Monday, July 28, 2008

iPhone/iPod Touch Primer

Over two weeks ago, Apple had one of its biggest launch days in recent memory. One week before people flocked to theaters to see The Dark Knight, they were waiting in line at Apple Stores and AT&T shops in eager anticipation of the new iPhone, iPhone 3G. 3G stands for 3rd generation; that is, this new iPhone uses the 3rd generation of cell phone data transfer technology. To put it simply, Apple says it's "twice as fast" as the previous iPhone. Plus, it has some new features such as GPS.

But while the general media was focused on the new iPhone launch, there were some things that went unnoticed to all but those most in-the-know. Another huge unveiling that occurred on that day was "MobileMe," a re-naming and enhancing of an existing Apple service, previously called .Mac (dot-mac). MobileMe is a suite of internet services, including an email address, web space for storing whatever files and for hosting websites, and other really neat computery things. It integrates with the iPhone, Macs, and Windows PCs, allowing you to keep all your data accessible anywhere. The MobileMe concept is fantastic, but the execution has so far been awful.

Next is the App Store. Up until now, the iPhone has been a closed platform. This means that no one but Apple was allowed to make programs for it, leaving users and third-party developers disappointed to say the least, since the iPhone platform has enormous potential to a multi-talented device. Well, July 11 also saw the launch of the App Store, in which dozens of developers, from individual programmers to major software companies, put their programs up for sale. These programs are designed specifically for the iPhone, to expand its utility just as programs on your computer allow it to do more stuff. Companies like Google, AOL, Electronic Arts, and Sega are in the mix. Many of the programs are games, and many are free. Puzzle games, racing games, board games, and action games are being downloaded by the tens of thousands. Social networking, blogging, and business software companies are making iPhone apps that take advantage of the elegant and powerful touch screen interface. What started out as a neat little device with some neat features is now a killer, must-have for anyone who can afford it.

Finally, we have the main topic of this entry. All of the above has been about the iPhone. Do I have an iPhone, or am I just an envious, drooling fan who wishes he had one?

Actually, I am neither. I have an iPod Touch. I am still amazed how just about no one I meet has heard about the Touch. Most of my peers (college-age people)cannot afford the iPhone and all of its awesomeness. It's a $300 phone (formerly $500) with a pricey, pricey monthly fee. What sets it apart from other phones is its beautiful touch interface and real web browser (a mobile version of Safari). Guess what? You don't need an iPhone to enjoy those goodies. The Touch can do everything the iPhone does, except make phone calls, take pictures, give GPS directions, and record audio. And it's waaay cheaper.

I apologize if this is sounding like a sales pitch, but people need to know this. Just about any program released for the iPhone through said App Store will work on the iPod Touch, because it is basically the same platform. When I say "iPhone App" it's generally the same as saying "iPhone or iPod touch app". You get on the internet via Wi-fi; it works just like your laptop. It is truly an amazing device, and I've had a ton of fun with it since I got it back in October.

Now, with that in mind, we can get into some fun details. Stay tuned...