The mobile device dubbed the "Jesus Phone" is about to have its second coming.
First published in The Age on July 10, 2008.
The iPhone 3G - the new incarnation of Apple's first foray into the mobile handset business - will go on sale in 22 countries on Friday. And Australians will be among the first in the world to witness the buzz surrounding this much-hyped touch-screen device that is part phone, part iPod and part pocket computer.
Even before it goes on sale, there is every indication that the new model is going to pick up where its predecessor left off. In the US, queues of eager consumers have already started forming outside Apple stores, and in Britain, a surge of orders on the website of one carrier caused the site to crash under the strain.
Apple's share price, meanwhile, is flying high, having almost doubled since the phone's first public airing 18 months ago.
In Australia, the phone is being offered through three carriers, which means that there are a dizzying array of plans and deals available, with the competition keeping everyone honest.
For the past two weeks, I've had an opportunity to put the iPhone 3G through its paces to see if it really does perform the kind of miracles that earned it the "Jesus Phone" moniker.
In addition to the phone and the iPod, the device comes with several applications installed, including those that allow you to surf the web, collect your emails, take and store photos, watch YouTube videos and plot your position on the GPS-enabled Google Maps.
Its core advantage is that it has simplified the process of using the mobile phone to access web services, giving users quick click access to features such as email and web browsing.
Despite some shortcomings, the iPhone still has a couple of aces up its sleeve.
One of these is a service called the App Store. Indications are that App Store will feed the iPhonethe way the iTunes Store feeds the iPod.
For about $10, iPhone 3G owners will be able to tap into a potentially bottomless pit of content that can transform their phone into a game console or a musical instrument or a medical encyclopedia.
The iPhone 3G looks set to advance Apple's penetration of the mobile phone market. The support for corporate email systems and the App Store will extend the phone's appeal to new markets. And while it still has many elements of a versatile consumer gadget, it has many practical applications that will make the iPhone 3G more of a workhorse and less of a show pony.
Here are some of the coolest features of Apple's new iPhone:
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The phone has built-in GPS tracking, so you can tell where you are. It can also locate nearby features such as restaurants and guide you to them.
It can automatically synchronise with your work or home email, calendars and contacts.
Instead of a keyboard, iPhone users tap the screen of the application, such as the calculator at right. Pinching fingers together makes images bigger or smaller.
(It can also make and receive telephone calls.)