iPhone Rumors, What They Say To Me

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This is a bit of a divergence from the recent series that I have been posting, but I feel the need to make a comment on the recent rumors about an up-coming Apple "iPhone", that is supposed to be announced this January. I have been following the rumors for quite a while, mostly because I think it's an interesting concept if all the proposed features are implemented. But we need to stay focused: Why do Mac users want such a gizmo? Can't they fulfill their technology needs with other devices? This isn't so much about the device that is proposed, it's about what's lacking in current devices. Let me explain:

Easy UI
The first complaint that I have had with just about every phone I have used is the UI. Mobile phones have very complex UI's that require someone to go deep into different folders to get to each feature. Wouldn't it be nice to have a single screen that can rotate to each section with one screen? Then have that one screen have all the features you need. Make it intuitive, and you have a winning UI for any device.

PDA Flexibility in a Small Package
I don't like modern PDA's, because they are generally too bulky to be comfortably functional. Do they need to be that big? Not really, particularly if you can use a separate display option (see My Vu eye wear). Also, do you really need to have such a large writing display for handwriting recognition? Maybe if you tried using a bluetooth lazer keyboard to input your information, you wouldn't have an issue. Or better yet, if you used an internet Calendar program using CalDAV (Google Calendar, iCal Server, Yahoo Calendar, etc.) to enter a lot of your information, you would rarely need to enter any text at all. Use the microphone to take notes for yourself, and enter them into your online PIM manager once you get to a computer. That cuts down on the overall size, and makes it that much more convienient.

Better, More Open PIM Management
Exchange is not the answer, and constantly syncing your information can be a hassle. What I want as a Mac user (or a *nix user in general) is a PIM system that has open standards and will sync with any open standards server out there. That means that if I use Google or Yahoo Calendar to keep track of my classes, I can sync it through my phones Internet connection without having to sync with anything. Why not Exchange? Because it's not open, and therefore very restrictive.

But, I would also like to point out that currently the only mention of PIM management has been through syncing and through .Mac, both of which I would not be happy with. I would much rather have a CalDAV client that will let me subscribe to a CalDAV server to access my calendar information. Hopefully Apple has this in mind, should they actually make the iPhone.

Open, Simple Development Options
Little has been speculated about the iPhones OS, other than it's supposed to be really "cool". What would I consider really cool? I ported version of Darwin, that would run programs that can be made with simple tools. Dashboard widgets would be great, but more to the point I was thinking of building a development base such as GPE or OPIE. Keep it open source, easy to develop for the platform, while keeping the proprietary software for Apple. This could technically be possible, but as I have yet to find a website devoted to porting Darwin to embedded devices, I'm not sure how this could be possible.

iChat AV
Ever since I saw a commercial for HP showing a young lady in the middle of a video conferencing session with her iPaq in the middle of Red Square in Moskow, I have wanted a video chatting device that was mobile. Now, it must be said that previous phone connections have been too restrictive and slow to make this happen. But now with 3G becoming available in most major cities (yes, even in Salt Lake City), it should be possible. And why not? Isn't this something that we have all dreamt about, ever since seeing Inspector Gadget's niece Penny speak to Brain the dog on her video watch? Despite dating myself with that last comment, I think it would be an amazing innovation that few have seen fit to integrate.

Syncing Abilities with All Platforms
I know I said I don't want to sync with my computer, but that's just me. Many people out there would like to be able to sync with their personal mail client, calendar software, etc. And not all of them use the Mac, or even Windows. I'm talking about all those Linux users that have to fight through dependencies to get synce, multisync, opensync, etc. working on their system just to use a PDA. Why force someone to go through all the pain? If Apple is going to release this, they need to think of the Linux users out there, which would be a change for Apple. They haven't been too keen on releasing any of their proprietary software for Linux in the past. But this change would be a welcome change, if Apple saw fit to release it.

Cool, Killer Apps
Really cool, killer apps need to be released for the platform. That means a universal eBook reader for those that like to carry their books with them for a quick read. That also goes for games (including multiplayer games), GPS, etc. This could best be implemented by using the Dashboard Widgets out there. They already exist, most have a small footprint, and few require other applications installed to run.

In fact, this whole platform could be just one integrated Dashboard with a Front Row navigation system. That would make it easy to install your software apps, and make it easy to navigate through them all. Why hasn't someone thought of this before? It eptomizes the ease of use for Apple, the "just works" mentality, and makes the complex install process for Palm and Pocket PC look that much more unattractive to the average user.

Battery Life
Yes, I want to be able to use iChat AV on a device for longer than an hour or so. I would also like to see the battery be something that can easily be replaced if it goes bad. This means more of a traditional cell phone battery, rather than the iPod's battery that requires someone to tear it apart in order to get to it. That way the device can live longer than the battery, and it's more eco-friendly. It's also cheaper to maintain, which is why I would want it. ^_^

Final Words
So, while the iPhone hype is still frenzied out there, I thought I would give out my list. You notice that I didn't mention watching video or listening to music on my list. Why? These have already been done. While listening to music or watching a movie would be nice, I would rather have a device that allows for multimedia communication and open standards PIM management over a glorified MP3 player on my phone. Make a device that fulfills this need, and you will capture my heart as a consumer. If Apple does this, great! If not, I hope someone else is listening to the hype, realizes the need, and meets it.

Any EE majors out there? This would be a perfect project, particularly if you can do it within a small budget. ^_^