First Look: Up close with the iPhone

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iPod features

So will this phone work like my iPod?

As an iPod, the iPhone’s functionality is similar to that of a fifth-generation (5G) model. In addition to playback of the standard array of music-file formats, the iPhone can display photos as well as play video. There are several key differences, however.

Like what?

Like navigation, for starters. Notably absent from the iPhone is the iPod’s famous Click Wheel; to navigate through your media and control playback, you use the iPhone’s touch-sensitive screen. To find a particular song, for example, you tap on the Music item, tap on the Songs item, then move your finger up or down the screen to scroll the song list up or down; a flick of your finger down the screen allows you to scroll more quickly.

If you don’t want to scroll through all your music to get to a certain section, you can also tap your finder on any letter of the alphabet, from the list displayed on the side of the screen, to jump directly to items beginning with that letter. (Because of the small size of the letters, however, accurate jumps were somewhat difficult to achieve during our brief time with the iPhone—but we still bypassed a lot of scrolling.)

Once you've found the song you're looking for, tap the track’s name to start it playing. Even with the different method of control, the menu system and media-browsing system are recognizably iPod.

Tell me about the screen.

The iPhone is the first iPod to offer wide-screen viewing. Videos play on the iPhone in landscape mode, meaning you must hold the iPhone so that it’s wide, rather than tall, in order to watch videos. The iPhone’s screen measures 3.5 inches diagonally, with physical dimensions of 2.9-by-1.9 inches. That’s not quite a cinematic 16:9 aspect ratio (more like 3:2), but it’s closer than the current iPod’s screen. A double-tap on the iPhone’s screen toggles between a zoomed-in view, in which the video fills the screen, and a letterboxed view, with black bars at the top and the bottom.

Apple has taken advantage of the iPhone’s screen to add other media capabilities as well. For example, album art display is much larger than on current iPods. And when browsing music with the iPhone oriented horizontally, the iPhone switches into Cover Flow mode.

Scrolling for music in the Cover Flow view

Does the iPhone have a hard drive?

No, like the iPod nano, the iPhone includes 4GB or 8GB of flash-based memory, compact when compared to the considerably more spacious 1.8-inch hard drives found in 5G iPods. Although using flash memory helps prolong battery life, the iPhone’s small storage capacity is an interesting limitation for a device with video-viewing capabilities. Full-length movies easily top 1GB, meaning you shouldn’t expect to carry too many on an iPhone.

Displaying music by song title

There’s also no slot for expanding the iPhone’s internal memory with extra flash cards.

Will you be able to use extra space on the iPhone’s drive as computer storage, as with an iPod?

We don’t know. Possibly.

Can I control the iPhone’s iPod functions via the included Apple headphones?

Yes, although the controls are basic. Click once on the control pod to pause and again to unpause. Click twice to advance to the next track.

What are the default buttons on the iPhone’s iPod screen?

Playlist, Artist, Songs, Videos, and More. The first four are pretty self-explanatory; the fifth lets you choose other browsing options, including lists of Albums, Audiobooks, Compilations, Composers, Genres, or Podcasts.

I listen to a lot of Podcasts, or regularly browse by genre. Does this mean I have to tap on More every time I want to access these buttons?

No, the first four buttons on the screen are configurable. Tap on the Edit button and a new Configure window opens. You can drag any icon you want, such as Podcasts, down into the bottom section where the four default buttons reside. Pick the iPod views that suit you best—for example, Playlist, Genres, Podcasts, and Videos.

Music features

So how do I find my music on the iPhone?

Playback controls on the iPhone

Tap on the iPod icon on the iPhone’s main screen; you’ll see those five default buttons we just mentioned. If you tap the Artist or Song button, for example, you’ll get a list of your music, organized alphabetically by artist or song title. In addition, you⁏ll see that list of every letter of the alphabet down the right hand side of the screen that we mentioned earlier for jumping ahead to the artists or songs associated with that particular letter. There’s also a Shuffle command at the top of the Songs and Artists lists.

If you’re displaying songs by artist, tapping the name of an artist gives you a list of albums. Tap on the album, and you’ll see that album’s list of songs. (This works much like iTunes’ Browse mode.) Tapping any song begins playback. As a song plays, its album art appears on the majority of the iPhone screen; the artist, song title, and album are listed at the top, while playback controls (play/pause, forward and back buttons) and a volume bar take up the bottom.

There’s one other control that might interest you—an icon in the top-right corner of the screen next to the artist/song/album info lets you access the track list of that album; you can tap any song on the list to make it play.

Are those the only views available on the iPhone?

No. As we said above, you can also display your music using the Cover Flow view Apple introduced in iTunes 7 (and that will be part of the overhauled Finder in Mac OS X 10.5 ). Just turn the iPhone horizontally while in iPod mode; the iPhone’s accelerometer automatically switches to the Cover Flow view. Flicking your finger in one direction or the other lets you scroll through album covers. Tap on an album cover to get a track list, and tap on any one of those songs to begin playback.

Videos play in widescreen…

Playing video

Can I play videos while holding the iPhone in portrait (tall, rather than wide) orientation?

No. TV shows, movies, video podcasts, YouTube videos, and Web videos all play in landscape mode. You’ll need to turn your iPhone on its side to watch those videos. But the entire interface rotates with you, so the iPhone is still perfectly usable in that orientation.

I don’t like watching videos with letterboxing. Can I zoom videos in to fill the iPhone screen?

…and zoomed-in modes.

Yes, videos play zoomed in by default, but you can double-tap on the screen to toggle between zoomed-in mode and the video’s original aspect ratio.

How do I control my videos when I’m watching them? What if I need to pause or back up a video?

Tap once on a video to display a set of on-screen controls. At the top of the screen, you’ll see a slider bar that shows where you are in the video’s running time and lets you jump around within the video. Below, a floating window contains buttons to move to you the next or previous video or to pause the current video. There’s also a volume slider so you can make the video’s accompanying audio louder or softer. Another single tap hides these controls.

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