— 10 January 2007 —

Apple Rocks — I Can Finally Upgrade My Newton

I can’t tell you how excited I was yesterday to see the new Newton. Apple has renamed it iPhone for no reason I can fathom. Why mess with a trusted brand that people know and love? Still, I was happy to see them take advantage of today’s technology and really give the Newton a cutting-edge, modern polish.

One thing about my current Newton, that I know everyone else hates too, is the size. The new Newton changes that for the better, which these comparison pictures should help with. My current Newton is, in inches, 8.3 x 4.7 x 1.1 and the new Newton comes in at roughly half the size at 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46. A smaller and slimmer form factor makes sense, especially if Apply wants people to be able to identify with the device as a phone replacement. Maybe that’s why they went with the iPhone name…

It will still require two hands for most people to operate, but it will finally fit in my pocket. Not my back pocket of course, where I keep my current phone. My phone is a well protected “clamshell” so I don’t have to worry about screen scratches and such when I shove it in my pocket or toss it across the room to land on the bed or couch (and sometimes miss… :) ). I won’t be able to do that anymore. Apple is forcing me to change my behaviour and take better care of my things. So much so, I likely won’t be able to let my daughter use it. Apple, the Miss Manners of technology! :)

While Apple has rid the Newton of the stylus input (which I am on the fence about), I love that they’ve kept a lot of the tried-and-true UI features. Mainly the widget approach to the applications and the quick change from portrait to landscape viewing. I love that the switch on the new Newton is so quick and doesn’t require manual manipulation, but you’d expect that from a cutting-edge device.

I’m not all that happy, as others I know agree, with the lack of actual buttons. I agree that the lack of tactile and haptic feedback will be a hurdle for many people, including the visually impaired (though Apple has long ignored those with visual impairments). But I think the interaction will take off.

The interaction is new, just like the on screen keyboard of my current Newton was new when introduced. As long as spelling errors are easy to identify, I think most people will agree it is a step in the right direction. And if there’s too much trouble, I expect a 3rd party such as our good friends at Griffin will come along with a QWERTY-style, Treo-esque keyboard that plugs into the charging port.

I remember when I first got my Newton there was much talk about the next big thing being phone integration. While I can surf the web, send email, play games, word process, record and listen to audio, talking to someone was a piece of functionality I longed for. I seem to recall there was a hack for calling someone on the type of Newton I have, but who wants a hack?

The other addition is of course the integration of the video iPod. This is great news. For some people. The ones who want to take one or two ten or so movies on the go with them. I’m not as excited about this aspect since most of my movie watching is via my TV and DVDs. Thankfully, Apple has the also-introduced-yesterday AppleTV! Except, it can’t play DVDs… huh. Well, I can just use a Mac Mini. Or I can use my DVD player. Yeah, I’ll just do that since I already own it and it would only cost me about 100$ to replace if it breaks.

Regardless! Back to the new Newton. Seriously, can life be any better? For so long I’ve waited for this kind of upgrade. Why didn’t they do this slowly over time? Steve Jobs may have killed the Newton when he came back to Apple but the 8 years of hush-hush upgrading have obviously been worth the wait.

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