Finally, the iPhone

iphone2.jpgWell, it’s finally here: Steve Jobs is onstage announcing the iPhone at this moment. Follow the action at Engadget.

I’ll have more thoughts on it later, but my initial reaction: shiny. And that’s about it.

Update: Wow, not sure where to start. First, I don’t think you can think of this as a phone, really (nor does Michael Mace). It’s about the most kickass iPod yet, with some phone functionality added in, along with a web tablet. That’s both an asset, but also a potential hurdle. It’s an asset because it’s freed Apple from the phone-centric thinking that, at time, plagues other handset vendors. But it could be a big hurdle, because it looks like it’s tipped the balance too far away from “phone” and too much to “other stuff” for many people’s liking.

While the touchscreen’s cool and interface novel, I think it’s going to be way too complex for most people’s tastes (granted Jobs did say Apple just wants to take 1% of the handset market). Jobs decried things like the complexity of dialing phone numbers on current handsets — but is having to call up a virtual keypad, or tap your way through a contact app with your finger that significant an improvement?

The internet functionality looks pretty slick, as do the widgets. But my concern in this area is how open the device will be to third-party development. That struck me as odd, since Apple and Jobs usually go to great pains to play up to developers. Pretty much all he said along these lines was that the iPhone runs OSX — what what’s that mean, particularly for external applications? I’m also concerned that the iPhone won’t fit in to the existing ecosystem, and will be essentially closed off to mobile developers.

I’ve got a lot of questions about this device, and the Apple site doesn’t offer much guidance. I’m also very skeptical about the durability of the iPhone — it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that will take very well to the typical abuse many mobile phones receive on a regular basis, in particular being carried around in pockets (I’ve already got echoes of the first run of iPod Nanos in my mind).

All that aside, the mobile industry’s gotten a tremendous boost today. While most of the iPhone’s features aren’t nearly as revolutionary as Jobs seems to think, the iPhone’s going to get a ridiculous amount of press that will — if nothing else — inform people that all these things are possible on a mobile phone, though they may at first have the impression that they’re possible only on an iPhone. Mobile media has just gotten a huge boost; the mobile internet has just gotten a huge boost.

Of course, alongside that, Apple’s thrown down the gauntlet. As much as the iPod was already the bar for media playback functionality on mobile handsets, those comparisons will now shift to the iPhone: does it play music as well as the iPhone? Videos? Photos? (Of course, on the flip side, the iPhone’s going to get “writing SMS on this is nowhere as easy as my old Nokia”) That’s going to be a challenge for handset vendors, but it’s one that should benefit us users. There’s a big opportunity here for the industry as a whole: Apple’s opened the door, and I’m not convinced it’s going to be iPhones that go flying out, especially at $500 or $600 after subsidy and two-year contract.

—–>Follow us on Twitter too: @russellbuckley and @caaarlo