 61 x 11.7 mm. No, it won’t slide into smaller pockets, but it joins the similarly sized Palm Treo 750, and its weight (136g) is mostly standard for a handset of this size. Of course, the slim profile is noteworthy as well. I’m happily surprised Apple has jumped on the thin phone bandwagon but the phone should be THINNER to be an iPhone. The iPhone measures thinner than both the Motorola Q and the Samsung Ultra Messaging i600.

Features
It’s quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900), but the data transfer maximum is only 2.5G EDGE networks. Considering the multimedia-friendly feature set, the omission of any 3G compatibility is strange. I’m thinking UMTS and HSDPA will be on the way to Asia by the time it gets here. It’d HAVE TO BE since every other mobile developer will have it in their phones solidly by 2008.

It’s difficult to truly evaluate the iPhone’s capability as a music and video player without some hands-on . A quick look gives us some clues: that, and the fact it’s closely related to the highly rated iPod music player. In quick summary, the iPhone is sure to offer an easy-to-use media playback interface, and the variety of content offered by iTunes (its compatible service) ensures you’ll never be wanting for music or video files. Of course, the touch-screen interface will take some getting used to for users who are accustomed to the iPod’s Clickwheel. Who knows, if the touchscreen is better – iPod freaks will forget all about the click wheel.

The iPhone will not have a limit as to how much of the free memory you can fill up with video and music, unlike the motorola ROKR. There is a built in microphone for audio recordings and a 3.5 mm audio jack with will work with all the latest stereo headphones. There is no FM radio.

One thing is sure: The 3.5-inch wide-screen display is much better for full-length movie-viewing than the 5th Generation iPod’s comparatively tiny 2.5-inch screen. It’s kind of silly that the iPhone does not have a memory slot to add additional memory considering 8Gb is not enough for most iPodder’s library of music OR video. Again, I think by the time it makes it to Asia it will have this or it will get CLOBBERED by Motorola, Sony, and NOKIA which will have everything the IPhone has – but, BETTER minus the cool factor that Apple intrinsically has. In Asia we’re a bunch of technofiles… as much as the Apple Ipod is cool – there is only 1 in the whole school English program at this elite school for Thai kids. That says something since they DO have the latest in electronic gadgets – expensive Nokia phone usually.

In addition to the music player, the iPhone runs on Mac OS X and promises a 2.0-megapixel camera, a photo-management tool that rotates the display for landscape photos (like with videos), support for Google Maps, conference calling, a speakerphone, and text and multimedia messaging. We imagine there will be personal organizer applications as well, but Jobs kept mum on such fine details. Connectivity options also look promising with stereo Bluetooth (thankfully), Wi-Fi (a huge plus), POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail, and a Safari Web browser. The free push Yahoo e-mail app looks especially cool since we won’t have to wait for syncing with a PC.

The iPhone also comes with some unique sensors that detect how you’re using the phone and change the display accordingly. A proximity sensor knows when you bring the phone to your ear and then dims the screen and shuts off the touch screen. The ambient light sensor adjusts brightness and saves power, and the accelerometer knows when to switch between landscape and portrait orientation.

Outlook
After months of iPhone speculation, we were sick of the device even before it came out. But now, well, we have to admit it’s quite cool. The vivid display is especially attractive, and we like the sleek, minimalist design. The touch screen may involve a learning curve, but we’re excited to try it out. The iPod functionality will no doubt draw many, and in particular, we’re glad to see world phone support, the Yahoo e-mail app, stereo Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

On the downside, we were hoping for wireless iTunes music downloads. And it’s too bad Apple stopped short of 3G support. Also, we’re hoping that Apple introduces a standalone touch-screen iPod without the phone element as not everyone will want a convergence device. And here’s the biggest caveat: Phones are only as good as the calls they make, so we’ll have to wait for our final assessment once we get a review product. As for battery life, Apple is promising five hours for calling or video and 16 hours in music mode.

Overall, however, and despite the high price, we predict an iPhone success. The iPhone will garner interest simply because it exists, and as such has great potential to move music phones into the mainstream. Nokia’s Xpress music phones and Sony Ericsson’s Walkman handsets present a strong challenge on some level, but Samsung’s new Ultra Music probably stands to take the biggest hit if the two devices go head-to-head.

Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at ThailandeBooks.com. There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.