iPhone 4: Your Technology in your pocket

When the iPhone was not yet, but about to be announced in early 2007, a friend of mine and I theorized about the marketing angle Apple would use for it. The one we both settled on that we liked the best, but knowing nothing of the device beyond what (little) the rumors told us, was this:

“iPhone: Your Life in your pocket.”

It was short, punchy, and made a fair bit of sense given the context of knowing nothing about the device or the software. A widescreen iPod with touch controls? No doubt. A revolutionary mobile phone? Kind of a given. An Internet Communicator? …we got nothing. What?

What made sense about it is that the technology industry at that time had hit a point where mobile computing was no longer constrained to lousy “smart” phones and bulky “ultra-portable” computers, but no company had done something remarkable, even noteworthy with it all. No company had given us a device and a usable software interface that took advantage of what was possible. No company had the ability to deliver the whole package… except, we knew, Apple.

So of course Apple would bring us this magical, revolutionary convergence device. We lined up the usual suspects and realized that this phone, this rumored cellphone, could well turn out to be your life’s mechanical companion device. You’d have it with you at all times. You’d use it for myriad purposes. It would be the portable portal into your digital domain… Your life in your pocket.

Apple never used the phrase “Your life in your pocket” as far as I can recall, but what the iPhone ended up being could have been described as such nonetheless. And that was just the first generation phone, with no third-party apps, cut-copy-paste, 3G networking or video recording.

Three birthdays later we have iPhone 4. Little iPhone’s all grown up.

I’m not going to discuss what’s new about iPhone 4; for that you should read Joshua Topolsky’s comprehensive iPhone 4 review instead. No, I’m here to talk about just one thing, and that’s the technology angle surrounding iPhone 4.

Back in 2000 I got my first cellphone, having just left high school and at the cusp of starting a job, I figured a cellphone would be a responsible thing to have. It was the first real gadget I had with me all the time, a dumb Nokia phone with green LCD display capable of holding maybe 50 text messages, doing calls and that was about it.

In 2003 I, too, went to iPod band camp, enjoying my music on the go in much more efficient and usable ways than I had before with the pathetic 128MB Flash MP3 player I had, a device so far detached from real practicality that I only brought it with me for lack of an alternative.

In 2004 I got into photography after discovering how talented my mother was, and wanting to try my hand at it as well. I bought a small (for its time) point-and-shoot Sony Cybershot camera, with a stunning 3.2 megapixels. Oh, the joys I had taking photos, and the frustration I had trying to squeeze that point-and-shoot into my pocket all the time. It quickly forced me to carry a bag around if I wanted to take my camera with me, because cellphone, iPod and camera combined often left no space to spare for wallet or even keys. And the latter two have priority.

Then, in 2006 I upgraded myself from point-and-shoot to Digital SLR, and the doors to my photography world blew wide open. Of course, carrying a stunning 8 megapixel DSLR around pretty much guaranteed the need of a bag, and fortunately my cellphone had been replaced (several times, in fact) with newer, much smaller models. At this time, the Flip video camera was introduced as well but I never got one myself; wasn’t I carrying enough devices already?! I did play with the Flips that some of my friends had over the years that came next, though.

Enter 2007 and the iPhone 2G. It could take photos, but so poorly that even my several-years-old mid-range point-and-shoot camera looked orders of magnitude better. It couldn’t take video, but I wasn’t into video much yet, at the time, so I didn’t care about that. It was great at playing music, though. The best iPod Apple had ever made, and also the best phone they (or anyone else) had ever made, up to that point. So I happily got to ditch two devices, one I utterly loved (my iPod) and one I utterly despised (my cellphone).

In the years since, that situation didn’t really change. I upgraded my DSLR along the way, bought some nicer lenses and eventually realized that, holy mother of Bokeh, I was carrying around 8 pounds worth of camera gear alone in my bag. More than four times the weight of my laptop! I started rethinking my strategy of bringing the DSLR with me at all times, even though my iPhone 3GS was only moderately acceptable at taking photos. Nothing remotely as exciting as my Nikon D300 shots, but at least something tolerable.

It’s now 2010. If you’re taking a guess at the conclusion of this little story, you’re almost certainly guessing right: the iPhone 4 has now taken over all the technology in my life that I bring with me. For my current trip to San Francisco, knowing a bit more about iPhone 4 than we were all supposed to know, I decided to leave my DSLR at home. In The Netherlands.

iPhone 4 has become my technology in my pocket. It’s not just my phone, music player and general-purpose Internet device, it’s now my go-to still and video camera as well. In fact, its photo and video quality is so great, I’ll be leaving my DSLR at home for anything that isn’t an obvious photo-op, shoot or dedicated travel destination.

It may still not be the marketing tagline that Apple’s interested in using, but with iPhone 4 they’ve truly and effectively put my digital life in my pocket. Wrapped in a beautiful encasing, driven by fantastic software: iPhone 4 is unequivocally another magical device.

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