The iPhone, in 20 questions
1. What makes an iPhone distinctive? A: It is a full-featured music and video player that can place and receive calls and, unlike most smartphones...
Special to The Seattle Times
1. What makes an iPhone distinctive?
A: It is a full-featured music and video player that can place and receive calls and, unlike most smartphones, it lacks a physical keypad or keyboard. Instead, it uses on-screen touch-sensitive typing and can interpret finger gestures, like spreading or pinching, into actions such as zooming out or zooming in.
2. What are five things it can do?
A: Make and receive calls. Surf the Web with a real browser. Play music, movies and video and stream YouTube videos. Visually display voice-mail messages, which can be played back individually in any order. Display rich HTML e-mail.
3. Who provides the phone service?
A: AT&T (formerly Cingular Wireless). It has an exclusive deal with Apple for an unprecedented five years.
4. Do I have to own a Mac?
A: Apple says that the iPhone works equally well with Windows and Mac OS X, just like an iPod with iTunes. Windows users will use special software for synchronizing contacts and calendars, however.
5. How does this fit in with iTunes?
A: The iPhone works almost exactly like an iPod. Any music or video you have in an iTunes library on a Mac or Windows system can be synchronized to an iPhone.
6. How much does it cost?
A: A unit with 4 gigabytes of storage (the amount in an iPod nano) is $499; the 8-gigabyte model is $599. A two-year contract for AT&T mobile phone service, with cancellation penalties, is required.
7. How much will the phone's data plan cost?
A: Apple and AT&T have not announced the price of a data plan, which will allow Wi-Fi and cellular data access. A comparable plan from T-Mobile USA costs $30 per month for unlimited cell data anywhere and Wi-Fi at T-Mobile Wi-Fi hot spots. AT&T charges $20 a month for smartphone or handheld device cell-data access. These charges are in addition to the price of a calling plan.
8. Where and when can I get one?
A: They'll be available at 6 p.m. Friday at Apple Store retail outlets and company-owned AT&T stores — not AT&T authorized resellers.
9. How many is Apple expected to sell?
A: Apple CEO Steve Jobs said he would be happy with 1 percent of the worldwide market in 2008, or 10 million phones out of 1 billion sold. Several telecom analysts say this is achievable; Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster predicts 45 million sold in 2009.
10. How fast is the data connection?
A: The Wi-Fi it uses operates on local networks at up to 54 megabits per second, but is limited by the Wi-Fi network's Internet connection, typically 1 to 6 Mbps in homes. The cellular data connection uses Edge, a standard that works across AT&T's entire network. It tops out at around 150 kilobits per second, or about three times faster than a dial-up modem.
11. Can I watch video on it?
A: It will play back any video stored in iTunes. Last week, Apple announced it will also stream video from YouTube that has been converted to a video standard that uses less data for a sharper picture. YouTube has 10,000 videos in that format so far.
12. It has Wi-Fi, so can I make phone calls over the Internet?
A: No. AT&T offers some VoIP services, but not through its cellular division. And third-party software can't yet be installed on an iPhone.
13. What's one thing people will really like about it?
A: For Web surfing, e-mail and included applications such as YouTube and Google Maps, the Internet connection is constant and seamless, whether you're on fast Wi-Fi or the slower Edge. You don't have to switch between them as you roam.
14. What's one thing people might find disappointing?
A: You can't purchase songs or video directly through the iPhone, and you can't synchronize media with iTunes over the Wi-Fi connection. The Wi-Fi and Internet connection are only for browsing and e-mail.
15. What about scratching the screen? That's been a concern, I've heard.
A: Last week, Apple said it had chosen to offer a scratch-resistant glass screen rather than the originally planned plastic.
16. Can you use the iPhone hands-free to avoid running afoul of Washington's new law that bans handheld cellphone use by drivers?
A: Yes. The iPhone includes Bluetooth, and any standard Bluetooth headset (or equipped auto) will work with the iPhone.
17. Can companies other than Apple and AT&T write programs for it?
A: For the most part, no, but Apple is widely expected to ultimately offer a certification program for third parties.
18. Will I be frustrated typing on a "glass" keyboard that lacks feeling for actual keys?
A: That's the $1 billion question. Jobs says the iPhone's predictive typing and correction should make it a snap. But it's likely touch-typing is out of the question.
19. Can I use an iPhone with a corporate e-mail server?
A: Depends. Many corporations strictly control access to their e-mail systems, allowing remote access only via secure devices like Research in Motion's BlackBerry communicators; others allow fairly straightforward mail use. AT&T knows the corporate market well, however.
20. Will it be cool?
A: The iPhone has Apple's genes baked in; so, yes. A good smartphone, music player and portable Internet tool? Too soon to say.
Glenn Fleishman is one of the contributors to the Practical Mac column in the Personal Technology section.