The iPhone Classic
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Apple unveils new “iPhone Classic”
June 9th, 2008
Ross Matsuda - Chicago, IL USA
“This s***’s off the hook.”
These words will live on in infamy as the beginning of Steve Jobs’ Keynote presentation at this years WWDC. After months of waiting and rabid speculation, Apple’s event opened with stunned, awkward applause as Mr. Jobs walked onstage wearing what could only be described as the love child of gangsta’ rap and swing-era businessman. He went on to explain that rather than “downgrading” iPhone’s existing hardware with the “Classic” suffix, that he’d rather bring a whole new meaning to the word.
Enter the iPhone Classic. The device did follow through with the greatly rumored 3G service that has been hotly anticipated, but turned many heads with the choices that Apple’s renowned design and engineering teams made. The iPC (the ironic abbreviation that Mr. Jobs himself allocated to the device) has a unique, pill-box shape with a circular LCD screen, which came as quite an unorthodox surprise. “We wanted to get back to the root of telephony with the Classic - we wanted it to live up to its name, but still represent the best that Apple has to offer the world.”
The root Mr. Jobs was talking about was apparently the rotary telephone. The principle dialing mechanism for this model has shifted from the standard rectangular keypad back to the circular button layout of yesteryear. Users press the button of the number they wish to dial, then pull it clockwise to the register bar on the right side of the device before releasing it, and watching the wheel slowly tick back into place for the next digit. “We are blessed with some of the most gifted coders working today, and they’ve managed to include a series of off-balance motors inside the iPC that allows true haptic touch response. When you dial a number with the iPC, it really feels like a rotary telephone is sitting in your hands. You have to try it to believe it.” Another radical move was the abandoning of automatic dialing. “Like driving a manual car rather than an automatic, the process of calling someone you have a relationship with, another human being, should be hands-on. You should be involved. We’ve modified our contacts listing so that when you bring up a contact you’d like to call, a sticky note appears on the screen so you can enter the numbers yourself – personally. Then you begin the call by picking up the handset.”
This brings us to the next big design change with the iPhone Classic. Lovingly dubbed iReceive, the headset snaps onto a metal hook on the side of the circular body of the phone, much akin to an old, wall-mounted telephone. To answer a call, you lift the iReceive off the hook (hence the opening pun) and the call is on. To end the call, users will finally have a chance to literally hang up. “We’ve discovered that many users have been complaining about the performance of Bluetooth wireless headsets, and have longed for a better connection with higher clarity and volume. We think we’ve found a great solution.” Mr. Jobs explained how their engineers came to the decision to make the iReceive use a thick, 6 foot long wire to connect to the iPC rather than using a wireless protocol. The cable is retractable, and is housed in the back of the unit, in a hollow dome that actually sits very comfortably in the palm of your hand.
“R&D had a couple disagreements on what is truly the root of telecommunications. While we ended up principally going with the classic rotary phone as our inspiration for this incredible new piece of technology, we did decide to herald back to one incredible mechanical decision of early telephony, even predating the circular dialing scheme.” The decision he was speaking of was that of setting the microphone inside the body of the iPC rather than in the headset. When operating the phone, users will be placing the headset in ear to hear, and then speaking directly into the front face of the device, where the microphone is located. This hearkens back, of course, to some of the earliest wired communication devices, before input and output were consolidated into a single unit. Apple insiders have claimed that the feel is quaint and rewarding, while not sacrificing too much clarity on the part of those listening on the other end of the line.
The wonders don’t stop here. Headphones are not compatible with the iPC – all audio out is handled by the internal speaker (inhabiting the same dome as the 6’, retractable cable) and the iReceive. Advanced audio drivers convert the high-quality audio files on your iPhone into a so called “monaural,” single output signal delivered into either ear, leaving the other free for whatever users may see fit. “We’ve achieved all of the sound quality with half the ears being used.” Movie files are handled slightly differently as well, with all video media being run through a fish-eye lens filter so as to stretch the image to make use of the entire, circular screen. “Your films like you’ve never experienced them before,” Mr. Jobs said, showing a clip of a distorted Raul Julia from the hit film Street Fighter.
“We’ve realized that the 3G option does consume a large amount of power for the device - that’s the price of performance these days. However, I’d like to show you how we plan to allow the user full control over this issue.” Mr. Jobs proceeded to show off a hidden port located on the bottom of the iPC - a four-pin telephone jack. “Using this jack and a standard telephone line, iPC users will be able to connect to the internet without worrying of signal interference caused by other wireless protocols and devices in the area, and do so at a staggering 56 kbps.” This device also has the simplest footprint of any Apple product to date. “Simplicity and beauty have been two long-standing hallmarks of Apple products. We’ve reached a new level of that with the iPC - the device has no buttons. Period.” Not even a power toggle. Using beefed-up accelerometers, the iPC is turned on by the user vigorously shaking it; power-management software will safely power the device down when the battery is below 1% of its total charge. “It’s the easiest power management program we’ve seen to date.”
To close the product’s introduction, Steve offered us “...one more thing. I’d like you to meet McDeet.” This was no ordinary Scotsman Mr. Jobs was offering the audience. Rather, this was the new Macintosh Morse Code Detection Technology - the next evolution in SMS texting. Instead of using keys to type out messages to other cell users, the MCDT system allows you to tap out the morse code for your message where it will be displayed, in real time, in the mailbox of the person you’re contacting. “This is truly the greatest use of the rich Multi-Touch technology available on the market today.”
The iPhone Classic will be available in early July at a price point of $399 and a standard 8 GB of hard disk space. It is available in both Cast-Iron Black and Industrial Age Steel - both cases are much heavier than the standard anodized aluminum currently being used, but offer incredible increases in durability.