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What is a "smart phone"?
It depends on your definition of "smartphone". In the most basic of definitions, a "smartphone" is a phone that offers features beyond that of phone calls. Using that definition, the iPhone is a very smart phone indeed, offering music and video playback, photo viewing and organization, Internet access, SMS messaging, a calendar, a camera, and more.
However, some consider a "smartphone" to be a phone that allows one to install applications. As shipped on June 29, 2007, Apple did not allow open third-party software development for the iPhone, so one originally could debate whether or not the iPhone technically was a "smartphone". Thankfully, on October 17, 2007, Apple reversed the foolish decision to prohibit third-party development, and shipped an official SDK on March 6, 2008, so even under this definition, the iPhone officially became a "smartphone" at that time.
On February 5, 2007, EveryiPhone.com published:
Not natively. However, starting with version 10.2, Mac OS X does support handwriting recognition via Inkwell.
Apple explained that Inkwell (now offline):Lets you write wherever you want to on the screen, and the recognized text just flows to the current insertion point, as if you'd typed it on a keyboard. So when you're working with a graphics tablet, there's no need to put down the pen and return to the keyboard just to enter a title, caption or filename.You can also write command-key shortcuts with the pen -- it's easy to open and close windows, and otherwise control your applications, without lifting your pen from the tablet.
Theoretically, as the iPhone uses a version of "OS X", Apple could choose to make future iPhone or handheld devices offer handwriting recognition -- just like the under appreciated Newton many years ago.
However, in his keynote introducing the iPhone on January 9, 2007 (as documented by Engadget), Steve Jobs said "Who wants a stylus? Yuck!"
As writing with your fingers would be awkward, it is a decent bet that Apple does not anticipate selling a handheld device with handwriting recognition in the near future.
On April 18, 2008, EveryiPhone.com added:
Nevertheless, on March 27, 2008, MacRumors ran across a job posting on Apple's website for a handwriting engineer. Although this does not prove that future versions of the iPhone will have handwriting recognition, it does indicate that at the very least Apple is continuing to maintain and possibly enhance the "Inkwell" technology.
The release of the official iPhone SDK also makes it possible for a third-party to develop handwriting recognition software for the iPhone as an application and Gizmodo located one such program from a Chinese developer. It's much slower than using the keyboard, but an interesting addition regardless.
On May 5, 2008, Gizmodo reported that Chinese and Japanese handwriting recognition had been integrated into the iPhone 2.0 firmware, and on May 28, 2008, MacNN speculated that Apple had purchased this software from the Chinese developer previously identified.
Despite Steve Jobs' distaste for a stylus, it appears that handwriting recognition has arrived on the iPhone in a major way for languages that do not use Roman characters. It will be interesting to see how handwriting recognition on the iPhone continues to evolve.
Unfortunately, the iPhone is only available for purchase direct from Apple, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint in the United States and direct from Apple and the respective carrier in other countries. It is not available from Apple Authorized Resellers, so one generally will be required to pay sales tax where applicable. Of course, the iPhone also is available from purchase through various "gray market" channels as well.
To buy a Mac, iPod, or iPad free of sales tax, please visit site sponsor PowerMax.