The Quest For the Holy iGrail

Decades into the future, one could easily be misled into thinking that a small but vocal religion cropped up during the latter years in the first decade of the new century. Hymns have been composed, deities have been created, and rites have been established for all to participate in the Church of the iPhone. Welcome, all, those who are willing to embrace intuitive technology, advanced computing processing time, and a two-year contract, terms subject to change.

The iPhone, a new product shilled by Apple prodigy Steve Jobs promising to integrate several disparate features onto one single cell phone, has been getting a significant amount of press and heightened anticipation. While the media and technogeeks love the iPhone, it has more than its share of detractors. The first strike against the iPhone is that it’s called the iPhone. Listen, Steve, the whole putting an “i” before everything you sell was kind of cute back in 1980 or whenever, launching yourself ahead of the curve when internet startups were calling everything names like eParkingTickets or eSuicidePrevention. But “e” actually made some sort of sense, at least in its original, historical sense; identifying it as something that is electronic, as opposed to dead tree or vacuum tube. Now I’m sure there’s an equally valid reason why there’s an “i” placed on everything, like it stands for information or it’s better than Microsoft or some nonsense like that, but we all know it’s simply a marketing ploy to be able to put a tiny little apple where the dot on the “i” is supposed to be. It’s the fourth-grade-girl-writing-her-name-with-little-hearts-four-hundred-times-on-her-Trapper-Keeper-cover school of marketing.

Secondly, the almost hagiographic devotion journalists have displayed in covering the iPhone borders on the nauseating. Newsmen have restlessly fawned over marginally notable items before—MySpace, Flickr, John McCain—but this time, the escalated emotion borders on the Mark David Chapmanesque to an almost embarrassing degree. One analyst stated that “This is the most anticipated phone since Alexander Graham Bell did his,” apparently equating the inauguration of intercontinental communications with not having to walk three yards to check your email. “Is This The Holy Grail of Gadgets?” ran another headline, no doubt comparing the singularly elusive treasure with something that is soon going to have a 10 million unit production schedule.

Jobs himself is becoming more and more insufferable. I mean, God bless the guy and all, he’s certainly a consummate innovator and has forced competitors to make their devices more intuitive and resourceful. But in press conferences and interviews he always seems to exude a certain level of smugness normally reserved for French salons or college Democrat mixers.

Some of the more notable features of the iPhone:

Touch Screen: The iPhone uses a touchscreen as the primary input device, which is hardly a revolutionary addition to the world of gadgetry. However, the screen on the iPhone is glass—not plastic, as most others are, the main advantage to glass being the convenient ability to determine whether an engagement ring is truly diamond or not. Notably, you cannot use a stylus with the touchscreen; it requires contact with bare skin to operate. The marketing department of Apple apparently feels that the segment of population likely to purchase the iPhone is not going to include those individuals who have fingers the size, dexterity, and composition of sausages, a safe bet since I doubt too many iPhones will grace longshoreman union meetings or Slovenia.

Voice Mail: I don’t know why this is so important, but it’s on every list of features I’ve seen. The iPhone will let you pick and choose the order in which you listed to your voice mails. I mean, I guess that’s kind of nice, but I’m lonely enough that I only get about one voicemail every lunar cycle or so, so I guess a lot of it is lost on me. I suppose skipping over voice mails left by your boss, your parents, or (most importantly) your wife is significant enough that you have to listen to a drunken call from that girl you met at the bar last night intoxicatingly butchering her phone number a full two minutes earlier in your life than you could with a regular, prehistoric phone.

Multimedia: The iPhone will combine much of the media applications that other Apple products have provided, such as the iPod and the Video iPod. Combined with the phone’s internet capabilities, this is a major breakthrough in the field of being able to watch a video clip of a dog riding a skateboard anywhere you can pick up a signal.

Internet Access: In an increasingly mobile world, having access to information via the internet is becoming more and more important. I have access to the internet on my phone, for instance, though I have no earthly reason to do so besides apparently my desire to throw money away and succumbing to the thought that there may be a chance, however remote, that some day I will need to know the actress who played Six on Blossom and I will be able to resolve that question with only a few moments worth of effort. The iPhone will have this capability much in the same manner as regular Macs do, except that it will be on a screen about the size of a deck of cards, which is going to make that Photoshopped picture of Jenna Von Oy spread eagle on the beach all that much harder to admire.

Most people are waiting with anticipation for a device that has all of the applications they desire; however, most consumers will probably take a wait-and-see approach. While no doubt useful for some, it’s a good chance that the iPhone is simply going to be a more efficient way to drop a $500 device down the toilet.

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