iPhone - Still Good?

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I’ve had the iPhone for about a month now and I’d like to share some thoughts about it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the iPhone is one of these electronic widgets that you can get along nicely without – until you start to use one. The last widget that did this to me was my GPS, which has now become so much a part of my driving that I can’t imagine leaving on a trip without it. Even my technically-adverse wife can use it, although the “advanced” features might as well be written in Sanskrit.

There is only one factor that makes the iPhone the “gotta’ have” phone – the apps.

Make no mistake on this point – no apps, no score. If you have not heard, Apple now has over 65,000 apps and to date users have downloaded 1.5 billion (illion with a b) apps. That Apple has created a new business for software developers within a few short years is nothing short of astounding; considering that there are now apps stores under development or recently launched by iPhone competitors is also a testament to the paradigm shift that Apple (ie Steve Jobs) pulled off.

Obviously users that value email access, voicemail, text messaging and the like can use any smartphone and any network they choose. However the little things that make life just that much easier through the App Store, in my view, justify the price and network it comes with.

I can’t tell you how many times a carpenter’s level would really have come in handy; a quick search and there’s a free app that turns the iPhone into a level. If you ever venture into the bowels of the New York subway system and need a quick look at a map, you’re usually peering at a map under glass over somebody’s head. Another free app – NYC Subway Maps. There are transit maps available for a number of cities around the world – how handy is that when you travel?

And when you travel, how handy is it to have Google Maps at your fingertips? Not only the map, but traffic indicators to boot! This feature saved me 30 minutes by routing around a bottleneck – invaluable to me. Ever need to convert meters to feet? Free app that converts just about every conceivable measurement to another. The weather channel free app gives you a radar picture of current weather; if you’re a boater, this can save you a lot of grief.

Another app that I found outstanding is Navionics Marine Charts. If you think a GPS (soon to be available on the iPhone) is invaluable, multiply by 100 for mariners. I have seen all manner of craziness on the water, especially ffom boaters who carry no charts and just assume that where there’s water, there’s depth. This is a pay-for app, but for $4.99, I get with the iPhone an extraordinarily credible backup to a large screen chart plotter. Considering I can add waypoints, I could navigate unfamiliar waters if my chart plotter dies (on the water, IMHO it’s backups that make the sport safe).

I paid over $600 for the chart plotter – I would not advocate relying solely on an iPhone for navigation, but in a pinch it works fine, with details that rivals any chart plotter I’ve seen.

Underlying all of this is the capability to download apps from anyplace – if you need something you have not anticipated, you can download the app when you need it – very slick!

I could go on about apps, but I think you get the idea – wherever your life interests lie, it is quite conceivable that a bundle of iPhone apps can make this little widget almost indispensable. Some users carp about using ATT, but right now that’s the only game in town. Apple right now has the upper-hand in negotiating with ATT (unless the US Congress decides to enact a law against exclusive deals) and frankly has such a head-start in the apps market that it’s a real up-hill battle for others.

I have to hand it to Jobs – whatever inspired him to conceive the iPhone (acid?), Apple better find some way to replicate it; Apple without Jobs will not be the same paradigm-shifting market force it is today.

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