The iPhone: Revolution? Gamble? Flop?

People watch an Apple iPhone advertisement outside of an Apple store in Palo Alto, Calif., Thursday, June 21, 2007. The hype around Apple Inc.'s upcoming iPhone is abundantly clear. But how the iPhone will leave its historical mark after June 29 is yet to be seen. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
The hype around Apple Inc.'s upcoming iPhone is abundantly clear. So is the hysteria. But how the iPhone will leave its historical mark after Friday's launch is to be seen.

Will the gadget — which triples as a cell phone, iPod media player and a wireless Web device — be as "revolutionary" as Apple CEO Steve Jobs has claimed?

Even if the product flops for some reason or stays limited to the high-end corner of the smart phone market, the iPhone has already jolted the industry, showing that it is not just the body and outward beauty of the handset that counts, but what's inside.

Remember the television ads for the Motorola RAZR?

The commercials showed off the sexy, thin profile of the clamshell handset and seduced more than 50 million people from 2004 to 2006 to buy it, making it the most popular cell phone ever sold.

But people want more now. There are plenty of slim, ultra-thin options out there, but not many make finding photos, saving phone contacts, picking up voice mail and selecting ringtones insanely easy.

"This is the most anticipated phone since Alexander Graham Bell did his," said Michael Gartenberg, an industry analyst at JupiterResearch. "Part of it is the fascination with Apple's products and how well they design them, but it's also about how poor the design in software is in cell phones now, and how much time Apple has spent working on this."

Apple's iPhone commercials show a finger swiping the touch screen display to activate the home menu, and with one tap on the photo icon, up pops your photos. Another icon zips over to your contacts.

Not a drop-down menu in sight.

"A few handset makers have been trying to make the phone simpler without having to refer to a manual that's 18 times the size of the phone," said Richard Doherty, president of The Envisioneering Group, a research company. "But Apple is going for the moon here."

Oakland Web programmer David Stillman, 21, hopes to be the first of his friends to own an iPhone.

Stillman, who has three Macintosh computers and two iPods, plans to trade in his 2-year-old Sanyo phone for the high-end $599 iPhone if the all-inclusive monthly charges come to less than $100. Apple and AT&T Inc. — the exclusive carrier for the iPhone — have not yet disclosed the service charges.

Consumer interest is so hot that AT&T hired 2,000 extra workers to staff its stores when the phone comes out on Friday, reports CBS News' Tony Guida.

(AP Photo/Apple)
Stillman says the best iPhone features appear to be the simple access to Google Inc.'s online maps and route directions and the intuitive user interface, which allows for easy scrolling through a contact list, fast searches through photo albums and quick callback for missed calls and recently dialed numbers.

The iPhone's screen will not be plastic but optical glass, adds Guida. And the battery will last 8 hours, not 5. That announcement alone drove Apple stock up nearly 4 percent.

Also, instead of just listening to voicemail in the order received, Apple has created what it calls "visual voicemail" for iPhone, an innovative way to see the list of voice messages so users could quickly choose the one they want to hear.

"The software is going to sell this phone — it's going to be so easy and obvious and will correct a lot of problems in other phones," said Stillman, who was waiting for Apple's flagship retail store in San Francisco to open Friday morning to do some shopping. "Other phones — even BlackBerries — can do a million things but you can't figure out how to do anything on them."