Talking about the iPhone, in 2006

Tech Life

The other day I received an email from Thomas, someone I had met back in 2004 at a meetup with other vintage Mac users and collectors. I hadn’t heard from him in a while, and after the usual “How are things going?” and “Long time no hear” introductions, he told me: After reading online about the iPhone’s tenth anniversary, I was reminded of our email exchanges in late 2006. Do you remember when I asked you for some predictions?? With hindsight, I think you were on the right track!

I had almost forgotten about this. So I went digging in my email archives and finally found this little gem. At the time I used to write more via email and on mailing lists. (Thomas was among those who insisted I should blog more and talk about Mac and technology publicly, on the Web. Good thing I listened.)

In November 2006, Thomas contacted me and asked my opinion about that possibly upcoming new mobile phone from Apple. This is the screenshot of my response to him. The text is small, so I’ve also copied and pasted it below. It turns out that my ‘long shot’ about a touch-based interface for the iPhone wasn’t so out there as I thought.

IPhone email 2006


On 20 November 2006, Thomas S. wrote:

Hey Rick, sooo… What’s your take on the rumored Apple cellphone? Will it look like an iPod but cooler? Will it be like a PDA with pen input, like a mini-Newton? And what about the o.s.? Maybe what they’re using for the iPod is good enough? Dunno… As for the cost, well, we all know it’s not gonna be cheap!! Still, I’m sure Apple will come out with something that’ll make people talk A LOT!! What do you think? Exciting times ahead…

My reply:

Heh. Predicting an entirely new Apple product is not an easy task, and I’ve been wrong before (for ex., I remember being stubbornly sure they would not release an iPod with video, given the iPod’s small screen). But let’s see:

  • I think it has to be small like a regular iPod. I saw silly mockups on the web; there even was a guy who imagined the new Apple phone to open and close like a flip phone in the style of the Motorola RAZR, but I’m not convinced. Design-wise, it has to look like an ‘iPod evolved’ if you know what I mean.
  • The operating system and the user interface are the other two aspects that got me thinking a lot as well… I mean, an iPod-like touchwheel could make sense, but a menu-oriented navigation doesn’t scale very well. I guess this new “iPhone” (or whatever Apple decides to call it) will feature at least some applications and utilities like my humble SonyEriccson or even like other smartphones like Palm’s. And navigating through a series of applications using menus and a clickwheel doesn’t look very intuitive to me. Who knows, maybe Apple will use some sort of mini-trackpad to move around the UI. I certainly am not holding my breath for any kind of pen input — Jobs doesn’t strike me as being fond of the Newton.
  • This is a long shot, but I remember reading about a patent filed by Apple at the beginning of this year, titled Touch-sensitive electronic apparatus for media applications and methods. This led to speculations about Apple making a touch-based Mac or tablet… but what if they’re going to try with the phone first? (BTW I can send you the link to that patent if you’re interested.)
  • Speaking of the Newton, a modernised NewtonOS would be cool as the new phone’s OS, with icons and applications, and powerful flexibility under the hood.
  • In general, I think Apple is going to showcase a device with a simple, effective design, something sleek and elegant, taking clear inspiration from the iPod design and form factor, but at the same time pushing things further. If it has buttons or visible moving parts, they’ll be reduced to the minimum possible (I say, forget swappable batteries, and flimsy battery doors on the back). The interface, whatever it will be, it’ll be something equally intuitive to use, easy to navigate. I bet a lot of people will look at it and think: how come no one else thought about this before?
  • I know, I’m being a bit vague here, but this is a tough guessing game. For example, I still have no idea what Apple is going to use as CPU and GPU. The new phone will certainly need more processing power than an iPod, but they can’t exactly stick an Intel processor in such a small device. As for the storage, I seriously doubt they’ll put, say, a 30 or 60GB hard disk inside, like on the iPod. Flash storage saves battery and is lighter, though forget such capacities!

Well, as you can see I get carried away easily on these topics. Apologies for my verbosity. Thanks for writing and for valuing my opinions.


In retrospect, as claim chowder goes, it wasn’t so bad after all.

The Author

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