We put our hands (and fingers) on the iPhone

I don’t keep the exact count, but the truth is that I don’t think there are many real iPhones around the world. (And if we consider that the iPhone is six months away from its arrival, it is not so surprising either.) And that’s bad. If the impression that the iPhone has made has been excellent simply when it has been seen in the hands of Steve Jobs during the presentation of the product, and when you appreciate its “cool factor” in all its glory simply by watching it spin on a cylinder, let me tell you that according to my personal experience is much more impressive when you have it in your own hand, or more specifically when your finger is traveling the touch screen of the device.

It looks really small and fine. The screen is extremely agile (I have not seen any delay between the action of pressing a button on the screen and the response of the phone to that pressure). I typed on the on-screen keyboard with my index finger and after a minute I was comfortable enough to use typing on the iPhone effectively. (The iPhone software runs at full power to imagine what you are trying to type, including being careful which key is close to the one you are pressing, in case your finger is slightly off target) As you type, the keys “jump” getting bigger as if they were searching for your touch, giving you a visual response that you are pressing the correct letters.

The screen is really bright and sharp, thanks to the high pixel density of 160 pixels per inch (for reference, the MacBook Pro has a density of 110 dpi, the MacBook 113 dpi, and the 23-inch Apple Cinema Display of 98 dpi). The 320 x 480 pixel iPhone screen means that the iPhone screen is twice as many pixels as the video iPod, and that they are spread over an area 88 percent longer (and no, the iPhone “widescreen” doesn’t maintains the same aspect ratio of a conventional 16: 9 screen, it is 3: 2, which means that panoramic movies will be cropped or displayed with some kind of letterbox effect).

In any case, I have to admit that I found it quite difficult to form complete sentences while holding the iPhone. Based on the previous unit I have used it is easy to get used to how the interface of the iPhone will work in general. A strip of icons at the bottom of the screen shows the most popular phone options; Phone, Mail, Web and iPod are in the Home menu. When you click on one of these icons, you will see a new set of icons, which will represent the various options corresponding to the mode in which you have entered.

One of the keys to using the iPhone is understanding that it is not a “press and hold” interface, but can be controlled by various gestures, most of them quite intuitive. When you are browsing through a long list (such as iTunes artists), you will only have to move your finger across the screen to make the list scroll quickly. To unlock the iPhone and start using it, you have to slide your finger over its surface in a movement that makes me feel like I am actually unlocking the phone. Zooming in on an image or a web page is a matter of tapping the area you want to enlarge with two fingers and separating them with a fairly natural movement.

With six months to go, until the expected arrival of the iPhone, it seems clear that Apple developers still have a lot of work to do. We have not seen all the software that will be supplied with the phone, and we also do not know the details about whether it will be able to open the important documents (for example a PDF, Word document or an Excel spreadsheet could be some of them) The official statements Apple assure that the iPhone will support the PDF format, but have not said anything about the other formats. If the iPhone is not just a phone, but a revolutionary Internet communications device, then it will have to be versatile enough and that means displaying (or editing) the most common types of documents.

This brings me to another potential problem, that of third parties developing software for the iPhone. After all, Apple engineers will be tasked with writing the software that will fit most of the needs of most iPhone users. But is it possible for other developers to fill in the “gaps” by producing more specialized software that meets certain areas of the needs of the iPhone user base?

During the Macworld Expo I have talked about this aspect with at least a dozen people. At the end of the day, the same feeling has remained: that Apple will probably not allow applications to be installed on the phone directly, but will force developers to adhere to strict rules and obtain explicit permission from Apple before they can sell. their programs. At this point, the software will likely only be available through iTunes, with Apple taking the appropriate commission and offering a DRM so that the risk of piracy is reduced. According to the statements made by Steve Jobs to the New York Times, it seems that this is going to be like this: “They are devices that need to work, and you cannot do it if you load any software on them. That does not mean that you will not be able to buy software and that such software cannot be loaded onto the iPhone. It doesn’t mean that we will write all the software, but it does mean that it will be a more controlled environment. “

I guess we won’t get any details on how Apple plans to approach development for the iPhone until the next Developer Conference. However, I am intrigued by a detail from the iPhone announcement: Apple talks about iPhone applications as well as iPhone widgets. This leads me to wonder, will developers be able to create widgets with greater freedom compared to applications? In Mac OS X terms, a widget is usually a mix of JavaScript with some images and is typically accessed on the Internet. (Yes, you can embed code in a Widget, but let’s put that aside for now.) When I think of Widgts (and Apple’s new Dashcode development environment, which allows you to create them) I start to wonder if Apple will allow them to iPhone widgets can be developed without so many restrictions compared to applications. If Apple limits such Widgets to those created in Dashcode, using only JavaScript and Internet connectivity capabilities, the iPhone would benefit.

Don’t get me wrong: I think Apple should allow developers access to the iPhone. It is a more complex device than the iPod, and although it is not a Mac, and should not have the same level of complexity as this, its characteristics are so rich that it is necessary to have a large group of intelligent developers filling in the gaps left by Apple .