Now that there’s actually a product to buy, and the hype has started to die down, it’s worth spending a moment unwinding what the real revolution is that’s occurred with the release of the Jesus Phone .
It only takes a moment with an iPhone in your hand to realize that something has changed: In a world of sealed digital experiences, and “cutting edge” interfaces that treat the customer like an intruder, Apple has managed to create something that is seamless rather than offensive, and useful rather than limiting. “This is your perfect experience” it tells you; simple, clean, and intuitive. As you run your hands over the almost seamless edges, and begin to tap your fingers on the screen, it becomes clear that we’ve entered an age where the blister packaging has become the product. And, like a toy collector who never pulls their action figures out of the box, Steve Jobs wants to charge you big bucks while only letting you look at the surface. The metaphorical action figure is never allowed out of the box, but somehow it still manages to be fun to play with.
It’s definitely a hands on experience. Once you start tapping on the glass it’s clear that this is really a tiny computer. The iPhone is a $600 micro-laptop with a beautiful screen, a phone attached, and a very nice interface. We finally have the world’s first true consumer touch screen device.
That, more than anything else, is going to be the legacy of this machine. The cell phone stuff is nice, but why pay $600 for a cheap, almost disposable devices, when there are so many other ways to get email. As for the “improved” management of your messages, it’s possible to effectively replicate their functionality using a standard IM client and a cheap pair of headphones.
Yes, it’s more than the sum of the parts, but deconstruct the iPhone, even a little bit, and it becomes obvious that it’s the tiny computer with the true touch-screen interface that’s the really cool part. And thinking about it that way, you have to wonder if perhaps the iPhone isn’t a bit too tiny. Bump it up a little bit, let’s say to the size of Moleskine notebook and you begin to appreciate that having a touch window with a magic display based keyboard would do a lot more to revolutionize the world of laptop computing than it does the phone.
Once you’ve broken the spell of perfection the next step would be to break the perfect seal around the edge of the product and add a few ports and you can slip in a high speed modem. With a real computer under your fingertips you can use any of the dozens of phone like applications anywhere and any way you want to.
The good news is that Apple hasn’t patented the touch screen, so we should start to see some more open and innovative products coming out over the next few years. It’s just as likely that most of them are going to suck, and that it will be Apple that ends up getting there first.