Canadians Talking Tech

iPhone 4, iOS 4 and the iPad: equal parts of my digital life

by Chris Manitt Posted in Gadgets, Mobile, Reviews

Editor: Welcome to new NorthGeek contributor Chris Manitt!

Like many Apple loyalists and perhaps those who were just plain curious, I was anchored at my office desk last Tuesday to watch Steve Jobs make his annual keynote address from the World Wide Developers Conference in SF. Of course when I say “watch the keynote,” I’m referring to how I was reading live blog posts from those who were lucky enough to be there in person. Even still, reading the posts, as they popped up on my screen giving me the play by play, I was excited to hear what Steve had to say, what new innovative products Apple was bringing to market and most importantly – why I had to have them.

What made this Keynote different from others was that in the weeks leading up to it, a much publicized lapse in judgment let the “new” iPhone see the light of day a little sooner than expected. I still had faith in good old Steve in being able to wow the crowd at the WWDC not only because of an inevitable “one more thing…” but because Steve hadn’t yet told the masses the “why,” even we thought we only knew the “what.”

iPhone 4. We knew what it was going to look like, had a pretty good idea of what it was going to do, but expectedly I was still surprised at how much more there was to it. While Steve explained that there are over 100 new features in iPhone 4, he only focused on 8. Of those 8, the following stand out in my mind the most:

  1. FaceTime. If iPhone 4 had only this feature I would still go out and buy it the day it is released in Canada. FaceTime is something that is classic Apple. It’s not about having two 5 mega pixel cameras or even an LED flash, it’s about being able to see loved ones when you’re away from home on a business trip. If you watch the FaceTime video on the Apple site closely, you’ll even see a deaf couple signing via this new marvel. The question is, will FaceTime work with any other video chat App – like iChat or Skype – or will I only be able to see other iPhone 4 users?
  2. New form factor. Up until the day the not-so-spy shots of the new iPhone were blasted all over the web, I thought that my iPhone 3GS looked great, felt great in my hand and was exactly everything I ever needed my iPhone to be. And then the pictures hit the web. At first I thought that it didn’t look very Apple. But, as I examined the pictures and video more and more I realized that not only was it completely different from what I thought an iPhone to be, it was 1000 times sexier than what was sitting on my desk. From that moment on, I looked at my iPhone 3GS as an older model (which is less than a year old) with an outdated shape, large clumsy metal bezel and rounded edges that just didn’t stand up. All of these thoughts were reinforced at the WWDC keynote and I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on one to see what it feels like. Just because I think it’s worth mentioning, when I do get my hands on it, it will be a white iPhone 4. After seeing both the black and white version I thought that the iPhone 4 would be the first time I go to a black iPhone. However, in seeing the photography of the black Apple branded bumper they’re selling (for $29.99!) on a white iPhone – I was once again sold. White it is.
  3. Retina display. From what I’ve read, this screen is something that really needs to be seen to be appreciated for what it is. Also, it’s everything and more that Steve hyped it up to be. From the numerous side by side comparisons that I’ve seen in the last week and even the podcast of the Keynote I can tell that this screen is going to be something specials. Like the form factor, I will not be able to appreciate it until I see what I’ve been missing. “It’s like digital ink…” Steve says.
  4. HD video. This was very simple for me: with my daughter now running around these days, the last thing I want to do is lunge for the video camera before she’s out of my sight and miss the moment. I usually end up taking a couple of minutes worth with my iPhone 3GS which is great except when it comes to the final edit of my iMovie masterpiece – the quality just doesn’t look that great on a 1080p screen. I’m really looking forward to having one device in my pocket that can capture the HD video that I want and be able to take a call and do all the other iPhone things too.

iOS4. While this was previewed back in the winter, there was still much to learn about the next evolution of the iPhone OS. Again, many new features were announced and given their time in the spotlight on stage. But without being able to have the OS on my growing number of i devices yet, here’s what’s keeping me dreaming in i’s:

  1. Mail. Updated and it seems like it’s better than ever. I love that there’s a universal Inbox now.
  2. Folders. This is something that has been a long time coming and a feature that was perhaps a necessity once the powers-that-be at Apple realized how many Apps people would house on their iPhones and iPads. It’s a welcome feature that will be useful and something we’ll wonder how we lived without, but will force many to rethink their screen layouts.
  3. Multitasking. Unlike the two features above, multitasking isn’t something that I’m looking forward to or even something that I feel I need. I’ve given myself the chance to try and understand how I could use it in my daily life to do things faster and more efficiently, but I don’t see how it will all fit in yet. Good for Apple to wait on multitasking until they figured out the right way to do it. Releasing it in such a way that battery life would suffer would have been a bad thing. I guess time will tell. Like folders, it’ll probably be something that six months from now I will not remember what it was like with it.

Does anyone else feel that more and more the updates to the iPhone OS are looking like the jail broken versions that have been available over the years since the iPhone was released? Am I alone here? I’m an Apple traditionalist. I update software via Software Update the day it comes out, I buy my Apps through the App store and I’ve never hacked my iPhone. Why would I want to? The reasoning I use is that someone at Apple believed in a given feature enough that they felt it was perfect for the iPhone. It didn’t need to be fancy, it didn’t need to be flashy, it just needed to work and that’s exactly what it would do. When the iPhone 3G came out, I had an answer for every criticism that was thrown its way. There wasn’t video functionality for a reason, cut copy & paste wasn’t needed either and why would you ever need a faster iPhone anyway?

John Gruber wrote a fantastic back page column in MacWorld last month. It really put Apple’s yearly ground breaking innovations in perspective using the simple analogy of building a snowman. You’ve got to start off with a solid base (iPhone 2G), add a middle section (iPhone 3G), add the head (iPhone 3GS), then add the buttons and carrot nose (iPhone OS 3). If Apple came out with an iPhone 3GS running OS 3 in 2007, it probably wouldn’t have been as good as it could have been because, as we’ve seen, Apple takes the time to build things one step at a time. They won’t ever take a next step unless they’re sure that the one that preceded it has been firmly established. In a way, it’s managing our i-expectations.

Oh and “one more thing”, this entire post was written, edited and submitted via my iPad. Yes, it may look like a giant iPod Touch or iPhone to the uninitiated, however once you get your hands on it you’ll know why it’s much more than that. Currently I use it at home as a replacement to the iMac that my wife uses for her writing. From the night that I brought it home, I use it more than my iPhone. In fact, I find myself using it preferentially for email, browsing the web and, of course, discovering the multitude of purpose-built iPad Apps that don’t have anything on their iPhone brethren.

No, it’s not something I would break out on my morning commute – because that’s what my iPhone is for. My iPad is a device that I use at home and at the office, that, for me, completely replaces any need I would ever have for a MacBook. I upload, edit and print photos from my iMac. I walk, talk and message with my iPhone. I sit down, email, web surf, and browse my entire photo library with my iPad. I’ve never done that on my iMac! That says something to the UI or lack of one on the iPad that makes me want to browse ALL my pictures and not just a a few here and there.

So, “what do i want?” No, it’s “what do i need?” iPhone 4 will be yet another addition to my Apple collection that I can’t wait to get my hands on.

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  1. One Response to “iPhone 4, iOS 4 and the iPad: equal parts of my digital life”

  2. By Noah Bloom on Jun 16, 2010

    Chris, great post! Re: FaceTime, for now it will only work between two iPhone 4’s on WiFi. They claim it’s built on open protocols, so perhaps it’ll interoperate in the future, but, like Apple does so well, it’s totally unclear right now…

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