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I had been a vocal critic of the iPhone since the beginning. I have very little use for a “smart” phone that doesn’t support third-party developers and the applications they build. I have even less tolerance for a smartphone that doesn’t support Exchange, which my company uses for email and calendaring. The iPhone supported neither of those features, which made it a no-buy for me.
Then, on a glorious morning in March, Steve Jobs erased both of those roadblocks at once, announcing native support for the Exchange ActiveSync protocol and a fully featured (albeit Mac-only) SDK for the iPhone. Coincidentally, on the very same day, the bottom row of keys on my clunky old Windows Mobile phone stopped working. I guess I could have charged on and learned to communicate without using the letters C, B, N, and M, but I just couldn’t sacrifice the comma and period. This was my perfect storm. At lunchtime, I trotted down to my local AT&T store and bought a shiny new 16GB iPhone.
I activated the phone and set up both my personal Gmail and my work Exchange email (using the built-in IMAP client). At this point it would have been handy to know that full Exchange support is coming via a firmware update in June. Oh well. I got the phone working using IMAP and a Gmail hack. I copied some MP3s from iTunes and was on my way.
I spent that evening playing with the iPhone and became simply entranced by the interface’s lightning-fast response time and well-thought-out default options. Even then, with the promise of full version 2.0 firmware just around the corner, it was mere hours before I strayed to the dark side. Lucky for me, jailbreaking new iPhones, and thus enabling the installation of thousands of third-party apps, is simpler than ever before. I downloaded ZiPhone and was running third-party apps in mere moments.
What amazes me most about the entire iPhone experience isn’t the intuitive multitouch interface, the gorgeous hardware-accelerated graphics, or even the slick integration between contacts, calendar, and the phone app. No siree. What amazes me most of all is that even the apps created by unsupported third parties, without the benefit of a real SDK, are polished to a high sheen and eminently usable. Well done, iPhone hacking community!
Of course, it’s not all wine and roses. The biggest downside to the whole iPhone purchase is that Gordon Mah Ung’s anti-Apple vitriol is no longer aimed at associate editor David Murphy but instead spewed directly at me.