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Article: The Beauty of Multi-Touch

by on August 28, 2008

(Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the iPhone OS)

When you’re a spare-time tech writer, new computers don’t come across your desk with every update. Unlike Macworld and the other big technology magazines, our site’s budget is split with bills, food, and random life things. However, when we do get a chance to drop some cash on new hardware, it’s much more special.

That being said, I recently replaced my two daily workhorses—a 1.42GHz G4-based Mac mini and a 600MHz G3-based iBook with a new MacBook Pro. In addition, I picked up an 8GB iPod Touch and upgraded the software to 2.0. So far, I’m really pleased with both products, but it just amazes me how seamless the transition was. I’ve moved from one Mac to another before and it’s always been the same experience—things move over, I continue my work.

However, the iPod Touch was a different story. Unlike my last iPod upgrade, going from a 3G to a 5G model, the Touch throws the old software techniques out the window entirely. Instead, I’m finding that I have a weird Mac/iPod hybrid. At this point, you’re probably saying, “Duh, haven’t you seen an iPhone before?” Well, yeah – a few of our staff members have ’em. I’ve played with the operating system. The difference is actually putting it into practice from day to day.

My gadget arsenal has always included some sort of organizational tool. I first had an electronic organizer to keep track of phone numbers, dates, and little notes. It was cheap, had a QWERTY keyboard, and didn’t play with my computers at the time. Of course, this was before I had internet access, so email was not a necessity.

Later on, I picked up a Palm Vx and it was an amazing little piece of hardware. Having something comparable to my older Macs in my pocket was nice. I could add software, sync with web content (via AvantGo), and manipulate things on the screen (and not just 2 or 3 lines of text). However, there was still limits and it screamed geek.

When I started carrying a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone, the Palm was shelved. I could synchronize my calendar from my Mac, copy my address book between the two (I already had my phone numbers on the phone), and there was a basic memo function. Basically I took a step forward in combining devices, but a step backwards for interfacing with my data.

Two days ago, I picked up an iPod Touch. Sure, an iPhone would’ve been nice so I could eliminate my phone, but I’m not crazy about being locked into a data plan with AT&T (I live/work in a college environment, so we’re blanketed with WiFi that the employees can use). In addition, the iPod Touch was free with my MacBook Pro, so I’m not complaining there either. After just a few days of using it with my work Outlook account (we have to use the Outlook calendar among other things), my music, streaming via AOL Radio, and just playing with all the features, I’m amazed how it plugged into my life so easily.

Apple has done a fantastic job of making the interface simple enough to find and access what you need with only a few taps, but also not to the point that you have to “learn” how work with your data. The keyboard really didn’t take any getting used to, and the lack of a stylus is really, really nice. I’ve loaded a few other apps on, but for most of the things I need, there was already enough provided. I just wish that Mail/iCal/Address Book interfaced better with Outlook on my Mac so that I could have everything synchronized, or, the iPod Touch could synchronize with Outlook over the air and my Mac’s Address Book/iCal.

So, what are my complaints? Nothing really, although I’d love to have a keychain on Mobile Safari (I have to log into the wireless network via a web page). Another complaint I’ve heard is that there is no way to access the iPod Touch’s internal drive like that on the “older” iPods. With the ability to work with iWork and Office documents, why has Apple removed the ability to drag-an-drop files on your iPod? As for everything else, I love that just enough can be customized to be personal, but you won’t go crazy trying to change every single setting. I think with the ability to add custom applications, the platform should grow and flourish. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

If you got a new iPod Touch or iPhone, what are your thoughts on the software and integrating it into your life?

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