Imagine that your cellphone moonlights as an 8GB iPod Nano. Imagine that this phone/jukebox also lets you zoom in on photos by touching the screen. Imagine dialing phone numbers by pointing a finger at a name in your address book.
And now imagine the gadget is the size of a bar of soap and looks so stylish, you might be embarrassed to wear sweatpants when you use it.
Now imagine this souped-up cellphone costs $600 U.S. Still interested?
If you are, then Apple has done its job. The upcoming iPhone, available only in the U.S. on June 29, is being touted as the most anticipated communications device since, well, a sleek MP3 player snuck itself into the back pocket of every music nut in the world.
Cellphone geeks are slobbering over the device for more than aesthetic reasons. (It truly is a work of art.) The iPhone sports a touch screen, so you can glide your fingers over Web pages to scroll down or simply touch a track title to play a song. Apple's wunderkind is also loaded with powerful wireless technology, allowing you to surf the Web using the Opera browser on Apple's proprietary OS X operating system.
Apple announced the late June release mere weeks ago, but both the company and AT&T (the iPhone's carrier) have received more than a million inquiries about the gadget's availability. The phones, or promises to buy the phones, are selling on eBay for $1,300. This feverish anticipation is shaking the wireless industry to the core, putting pressure on Apple to deliver a device as intuitive as everyone expects.
And what about Canada? Apple hasn't announced a Canadian carrier, although technology blogs speculate that Rogers Wireless is a likely candidate. The iPhone uses GSM, a popular standard for cellphone technology, and Rogers is the only Canadian carrier offering GSM.
But don't worry, fellow Canucks. We might be better off to waiting and seeing how the early adopters take to a device about which there are still many unanswered questions.
For instance, how much will the iPhone truly cost? Bruising the wallet at $600 U.S. for the 8GB model and $500 U.S. for the 4GB, the iPhone will launch as a luxury device for Apple fanatics and cellphone crazies. Add Cingular-AT&T's monthly plan and high data fees for Web access and costs will likely skyrocket even higher.
Battery life could also be a big concern. Apple claims the iPhone will have five hours of talk time and 16 hours of audio, not bad for a newbie to the cell market.
With the phone's video and audio strengths, though, users will be tempted to take advantage of every glorious iPod-like feature, potentially sapping battery life in half a day.
No one likes fingerprints all over their prized possessions. Because the phone relies on touch screen technology for every action (there's only one external button: on/off), the brightly coloured screen could easily become seriously smudged. Talk about a Catch-22: the idea is incredibly intuitive, yet it could result in blurred images.
And what about third-party applications? Yes, the iPhone includes Google Maps so you can find a veggie resto without thumbing through the Yellow Pages, but Apple would be wise to open its doors to many other developers. Phone platforms need third parties to add to a product's portfolio in order to enrich the user experience. It's not known if Apple will stiff-arm developers, but if the company turns a blind eye to potential partners like EA Games, it would be a closed-minded idiot.
American customers won't wait for answers to those questions before lining up at AT&T stores for iPhones. It will be madness on June 29, with or without a superstar bans endorsing the new unit. In fact, most analysts predict Apple will exceed its initial goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of next year.
No surprise there, whether you're an Apple fan or not. It's hard to deny the company's attention to product details, its marriage of various media and its slick marketing campaigns that are almost too cool to hate. Most likely, the iPhone will be review-proof; the hordes will clamour for it in droves, and someone somewhere will get into a storefront fight over who butted in front of whom.
What will be interesting to find out is not just how many iPhones slide into back pockets this summer. Inquiring minds want to know if the iPhone will become the iPod of cellphones and forever change how we talk on the go.