It’s happened….  The gravitational field that surrounds IBM has me and I have landed back contracting with my wonderful old team doing whizzy things online.  Only this time, they are a bit less virtual worlds and a bit more streaming video.

Apparently my team have gone all Mac too, so although it looks like a looks like an approaching learning curve, it’s a nice shiny and pleasant one.

This return to big blue makes me a great advert for the the Greater IBM alumni program I helped set up a few years ago.

It’s the start of a new decade and the famous quotation, “the future is already here it’s just unevenly distributed” was never more true.  Mind blowing science-fiction-like capabilities are here and now and in people’s pockets.  I speak of course of the iPhone 3GS.

iPhone

I have owned plenty of gadgets over the years and all of them have stretched the bounds of the possible – e.g. I had an early palm pilot that you could buy a phone attachment and a GPS attachment for.  Trouble is they were all ahead of their time and therefore a bit flakey.  With the iPhone 3GS you finally have a whole confluence of technologies plus some excellent user design that brings a tool so useful and easy to use that the future has finally arrived.  It brings together:

  • A fast 3G connection.  It can also seamlessly switch to wifi if available.
  • A processor that is fast enough to comfortably do most of the things you want to use the device for.
  • A large (but not too large), bright, high-resolution screen.
  • An innovative and now much copied multi-touch interface.
  • A good and useful amount of memory: (16GB+) to store a variety of content without feeling like you need to constantly delete things.
  • It has not crashed on me once (!)
  • There are so many amazing and creative applications for it.
  • It combines a GPS, with a tilt sensor and a compass.  This finally allows applications to provide true augmented reality.
  • It has a good quality camera and can also take video.  (It has no flash but this does not concern me as a photographer, as the main person of on-camera flash is to make people look as awful as possible.)
  • I can type on it with two fingers fairly accurately and quickly for simple emails and texts.

I have used it for a couple of months now and I have to say I simply cannot fault it.  My only extra “nice to have” would be if there were a fold up keyboard for it.  I would then no longer need a PC.  I guess that’s why there isn’t one as people would stop buying macbooks perhaps.

Having tried out plenty of apps now, here are my top picks:

  • Google calendar – it’s great to know your calendar can be accessed anywhere.
  • Gorillacam - made by the people who created the cool gorillapod tripod.  Lots of cool camera features including time-lapse photography.
  • Tube Exits – Shows you where to get on the London tube so you get off opposite the exit – genius!
  • Facebook – Makes Facebook so much more useful.
  • iPlayer – We choose not to have a TV liscence, so iPlayer is great for watching BBC TV for free, legally.

Apps that show just how sci-fi the iPhone is:

  • Shazam - Don’t know what song you’re listening to.  Shazam will work it out in under 5 seconds and help you buy the album!
  • RedLaser – Take a photo of a barcode on a product like a book or DVD and RedLaser will search online for the cheapest place to buy.  I almost used this whilst in HMV as the queue was so long, but I had no 3G signal – bah!
  • Tesco Wine – take a photo of a wine label and Tesco will see if they stock it and help you buy a case of it!
  • What the Font – Similar idea to Tesco wine but with fonts – nice idea, doesn’t work brilliantly yet.
  • Layer – This is the start of where things get interesting.  Layer overlays local data onto the screen as you hold up the phone to ‘scan’ your environment.  Using it doesn’t feel that sci-fi yet, but when you consider what it’s doing and what else augmented reality could be used for it’s pretty awesome!

That’s the thing about science fiction.  It doesn’t arrive with a bang.  It slips past before anyone realises they are living in the future.

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