Once again, Apple has started a new year by announcing a plethora of exciting goodies for technophiles, with the long anticipated iPhone taking centre stage.
As a fairly committed early adopter (I have not used a paper diary since 21st December 1996 – yes I do know the date exactly, because my latest Palm based PDA has all my diary entries since then), I am already drooling.
Apart from this mere detail (an equally early adopter colleague in System Concepts went all the way to New York to buy a Microsoft Zune for Christmas), I am still not entirely sure I want a single device for all my pocket technology needs.
It is not the ‘if you lose it, you lose everything’ problem, which paper-based diary users seem to think makes me more vulnerable than them. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Lose your filofax and your life is a mess. Lose your PDA and you just need to download it all again from your back-up machine (once you have persuaded a surly call centre operator that you really do need a replacement).
I’m not exactly sure what my reluctance stems from. It might be the recognition that watching video on my iPod on the train has left me with no battery life on more than one occasion. I’d really hate it if that was also my phone and diary. But then I am sure the iPhone will have a better battery life than my video iPod (which seems to have now been "completely re-mastered", whatever that means).
No, I suspect it’s because I love the clickwheel for selecting music on the iPod and I love (well more ‘really quite like’) the keyboard on my Treo for checking emails and sending texts. I don’t think I mind having two devices, but maybe I’m just being old fashioned.
Steve Jobs assures us that the iPhone is a "magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone", so maybe my fears are groundless.
I do know that one of the problems with touchscreen phones is that you either disable the screen, when holding the phone to your ear (to stop your ear making inadvertent selections for you), or you disable touch sensitivity on call answer and get into great difficulties trying to access your diary, when taking an incoming call (quite a likely scenario I’d have thought).
Apple probably thinks you will always be plugged into your headphones although Steve says it will be a "super smart" touchscreen and ignore unintended touches – so they may have solved this one.
But maybe once I get my hands on one, my resistance will crumble. Actually, I should be in San Jose in April with my usability journal Behaviour and Information Technology for the annual Computer Human Interaction bash CHI2007, which has the strangely appropriate tag line Reach Beyond. Usually these conferences give me the chance to catch up with old friends in the usability world and hear about the latest research.
Maybe this time I’ll use the opportunity to get my hands on an iPhone (although I really ought to wait till a UK mobile operator offers one).
Tom Stewart is a director of System Concepts Ltd.