iPhone put to the design test

The Apple iPhone really is as good as it is made out to be – it has certainly seduced our critic, at least. After a few weeks’ trial, lcolm Garrett is thoroughly in love with his little shiny-surfaced hand-held computer

Following last Friday’s official UK launch, many of you will already have rushed to witness for yourself the wonder that is iPhone, in all of its elegant and effortlessly functional glory. I have been fortuitous enough to possess a UK-friendly ‘grey’ import for several weeks, and iLove it. And I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t.

What Apple has done is to take your computer into the street. This is not just another gadget, it is an extension of the gadget you already use. And for me that’s where it wins over the competition. Attaching a phone to Mac OS has given it enhanced mobility, with a realistic and usable e-mail client and Web browser, camera and media player, and lots of other stuff which works supremely well without compromising any one function in the process. All functions sync seamlessly to an everyday computer too. It’s that simple, and surely it always should have been, but I gave up on my Nokia with its clunky or non-existent laptop connectivity years ago.

By addressing real user concerns rather than letting technology lead, and by having the ‘world’s most advanced operating system’ on tap, finally we have a mobile phone designed for real people in the real world. Unlike its competitors, this is not a phone that has had poorly developed features overloaded on to it. It is designed from the ground up, and I haven’t even begun to talk about the revelation that is the full-screen multi-touch interface.

The display has a clarity that puts every other phone to shame, and the subtlety and precision of its functionality exceeds even the best we’ve come to expect from Jonathan Ive’s team. I could write reams about the care taken over the variety of interface controls, with their visual tactility and subtly differing feedback cues that make this interface work at its best for every single function. Nothing is extraneous, with the screen area always used practically, rather than decoratively. Nothing is there to try to make it cool, it just is cool because everything works as it should. The screen is always easy to read and, most importantly, ‘buttons’ are distinct and finger-sized. You really do not miss the physicality of actual buttons that ‘click’.

So, what’s wrong with it? Well, a few things, but not enough to be unduly concerned. It is so far ahead in its thinking that any niggles are destined to be addressed in future iterations.

It makes you wonder what Nokia et al have been doing for years. They certainly hadn’t realised that what people really want is a hand-held computer that also makes phone calls.

Now I want Apple to make my laptop work in a similar way. For years I’ve bemoaned the fact that computers are curiously constrained by the limitations of the keyboard – now we have proof that there is a better way to communicate.

Malcolm Garrett is creative director at Applied Information Group

The iPhone went on sale in the UK last Friday

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