- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It had been a few months, about five, since I used Apple Inc.’s iPhone, and I had begun to forget how nice it was to have one.

The iPhone, as noted here last summer, is what I believe all hand-held phones/digital assistants will become: something with a big screen, a simple interface and plenty of capabilities. Buttons will go away; on-screen icons are now in.

Recently, I acquired a new iPhone for work, and it’s been delightful getting reacquainted. Along the way, I found a few neat accessories, and await even more capabilities.

Available now in 8 gigabyte ($399) and 16 GB ($499) models, the iPhone works, marvelously, with AT&T;’s cellular network. It will also access Wi-Fi to go to the Internet and snag e-mail and the like. There is even an iTunes store for iPhone users where you can buy songs on the go and sync them back to a desktop computer.

As a business phone, the iPhone is a very good performer. Sound quality is excellent, and with a pair of TuneBuds Mobile, $39.99 from Griffin Technology, I was able to enjoy that sound privately. The TuneBuds are, in my view, a bit better sound-wise than the supplied iPhone “earbuds” from Apple; others may prefer the Apple product.

The iPhone’s interface is easy to navigate, just select a desired program with your finger. That digit is also the way to type and send e-mail, quickly and without much hassle. As before, I adapted almost instantly, and having this device, even during meetings, allows me to answer urgent e-mails without missing a beat, and without the “obviousness” of using some other phones.

One of the more encouraging aspects of iPhone development is Apple’s recent announcement of ways for third-party developers to bring their software to the device, as well as the promise, by June or thereabouts, of even better integration with Microsoft Exchange, the dominant corporate e-mail standard. For now, setting up an Exchange account using the IMAP protocol works just fine.

Some might be concerned about keeping the iPhone safe, and for this I turned to Griffin’s iClear case, which is made from the same polycarbonate, the firm says, that is used in visors on astronaut helmets. For a not-out-of-this-world price, $24.99, you get the case, a belt clip, armband and a static-clinging screen protector. Not a bad deal.

Constant use seems to make its demands on the iPhone’s battery, something I solve by keeping the device docked to a computer at home, for continuous charging, and by using Griffin’s PowerJolt adapter, which sells for $19.99. Not only does the device provide an extra USB-style sync cable, but the car-lighter adapter has a tiny LED that indicates when charging is complete. Unlike some systems, you can continue to use the iPhone for calls while plugged in via the PowerJolt.

Among the neat ways I’m using the iPhone is to keep track of connections on Facebook, the ever-growing social networking site. There’s a version of Facebook for the iPhone, and you can place its icon on your screen. The same goes for the New English Translation of the Bible, an Internet-developed version known as the NET Bible.

All this is without the promised software development that is coming. Once that arrives, again in a couple of months, the iPhone will likely cement its position as the pre-eminent hand-held communications device available today. The transition to the “enterprise” is moving along nicely, which will please corporate users.

Read Mark Kellner’s Tech blog.

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