First Look: Up close with the iPhone

For a product that hasn’t even been released yet, there’s sure a lot of information out there about the iPhone. If you’ve scoured Apple’s 40-plus minutes of marketing videos, analyzed every word of the early reviews posted by the Wall Street Journal , New York Times , USA Today , and Newsweek , and committed Steve Jobs’ Macworld Expo keynote to memory, you know all there is to know about the iPhone.

But who has the time to do all that? Well, your friends at Macworld , that’s who. We’ve watched the videos with Zapruder-like analysis, attended all the keynotes, talked to the insiders, and even held the phone in our own little hands for a few precious minutes. And so we’ve compiled everything that’s currently known about the iPhone into this comprehensive list of frequently-asked iPhone questions.

On June 29, we’ll all learn much more about the ins and outs of iPhone. But in the meantime, here’s what you need to know.

  • Overview
  • Hardware
  • Accessories
  • The interface
  • Settings
  • Service and activation
  • Phone features
  • Music and video features
  • Safari and e-mail
  • SMS, YouTube, Maps, and other features
  • Overview

    How is the iPhone different from other “smartphones” on the market?

    Take a look at other smartphones. You’ll usually find a small keyboard on the bottom of these devices as well as a bevy of buttons on the front to navigate and control features. That’s not the case with the iPhone; there’s a single button—the Home button—on the front of the phone, and just a few other buttons on the sides.

    So how do you use it? Nearly every task and command is controlled via changeable, onscreen keyboards, buttons, and icons. Instead of a stylus, the iPhone uses your finger. Instead of a small, squarish screen, the iPhone has a 3.5-inch widescreen display (at least when it’s turned horizontally). And instead of a scaled-down operating system to power it, the iPhone runs a version of OS X.

    OS X? Which version?

    Apple isn’t saying, although Apple executives have been consistent in insisting that the iPhone doesn’t run a weird, not-really-OS-X version of OS X. To be sure, it’s a slimmed-down version that takes up only about 700MB of the iPhone’s internal storage. As Steve Jobs put it back in May, a lot of Mac OS X’s size is taken up with desktop pictures and other large files that aren’t a part of the core operating system and don’t need to be included on the iPhone, so the iPhone may indeed be running something close to a “real” full version of OS X.

    Does this mean I can load my Mac programs onto the iPhone?

    No, the programs that run on the iPhone use a very different interface, one that involves using your fingertips rather than a mouse and a keyboard. There’s no Finder, no Dock, and no menu bar. And at present there’s no way for companies outside Apple to load any software, let alone existing Mac programs, onto the iPhone.

    What version of OS X will I need to sync my Mac with the iPhone?

    The latest version of Tiger—Mac OS X 10.4.10.

    The hardware

    How big is the iPhone? How much does it cost? How much does it store?

    The iPhone is 4.5 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide and 0.46-inch deep (or 115-by-61-by-11.6-millimeters)—about the size of a slim portable hard drive. It has no external antenna and weighs 4.8 ounces (or 135 grams). It comes in two versions: a 4GB, $499 model and an 8GB, $599 model. Keep in mind those capacities are the iPhone’s total storage for its operating system, applications, photos, music, and videos.

    Is the front of the iPhone just one big touchscreen?

    Almost, but not quite. Above the glass screen is the speaker where you place your ear to listen to a call, and beneath the screen is the iPhone’s Home button, the only physical button on its front face.

    Tell me more about the iPhone’s screen. Won’t it scratch easily? Will it break if I drop it?

    Apple recently announced that the iPhone uses an optical-quality glass display instead of a plastic one. That should improve the scratch resistance over an iPod. The screen itself is a 3.5-inch, touch-sensitive display, which has a resolution of 320-by-480 pixels at 160 pixels-per-inch (a much higher resolution than most computer displays). The glass is supposed to be very strong, but yes, we suppose if you drop it it’s possible that it might break.

    So there’s just the one Home button on the iPhone’s front. What other switches and features does the phone’s case have?

    On the left side is a volume-control button and a switch that lets you toggle between an audible ring and silent operation. The top has a slot for the phone’s SIM card (which identifies you to the cellular network), a sleep/wake button, and a headset and audio jack. (This audio jack is a standard 3.5-mm version, like the on used on iPods, rather than the smaller 2.5-mm size used by many cell phones; however, the jack is recessed a bit into the phone’s body, so you may need an adapter, not included, to use third-party headphones with large plugs.)

