iPhone Love

October 2008

Divorce is never easy. But when I got my iPhone, the excitement returned, and my AT&T 8125, with its Windows Mobile software, Internet access, camera, camcorder, music player, video player, office suite, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, just didn’t satisfy me any more. I haven’t looked back. I’ve found my new love, and my world is different.

Well, maybe I exaggerate. But this gizmo sure is fun. The first thing that struck me was the dazzling screen. Instead of some kind of numeric keypad or QWERTY keyboard on the face of the device, Apple uses the entire front side of the device as the screen. If you want to make a call or type something, a keypad or keyboard pops up when needed. The 3 ½-inch display is incredibly sharp with high resolution.

If you want to watch a movie, you can tilt the device sideways and watch it full-screen. Whatever is on the screen automatically changes orientation as you tilt the device.

The second thing that struck me was how easy and fun everything is with this device compared to the others I’ve used. There’s just one button on the face of the device — which you push to close an application and get back to the home screen.

What really got me jazzed, though, was the power. It’s so easy to put stuff on this phone — music, podcasts, videos, TV shows, movies, ringtones, and software. It all works via Apple’s free iTunes application, which is available for both Mac and Windows computers.

Putting it on your phone or iPod is called syncing. You connect your device to your USB port, and then sync the content to it. You can set it so that any new media content you add to your computer is automatically synced to your device.

iTunes itself is a marvel. You can use it to play music, copy CDs to your computer, find and play podcasts and vidcasts, buy or rent movies, buy TV shows, buy songs and music videos and audiobooks, and more. It’s like a huge library of all media, well organized. It makes purchasing and downloading content to your computer a snap.

Songs cost 99¢, TV shows are 1.99, movies cost up to 14.99, rentals are 2.99 or 3.99. Once you set up an account, you simply select what you want and download it with one click. Once it’s on your computer, you can access the content on your computer and also sync it to your iPhone.

iTunes also has a lot of free content — especially a huge range of podcasts and vidcasts. Podcasts are audio programs created by individuals and organizations and uploaded to iTunes. You can subscribe to podcasts such that new episodes are downloaded automatically to your computer. Then those episodes can be synced to your phone or iPod.

Among the most popular podcasts are NPR programs, BBC news, and HBO comedy. Vidcasts are similar to podcasts except that they, of course, add video. iTunes simply refers to all audio and video content as podcasts. The most popular video podcasts include Best of YouTube, Comedy Central Stand-Up, and the Discovery Channel. Again, all of this is free. And there’s something for just about every taste. The one podcast I’ve listed to on a regular basis is a weekly program on the latest news in archaeology.

Another interesting, and free, offering is iTunes U, which are videos of well-known university lecturers, such as Thomas Friedman, author of The World Is Flat.

Essentially, iTunes is a convenient window onto a universe of information and entertainment, both free and commercial, as well as being a software program that lets you organize and play that content. AND lets you easily put it on your iPhone or iPod.

This past summer when Apple first began making software by independent developers available for the iPhone, they took the bold step of making it exclusively available on iTunes. Analysts said it wouldn’t work. But it was a brilliant move. Buying and installing software on my old phone could be a pain. On iTunes it’s easy. Most of the applications cost $5 or less, and many are free.

My favorite free application is one that grabs the top stories from the New York Times and puts it on my iPhone in a form that fits the screen much better than a regular web page. Then any time during the day I have a few minutes, even if I’m not connected to the Internet, I can read the articles.

As any lover, I can wax on and on about all the wonderful qualities of my beloved. I’ll spare you.

© 2008 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D

E-mail Jim Karpen