This week, I flew to San Francisco from New England to attend the MacWorld event. My best friend, Susan, met me at the airport, so I knew this would be a fun trip no matter what. (C'mon, gadgets and girlfriends? It's a she-geek's dream...) "Sooz" picked up Chinese take-out on the way home, where she planned to crack open a bottle of wine for our food and gabfest, but somewhere between the restaurant and her front door, her iPhone 3GS went missing. We looked everywhere — inside her building, outside, back at the Chinese restaurant and on the street. I even checked my purse, as if it could've mystically materialized in my bag somehow. No luck. It was just gone.
I'm not a Mobile Me subscriber, but Susan is. So she logged into the web interface, as the little journo fired off in my head, noting what the $99/year service could and couldn't do for her in this emergency. The end result was illuminating. The “Find My iPhone” feature narrowed down the neighborhood where the device was, but didn't pinpoint it. Next, she activated a custom message (offering a reward and showing contact info). She also sent out an audio alert that would emanate from the phone, even if it was in silent/vibrate mode.
Here's the catch with all that, though: The service might work perfectly, but it relies on the kindness of whatever stranger finds the phone. For us, this simply didn't pan out. She ultimately had to face the fact that her iPhone wasn't coming back. The final feature of MM was remote wipe, and she activated that and suspended service on her AT&T account. As we finally settled in for the night, take-out containers in front of us, we did actually manage to enjoy the rest of our evening. I even put my own phone away, as a show of solidarity for her loss, which felt a little weird, but good. And so we spent quality time bonding without the distraction of emails, IMs or Tweets.
To be sure, losing her iPhone was an interesting way to start out the Macworld trip. And it wouldn't be the last time it felt like something was missing this week.
As for the show — well, how many iPhone/iPod Touch cases, earbuds and skins can a person look at? There were plenty of those, along with wares from a few app developers, and those comprised most of the phone-related stuff. Now, since I was there doing double duty for PhoneDog and lining up coverage and giveaways for Today's iPhone, I did find it interesting and productive. As a consumer, it was also neat to see the other exhibitors, from backup solutions to wireless networking and other Mac computer-related products. So it wasn't a bad experience at all. It was just... a little strange.
Apple's absence from the show was palpable. Okay, yes, this was my first Macworld, but according to people I spoke to, this year's show was smaller and the vendors were less diverse. And since the biggest news from Cupertino — the iPad, of course — has yet to materialize in the market, a lot of exhibitors were left to show mere mock-ups of future iPad accessories. In other words, there were some companies whose main purpose in being there was to spotlight featured products that didn't actually exist. (In some instances, all they could show were images on paper, not even dummy prototypes.) That felt kind of surreal to me.
Of the products that actually did exist, the ones that stood out to me were:
And of course, there were cases and skins. Personally, I liked these the best:
The Sketch Up hard case, which Noah has already introduced to you guys here, but I'm bringing it up again because I seriously dig this concept. It's a blank canvass of an iPhone case that comes with a pen and encourages users to draw/scrawl on their phones.
The Speck SeeThru Satin iPhone case. I'll be honest — this didn't look like much to me when I saw it at first. But then I held it in my hand. Ooooooh. Simply put, tactility can't be overestimated. This rubberized accessory made my phone oh-so-soft and silky, and I just couldn't put it down. I still can't. It's become my case of choice this week.
The Flip case from iKit. Novel idea, having a really small flippie kick-stand that pops out, so the phone can be perched up to watch flicks. I've requested a sample, so we can review it.
iaPeel, which is a customizable skin that customers can print on their home inkjets. Makes it easy to put a picture of your girlfriend, kid — or heck, Steve Jobs himself — on your phone.
MusicSkins iPhone/iPod skins. Cool? YES, in fact crazy cute. (Especially the "Domo" face.) And they've also got skins for different devices (including some BlackBerry and Android phones) that are customizable online, as well as Beatles-themed skins, for the die-hard fans of the Fab Four.
I've either got product samples or will be getting them for review at Today's iPhone, where we'll be putting this stuff through their paces. And some of these items will even be up for grabs in future giveaways. (For more on that, stay tuned to the site over the coming weeks.)
So all in all, it was a good trip. Watching Noah and Aaron run around an exhibit hall like kids in a candy store has become my favorite pastime, so despite the initial drama, the week ended on a high note. I wish you all could've been there. Who knows? Maybe someday, there could be a PhoneDog Conference and Expo, complete with hands-on phone demos, accessories and even a dunk-the-editors booth! Hey, Noah — waddayasay? ;-)