- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2008

Apple Inc.’s iPhone 3G has done for mobile communication what Michael Phelps has done for swimming - impressed a style so deeply on global consciousness that it will be difficult to imagine other options, at least for a while.

After five weeks or thereabouts with the 3G model, I’m still impressed: This is a powerful little device, capable of doing a heck of a lot of things, and it does this in a small, sleek package that’s easy to operate.

The continued enthusiasm for the iPhone should signal something to device makers all over. Call it a modified “Field of Dreams” approach: If you built it right, the customers will come.

Among the nice features of the new device is its ability to load third-party applications, which makes the iPhone more like a miniature computer than just a phone. The applications vary in price from free to just under $1,000, although the latter is an anomaly. Most iPhone programs are quite reasonably priced.

The delivery system for these apps is quite smart: You buy them through Apple’s iTunes store, which then stores the programs on your computer and loads them on your iPhone.

One very useful application is “Mobile News,” a free news reader from Associated Press wire service. This will give you a quick read on the latest headlines and, if you enter a desired ZIP code, a feed of state news. (I should also note that The Washington Times offers its own mobile news feed, and the display shows up quite nicely on the iPhone.)

Other applications are a bit more specialized: Those of a theological inclination will appreciate BibleXPress, which stores the texts of various Bible translations on the iPhone and makes them accessible without a live Internet connection. This saves battery power and makes the text more accessible in more places.

Three major English-language translations, and one in Spanish, are currently supplied; the program’s author says he’ll attempt to add more in the future. Among the many nice attributes of the program is an easy way to make the type larger - just swipe two fingers apart on the screen display and the lettering enlarges. Those readers who wear progressive lenses will appreciate that feature. The $30 cost covers the licensing fees for some of the translations, and it’s cheaper than buying the four Bibles in printed versions.

I’m also jazzed about the “Remote” application, which lets the iPhone serve as a remote control for an Apple TV or a Mac running iTunes. Yes, you can do the same thing with the remotes Apple ships with the product, but this is a nice touch. Ditto for Facebook’s iPhone application, which is about to get a refresh: It’s a handy way to stay on top of your social network while on the go.

There is the question of iPhone audio - do you really want to share your music with your neighbors on the Metro in the morning? I’m very, very high on the super.fi 4vi headphones from Ultimate Ears, the firm just acquired by Logitech. The sound quality - and noise isolation - is amazing.

At $149.99, these headphones are almost as costly as the iPhone itself, but a few minutes with them will convince you that they are essential for long road trips. The headphones will also let you place and receive voice calls, and with very good quality. Look at it this way: The price is probably less than you’d spent on a fine in the District of Columbia for driving and using your phone without a headset.

You can learn about this product at Ultimate Ears and it’s a firm well worth checking out.

What are you listening to?

E-mail Mark Kellner



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