Not just a phone

For the second time this year, we have put a phone on the cover of Macworld. We know that this will lead many of you to wonder what the heck is wrong with us. After all, the letters will point out, this isn’t Phoneworld , is it?

No, it’s not. But then Apple’s iPhone is not just a phone, either. It’s also a full-featured iPod and—more importantly for Macworld readers—the smallest Mac ever. The iPhone might weigh less than five ounces and rely on a revolutionary new touch-screen interface, but it runs OS X. When you browse the Web on it, you’re using the same WebKit technology that drives Safari on your Mac.

That’s not the only Mac connection, of course. The iPhone is an important addition to the list of products you can attach to your Mac. And unlike most phones, which require add-on software to sync with Macs, the iPhone directly integrates with iTunes, Safari, iCal, and the rest of Mac OS X.

The new, new thing

The original Macintosh changed the world by relying on a mouse to move a cursor around a graphical computer interface. The iPhone does it one better: When you slide your finger across the iPhone’s screen, the photo, Web page, or e-mail message, or whatever else that screen is displaying, moves along with your touch, as if you were moving an actual, physical object. The iPhone has no cursor because your finger is the pointer.

There’s no telling whether the iPhone’s touch-screen interface will find its way into other products. I wouldn’t expect Mac OS X 10.6 to throw out 25 years of interface development. But the iPhone is so innovative that I find it hard to believe it’ll have no spin-offs. It’s entirely possible that Apple’s innovations in the world of small devices will end up leading to related innovations on the Mac side.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see more devices powered by OS X that aren’t Macs as we know them today. It’s easy to imagine, for example, a laptop that’s more full-featured than an iPhone (offering a bigger screen and a real keyboard, say) but still much smaller than a MacBook. The iPhone and (to a lesser extent) the Apple TV have shown that OS X can be crammed into tiny boxes. That could mean tinier Macs.

In any event, as a magazine focused on everything Apple—not just the Mac but also the iPod, the Apple TV, and now the iPhone— Macworld will continue to keep you up-to-date on everything the company does. Even if you’re not interested in owning an iPhone, the product is important enough to the Mac’s future that you should keep tabs on it. (Our new iPhone Central blog is a good place to do so.)

The backlash begins

In the weeks leading up to the iPhone’s launch, I frequently read that Apple was “overhyping” the phone. In fact, I think that Apple was pretty restrained. After announcing the iPhone back in January, the company let the hype-storm build naturally. Trust me, if companies could simply buy the kind of attention the iPhone received before its release, they would. The iPhone attracted that attention on its own.

However, anytime expectations run so high, there’s bound to be a backlash. In the iPhone’s case, it began within a few days of the release. Early reviewers were shocked—shocked!—to find that the iPhone had flaws. And such reviews have continued in the weeks since.

You’ll find my review of the iPhone at the end of this issue’s iPhone story (“Meet the iPhone,” page 58). No, I don’t think the device is perfect. While the iPhone is a revolutionary product with huge potential, it’s also a “version 1.0” product with plenty of weaknesses and missing features.

Writing a review like this makes me sympathize with movie critics who bridle at awarding a star rating to a movie. As useful as those stars (or in our case, mice) are to readers, trying to reduce your judgment about a film (or a complex product) to a number is in many ways futile. How am I supposed to reduce a product like the iPhone to a number between one and five?

In the end, we settled on a rating that honors the iPhone as a remarkable new product with some room for growth and improvement.

We’re counting on seeing plenty of such growth and improvement. Apple expects to continuously add features to the iPhone through software updates. (And I don’t doubt that updated hardware is already in the pipeline.) My bet is that the iPhones being bought today will be much improved just six months from now; the burden is on Apple to make it happen.

[ Send your comment about the iPhone to iphone@macworld.com. Or call us with your iPhone and leave us a voice mail (for potential use on the Web), at 415/520-9761. ]

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