One of the most exciting hi-tech product launches in recent times took place simultaneously in 24 countries on 11 July.
I’m talking of Apple’s iPhone 3G, which is the computer company’s second cellular phone, and which looks set to take the world by storm. The first version was launched about a year ago and did pretty well in the market, in spite of the fact that it had a couple of serious flaws.
These included the fact that it did not incorporate 3G technology which allows users to surf the Internet at speed. That has been fixed, as indicated by the 3G in the name, and the price has been greatly reduced.
The iPhone 3G is a combined phone, GPS unit, iPod music player, video and photo player, Internet access device, and a computer capable of running a variety of programs. It does have a couple of buttons on it but the front is dominated by a touch-sensitive 3.5-inch screen.
You navigate around by tapping your finger on icons on the screen or scrolling through web pages by swiping your finger up and down. You type by activating a keyboard display on the screen while the unit can sense whether you’re holding it horizontally or vertically, and switch the display to suit.
The iPhone functions as a phone and can be used to browse the Internet via 3G, which you will be charged for according to the contract you have. It also has built-in WiFi meaning that you can use it to connect to Internet for free, so long as you’re in a WiFi hotspot.
You can synchronise your contacts, calendar, pictures, Internet favourites and music between your iPhone and your desktop computer. The iPhone comes in versions with 8 or 16Gb of storage space, which may be more than enough, or far too little, depending on your needs.
Early reviews have raved about the phone although the reviewers do moan about the shortish battery life and the poor 2 megapixel camera. One reviewer said she thought that you’d have to charge the phone most days but, as for the poor camera, I haven’t yet seen anything decent on a cellphone.
The first iPhone was not offered in South Africa but this version will be, although there is no set date for its arrival. Apple’s policy, to reduce the chances of competition setting in, is to offer the iPhone to only one mobile provider in each country.
The chosen ones in South Africa, are Vodacom, and you will find a page on their site at vodacom.co.za, where you can register your interest. I don’t know what the price is going to be but experience indicates that it’s probably not going to be cheap.
In the US, telephone company AT&T are charging $199 for the 8GB model, providing you also sign up for a 24-month contract. In New Zealand, the same model will cost you NZ$979 outright, or NZ$199 and NZ$250 a month for 600 minutes of talk-time and 1Gb of Internet bandwidth.
Apple wanted things their way with the launch of the first iPhone, but users soon found out how to hack them so they could be used on different cellular networks. I once saw figures which showed that a significant percentage of the first-generation iPhones were bought but were never used on the designated networks. I’m pretty sure the same thing will happen with the new model so there’s some hope for you MTN’ers and Cell C’ers.**
I think that the iPhone 3G is gorgeous and will be incredibly useful to me; my only fear is that I won’t be able to afford it when it finally arrives. I firmly believe that Apple has again come up with a product so cool and revolutionary that, as with the iPod, it is going to be the standard against which all other brands will be judged.
More information and some video at www.apple.com.
** Even before the paper publication of this column, the first stories about the iPhone G3 having been successfully hacked had started to emerge. Even if it actually hasn’t happened yet, it certainly will. There are a lot of people out there, with skills and expertise equal to anything that Apple can muster, who will see unlocking the iPhone as a challenge. Apple must know this, which makes their choice of a single service provider in each region very puzzling. One factor that amused me is that Vodacom in SA and Vodafone in New Zealand are the designated providers but, in the UK, its a crowd called 02