After 15 years of resistance I have finally acquired a mobile phone. Of course it could not be one of those el-cheapo throwaways sensible people own. It had to be an iPhone because, well, Steve Jobs sends secret messages to my cerebral cortex imploring me to stoke his extravagant ego by snapping up the gadgets and geegaws he hawks.
Now that I’m out 300 smackers for the ultra-deluxe model I can’t help wondering if I’d ever take such a pricey device into the woods. Well, photographers regularly haul much more extravagant gear into the wilderness, so what the heck. Next question: will it be of any use once I get there?
It does have a built-in camera, which has no features to speak of. (But you can add a cool app called AirMe, whic uploads pictures to your Flickr account). It has GPS-based location-finding tools, which are major battery hogs and probably useless in the backcountry (and might not know your real location if you’re in, say, the Southern Hemisphere).
Also, the “3G” high-speed cell network is a big-time battery drainer.
I found that the least battery-intensive activity was surfing the web on my couch. Interestingly, perhaps the coolest function is its ability to zoom in on text, documents and other stuff. Presumably you could download maps in PDFs onto it and take those hiking.
Overall it’s a way-cool toy that could save your bacon the same way any other device like a BlackBerry or plain old cell phone could: calling for help from somewhere in cell range. The location tools might be able to help rescuers find you, though I suspect they’re unproven.
One nice thing to keep in mind: lots of folks will be developing iPhone apps in the coming months, so the options will be improving markedly over time.