With both the WWDC and the iPhone’s launch anniversary approaching, speculation is once again running rampant regarding the 3G iPhone.
When will it be announced? When will it ship? What features will it have? What chipset will it use? Will it have real GPS or fake? Will the back be metal, paper or plastic?
On, and on, and on.
Readers are asked again and again, “What features do you want?” What makes it a “must have”, as opposed to being a total piece of garbage?
But in all of the articles and all of the replies, there’s one “must have” feature that’s continually forgotten and constantly overlooked. And one which would have me standing in line to upgrade at nearly any price.
And so would you, if you stopped to give it a second’s thought.
When the iPhone was first introduced, it was presented as the perfect merger of three different technologies: a cell phone, an iPod, and an Internet communications device.
And of the three, which one has Apple hyped the most? Which one has gained the most press?
The Internet communications device, of course. In its commercials and in its advertising Apple has constantly played upon the advantages of having the entire Internet in your pocket. Of finding facts, checking weather, getting directions, and reading email, at any place, at any time.
And so for looking up movie showtimes, or seeing if your boss sent you that email, the iPhone is nearly perfect. So perfect, in fact, that Safari on the iPhone now has the lion’s share of the mobile web browser market.
But do much more than that, and the experience is… well… less than perfect. The iPhone’s screen, while great for a phone, is still pretty small when looking at a full-size web page. Browsing a typical page requires a lot of zooming and sliding and scrolling around. And while reading an email or two is one thing, managing a whole batch of them is quite another.
So most of us turn to another device better suited to the task: a notebook.
Notebooks are faster, have larger screens, bigger keyboards, more memory, and all-in-all are better Internet communications devices, despite the fact that they don’t fit in your pocket. But notebooks, and Apple’s notebooks in particular, have their own problems.
The most obvious of which is that they’re usually tethered to WiFi networks. That’s fine if you’re at home or at work or at a hotspot, but tends to pretty much suck otherwise.
Some people solve the problem by getting a “3G” network card for their computers, allowing access anywhere and everywhere (or at least anywhere and everywhere inside the 3G network). But that’s yet another device to carry around, and yet another service contract and monthly payment.
Worse, computers like the MacBook and the MacBook Air don’t even HAVE card slots, making the use of such devices even more problematical.
So we have notebooks, which are better suited to many tasks than an iPhone, but in most places can’t jump on the Internet, and we have the iPhone, which can.
If only the two could talk…
And that’s the missing feature for which I would pay big, big bucks.
The ability to tether my MacBook Air, via USB cable, to an iPhone, and for my MacBook to then be able use the iPhone’s 3G networking capabilities to get on the Internet.
Ideally, I wouldn’t even need the cable. Imagine if you could put the iPhone into “WiFi base station” mode, and your notebook computer would then see it and attach to it, just like it does at work or at home.
Notebook Internet access, at any place, and at any time.
iPhone battery life could be an issue, which is why I’ll suffer the cable if I must, as that would allow the iPhone to sup from the notebook’s much larger battery. But since the iPhone usually already runs with WiFi enabled, and since it’s only expending more power when actually making 3G-based Internet requests, I’d say the wireless concept is entirely feasible.
And much, much cooler.
Some might question whether or not such an ability could cause AT&T’s network to be swamped, but I doubt it. First, they’re already allowing access via 3G cards for notebooks.
Second, what’s the real difference if I check my email or download a web page on my notebook vs. an iPhone? One way or another, I’m downloading pretty much the same amount of data.
But if they absolutely, positively have to do it, then add an extra $20 to the bill for “Tethering Services”. I’ll pay, and it beats the extra $60-$80 one needs to pay for a Sprint or Verizon data contract.
I also think this could be a major, major selling point for Apple’s notebooks and the iPhone. Think of it. If you own a MacBook or MacBook Pro, it gains instant 3G Internet access the second you buy an iPhone. And when Apple upgrades the speed of that phone, your notebook gets even faster.
And, of course, existing iPhone owners might think twice about what brand of notebook to buy next. Would you get a Dell, or one that works seamlessly with your iPhone and gives you the Internet everywhere?
Me, I’m ready to wait in line.