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Monday, June 25, 2007

Video stirs up iPhone mania

Less than a week before launching its closely guarded new cellphone, Apple has unveiled the technology industry's version of the Zapruder film.

The company added a 20-minute video "tour" of the iPhone to its website on Friday, revealing new features.

It also provides a demonstration of the phone's unusual touch-screen keyboard to answer concerns about whether consumers will accept one without physical buttons.

The video sent the blogosphere and would-be buyers into overdrive. Viewers pored over it for new clues with the gusto of conspiracy enthusiasts debating the grainy Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination.

"I've always had a huge case of gear lust for the iPhone," Susheel Daswani, 30, an attorney in San Francisco, said Sunday. "If I don't get one ... Friday, I'll be utterly disappointed."

Apple unveiled the "smart" cellphone in January, kicking off a six-month buildup to the start of sales this coming Friday.

That created a frenzy as consumers hunt for any morsels of new information about the combination phone, music player and Internet device.

The new video is the latest in a stream of iPhone announcements that Apple began dribbling out to further pique consumer interest in the device.

That strategy seems to be working: Among 68 consumers who said they planned to buy an iPhone, USA TODAY found that the video boosted their interest even more.

Mike Nowak, 42, a software developer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, said he'd been a little worried about the button-free keyboard. But the video's demonstration of a feature that automatically corrects data-entry errors eased his mind.

"It looks smoother than I thought," he said.

The keyboard demonstration recommends users try typing first with a single index finger.

"As you get more proficient, migrate to using two thumbs," an actor demonstrating the gadget says in the video. "In about a week, you'll be typing faster on iPhone than on any other small keyboard."

Tom Krazit wrote on the CNet tech news site's blog that the video doesn't reveal "a whole lot of new things" that Apple had not disclosed before.

"But the company does address some of the early suspicions about the touch-screen keyboard," he wrote.

Jason Chen of the Gizmodo blog liked what he saw, writing, "Typing with two thumbs actually looks manageable."

Among the features revealed and demonstrated:

•Microsoft documents. Users will be able to view - but not edit - Word and Excel files. That's a plus for Hadrian Katz, 57, an attorney in McLean, Va.

He said he hopes future versions of the iPhone will let users edit those documents.

•Voice mail. Messages can be "rewound" like a sound file, Chen said.

•Video. A special YouTube player features icons to easily find and bookmark videos, then create an e-mail to send a video link to friends.

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