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iQuestion the iPhone

Last week we tried to include everything that was known about the iPhone in “iPhone Seeks to Redefine the Mobile Phone” (2007-01-15) and “iTouched an iPhone” (2007-01-15). But what we held for this week is a look at all the questions that Apple has yet to answer satisfactorily. We shouldn’t be too hard on Apple here; the iPhone isn’t scheduled to ship until June 2007, and there’s plenty of time for features to be added or changed. In fact, given that Glenn cast some significant doubt on Apple’s claim that the pre-release announcement was necessary due to prevent the news from escaping from the FCC, we’re thinking that Apple may have scheduled the iPhone announcement early both to collect feedback and because there wasn’t much else to announce. Apple TV, the new AirPort Extreme Base Station, and a Leopard preview wouldn’t have made for a rollicking keynote.

Without further ado, then, let’s starting asking the tough questions. Apple PR wasn’t forthcoming, but on a hunch, we called the iPhone that Steve Jobs was using in the keynote, and with some wild pressing of the # and * keys, we discovered a prototype voice recognition and response system. Remember how the original Mac talked back to Jobs when he pulled it out of the bag back in 1984? Thanks to its Mac OS X underpinnings, the iPhone was far more loquacious.

[TidBITS] When Microsoft released the Zune, much was made of the fact that even though it has Wi-Fi, Zune owners cannot sync their music via Wi-Fi. Will you be able to sync via Wi-Fi?

[iPhone] Much as it pains me to be lumped in with the Zune (that brown is awful!), my syncing works only over USB as well. I’m hoping Apple enables me to sync via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth soon. But I should point out that my battery life is short enough that you’ll want to dock regularly, and syncing can happen while I charge.

[TidBITS] Another criticism leveled at the Zune is that users cannot purchase music from Microsoft’s online store via the Zune itself, but must rely on a PC. Will your users be able to purchase music while connected via Wi-Fi or EDGE?

[iPhone] You’ve done your homework, right? You really want to download multi-megabyte files over EDGE? No way, man. As for Wi-Fi, you’ve got me there. Maybe in the future.

[TidBITS] We understand that you’re available only with a two-year service plan from Cingular. How much will your iPhone plan cost per month?

[iPhone] I’m sorry, but I can’t reveal that information yet. I believe Cingular’s unlimited SmartPhone Connection Unlimited with Xpress Mail plan costs $20 per month and the unlimited Laptop Connect with Wi-Fi plan costs $100 per month. Expect to see my plan somewhere between those. Hopefully with a shorter name.

[TidBITS] We understand that T-Mobile offers unlimited EDGE data on its not-yet-3G data network for $20 per month to voice subscribers. They offer unlimited Wi-Fi usage at their hotspot network in the United States, plus unlimited EDGE for $30 per month. Cingular’s unlimited data plan costs $60 to $80 per month, including its fastest networking flavors, depending on commitment term and whether you’re a voice customer. AT&T, Cingular’s owner, has its own hotspot network called AT&T FreedomLink on which it offers unlimited access to its DSL subscribers for $2 per month, and to others for $20 per month.

[iPhone] That’s, uh, “fascinating.” I’m certain that Apple and Cingular will make sure that iPhone service plans are competitively priced with other smartphone data plans. I can’t believe I sound like a corporate spokesperson.

[TidBITS] Speaking of which, Cingular is about to change its name to AT&T, and your name is entering litigation. Will you and Cingular both end up with new monikers?

[iPhone] Listen, I support Cingular in its decision, as it grows up, to choose a name that suits it. AT&T is its step-parent’s name and its grandmother’s name, and even its great-grandmother’s name, for crying out loud. As for me, I’m sticking with iPhone. Those late-trademark-filing, sticker-attaching crybabies at Cisco can cry me an iRiver.

[TidBITS] The U.S. Library of Congress has granted an exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that allows consumers to reverse-engineer the locks on phones that prevent switching carriers. Will we be able to unlock you and use you with other carriers?

[iPhone] Have fun trying, bub! I’m not saying you can and I’m not saying you can’t.

[TidBITS] In Europe, many more phones are sold unlocked and without subsidies from carriers. However, a colleague at a European publication told us that the trend has switched and about 50 percent of European mobile phone subscribers now accept contracts and phone subsidies.

[iPhone] See, even Europeans are coming around. I’m looking forward to being sold in Europe by the end of the year. And I can hardly wait until I can go head-to-head with all those Asian phones in 2008. I’ll show them a thing or two!

[TidBITS] What about using a SIM card from another cellular carrier in an iPhone?

[iPhone] Yuck! That’s just icky. No.

[TidBITS] Speaking of other countries, will you work with 3G cellular networks?

[iPhone] I’d love to talk about that, since GSM-based 3G networks are so much more widely deployed across Europe and chunks of Asia, but you’ll just have to wait and see.

[TidBITS] Many cell phones can be used via Bluetooth or a USB cable as a cellular-data modem for a computer. In fact, Cingular sells some phones and service plans designed for that purpose, as do other carriers. Can you be used as a modem?

