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Evolution of the iPhone



The iPhone did not just appear fully formed from thin air. Quite apart the development work that went into its creation, it comes at the end of a long line of related consumer products from both Apple and other hardware manufacturers. The most obvious relative is the iPod, which first appeared as a chunky hard drive-based music player in 2001. Contrary to popular belief, it was not an immediate success.

Initially only available for the Mac, its bulk and weight were not fully compensated by the underwhelming storage capacity, and it was bundled with iTunes 1, which was fairly primitive. It could not even say how many times that you had played a certain track. Nonetheless, things should be put into context. These were early days for MP3 players; the market was young, with competitor products boasting equally meagre specifications. The iPod only realy took off when it was spotted in the hands of celebrities in the gossip press. People suddenly started taking note of those distinctive white earphones and the iPod’s fortunes — and those of its parent company — were changed forever.

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 There have now been seven generations of full-sized iPod, incorporating first colour displays then video playback features. These have been accompanied by four generations of iPod nano, the latest of which now also play and shoot video, and three different iPod shuffle designs, the latest of which is barely any larger than a stick of gum and comes in a range of colours. The full-sized iPod is now called the classic, and it has lost its spot at the top of the range to the Apple iPod touch, which appeared shordy after the iPhon’s first US appearance.

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The iTouch is smuch slimmer than the Apple iPhone and is missing some of its features. That the iPod was an important predecessor of the iPhone is obvious from the importance of similar features in the iPhone itself, not to mention the fact that Steve Jobs calls it the best iPod Apple has ever made.


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Review of Apple’s new free iPhone 4 feature: FaceTime

Phone calls are so impersonal, aren’t they? Well not any more. The iPhone 4 introduced FaceTime, an integrated video calling tool that uses a new front-mounted camera to initiate video and voice calls between iPhone users. At the present time it will not work with other mobile phones and obviously won’t work on earlier iPhones due to the lack of a front-facing video camera.

FaceTime only works over the iPhone ‘s wifi network connection, so you can’t make video calls on the 3G network at this time, most likely on account of the high level of data transfer that would be necessary to maintain a smooth, skip-free signal and the speed it would have to maintain.

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Despite this, you can initiate free iPhone FaceTime calls while in the middle of a regular phone call. The menu screen that is displayed during a call has had a new button added to the bottom ioy% marked FaceTime. Tapping this pops up a message on your  iPhone asking if they would like to switch to video calling. You don’t need to setup a new account to use FaceTime – it’s not like an instant messaging application  – and if you are not already on a call you need only tap the FaceTime button beside a contact’s entry in your address book and, assuming they also have an iPhone 4, your handset places the call over your network for free.

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During the FaceTime chat, a toolbar at the bottom of the screen lets you mute the conversation, end the call or switch cameras. This lets you show your contact what you can see going on from your point of view, rather than showing them the view from the front-facing camera mounted beside the iPhone’s earpiece.

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Apple isn’t the first company to introduce video calling, but FaceTime looks like one of the easiest to use implementations to date, and one of the best to appear on a mobile handset. Whether it will be enough to encourage your friends to upgrade to iPhones so you can video chat together remains to be seen.

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