- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The easiest thing to imagine about Apple Inc.’s IPhone after last week’s price cut and the backlash from early purchasers who paid top dollar is that it’s some sort of fad. The device, one non-technical critic, Joe Nocera in the New York Times averred, isn’t that great of a phone or e-mail device, even if it’s OK as a music player.

As this is written, I’ve finished off a rather nice dinner, prepared by using a recipe from Cooking Light magazine I found online. I used the IPhone in the kitchen as I was cooking, and was able to read the instructions very easily. The meal came out great, by the way.

Yes, you can view a recipe on a Treo or even a regular cell phone, but the IPhone Web experience is, by and large, the same as you would find on a desktop or notebook computer using a Web browser.

An Internet page there looks the same on the phone as it does on a regular computer. No big deal, perhaps, except, of course, that you can carry the IPhone in your shirt pocket, thus you can access the Web just about anywhere.

Not every Web page works in the same manner as on a regular computer; there’s a number that function differently and are a bit difficult to read on the IPhone. This also is another wake-up call for all of us who want to see your businesses or organizations well represented online. Mobile users are going to drive the next wave of Web development, so get with the program and develop sites that can work on a hand-held as well as on a desktop.

That still leaves the question of the overall IPhone experience. For me, it has been a good one, and the recent repositioning of the product line is a plus. The 4 gigabyte model is no more; only 8GB models will be available, and at $399, versus an original list price of $599. Those who purchased the higher-priced 8GB units immediately before the Sept. 5 price cut (or, more precisely, within 14 days of that date) will get a full refund. Earlier buyers get a $100 Apple store credit, good online or at the firm’s retail outlets.

I’ve been using the IPhone for about six weeks, and it performs superbly in most situations. Voice quality is as good as any AT&T; (nee Cingular) network phone that I’ve used. Data speeds could be better over the AT&T; network, but they are not impossible for e-mail operations. Web browsing is definitely better over the phone’s built-in WiFi connection, when such are available. But it’s still better than many other hand-helds — not to mention any other “plain” cell phone — that I’ve seen.

The $129 IPhone Bluetooth Headset, as Apple calls it, may seem a bit pricey, but still represents what I think is a decent value. The headset is very, very light, and that’s a good thing. Talk time is good, as is standby time; a single button controls on/off functions as well as call answering and hangup. The unit comes with two sets of cords to simultaneously recharge the phone and headset, a very nice touch. I still think that, someday, all hand-held devices will emulate the superior fingers use of the IPhone.

Someday, they will probably have the range of applications and features the IPhone has today. And someday accessories will be as well coordinated as Apple’s. Instead of waiting, however, the IPhone, at its new price, is now perhaps the most compelling hand-held available anywhere today.

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

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