The iPhone is a next-generation cell phone made by Apple Inc. built with web capability in "true-web" fashion; rather than viewing "mobile" versions of web-pages, as is common on other mobile devices, it uses a touch screen panel, enabling the user to navigate a full-size web page. In the United States, the iPhone has been exclusive to the AT&T Mobility network, but the latest version was made available on the Verizon Wireless network in February 2011. The iPhone runs iOS (formerly iPhone OS), a mobile operating system also designed by Apple.
Aside from cellular phone capabilities, and web-viewing, the iPhone also offers (formerly through partnership with Google Maps), a full-featured map application that users can use anywhere in the United States, over a data network. Other standard PDA capabilities were included, too, such as Microsoft Outlook synchronization capability.
In 2008, with the release of the iPhone OS 2.0 operating system, users were able to download applications via the App Store. Applications distributed by Apple must adhere to several restrictions, which has led to much controversy, as well as several groups developing unofficial software that can be installed on an iPhone via "jailbreaking."
Release and Price Controversy
The iPhone was released in the United States on June 29, 2007 to wide acclaim. Upon release the iPhone was capable only of usage on the AT&T network, and retailed (depending on memory size) for $500 and $600. The pricing of the device rapidly made it a luxury and status symbol, although it restricted availability to most other users.
Only 69 days after the release, though, on September 5, 2007, Apple slashed the prices of the device to $400 for the model formerly priced at $600, and discontinued selling the lower-capacity $500 model. This quick price cut - aside from being very uncommon in Apple's tradition of delayed price cuts - inflamed some so-called "early adopters," or those who had purchased the iPhone in the preceding two months, and now had no recourse against Apple's seemingly capricious price cut. Apple founder Steve Jobs, conscious of his company's image, quickly offered a $100 credit to the iTunes Music Store to every early adopter who could not otherwise obtain price relief from a return or exchange.
Starting in 2008 with the release of the iPhone 3G, AT&T, and later Verizon Wireless, reduced the cost of the iPhone when a two year contract is signed. In May 2011, AT&T released a version of the iPhone 4 that comes factory unlocked, although at a much steeper price.
Despite the iPhone's technological breakthroughs, it initially lacked several features that users have come to expect of PDAs, such as a copy and paste feature, Bluetooth synchronization capability, and a customizable ringtone. The latter of these two features, within one week of the iPhone's release, were available to users who were willing to "hack" their device to add such functionality, a practice known as "jailbreaking". Copy and paste functionality and bluetooth were announced for iPhone OS 3.0, and ringtones are now available via the iTunes store.
Also, many AT&T customers were befuddled that the iPhone's designers had not taken the chance to use AT&T's 3G mobile data network, a considerably faster and more usable framework than the included EDGE compatibility. Apple stated that the EDGE network was used to prolong battery life, as the battery on the original iPhone would not last long on 3G. The newest version of the iPhone is now capable of utilizing the 3G network.
In 2010, AT&T dropped support for unlimited data plans and began offering limited data plans to new customers. Users in large metropolitan areas, such as San Francisco, New York City, Chicago and Minneapolis have all reported extremely slow data speeds with AT&T, as AT&T has been unable to keep up with the demand of data usage by their customers.
At release, the iPhone sorely disappointed consumers because it lacked an Adobe Flash Player. Since November 2010 the Skyfire browser, which is available in iTunes app store for an additional charge, plays Flash videos (not Flash apps or games).
Privacy and Spyware Concerns
The iOS app store offers many free and paid apps, although some have been found to be spyware. While there is no known malware for iOS, users may download or forward infected files. Malware can flow through your device into your computers at home and at work, by e-mail, or via remote locations such as MobileMe and DropBox, web servers or WebDAV shares. Furthermore, some have expressed concern over Apple's new tracking patent, which describes a system that could:
- Take pictures of the user
- Record user's voice, even when not calling
- Determine user's heartbeat "signature"
- Determine if the device has been hacked
- Monitor internet activity
While this is said to be an innovation on anti-theft software, identifying unauthorized users, some have called this spyware.
- Unlocked iPhone 4 now available in the U.S. CNN.com, June 14, 2011
- AT&T Adds iPhone Tethering, Kills Unlimited Data for iPad, Smartphones Wired Magazine, June 2, 2010
- iPhone Spyware
What they know mobile
- VirusBarrier for iPhone: Protect Your iPhone By Scanning for Malware, Gizmodo, September 22, 2011.
- Lookout Finally Brings Intelligent Smartphone Security And Tracking Application To iOS, techcrunch.com, October 18, 2011.
- EFF IPhone article