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IPhone video demo: UI is the secret of its success

July 3, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Even better than the e-mail function is the ability to surf the Web -- the real Web, not a truncated text-heavy version often used on mobile devices. Flip the phone for a wide-screen view, tap the screen to get closer to the page, or pinch your fingers together to pull back. You can also fire up Google Maps, which offers both street and satellite views, Yahoo weather stocks, listen to tunes as if the iPhone were a glorified iPod or scroll through photos imported from your computer.

While none of these features is by itself revolutionary, what is revolutionary is the interface that links them all together. Apple has long been seen as leader when it comes to making difficult computing tasks easy to do. Never is that user interface design more obvious than in the multitouch functions that make the iPhone, well, the iPhone. Tap the screen to make a call; tap to see e-mail; open a Web page, and tap a link to go to that URL; slide up and down to scroll through contact lists, photos or music files. Make a pinching motion with two fingers, and images or Web pages shrink. Because the screen is glass, it's less likely to scratch and is wicked easy to clean off greasy fingerprints.

Note to new owners: If you haul an iPhone out in public, strangers will walk up and want to play with it for a minute -- or 10. There will be fingerprints, which is one reason Apple includes a little black cleaning cloth in the box. (It works.)

There are other less-obvious user interface features. You can view a Web page vertically, or, by rotating the iPhone 90 degrees, you see that same page in wide-screen mode. (The same thing happens with photos.) You don't have to do anything more than rotate the phone for the image to pivot. Another nice feature: When you're done with a call, as you take the iPhone away from your ear, the "end call" button pops up, almost as if the iPhone knows that's the next logical thing for you to do.

In hand, the iPhone is right-size, but perhaps a bit heftier than some cell phone users are used to. It'll fit in a shirt pocket, but that pocket will bulge a bit from the weight. No doubt there will soon be a plethora of accessories designed to make it easy to carry the iPhone, either in a utilitarian way or in a way that allows you to it show off. IPhone armband, anyone?

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