First Look: Up close with the iPhone

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The interface

The Home screen

How do I launch programs?

When you press the iPhone’s Home button, you’re immediately taken to the iPhone’s Home screen. This screen features three rows of four icons, for a total of 12 applications: Text (for SMS text messaging, not iChat/AIM), Calendar, Photos, Camera, YouTube, Stocks, Maps, Weather, Clock, Calculator, Notes, and Settings. At the bottom of the screen is a bar—visible more often than the Home screen—containing the big four: Phone, Mail, Safari and iPod. Tap on any of the 16 icons to launch the corresponding program.

Some of the pictures of icons on the iPhone have little numbers next to them. Why?

Just as some icons in Mac OS X’s Dock have informational “badges” attached to them—how many new messages are waiting for you in Mail, for example—so too do icons on the iPhone’s Home screen. So, for example, you can see how many new Mail messages, or SMS messages, or voicemail messages you have.

What’s contained in the bar at the top of the iPhone screen?

The bar at the top of the screen is visible at all times, with the exception of a few full-screen modes such as playing back videos. The bar contains the current time, an icon indicating how much battery life you’ve got, an indicator of which cellular network you’re on (in most cases AT&T, though if you roam to areas without AT&T coverage you may find yourself on a partner network), a series of bars to indicate the strength of your cellular network signal, and an AirPort icon that displays your Wi-Fi network connection status; you can tap on that last one to enable or disable Airplane mode.

How do I type on a buttonless phone?

Use the onscreen keyboard. When it’s time to enter text (in programs such as Mail, SMS, and Safari), a keyboard slides up from the bottom of the screen. Although the touchscreen doesn’t offer tactile feedback, the iPhone features automatic error detection and text prediction—so even if you do make a mistake, the software will often fix it before you notice. In our brief hands-on time with an early iPhone, we found that single-finger typing actually worked quite well. And Apple claims that you can use two thumbs to type as well.

Typing on the onscreen keyboard, in this case in the Mail application

Although the iPhone doesn’t offer tactile feedback for typing, it does offer visual feedback—when you press a key, it enlarges, as if it’s rising up to meet your finger. Because the iPhone’s keyboard doesn’t “register” your keypress until you lift your finger—much different than the behavior of most keyboards—you can use this visual feedback to correct in-progress keypresses; if you see that you’re pressing the wrong key, you can slide your finger over to the desired key.


I want to use my iPhone to watch movies and listen to music when I’m on an airplane, but the flight attendants always say that cell phones much remain off during the entire flight. What gives?

Like many smartphones, the iPhone has an “Airplane mode” that lets you deactivate all the wireless features of the phone for the flight while keeping all other features functional. To activate Airplane mode, go to the Home screen and touch Settings. Slide the Airplane mode switch to On, and you’ll automatically disconnect the iPhone from the mobile-phone network, as well as turn off its Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios. (The top bar on the iPhone will display an airplane icon to tell you that you’re in Airplane mode.)

When you’re at your destination and the flight attendants have told you it’s OK to reactivate cell phones, just slide the Airplane mode switch back to Off. This feature is also useful in other places, such as hospitals, where mobile phones are not allowed.

What other iPhone settings can I adjust from the Settings program?

Just about everything, including setting new ringtones and wallpaper; adjusting the brightness of the phone’s backlighting; and modifying the settings for individual applications such as Mail, Phone, Safari, iPod, and Photos.

Can I set the iPhone to alert me when I get new mail? A new voicemail? Can I set it to vibrate or make a noise?

Yes to all of the above. From the Sounds menu of the Settings program, you can set whether you want the iPhone to vibrate when it’s in silent mode and, separately, when it’s in audible mode. You can set the ring volume and ringtone, and decide whether the phone will make noise if you get a new voicemail, text message, e-mail, and more.

So I need to go to the Settings screen to adjust the screen’s brightness when I go from sunlight to darkness?

No. The iPhone has an ambient light sensor that adjusts its brightness depending on your surroundings.

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