First Look: Up close with the iPhone

SMS

Does the iPhone do SMS text messaging?

Yes, the iPhone includes a full SMS text-messaging client that looks nearly identical to iChat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t let you connect to the AIM instant-messaging network; you’re restricted to SMS.) And all iPhone plans include 200 text messages per month, so there are no extra charges unless you go over that amount.

How does it work?

Tap the SMS icon to open the messaging application. From there, you’ll see a list of ongoing conversations—the iPhone keeps a complete history of messaging sessions, so it looks more like chatting than e-mail. Conversations with a blue dot to their left contain unread messages, and tapping on an SMS session name brings up the complete chat.

You can reply by tapping on the text entry box at the bottom of the screen, which brings up the iPhone’s virtual keyboard; tap send when you’re done to fire off the message. From within a chat, you can tap on an inline phone number to call that number.

Text-messaging with the iPhone

At the top of the SMS window are two buttons: Call and Contact Info. Tapping on Call will dial the phone your recipient is using to send you messages, while Contact Info will bring up that person’s entry in your address book.

To clear the contents of a conversation, you can tap on the Clear button at the top of a chat, which brings up a red Clear Conversation button at the bottom. Or, to get rid of a session altogether, you can swipe your finger across a conversation in the main SMS screen and then tap Delete button that appears, or tap the Edit button in the upper left, tap the red minus sign, and then the Delete button.

Maps

So does the iPhone just use the regular Google Maps Web site?

While the iPhone’s Maps program uses data from Google’s massive maps database, it’s a custom program written by Apple.

Does the iPhone have a built-in GPS so that it can tell Google Maps where it is?

No. Just like on your computer, you have to tell Google Maps where you are and where you’re going. But Apple has made it easy to follow along with driving directions by adding a simple pair of previous/next turn buttons that let you quickly step from intersection to intersection as you complete your journey. However, if you’re expecting your iPhone to tell you to turn right in 100 feet, you’ll be disappointed.

Driving directions with traffic data

Does the iPhone know about traffic?

In some areas, Google supplies the iPhone with traffic sensor data. For example, Apple’s demonstration video of Google Maps on the iPhone shows San Francisco-area traffic sensors that display freeway speeds as a color-coded overlay. If you live in an area where this data is available, the iPhone should be able to take traffic into account as it estimates the length of your trip; you simply press the Traffic icon in the lower-right corner of a map.

Can you find me a sushi restaurant in San Francisco?

What do I look like, an iPhone?

YouTube

Is it true I can access YouTube via my iPhone?

Indeed. Apple announced this functionality at the same time it released an Apple TV software update adding YouTube support. As with YouTube content on Apple TV, you’re able to view videos encoded in the H.264 format.

Apple says about 10,000 videos will be available when the iPhone ships; YouTube is in the process of converting its full library to H.264 and expects to finish the job some time this fall.

So how does it work?

YouTube content on the iPhone

Tap on the YouTube button on the iPhone’s display—it’s the button that looks like an old-fashioned TV set. As with other iPhone apps, buttons on the bottom allow you to quickly navigate through YouTube offerings—in this case, the buttons are Featured, Most Viewed, Bookmarks, Search, and More. Featured highlights selected YouTube content; Most Viewed displays videos that are—as you might imagine—the most frequently viewed on YouTube, grouped by that day, that week, or all time; and Bookmarks provide links to your favorite YouTube Clips.

Until we get an iPhone in our hands, we won’t be sure just how the Search and More commands work—we&38217;d guess that the Search command brings up a virtual keyboard not unlike the one used in other iPhone apps like Mail and SMS, but that is just a guess.

Once you’ve found a video you want to watch—you scroll through the video list with a wave of your finger—tap on it and it plays, exactly like viewing any other video content on an iPhone. (This means in order to watch the video, you’ve got to rotate the iPhone from a vertical into a horizontal orientation.)

When viewing a video, a single tap brings up the playback controls. In addition to the play/pause button and buttons for jumping forward and back on the bottom of the screen, there’s also a bookmark icon on the left side of the control and an e-mail icon on the right—tapping this latter icon creates an e-mail with an embedded link that you can send out to friends. The playback controls also include a status bar showing the time elapsed and time remaining of each video—presumably sliding your finger along that bar allows you to advance and rewind the video, though we have yet to see that feature in action.

Right next to the status bar, you’ll find an icon that lets you view the video in widescreen; a quick double-tap of your finger also allows you to do this.

Is the ability to watch YouTube videos really earth-shattering?

In the grand scheme of things, probably not. Certainly, if there was a hue and cry for the ability to access and watch a video of the Pittsburgh Pirates mascot re-enacting the Sopranos finale on your phone, it certainly escaped our attention. But the iPhone’s major features include the ability to watch videos and surf the Web. Why not add some functionality that combines both if the technology is available? (And with the Apple TV partnership between Apple and YouTube, it certainly was.)

Photo features

Options on the iPhone let you e-mail photos, use them as wallpaper, or assign them to Address Book contacts.

How good are the photos taken by the iPhone’s integrated 2-megapixel camera?

We haven’t tested it yet, but the New York Times’s David Pogue posted a slideshow of his photos that suggests it’s about what you’d expect from a cell phone camera: not bad in still, well-lit situations, but not so hot when things get dark or blurry.

Can I copy photos from my Mac or PC onto my iPhone?

Yes, you can sync photo albums with the iPhone just as you can with the iPod, and they appear in your Photos program right underneath the Camera Roll album. And presumably the photos you take on your iPhone sync back to your Mac or PC as well.

How can I send the photos I take with my camera to other people?

You can e-mail them. But you can’t send them via a multimedia (MMS) message, since that’s a format that the iPhone doesn’t currently support.

Other applications

Can I use the iPhone to keep track of my calendar?

Yes, but this is a feature that we still haven’t seen much about. Apple says it’ll sync with Entourage and iCal calendars, but there’s much more to know here.

Can I use the iPhone to take notes or leave notes for myself?

There’s a Notes program, and presumably that’s what it does, but again, we haven’t really seen it up to now.

Will the iPhone be able to synchronize contacts and calendars with more than one computer?

The iPod can’t, and everything we know about the iPhone suggests that its syncing capabilities will more or less match those of the iPod. Perhaps if the iPhone integrates with a shared-calendar server system (such as the one in the forthcoming Mac OS X Leopard Server), that might solve this problem.

Contributing to this report: Jason Snell, Philip Michaels, Dan Frakes, Jim Dalrymple, Jonathan Seff, and Dan Moren

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