Apple Takes on Cell Phones

During a week when all eyes from the technology world were on Las Vegas, Apple stole the show a couple hundred miles to the West.

Before an enraptured crowd at Mac World 2007 in San Francisco, Apple CEO Steve Jobs confirmed what was probably the industry's worst kept secret: that the company would roll out a new device called the "iPhone", which marries the world's most popular MP3 player with the what is probably the world's most popular consumer electronic device, the cell phone.

Apple's iPod was already the most popular mobile video device, and by transforming it into a PDA, the company--which also announced that it was changing its name to just "Apple Inc."--completely transformed the potential market for its "iproducts" overnight.

"Today Apple is reinventing the phone," Jobs said at the unveiling. "We've advanced the state of the art in every aspect of design. It's the ultimate digital device."

A little larger than a PDA, the iPhone features a 3.5-inch widescreen that uses software-based touch controls to replace the traditional telephone layout and QWERTY keyboard, although the phone also includes a touch keyboard as an alternative. However, Apple clearly designed the iPhone to encourage users to control it using their fingers on a software-based multi-touch user interface.

The feature-packed iPhone also includes Visual Voicemail that lets users randomly access voicemails, a 2 megapixel camera with advanced photo management software, and Safari Web browser with built in Google and Yahoo Search and Google Maps. The device supports 802.11b/g WiFi, EDGE, quad-band GSM and Bluetooth 2.0 EDR wireless technologies. Apple will make the iPhone available through Cingular, the largest wireless provider in the U.S., with more than 58 million subscribers.

Advanced sensors include an accelerometer that detects when the user has rotated the device from portrait to landscape, then automatically changes the contents of the display accordingly. A proximity sensor detects when the user lifts the iPhone to the ear and immediately shuts off the iPhone to save power and prevent inadvertent touces until the iPhone is moved away. An ambient sensor automatically adjusts the display's brightess to the appropriate level for the current ambient light.

The iPhone will be available in the U.S. in June, Europe in late 2007 and Asia in 2008 in a 4 GB model for $499 and an 8 GB model for $599 and will be available in Mac retail stores as well as Cingular retail and online stores.

The launch of the iPhone didn't go off without at least one hitch: One day after the unveiling, Cisco filed a lawsuit claiming that Apple is infringing on the iPhone name, a moniker Cisco trademarked in 2000.