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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 13:24 GMT
Beneath the bonnet of the iPhone
By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter, BBC News

Apple iPhone, Apple
The iPhone has been under development for more than two years (Credit: Apple)

With the iPhone, it seems that Apple may have surpassed the expectations of even its most demanding fans.

The immediate reaction was one of delight that Apple had combined a widescreen iPod, mobile phone and internet device in such a slick and stylish gadget.

Most excitement is being reserved for the new user interface, which allows users to touch the screen to make calls and listen to music.

Some experts though question whether the phone will be compelling enough to make a real impact on the market.

Others are concerned that the hefty $499 price tag is just a little too much to pay even for the latest iconic Apple design.

User-friendly

Mac fans are excited about the fact that Apple has addressed the need to improve user experience while retaining the sleek design most have come to expect as standard from Apple's head of design Jonathan Ive.

Editor of MacFormat Graham Barlow, obviously not put off by the price, wants two.

"I want one to put in a box and look at and one to play with," he said.

Like many, he is most impressed by the touch-screen technology, which Apple has patented and labelled "multi-touch".

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"Steve Jobs is right when he says that no-one wants a stylus," said Mr Barlow.

The touch-screen came about as a result of Steve Jobs frustration with existing mobile phones' usability. The new designs means users simply need to touch an icon on the iPhone's 3.5 inch screen to make a call. If another call comes through, users touch a second icon. A third icon allows them to merge the calls into a three-way conference call.

Few doubt that the touch-screen technology could have the same impact on the phone market as the motion-sensitive controls of Nintendo's Wii console seems to have had on the games market.

Rory Cellan-Jones compares iPhone rivals with Tom Dunmore, Editor in Chief of Stuff Magazine.

Small innovations

But others point out that it is not the first time Apple has dabbled with touch-screen technology.

"Apple had its first go with its Newton PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). Other companies like SonyEricsson and Nokia have also had a go at touch-screen devices and the arena is littered with casualties," said Ben Wood, partner at research firm CCS Insight.

He believes that the usability of the touch-screen and how well the keyboard's predictive functionality works will be crucial to the device's success.

The unveiling of the Apple iPhone was the highlight of MacWorld (Apple).

Mr Wood is impressed by smaller innovations such as the phone's accelerometer, a movement sensor, which automatically detects when the user has rotated the device from portrait to landscape and changes the contents of the display accordingly.

These aside though, he isn't convinced there is anything that revolutionary about the rest of the technology behind the iPhone.

"Peel back the layers and below the Apple lustre, there isn't a great deal that all the major phone companies haven't talked about. The difference is that Apple has done it and that has raised the bar," he said.

Convergence equals compromise

Some think that the iPhone has finally solved the thorny issue of how to converge many functions on one device, although Tom Husson, mobile analyst for research firm Jupiter, is more reticent.

"Convergence without compromise is something very difficult to reach," he said.

IPHONE VITAL STATISTICS
Screen size - 3.5in (8.9cm)
Resolution - 320x480 pixels
Memory - 4GB/8GB
Wireless - Quad-band GSM/wi-fi/Bluetooth
Camera - 2 megapixels
Battery life - 5 hours talk/16 hours playback
Size - 115 x 61 x 11.6mm
Weight - 135grammes
Operating System - OS X
"There is no question that the iPhone has set a new standard for handset manufacturers and it definitely addresses the key issue of user experience which is something that Apple is good at but, in order to succeed, it needs to be compelling as a phone," he said.

Issues he identifies as possible problems going forward are battery life - five hours talk-time and around 16 hours for listening to music. He also questions whether the operating system will allow third party applications for the phone.

The fact that the iPhones runs Apple's operating system OS X has delighted Apple fans.

"No-one expected that but it means that Mac users will be right at home with it," said Mr Barlow.

His desire to get his hands on the iPhone has not blinded him to concerns, mainly that the device could be prone to scratching.

He is also under-whelmed by the 4GB storage, although a bigger 8GB model will also be available, priced at $599.

The lack of storage means he will not be giving up his iPod any time soon and he believes the music device Apple has become synonomous with will enjoy healthy sales for some years to come.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Apple's iPhone in action



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