iPhone: Answering the techie’s call

If you need a convenient way to carry all your favorite music with you, you can get an iPod. If you’re looking for a device that lets you check your e-mail, surf the Web and make phone calls, you might look into getting the latest Blackberry. If you’re the type who does all of these things at once, you could have picked up an Apple iPhone last summer, and it might have been good enough for you.

But for many people, this simply wasn’t the case. They wanted to do all of these things even faster, and they wanted to pay less than Apple was asking for the first-generation iPhone.

On July 11 of this year, Apple provided the answer with the iPhone 3G, priced at $199. Advertised as “twice as fast, half the price,” this new model generated lines numbering in the hundreds outside Apple stores and cellular carriers’ retail locations for weeks after its launch, selling more than one million units in the first weekend alone.

Straight out of the box, the iPhone 3G is impressive. The phone and e-mail applications are intuitive and visually appealing, as is the text-messaging interface, which displays conversations instead of individual messages. Web surfing is an experience more akin to that on a computer than on a mobile device, thanks to the included Safari browser and touch interface.

Most impressive, though, is the Maps application, which uses Google Maps data and the iPhone 3G’s GPS chip to help you figure out the best pizza place or cheapest gas station nearby.

Despite all the things the iPhone 3G can do on its own, some of the best functions are waiting to be discovered on Apple’s new App Store, a new part of the iTunes Store developed for the distribution of third-party applications for the iPhone. Here, the options are virtually limitless.

There are apps to correspond with many of the biggest names on the Internet, like Facebook, MySpace and Google. Some apps allow you to track news, sports scores, the stock market or even your own habits (spending, eating and driving, among others). There are plenty of games in just about every genre, including many that take advantage of the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer (the same technology used in the Wii remote).

Some of the most interesting apps are more specific. One app uses the GPS chip and accelerometer to measure acceleration and horsepower in your car, replacing devices that can cost hundreds of dollars. Another “listens” to music playing near you, then tells you the name of the song and the artist, providing a link where you can purchase and download it right on your iPhone.

Many of the best apps are free. Most others range from $1-$10. Regardless of one’s technology comfort level, any college student can benefit from the advantages an iPhone 3G will provide.