Any day now Apple’s iPhone will be available to Whitehorse residents.
This is huge news: the iPhone is widely regarded as the world’s most advanced handheld computing and telecommunications device.
Along with the significant network upgrade that Bell has installed locally to support the iPhone, and Northwestel’s recent kick-ass fibre upgrade to the internet, the arrival of the iPhone puts the Yukon’s capital on the world map in terms of mobile connectivity.
Which is remarkable, considering we’re just a little town of 20,000+ people.
But is the iPhone really all that big a deal?
In a word: yes.
It’s simply not even debatable that the iPhone is light years ahead of its competition.
Other mobile technology companies like Blackberry, Microsoft, and Palm, are still scrambling desperately to emulate Apple’s greatest achievement, years after the iPhone was first introduced.
This is because Apple clearly has a better understanding of modern mobility than do these industry pioneers. They still seem beholden to the flawed concept of the mini-PC.
Consider Apple’s much-criticized design decision to omit any sort of physical keyboard from the device.
Apple understood that other handheld devices were handicapped by their grotesque pageants of buttons, knobs, rocker switches, sliding panels and hinges. (In fact, most still are.)
So the the iPhone was designed, in a sense, as a tabula rasa. Because mobility demands flexibility.
Instead of being constrained by superfluous physical accoutrements, the iPhone can constantly be adjusted to suit the individual needs of its user through an ever-changing touchscreen.
We now understand that criticizing the iPhone for not having a physical keyboard was like complaining that a car sucks because it doesn’t have any horses pulling it.
The other keystone quality of the iPhone is its ease of use.
Prior to the iPhone, mobile devices were nefariously difficult to operate. (In fact, most still are.)
And I should know: I’ve used over a dozen models of all variety of brands over the years.
It’s such that I’d now rather cut my baby toe off with a dull pair of scissors than ever again have to use a Blackberry.
Take the iPhone’s visual voicemail.
On every other phone you must dial a number and input a password to access your voicemail box.
Then you must listen to your messages in the order they arrived.
The iPhone’s visual voicemail system instead displays voicemail messages as a list on-screen and identifies the people who left them.
Listening to any one message is as simple as clicking on it, regardless of what order it may have arrived in.
Apple’s crowning achievement with the iPhone, of course, is the App Store. You know: “There’s an app for that.”
Well, it’s true.
Over 100,000 apps have been written for the iPhone so far, and they are all a single-click away from installation in the App Store.
This is unheard of in the mobile industry.
Historically, third party apps for Windows Mobile or Blackberry were difficult to find. And installing them was akin to running naked through the woods in winter with an angry porcupine strapped to your backside.
The App Store makes downloading and installing an app on an iPhone easier than picking your nose.
I’m not ashamed to admit I’m an app addict. Most of the apps I use were free or cost less than a pack of gum.
One app I have turns my iPhone into a remote control for my TV. Another lets me remotely control my Mac.
One app I have can stitch panoramic photos instantly. Another one is a lot like Photoshop. Actually, it is Photoshop.
I have apps that hook me up with online collaboration services like Evernote, Box.net, and Dropbox, enabling me to share documents on the fly.
I read books on my iPhone (last one: The Sound and the Fury) and I sketch pictures, too (as does painter David Hockney).
And, of course, my son and I have put a ton of games on my iPhone.
(Interestingly, the iPhone is projected to become the most popular handheld gaming device next year, leaping past both the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP.)
Perhaps what’s most remarkable (or perhaps misguided) about my love for the iPhone to date is that it has flourished in a place where, until now, I couldn’t even receive a phone call or send a text message with it.
So I’m excited (no, make that exhilarated – intoxicated, even) by the fact that Bell is investing in Whitehorse by installing an iPhone-friendly network here.
And supporting that, of course, is Northwestel’s big, fat fibre connection to the internet. Because, as AT&T is painfully aware, the iPhone is all about internet data – lots and lots of internet data.
The combination of these three things – the iPhone, a new mobile network, and a world-class connection to the internet – will literally vault Whitehorse into the modern age of mobile telecommunications overnight.
And, yes, the iPhone is pivotal to this evolution.
In fact, I’d wager we wouldn’t even be enjoying Bell’s upgrade were it not for the iPhone, which has done more for popularizing – and monetizing – mobile telecommunications than anything else before it.
One can only hope that local resellers have enough iPhones to fulfill the significant local demand.
Especially since I may have to go out and buy one myself (my current iPhone is locked to Rogers’ southern network).
Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, October 30, 2009.