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Laurie Gardner     Laurie Gardner
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Alaska USA Mortgage Company NMLS Unique ID #204060
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iPhone Celebrates First Birthday
A Look At Its First 12 Months

iPhone Celebrates First Birthday - A Look At Its First 12 Months

It's been one year since Steve Jobs and Apple Computers released the iPhone for sale to the public. According to the company, more than 5.4 million of these phones have been purchased to date, so it stands to reason that some of you reading this article already own one. But no matter if you've made the switch to an iPhone or not, on its first birthday, we felt the iPhone deserved a closer look.

When announcing its launch, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computers, referred to the iPhone as a revolutionary phone, a widescreen iPod and a breakthrough Internet device, all wrapped into one cell phone. And when put in those terms, it's rather hard to argue against his assertion. The following is an overview of the iPhone's current features, as well as some of our objective opinions about them.

As a phone:
The device is 4.5 inches long, 2.4 inches wide, .46 inches thick, and weighs 4.8 ounces. It is available in 8 GB and 16 GB models that sell for $399 and $499, respectively. In place of a dedicated keyboard, the iPhone features a 3.5-inch widescreen, Multi-Touch display that conforms to the feature being used. Overall, the widescreen is a great component, but one downfall is that it does require getting used to when typing on the keypad. If you are someone who types with one hand (using your thumb), or has large fingers, there will definitely be a learning curve. The same can be said for anyone who's into "speed texting."

The phone feature includes an address book, favorites list and a call log that can all be used for dialing phone numbers with one tap of a finger. The address book can also sync contacts from your PC, Mac, or Internet service. The voicemail feature is something we really like in that it allows you to listen to voicemails in the order you choose, almost like how you would view emails. The phone also allows for three-way calling and comes equipped with iPod-like earphones that include a microphone. Bluetooth earpieces are available, but sold separately.

While the call quality with the iPhone is generally very good, one downside is that there is only one choice (AT&T) in terms of a service provider. If you were wondering about the monthly charges for an iPhone, here's how it currently works: existing AT&T customers can keep their existing plan. Any customer switching over from another carrier can choose an AT&T plan that most closely resembles their old plan. At that point, customers choose between three supplemental plans ranging from $20 to $40. Each of the supplemental plans provides for unlimited Internet usage and emailing. The only difference is the number of text messages you are allowed to send and receive each month.

The iPhone does work overseas, as long as the place you are visiting offers GSM (global system for mobile communications) coverage. You must also enable dialing and roaming capabilities with AT&T before you leave for your trip. But beware; international calls from your iPhone are not cheap.

Other features included with the phone are a user-friendly text messaging interface which allows you to keep entire strings of messages from every person you text, a speakerphone that we found to be just average, a calendar/organizer, a notepad, a combination world clock/stopwatch/timer, a calculator and a 2-megapixel camera, supported by software that organizes all of your photos.

Another cool feature with the iPhone is what's known as web applications or "web apps." For those unfamiliar, there are countless applications produced by third party companies (many of which are free), ready to be utilized on your iPhone. The programs for these applications physically exist on the Internet, but are accessed on the phone via an icon that appears on the main screen. Using your iPhone, simply search the available web apps listed on the Apple home page, visit their corresponding website, and apply the icon to the phone's main screen. Some examples of available apps are a tip calculator, a body mass index calculator, various games, a guitar tuner, a reverse cell phone tracker, expense trackers, and the list goes on.

There are several applications that come included on the iPhone, already appearing as icons on the home screen: a weather tracker, Yahoo's stock tracker, and Google-powered maps, to be specific. While the first two are very useful, the maps application is the one that we think is outstanding. Known as LBS (location based service), it is a world map, a source for directions and information about businesses, a traffic indicator, and a location indicator all in one. It is highly useful and has several convenient functions.

Lastly, we cannot forget about the phone's ability to receive emails. Yet another very useful feature, it is easily enabled by adjusting the settings on your email account. One thing we'll say is that you'll want to either consider disabling or changing the interval in which the phone searches for and alerts you to new emails. If your iPhone is constantly checking for emails, you'll find the the battery will wear down very quickly. You'll conserve a lot of battery life by lengthening the interval or manually checking for new emails. It's as easy as pressing one button.

