iPhone and I

My iPhone is the one item I can’t leave the house without. Not because I’m worried that I’ll miss ten calls if I leave it behind – hardly anyone calls me on my mobile – but because it’s so much more than a phone to me.

In fact, pretty much the last thing it is to me is a phone – what an antiquated, 20th century notion!

So if I don’t use my phone primarily to speak to other people, then why is it so important to me?

Well, it’s certainly a communications device, just not one I use much for spoken conversation. My phone is the primary device I use for accessing both Twitter (I use a popular client app called Tweetie) and Facebook (the Facebook app has very limited functionality, but it’s better than nothing).

It also allows me, via mobile internet, to access most of the information I would normally rely on a PC for. I use Google Reader to consolidate RSS feeds and deliver me news on topics of interest. I run apps which provide up-to-the-minute weather forecasts, currency exchange rates and stock prices with a single button-press. YouTube, Wikipedia, Google, live sport scores etc are all available directly online or via apps which re-present complex content into a more useable format for a four-inch screen. I can even remotely set my Sky box to record a programme from hundreds of miles away. Now that’s useful!

The phone’s built-in GPS also comes into its own for providing local maps and directions – obviously, it’s not as good as a dedicated sat nav, but it’s surprisingly effective and has stopped me from getting horribly lost on a number of occasions – or to obtain traffic information relevant to my current location.

The camera isn’t much cop, but because it can easily interface with Twitter (via, say, TwitPic) and Facebook, it’s still a great way to share quick snaps.

And for less serious moments, the phone’s accelerometer and touch screen interface allow it to be used as a variety of musical instruments – I have downloaded piano, drums and guitar apps, for instance – and for games – my current favourites being iShoot (tank artillery shoot-’em-up), Scrabble and Toobz (build a network of interconnecting pipes to allow water to flow without leakage). And I’ve recently noticed that the new Sims 3 game is also available in an iPhone version, so that’s next on my list.

The phone is even sometimes used as a substitute for my iPod when I’m out and about, as its stripped down but perfectly adequate functionality means there’s one less gadget to carry, and I can still listen to a decent selection of music and podcasts, as well as watch downloaded music videos and TV programmes.

It’s all pretty amazing when you think about it. As recently as ten years ago, to get even close to doing all the things I can do today with a pocket-sized device that weighs less than half a pound, I would have needed the following:

  • Mobile phone
  • Laptop (and a phone socket to plug into)
  • Combination of sat nav and physical maps
  • Camera (the iPhone has a 2 megapixel camera, which is sub-par even for a mobile but would have been leading edge ten years ago)
  • Nintendo DS for game-playing
  • Sony Discman for music (and a case to cart a load of CDs around in)
  • Portable TV and video player

And a chiropractor to sort out my back after having to heft that lot around!

Even then, armed with several thousand pounds’ worth of gear, I wouldn’t have been able to communicate with others via Twiter and Facebook; finding news on a laptop would have required much manual searching, as news aggregators and RSS didn’t exist; and most people would have thought that YouTube was something to do with plumbing.

Now do you see why my iPhone is the most important and useful gadget I own? It’s not just a phone; it’s what I use to manage my life and to interact with the entire world around me. What could be more useful than that?