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What exactly is the original iPhone?
Please note that this Q&A specifically refers to the original iPhone discontinued June 9, 2008, although it largely applies to the also discontinued iPhone 3G as well.
The answer to "What are the differences between the original iPhone and the iPhone 3G?" additionally may be of interest. For comparisons between subsequently introduced iPhone models, see the main iPhone Q&A page.
A revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod with touch controls, and a breakthrough Internet communications device with desktop-class email, web browsing, maps, and searching -- into one small and lightweight handheld device.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.
Self-describing any product as "revolutionary" is gutsy, if not arrogant, but the iPhone offers an impressive patented "multi-touch" interface that allows one to control the device by sliding one or more fingers across the touch sensitive display.
Effectively, the iPhone screen acts as a far more advanced version of the "Scrolling Trackpad" first introduced on January 31, 2005 in the PowerBook G4 series. The iPhone also has an accelerometer -- most likely based on the "Sudden Motion Sensor" technology likewise introduced with the PowerBook G4 -- that allows the iPhone to "know" whether it is being held in portrait or landscape mode and automatically switch accordingly. For example, one might choose to use the device in portrait mode for phone calls and landscape mode for web browsing.
In addition to the "self switching" accelerometer, the iPhone has an ambient light sensor -- first introduced with the PowerBook G4 1.0/17" (Al) -- to automatically adjust screen brightness depending on need, and a slick "proximity sensor" to turn off the display when it is held to the ear (otherwise you might accidentally operate it with your face).
The iPhone measures 4.5 inches by 2.4 inches, is 0.46 of an inch thick (115 by 61 by 11.6 mm), and weighs a scant 4.8 ounces (135 grams). It features a high-resolution "optical quality" glass 3.5 inch display with 320x480 resolution at 160 ppi. It has 4, 8, or 16 GB of flash memory storage, provides "up to" 8 hours of talk time, 24 hours of audio playback, 7 hours of video playback, 6 hours of web browsing, and 250 hours of standby time. It also has a 2.0 megapixel digital camera.
Apple says that the iPhone has just one button -- Home. However, it also has volume up/down, ringer on/off, and sleep/wake buttons.
The "iPod" functionality of the iPhone is about what you would expect. Just like the "full-size" iPod 5G models, the iPhone allows one to listen to music and audiobooks and watch videos, television shows, and movies. However the iPhone also offers "Cover Flow" navigation to browse albums by cover art in addition to a list view. The iPhone has a USB-based iPod "dock connector" port on the bottom and all content can be synchronized to the iPhone using iTunes.
The phone functionality of the iPhone makes it possible to make calls by touching a name in your address book or call log, and send text messages using a "virtual" on screen keyboard. It also has "Visual Voicemail" so voicemails can be selected in any order by touch and provides a photo management application. Contacts can be synchronized from "a PC, Mac, or Internet service".
It is a "Quad-band" phone (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) and officially restricted to the Cingular/AT&T Wireless network in the United States and specific carriers in other markets as well.
The iPhone supports Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), and Bluetooth 2.0 (as well as EDGE). It includes a version of the Safari web browser that makes it possible to view standard webpages -- and clicking and "pinching" to zoom in on content to read -- rather than being forced to use websites specifically designed for a mobile display or scrolling horizontally. It also has an HTML e-mail client, built-in Google and Yahoo! search, integrated Google Maps, and a number of bundled Dashboard widgets.
Perhaps most impressive, the iPhone is "fully multi-tasking" so e-mail can be downloaded while browsing the web, and you can even switch between applications while using the phone functionality.
In some ways, the iPhone is at least as much a handheld computer as a phone, but it is not based on the long ago discontinued -- but well ahead of its time -- Newton MessagePad.