As an iPod:
Since the iPhone is made by the same company that makes the iPod, you would expect this feature to be great…and it is. Actually, it may just be the best iPod available. With great sound quality, the iPod feature provides everything that you get with a video iPod, but with widescreen viewing capability. That's right; aside from listening to your own music collection, audio books and podcasts, the iPhone gives you a widescreen look at the various TV shows and movies available for purchase from the iTunes store.

Another great feature with the iPod function are the options you have for viewing your library. Not only can you view your collection as a list organized by artists, albums, songs, genres and composers, you can also view it by album covers. Whenever you download albums or songs, the art for the album cover is oftentimes included. By moving your finger across the screen, albums can be flipped through just like your collection at home. This feature is an absolute home run.

As an Internet device:
Utilizing Safari as its web browser, the iPhone allows you to view most websites just as you would on your desktop or notebook computer. There are a few exceptions, such as websites that contain Flash content. As of now, the iPhone does not support Flash, so all content must be viewed in HTML and JavaScript format.

Other than not supporting Flash, there aren't many bad things we can say about iPhone's browser. Depending on your location, and considering that this is a cell phone, it renders most sites fairly quickly. By rotating your phone a quarter turn in either direction, an accelerometer inside the phone is activated and your view of the website changes to widescreen. With a simple maneuver of the fingers, you can enlarge any portion of the website to the size you wish. While there are still a few glitches and occasional temporary crashes, it is the best phone on the market for accessing the Internet.

The good news about the iPhone's future is that the possibilities are almost limitless. The reason is that unlike every other phone on the market, which basically remains the same phone throughout the time it's in your possession, the iPhone can be changed and improved via updates while syncing with your computer. Think of it like the updates you receive for Windows, Microsoft Word, or countless other programs.

The bad news regarding these updates are that most of them remain as pure speculation, up until the point that Jobs officially announces they are actually going to happen. There are several reasons for this. Getting the updates to work well with the existing hardware is a big one. After all, no one wants to pay for a new iPhone just to gain a new feature. Another is that Apple has to strike agreements with third party software development companies such as Adobe, the makers of Flash. These agreements can take a lot of time and involve a lot more than just hammering out the technology.

There is no shortage of rumors concerning the updates that are coming. A Flash plug-in, the ability to cut and paste text, and the ability to text photos are a few that are rumored. If and when they are going to happen is anyone’s guess.

Another rumor concerns the release of a brand new iPhone with high-speed Internet support known as 3G. Jobs has eluded that the phone will be available sometime in 2008, maybe as early as the end of June. Whatever the case, it is a very good reason to wait a few months if you are on the fence about buying an iPhone.

Two recent developments that are not speculation are the release of iPhone SDK (Software Development Kit) and the impending release of iPhone 2.0. In the case of SDK, Apple has packaged a set of programming interfaces and tools that will enable third party software development companies to create iPhone-compatible versions of their existing programs. According to Apple, during the first four days after its release in March, over 100,000 developers downloaded the kit. What does this mean? Don't be surprised if down the road some of your favorite computer programs and games will be available for the iPhone.

iPhone 2.0 is a brand new operating system, scheduled to be released as a free download sometime this month. In addition to some new mail features, as well as an App Store (allowing users to easily browse for downloadable applications), the big news with 2.0 is that Apple is taking a step toward pitting the iPhone against the Blackberry as the ultimate business phone. The 2.0 update promises support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync that will enable secure push email, contacts, and calendars. It will also include Cisco IPsec VPN, opening the possibility for encrypted access to private corporate networks.

In a nutshell, we really like the iPhone. Considering it is only one year old, we find that it works extremely well. Apple has taken several devices and combined them into one handheld unit that's loaded with style. Most of all, we're excited about the possibilities for its future. But don't let us sway you. Suggesting you to spend $500 on a cell phone is a hard message to hear… no matter how good the reception.

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