    From left to right, the iPhone’s recessed headset jack, SIM card slot, and sleep/wake button

    On the bottom, there’s a loudspeaker (for audio playback and speakerphone), a microphone, and a 30-pin iPod dock connector (just like the one on dockable iPods). The back of the iPhone sports the lens of the phone’s built-in two-megapixel camera.

    From left to right, the iPhone’s microphone, iPod dock connector, and speaker

    How does the sleep/wake button work?

    If your iPhone is active, press the sleep button to lock the screen. The phone will still receive calls, and if you’re playing music, the music will continue to play. You can even use the volume buttons to adjust music volume, but the screen itself will be off. Press the sleep button again to wake up and unlock the iPhone; you’ll need to confirm the action by sliding your finger across the virtual slider on the screen. If you want to shut down the iPhone entirely, hold the sleep/wake button down for a few seconds, and then confirm using the same onscreen slider. When shut down, the iPhone won’t ring, play music, or anything else.

    Unlocking the iPhone after wake-up

    Accessories

    Does the iPhone come with a set of headphones, like the iPod?

    It comes with a set of earbud headphones that appear to be just like the ones included with iPods; but they’re actually quite different. These wired stereo earbuds include an integrated microphone and remote control, hidden in a small “pod” where the left and right cables meet. When you’re listening to music, squeezing this pod once pauses playback; squeezing it again resumes playback. Quickly squeezing the pod twice advances to the next track.

    You also answer incoming calls and hang up by squeezing the pod; music will automatically pause and resume, respectively.

    What about accessories? Will they be as numerous as what’s available for the iPod?

    Eventually. There are already a flood of them on the way. Apple will sell a Bluetooth headset that pairs automatically with the iPhone, and Aliph says it will offer a Jawbone headset alongside iPhone at Apple retail stores. That’s just the beginning.

    Will iPod accessories work with the iPhone?

    The connector on the bottom of the iPhone is the standard iPod dock connector. But it’s unclear if all accessories will be compatible. The iPhone is a different shape than the iPod models, so it may not fit right in some accessories. And the threat of interference from the iPhone’s cellular antenna may mean that external speakers may not work as well, or at all, unless the iPhone is placed in Airplane Mode (when you place the iPod in a dock-connector speaker system, the iPhone automatically asks if you want to switch modes). But until we get a chance to test iPod accessories with a real iPhone, we won’t know the ins and outs of compatibility.

    What about the camera on the iPhone? What can I do with that? How do I manage photos on the iPhone?

    The iPhone camera’s 2-megapixel sensor is small by digital-camera standards. The camera uses the screen for (very large) image framing, and the phone’s Photos program lets you browse your photo library or view individual photos in full-screen mode. Photos takes advantage of the touchscreen by letting you “swipe” images left or right to cycle through them, or pinch images to zoom in or out.

    It doesn’t appear that the iPhone's camera will be able to capture video, but you can use the photos you take with the iPhone as wallpaper or to come up when a particular person calls.

    You mentioned charging the battery. What kind of battery performance can I expect from the iPhone?

    One of the problems with converged devices such as smart phones is battery life—with so many functions, it’ll be easy to run down the battery without even noticing. That may be acceptable for a media player or handheld, but not for a phone. The iPhone will contain a single battery (which, like the iPod, you can’t remove or swap yourself) to power all aspects of its operation.

    The company says the battery will last up to eight hours for talk, seven hours for video playback, six hours for Internet browsing, or 24 hours for audio playback. (The iPod nano, for comparison, is rated for up to 24 hours of audio playback, and the 80GB iPod can play up to six-and-a-half hours of video.) Standby time is rated at up to 250 hours.

    But these are Apple’s tests doing just one of these things at a time, in generally favorable circumstances; in real-world use, you’ll likely be doing a combination of these things over the course of a day, and in varying environments (sometimes using Wi-Fi, sometimes using EDGE, sometimes listening to music and surfing the Web). In any event, you’ll need to exercise some good judgment if you want to ensure that you have enough juice left for your phone once you’re done listening to music, browsing the Web, or watching video. We expect to have a better idea of battery performance after a few days using the iPhone.

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