iPhone questions: Not Yet Answered

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Each day is bringing us closer to the release of the iPhone. And with each day, there’s a little more info coming out including today’s release of the rate plans. There’s no doubt that the decision to purchase has already been made by many and there are those that are still waiting for more details. However, there are a few specifics that I think are so far under the radar, that they’re not going to get the QuickTime introduction treatment or even a bullet point on the website. Here’s a list of a few things, some supposedly a given with no specific information and some that haven’t been mentioned anywhere. Even after we pick up an iPhone on Friday, some may still remain unclear, but these are what we’re looking for.

The 30-pin connection
All 30-pin connectors SHOULD be made equal, but some devices have not carried forward all the functionality you’d expect. Three things that we would really like to see are:

1) USB Camera Connector
Will the current one be recognized in the same way and store the images locally? As an added bit of coolness, will you be able to preview/rate images on the iPhone as you can’t currently preview with iPods.

2) External Mics
The iPhone has a mic and there’s no HD noise to be concerned about, but if you’ve already got a good quality 30-pin connector solution (some even in stereo) then you won’t want to make that quality step back. It’d be nice to know if there’s a way to delete recordings you don’t want to keep(ala the Visual Voicemail feature).

3) Video output
This has been a question I’ve had since Macworld. In a pinch, when all else has failed, you’re still able to use your iPod to get a presentation across. Current solutions use output from the headphone jack and from the 30-pin connector. I haven’t seen an image of the connector, only of the earbuds. If it connects through the 30-pin connector like the FM Remote, then the headphone port may work as it does currently. The new headphones also include a mic and some control hardware though. So, if that signal is going in through the headphone connection, that may mean the iPod video cable may not work with it.

Nice to Know’s
These are things that rank slightly above curiosities. Those little things that some corner of the iPod world have gotten used to and that they’d like to see continued on the iPhone.

4) iPhone “attract” mode
There’s currently a procedure you can go through to set up a video on the iPod such that when it’s been idle and it’s plugged into AC power, it will automatically begin to display video. I would think this could have been brought over, but maybe it didn’t make it into this first iteration.

5) Enhanced museum mode
The iPod Notes feature has been used by many as a way to set up a “Museum Mode”… a way to create custom or restricted interfaces for special purposes. (You can see how museums are using iPod by visiting the “Guided by iPod” web page) It will be interesting to see if this mode is supported on the iPhone or even if it has been enhanced to take advantage of the iPhone’s special features.

6) What kind of reading interface will it have?
As an extension of the above, the iPod notes currently have a 4k limitation. No one note can be larger than 4k, so any texts longer than that have to be cut up into 4k chunks and hyperlinks placed between them. There are programs that will handle this cut up and hyperlink job for you, but how will these notes be displayed? Will you get a page view with a “page turning” gesture?

7) Audio circuitry
Until the release of the first iPod games, there was really no way to tell that the iPod actually had quite a sophisticated bit of audio generation hardware. I’m wondering if this is the same or if it will be used in any new ways.

For the Keynoter in all of us
Finally, some musings on what we’d LIKE to see but are probably not LIKELY to see. We’ll know in a few days!

8) What can the iPhone do with .key files?
There has been NO indication that the iPhone will be able to translate and display the content of a Keynote file, but we’re going to try just to see.

9) What can the iPhone do with QuickTime files?
For many people, QuickTime is all about audio and video and that’s it. We, on the other hand, know about Chapters, Sprites, Quartz Compositions and all the other extra media that QuickTime handles well on the Mac. Have any of these made the leap to the iPhone?

10) Slideshow transitions
The iPod currently has transitions that, surprisingly enough, look quite good when displayed on a television. The Page and Cube transitions are especially nice given what we usually see in the iPod interface. With the Core Animation on the iPhone, more is available, will we see it? Better yet, will we be able to combine it with some of the above to create presentations for the iPhone that output to a video monitor?

As you see, this is a fairly esoteric list and that’s the main reason why you probably haven’t read much discussion on these topics. As the time ticks down to 6pm Eastern on Friday night, if you happen to get any answers before we do, come on back and post them for everyone. I’m sure SOME of the answers are bound to raise questions of their own!