- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Someday, perhaps, all hand-held computing/communication devices will be like this: Press one button and it powers on. Press another button and select from several applications. Touch the screen with your finger and the desired application launches.

Keep touching the screen to place a telephone call, examine (or even delete) an e-mail message. Writing one can be done with the same on-screen keyboard, coupled with some rather good predictive typing, resulting in quick composition of most messages. Flip through a roster of music or videos and select the one you want. The small, built-in speaker doesn’t sound small — you won’t fill a room, but you can hear the music easily.

Want to surf the Internet, you can, either via a Wi-Fi connection or a wireless data network. The latter is a tad slow, but sometimes can be rather agile in responding. However, the network is rather good for voice calling and you can even “conference” with two persons, at least, together.

Oh, and did I mention it weighs less than 5 ounces and can provide up to eight hours of talk time? By now, savvy readers will have puzzled out that I’m speaking about Apple Inc.’s IPhone, which reached the market about a month ago. I’m quite enamored of the device, even if there are some enhancements necessary before it can be pronounced totally perfect.

Perhaps the most important thing to note about the IPhone is that its interface is generally flawless. You really can negotiate the device with one finger and have it work without hassle. Yes, “typing” on the on-screen keyboard takes some adjustment, but it’s not as steep a learning curve as I expected. Paging through photos or songs is supereasy.

Other reviewers have noted something that I’d also note: The horizontal and vertical viewing ability of the IPhone’s Safari Web browser, which lets you pivot the screen to view more of a Web page and zoom in on text or a photo, is great. It would be greater if it extended to e-mail and e-mail attachments. Perhaps that can happen in a software revision; I certainly hope so.

Altogether, the Web browsing experience on an IPhone has no equal, none, in the hand-held world, at least that I’ve seen. Hand-helds from Palm and Research In Motion offer useful Web viewing, but neither firm can equal Safari on the IPhone. I don’t believe that Microsoft’s Windows Mobile can, either.

So, for many tasks, the IPhone is a near-perfect device. Phone calls, e-mails and Web browsing can be accomplished with ease. There’s an “airplane mode” to let you enjoy multimedia without having the phone’s wireless radios — GSM, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi — wreak havoc in the skies. The case is elegant and smudges wipe off easily.

Perhaps the greatest consumer objections will be price — $499 for a 4 gigabyte model and $599 for the 8 gigabyte IPhone — and restriction to both AT&T;’s wireless service as a provider and the need for a two-year contract. I imagine the price will come down as the IPhone range expands, and perhaps other carriers will be added at some point.

But when you hold the IPhone, you quite literally hold the future of wireless communications in you hand. Apple has raised the bar to a very high level, and it is one that other makers will have to work diligently to meet, let alone cross.

Read Mark Kellner’s Tech Blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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