FAQ: Do your homework on iPhone Eve

Thinking about buying an iPhone? Check out this rundown of what to expect.

With a day to go before Apple's iPhone makes its debut, there are still plenty of questions about the device.

Apple has trickled out information about the iPhone over the past few days, and will probably answer a few of these questions before 6 p.m. Eastern time Friday, when Apple and AT&T stores plan to begin selling the device. The early reviews of the phone have laid to rest some concerns, like the touch-screen interface, while raising others, namely the EDGE cellular network.

Here's a stab at answering some of the more frequently asked questions about everything and anything iPhone related. We'll cover technical specifications, how to use the iPhone's features, and where you can find one.

What is an iPhone?
It's a VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) phone that businesses can use to cut the costs of operating an old-school telephone system inside their offices.

No, I meant Apple's iPhone.
Oh, sorry. The iPhone that people have been hyperventilating over is a combination iPod, Internet browser and cellular phone unveiled by Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs, at Macworld in January. It's scheduled to go on sale Friday. "Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone," Jobs said during that keynote address.

So what does it do?
Well, it's a wide-screen video iPod to start, capable of playing songs and videos and storing either 4GBs or 8GBs of either, depending on how much you want to spend. It runs Mac OS X, and can browse the Internet with the Safari browser over either a Wi-Fi network or AT&T's EDGE cellular network. And it can also make phone calls over AT&T's network just like any cell phone.

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Let's talk about the iPod part first. What makes it different from other video iPods?
For starters, it has the largest screen Apple has introduced for a video-playing iPod, at 3.5 inches. It plays videos in landscape mode on a higher-resolution screen (480x320 pixels) compared with the current-generation iPods (320x240 pixels).

But the entire user interface is different. The familiar click-wheel is gone, replaced by a touch screen that you control with your fingers. Scrolling through your library of songs and videos is done by swiping your finger left or right across the screen, and selecting a particular video is done by double-tapping the screen.

Why did they get rid of the click-wheel?
Primarily to control the other functions of the iPhone, namely the Internet browsing and e-mailing. Jobs said Apple wanted to avoid copying other smart phones that have lots of buttons dedicated to certain functions. The iPhone only has one button on the face of the device, which brings you back to the home screen. Otherwise, every other "button" on the display is a touch-screen icon that can change depending on what application you're in at that moment.

So what can I do with the touch screen?
There's a button on the top of the iPhone that toggles between sleep mode and active mode. Once you press that button, you have to use your finger on a slider on the touch screen to actually unlock the phone, so you don't inadvertently make phone calls while the iPhone's in your purse or pocket. That brings you to the home page, where you can select one of the four main applications (Phone, Mail, Safari or iPod) or one of the other applications like Google Maps or YouTube by tapping on the screen.

How do I get on the Internet?
Go to the home screen, and then launch Safari. Apple says that the iPhone delivers "the full Internet," unlike other mobile devices that must surf to special Web pages optimized for mobile phones. Safari goes to any Web page the same way that you'd access it on a PC or Mac, and you can upload bookmarks from your desktop or notebook computer.

The touch-screen interface plays a big role in Web surfing. While Safari can access any Web page, you're not necessarily going to be able to fit the whole page in a 3.5-inch screen. Dragging your finger across the display scrolls left, right, up or down, and tapping on the display zooms in.

Can I watch Internet videos on the iPhone?
Maybe. The iPhone uses Safari, which in theory would mean it supports Apple's QuickTime player, but that hasn't been confirmed. You definitely won't be able to play Flash or Windows Media video files on the iPhone, but you will be able to play YouTube videos with a built-in link to that site.

How do I get my e-mail?
If you're using a Web e-mail service, such as Google's Gmail or Microsoft's Hotmail, you can just browse to it through Safari to check your mail. You can also access the mail accounts hosted by your ISP through the Mail application on the iPhone home screen through IMAP (Internet Mail Application Protocol) or POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3) services.

Right now, it looks like you'll have to do quite a sales job on your IT department if you want to get your corporate e-mail on the iPhone. The iPhone can connect to the popular Microsoft Exchange e-mail server software, but only through the IMAP protocol using SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption, an Apple representative confirmed.

This isn't the same as if Apple had licensed the Microsoft ActiveSync protocol for Exchange, as has been rumored. The iPhone does not support the BlackBerry or Good Mobile Messaging software right now.

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