The much predicted Apple I Phone was unveiled yesterday. It lives up to the hype! It solves some major problems that have been holding back mobile computing. Here are three reasons why the iphone is innovative:
Problem 1. HCI. Data entry
Phones have a user interface problem. If you want to type in stuff you need a keyboard but the phone is too small for a keyboard. Solutions have tended to revolve around:
touch sensitive screen and stylus
(a composite image if text input methods)
None of these methods is completely satisfactory. Apple have come up with finger input on a touch sensitive screen. Every solution is a compromise between size and ease of use. The bigger screen on the I Phone gives finger input the edge. So now its easy to write in a URL. Being able to write in a URL is a major step forward for the mobile web – wobile.
Problem 2. Zooming in
Screens on phones are small. If you are looking at a big thing…like a web page then you will need to be able to zoom in and pan up down left and right. Apple have solved this problem by introducing the “pinch”. Pinching is a new interface idea. You put two fingers on the screen and pinch to zoom in….and un pinch to zoom out.
(Pinch interface as shown by Steve Jobs at his Macworld 2007 keynote)
Problem 3. Web pages
Some web browsers on mobile phones look at standard web pages and re-format them as best they can to suit the restriction of the device. For most web pages the result is terrible. Content providers are free to write a pre formatted page designed for mobile. These pages are restricted in functionality and the amount of content that can be displayed. Apple have decided to display the whole page …the exact same way that you would see it via the web on a pc (or mac) except in miniature. To read the content you simply zoom in and pan around. For instance you cant really read this blog on a mobile phone at the moment…but you will be able to via the iphone.
(A web page displayed on an Iphone can be read by zooming in)
Are there any downsides to this product?
It’s not available until June 2007 in the US and 2008 in Europe.
It’s not 3G (so it will be slow). Steve Jobs says a 3G version is on the way. Even on 3G phones are slow-ish when it comes to displaying web pages. If for example you read this page on your I phone using a 2.5G network connection it would take a long time (30 – 60 seconds maybe) to download. I think that purpose mobile phone web pages will be with us for some time yet.
It’s not really a phone, it’s a small PDA. Its form factor is a little too big to really make it as a phone. (61mm wide (the rather wide Nokia 6680 is 55mm wide) Of course its not a huge jump to imagine an i-phone nano coming out at some point in the near future.
Also see: Blog entry: Mobile Content and the Apple I Phone