Pure Genius / Pure Joy

Apple and Orange (ex-France Telecom) finally introduced the iPhone in France last week (on the 28th or 29th of November).

The prices were less unreasonable than expected (and besides, I can legitimately write it all off as a business expense) and so I spent a frantic week-end preparing for the inevitable.

  • I had to update my 2 Macs to Mac OS X 10.4.11, iTunes 7.5 and QuickTime 7.2, to meet the minimum requirements for the iPhone.
  • I had to reorganize my Address Book so that I wouldn’t be synchronizing hundreds of addresses and numbers of people I have absolutely no recollection of.
  • I had to manually copy phone numbers from my ancient but beloved Nokia to my Mac.
  • I had to investigate how the iPhone might handle the fact that I have 16000+ emails / 3 Gigabytes of email in my main Gmail account.

(This frenzy is documented in last week’s Geeks In Love episode).

Then, last Monday afternoon, Pamela and I went to the local Orange store and I left with a cute little iPhone bag that contained the lovely iPhone box that contained the iPhone (I actually hid the bag inside my coat on the way home to be safe!).

What can I say. It is an amazing object. The attention to detail is mind boggling, both within the iPhone software and in the way that it interacts with the computer/iTunes.

After decades of incremental evolution on the computer desktop, it redefines computing. It is a revolutionary step. The mouse and window paradigm removed a layer of abstraction when it replaced the command line. The “multitouch” user-interface removes the mouse & window layer in turn.

Even though you are touching a sheet of glass, the way your fingers directly manipulate the elements on screen is magical. Flicking lists and photos and widgets up and down and left and right, placing your finger on the screen to stop the movement of the items you set into motion, spreading or squeezing two fingers to zoom in or out of a photo, of a map. In many ways, it is better than interacting with real life equivalents.

And coming back to the Mac, you wonder for a moment why everything on screen doesn’t behave like on the iPhone: where are those smooth inertia and acceleration and deceleration effects when you navigate lists of files, goddammit?!


That evening, after an afternoon of non stop iPhone stroking and synching, I had to take my son to the orthodontist.

As soon as I stepped out of the Métro at the Arc de Triomphe, I whipped out my iPhone and it immediately flashed a message asking me if I wanted to join an unsecured Wi-Fi network it had detected. Nice, even though the Orange plan has unlimited Internet access through the (slower) Edge network.

My son and I studied a Google Map of the nebulous and residential 17th arrondissement to make our way to the orthodontist’s, who had moved since we last went there.

In the waiting room, the iPhone again spontaneously showed me all of the available Wi-Fi networks, I picked another unsecured one and proceeded to have an email exchange with my brother in Switzerland and then catch up with my news feeds in Google Reader.

I could go on and on and on, but there’s nothing I can say to do justice to this thing. You can watch the long (and compelling) videos on Apple’s iPhone pages, but they just can’t convey the incredible feeling that comes from holding and using one.

In bed.

06. December 2007 by sknob
Destination: Geekiness, User Interface Design | Leave a comment

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