Saturday, 17 November 2007


Thanks to the loving wonderfulness of AdmiralNeck and his early Christmas present, the iPhone is finally MINE ALL MINE. Yes, I know I said I wanted the iPod Touch, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted all the features the iPhone had. I'd like to think I probably wouldn't have gotten it even if we were living in America when it came out there in June -- it's even more expensive there than it is here (though I tend to think in dollars = pounds, so it's actually more expensive here if you do a straight pounds-to-dollars conversion) -- and I would have liked to wait for the 2nd gen version when they'd made improvements from the first one. But after four months of gorging on articles about all its features and all the reviews and watching videos of it and being absolutely amazed by it...I just couldn't wait any longer. Goodbye socialist tendencies; hello warm lovely squish-of-stepping-on-exploited-workers capitalism (but Apple caters to half-assed socialists like me, so really it's a perfect combination).

People have done a lot of carping about the iPhone. It doesn't have 3G, the camera is only 2 megapixels, the keyboard takes some getting used to, it doesn't have iChat -- the killjoys of the world seem delighted to pick apart every flaw, as if the iPhone has some duty to be the Platonic ideal of beauty. It may not be that, but people, I can tell you right now that, for a few minutes every day, it does fill the gaping hole where our collective happiness should be.

The thing is, the carpers are missing the point entirely (and Stephen Fry agrees with me; better proof of my rightness you could not find). This phone is like nothing I've ever used before. It is an experience so far removed from slow, clunky, pixelated crapphones I've used that it makes even the other smartphones on the market look like third-grade craft projects (sorry, Tytn II -- iPhone poops on your layout). Hell, it makes our laptop look like a slow, useless beast (even more so than it did already). Watching videos on it is pure joy -- the screen's not huge, obviously, but the picture is crystal-clear and if you're connected to wi-fi, as we are at home, the videos download very quickly, with no juddering or skipping at the difficult bits. Beat that, useless Dell!

This phone is a revelation. The moment you pick it up you can't help but be delighted by it -- by its incredible high-resolution touchscreen, the gorgeous design of its features, the incredibly intuitive way you move through the applications, pinching and stroking and poking your way to iPhone love. The little touches are what make the phone -- if you grab at the edge of a page, it bounces a bit before settling at the edge of the screen again, and if you're flicking through your songs, the screen naturally slows and then stops a bit after your finger breaks contact, and a photo crumples into a little trash bin when you delete it, and if you put your finger on some text you're writing, a magnifying glass comes up so you can place your cursor exactly on the letter you want. It's amazing how those tiny creative touches absolutely bring the phone to life, make it feel real and warm and delightful and make using it a joyful experience. Most reviews don't mention that, but for me, at least, those little touches are what make the phone -- put it in a completely different level from any other touchscreen I've ever used. Oh, and using the internet on it is just amazing -- the pages are as sharp and clear as they are on any flat-screen monitor, and they are the real internet, not a crappy stripped-down mobile-phone version, and the small size isn't a problem when you can zoom in and swish about the page with a flick of your finger. It's fun. You immediately feel affection for the thing, and for Apple for creating it -- you can't help but be delighted by something so intuitive and beautiful, a creation that really is a work of art in its own right. The design of it is inextricable from its function, and that's how it should be.

Of course I have carps like anyone else -- you should be able to use the keyboard horizontally when texting or emailing, and annoyingly, texts are configured as one long conversation (which means that I'll only ever have one conversation from AdmiralNeck that goes on for months and months, and if I want to delete it I have to delete the entire conversation, not just individual texts, and so get rid of every text I have from him). The camera could be better, and there's no copy and paste or Word-esque application, and the fact that the phone isn't 3G-capable is a real drawback. I can't deny that there are flaws, though I think a lot of them will be fixed either in software updates or in the 2nd gen phone (which I'm sure will come out much sooner than the end of my 18-month contract). And Apple are just as evil as any other large company out there, and are even more insidious because they've made people love them so fervently and pitched themselves as the underdog alternative to behemoth Microsoft even though they are just as much of a behemoth and when they do horrible things, people either don't notice or don't care because they think Apple can't do any wrong. Salon's Farhad Manjoo has written about Apple fairly and extensively and noted several of their if-not-evil-then-at-least-very-questionable policies, and their partnership with AT&T in America, which is at least a collusion with evil (that's a long article but very worth reading, as well as very chilling).

But none of this takes away from my love of the iPhone -- it has unquestionably changed the face of cell phones, and though there may be phone with more features out there, there are none that do it with the same style, that make you fall in love with them the same way. It's the same as the iPod -- other mp3 players may have more memory or better features, but it's still missing the point to go on and on about how they're better than the iPod. One use of that scroll wheel and you'll know why so many people love it, and why all the little carps and wiser buying decisions don't matter. Apple understands that consumerism is based on emotions, on the feeling that the machines you use every day give you, that you have, as Stephen Fry says, relationships with these objects, and a well-designed one gives you a constant, subtle postive-feedback-loop of pleasure that a sensible buying decision cannot. And until other companies start to understand that, Apple will rule the day.


sjwoo said...

Congrats on having your iPhone dreams come true! I played around with one many months ago, when I was in Michigan and I dragged my friends into the AT&T store to check it out. It seemed like a very slick product, which of course comes as no surprise.

Now here's a question: you are getting most of your US videos off of BitTorrent, I assume. Are you still able to do this on the iPhone (since you have full net capability), or are you stuck getting the videos off of iTunes?

Canyon said...

I’m actually not sure if I could download stuff onto the phone directly — I doubt it would allow me to install uTorrent, and there’s not much point in trying unless I’m in a place that has wi-fi. I’m not that interested in doing it, though, since we have the laptop (which is in desperate need of Sung care, just to warn you) and I don’t think I’ll be watching many videos on the phone (maybe I’ll come around to it, though, who knows); I think I might be able to put videos on it, though. I think there were some complaints about the fact that the phone only allows one type of video to be played (maybe .mpg?), but that’s only a vague memory and I’m probably wrong. Well, okay, knowing Apple, soon they’ll probably only allow stuff purchased from iTunes on their players. Still, for now, I’m willing to accept the restrictions to have the phone, which unfortunately Apple knows most people will do.

Oh yeah, and I tried the net on the train ride to work this morning, and it was quite respectable even without wi-fi or Edge. People just love finding stuff to bitch about with this phone even though half of the complaints are ridiculous.

Dawn said...

I is a masterpiece of connecting the function to the feeling!