FAQ: From 'iPhonies' to iFacts, we answer your iPhone questions

When it comes to Apple's popular phone, people ask the darnedest things

We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of the iPhone's release, so people who feel strongly about the popular smart phone have had plenty of time to weigh in with their wallets -- it's been a consistent seller since its US release last June 29 -- or with epithets. (Remember the early description of iPhone fans as "iPhonies?")

In the past 11-plus months, seemingly everyone has offered an opinion about the iPhone, usually colored by which side of the Microsoft-Apple divide they're on. One of my favorites came from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer: "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." Mac fans, myself included, dismissed this as iPhone envy, but even we've been taken by surprise at how quickly the iPhone seems to have gone mainstream.


Opinion: When will iPhone have its own moment in history?

Chances are, Palm CEO Ed Colligan is among the surprised. Months before Apple's iPhone announcement in January 2007, he said, "We have learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They are not going to just walk in."

Maybe PC guys couldn't figure it out, but Apple certainly did.

Not only is the iPhone introducing Apple technology to a whole new audience, it's grabbing buyers who had previously shied away from smart phones because the devices are often needlessly complex. It's even infiltrating markets Apple hasn't much targeted, including business -- long the territory of Microsoft, Palm and Research In Motion, whose BlackBerry remains the poster child of corporate communications.

Since the iPhone's release, I've spent countless hours debunking an amazing amount of FUD -- and just about as much time answering questions about how the device works and why it's different from the competition. The questioning has grown sharper since Apple announced plans for its iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) in March. Suddenly, sales seemed to jump, companies started testing it out, and even here at the media company I work for, I quickly found myself supporting a bevy of iPhones.

With a solid combination of advanced technology and ease of use, it became almost ubiquitous, no doubt spurred by Apple's popular ad campaign. Despite the media blitz, a lot of people still have little idea what it is, how it works and where it's taking the mobile-wireless industry. With that in mind, I pulled together this FAQ to help you sort through some of the details. The first question I always get is the easiest: "Oh, dude, is that an iPhone?" After I tell them it is, the quizzing begins.

If the iPhone is so easy to use, why the need for a FAQ?

Someone actually asked me that when I mentioned I was writing this FAQ. The answer is simple: You have to separate truth from fiction, especially when it comes to a product that is as talked about as the iPhone. Not only that, but as intuitive as the iPhone is, "intuitive" is a matter of perspective. If you use Mac OS X, the way the iPhone works and the built-in applications it uses -- like Photos, Calendar, Mail and the iPod music software -- make sense. If you use Windows, all of the icons and apps -- even the way it syncs using iTunes -- represent terra icognita. And if you already have an iPod, regardless of your main OS, you're already ahead of most people new to the technology. Those familiar with the iPod/iTunes ecosystem have had few problems understanding the iPhone's setup. With the iTunes Store besting Wal-Mart and Target as the No. 1 music store in the US, and with iPod owning 75 per cent of the digital music player market, it made sense for Apple to use the well-recognized and well-established syncing system within iTunes.

But what about those for whom this was their first Apple mobile device? They bought their iPhone, plugged it into a computer without iTunes and...nothing happened. What usually followed was a panicked phone call to an IT department or an Apple Genius Bar. (After getting just such a call, I instructed my boss to install iTunes, then plug in the iPhone.) iTunes is pretty much required. There's no getting around this if you're setting up a new AT&T account.

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Michael deAgonia

Computerworld
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