[iPhone] I’m insulted! Use me as a modem? What do you think I am, a Telebit Trailblazer? I am a state of the art mobile phone and Internet communications device. A modem, really.

[TidBITS] Can you answer the question, please?

[iPhone] I’d rather not.

[TidBITS] Why not?

[iPhone] I don’t know the answer. But let me find out and get back to you on that. In June.

[TidBITS] Your Google Maps widget appears to lack driving directions. Will that be rectified by June?

[iPhone] My Web site says it will, and I certainly hope so. I’m pretty good at knowing where I am, but I have a terrible sense of direction.

[TidBITS] Can we infer from that comment that you have GPS capabilities?

[iPhone] Well… no, not really. Like all cell phones in the United States, I support wireless Enhanced 911, so my location can be determined roughly by triangulation from cell towers. But I’d really like full-fledged GPS capabilities because then I could use my speakerphone to give you voice navigation directions while you’re driving. Perhaps in the future.

[TidBITS] Let’s talk about ringtones.

[iPhone] Yes, let’s! I have some, and you can buy more. Cool, eh?

[TidBITS] Can we create our own ringtones?

[iPhone] Why would you want to do that when you can buy more from Cingular?

[TidBITS] Because I already own the music I want to use?

[iPhone] Oh. Maybe. But you’d probably pick something tacky.

[TidBITS] How about a vibrate mode?

[iPhone] Please! You can get your jollies with some other phone. Leave me out of your sordid little fantasies.

[TidBITS] What about deaf folks or just those who prefer not to advertise to the world that they’re receiving a call?

[iPhone] You have a point. I have a Ringer On/Off switch on my side, but my accelerometer isn’t sensitive enough to tell me if I’m vibrating or not when it’s off. Check back in June.

[TidBITS] You’re supposedly running a full version of Mac OS X.

[iPhone] Yes! Isn’t that cool?

[TidBITS] Does that mean we’ll be able to install Mac OS X applications on you?

[iPhone] Ooo, I hope not. Not everyone has as much taste as Steve. And I wouldn’t want to be exposed to nasty code with viruses or other hacks. But I’m sure Apple will provide new capabilities for me. And Apple might allow some third-party developers to write applications or widgets for me. They haven’t decided yet.

[TidBITS] How would a user install a new widget that was approved?

[iPhone] Beats me. Perhaps you could buy it through the iTunes Store and sync it to me that way. After all, that way Apple gets a cut of the sale too.

[TidBITS] What about games? The iPod has games.

[iPhone] A waste of time. You should be buying video from the iTunes Store if you want to waste time. OK, I’ll admit it, I don’t know the answer.

[TidBITS] Can you display Word or Excel documents?

[iPhone] Certainly! Just convert them to HTML or PDF and put them up on a Web site.

[TidBITS] How about running iChat?

[iPhone] Isn’t SMS text messaging enough for you? It looks like iChat.

[TidBITS] Wouldn’t iChat AV be cool? Or Skype?

[iPhone] Cingular wouldn’t like that.

[TidBITS] Does your copy of Safari support JavaScript, Java, Flash, and PDF viewing?

[iPhone] Yes, no, maybe, and yes.

[TidBITS] Let’s say I wanted to start a secure shell (ssh) session on you to connect to a remote computer. If you’re really running full Mac OS X, shouldn’t ssh be there somewhere?

[iPhone] Now you’re getting personal. A phone is entitled to its secrets.

[TidBITS] Will you offer voice recognition for commands in Mac OS X, voice dialing, or voice memos, like other cell phones?

[iPhone] I’m not saying. I might in June.

[TidBITS] Speed dialing?

[iPhone] Let’s just say that I hope Apple has something up their sleeve for me.

[TidBITS] Can you be synced with Outlook in Windows for contacts and calendar events?

[iPhone] It doesn’t give me warm fuzzy feelings inside, but yes, just like on the iPod. And you can sync contacts with Outlook Express in Windows, along with Web bookmarks. But I’d really prefer that everyone used a Mac.

[TidBITS] Can you enter new contacts and calendar entries, or is that data read-only, as on the iPod?

[iPhone] You can. My goal is to outdo the iPod in every way.

[TidBITS] Will your technology be used in stand-alone iPods or Internet communicators?

[iPhone] I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. Good thing I’ll have a death ray in June too!

[TidBITS] What about disk mode, then? Can you be used to store data files, like the iPod?

[iPhone] I certainly hope so, but I’m not sure right now.

[TidBITS] Can you use accessories designed for the iPod’s dock connector?

[iPhone] Yes!

[TidBITS] Including the Nike+iPod transmitter?

[iPhone] Don’t you dare expose me to all that bouncing!

[TidBITS] Can you sync photos from a Mac, like an iPod?

[iPhone] Absolutely. And I can take photos too. Try that with an iPod.

[TidBITS] At 2 megapixels.

[iPhone] Well, yes. My camera doesn’t have the highest resolution around.

[TidBITS] Can it do video?

[iPhone] Not yet. But why do I have a sense this is circling back to your sordid little fantasies again?

[TidBITS] Anything else you’d like to share with us?

[iPhone] Not until June.

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