July 2, 2007

Insanely great

I stopped by my friend Alex’s desk to shoot the breeze about the rave reviews the iPhone is getting—and he reached into his pocket. I said, “You do not have an iPhone.”

He handed it to me. He got it on Friday. He actually let me play with it for a while.

I’m stunned.

If the iPhone has any flaws—and we know it does—they are completely overwhelmed by the amazing beauty of this device: the size, the weight, the screen, the interface.

Pictures and reviews and videos can give you an idea what it looks like and how it works, but they simply cannot convey the experience of actually holding one and using it. Using an iPhone makes you think, “This is what it’s supposed to be like.” It’s not gimmicky; it’s not merely a flashy, animated interface; it’s the correct interface.

The touch interface is astounding. It feeds back in real time. I was skeptical about flick-scrolling—it’s got to be annoying, overshooting or not moving enough, requiring all sorts of correction—but no, it actually behaves the way you want it to. It just works. You flick your finger to scroll a list or a page, and it slows and stops at the right place. Pinch-zooming does exactly what you expect it to do.

Typing on the on-screen keyboard…well, having never used it before, I typed a couple of sentences with two thumbs, pretty fast, and ended up with only two typos. And I was watching the text I was entering, too: I was missing a lot of letters, but the auto-correction figured out what I meant to type. It only misjudged “Thus” instead of “This” (the first word I ever typed on an iPhone; my fault for hitting the wrong key and spelling a proper word) and put an “a” instead of an “s” after an apostrophe (a correction I hope Apple will incorporate in an update). It is a great thumb keyboard.

It just works.

And if you run your finger over the text you’re typing, a magnifying-glass circle gives you a zoomed view of the text so you can exactly place the insertion point. Flawless.

The screen is gorgeous: sharp, smooth, clear. Even so, you’d think a 320-by-480 screen would make reading a web page impossible, but it doesn’t. Safari looks fantastic. When you double-tap on, say, a column of text, it zooms to fit the column-width on the screen. It understands the structure of the web page, and it correctly focuses on the item you choose.

If you scroll a web page before the phone has time to fully render the whole page—say, if you zoom in and immediately start scrolling around—the unrendered off-screen area appears as a placeholder background (a checkerboard pattern, just like in Photoshop), and that scrolls until the rendering catches up (which is very quick). This is right: The display always visually tracks your touch motions, so that the interface doesn’t become disorienting. No choppy response.

I concur with Robert Mohns’ conclusion in his iPhone review at MacInTouch:

[...] it’s a revolution in user interfaces. The now-traditional mouse is a proxy manipulator: you use the mouse, and the mouse manipulates symbolic objects. On iPhone, there is no proxy. You touch and manipulate the objects with your own hands. There hasn’t been a user interface change this significant since 1984.

I want a Mac with this interface: a full-size touch screen that can tilt anywhere from vertical to horizontal, like a drafting table or a tabletop drawing board or book stand. It will happen. I can barely wait.

The iPhone is shockingly beautiful.


  1. well said. I havent even had mine 24 hours and I’ve already decided to cancel sprint and port m number. I didntexpect this to be so well done…especially for version one!

  2. I’d love love love love love love to get one! But I won’t. Betcha you know why.

  3. That would be the Net-Neutrality-crushing greedmasters at AT&T, would it not.

  4. Speaking of interface, here’s a presentation by Jeff Han at the TED conference:


  5. Speaking of interface, see Jaff Han’s presentation at the TED conference:


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