It's official - we live in the future.
My birthday was a while back and as a gift my father gave me an iPhone. And after using it for a while, I have to say I'm stunned at the level of technology we have in the palm of our hands today and that we take it for granted.
I'm sure at this point some of you reading this may be thinking "He's writing about a phone? This is a computer column. What does this have to do with computers?"
And I'll answer by saying that calling this device a "phone" is like calling my laptop an "adding machine." The fact of the matter is that by carrying an iPhone, you are pretty much carrying around a full blown computer in your pocket.
"But it's so small..."
Yes, it is small, but don't let its size fool you. I'm not going to go into technical things like processor speed or memory, but I am going to ramble on a bit about how easy it is to use and just a couple of the things it can do.
But before I begin, I want to clarify a few points in an effort to avoid coming off like a raving Apple "fan boy" gushing about how superior Apple products are.
Now, I'm no strangers to hand-held computers, PDA's (personal digital assistants) or smart phones. I started carrying a Palm 3 PDA back in 1998 and have gone through a half a dozen smart phones of different makes and models over the last 10 years, and every one of them promised to give me the same abilities and tools that I use regularly on full sized computers.
Things like email, web browsing, contact management and the like that are effortless on a full-sized personal computer, the smart phones that I have used in the past have all promised that they could handle it. But in reality, getting them to work has always been an exercise in frustration.
I've tried Palm based phones, Blackberries, Windows Mobile and others and (aside for sending and receiving occasional text messages) have found most smart phones to be just glorified phones - the advanced features were always more trouble than they were worth, and I expected the same level of frustration with the iPhone.
Boy, was I wrong! This thing is probably the easiest piece of technology that I've ever used and it does what it says it can do with a practically zero "frustration factor."
Right out of the box, I was able to instantly (and easily!) connect to my wireless network at home to avoid running up data charges through my cell phone provider while I played with some of the features that make this device more a computer than a phone.
I was able to get online immediately and (within seconds) was doing Google searches and even looking at my neighborhood with Google street view. I was able to effortlessly gain access to my email and didn't even have to squint to read it!
And then I discovered the App Store.
Logging into the App Store is like being unleashed in a candy store. I was able to find hundreds of free apps (programs that run on the phone) and most of the apps that caught my eye that aren't free were cheap enough to not break the bank if I decided to download them. Programs like GPS and translator programs download instantly, and really increase the phone's functionality. They are easy to find, easy to get and easy to use. The list goes on and on and I find that the more apps I load into this thing, the more I rely on it more than my laptop when I'm out in the field.
Now, I know that some of you reading this today may be carrying some other type of smart phone like an Android (never tried one) or one of the newer Blackberries (the one I carried was one of the first ones) and may be thinking "Why is this guy going on about the iPhone when I can do all this on my phone?"
I will admit to not having tried them all. But if the iPhone is any indication as to the direction smart phone technology is headed, then I can't wait to see what we will be taking for granted five years from now, no matter who makes it.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (888) 752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).