At the Macworld Conference and Expo last January, Apple dropped a nuclear bombshell on the entire cell phone industry with the announcement of the iPhone. With Apple’s first venture into the cell phone business, they are hoping to ride the success of the iPod and use their strong name brand in hopes of getting a piece of the enormous cell phone market.

Just to give you a glimpse of the impact, on the day of the announcement, Apple stock soared by over 7 percent, while stock in Palm, Research in Motion – makers of the BlackBerry – and Motorola dropped around 6 percent.

Ever since January, Apple fans, including myself, have been counting down the days until that magical month of June, when the iPhone is slated for release. Just last week the Federal Communications Commission gave Apple the go-ahead for the iPhone, and as May slowly ends, everyone’s eyes will be on Apple. Now, I realize the iPhone had been covered before in this column. However, in my defense, I don’t think the unreleased device got a fair review last time around, and I feel that because we are so close to June it needs to be mentioned again.

With that being said, last January I got a chance to see the iPhone live at Macworld, and it was awesome, the user interface and form factor is simply beautiful. Since then I’ve been saving up for its high price tag of $499 for the 4GB version. While they have an 8GB version, $499 is where I draw the line – no way in hell I’m gonna pay $600 for a cell phone.

First, let me briefly explain the three main purposes of the iPhone: cell phone, iPod and Internet communicator. The entire front of the iPhone is a touch screen, which makes dialing numbers and looking through contacts much simpler. It has a built-in accelerometer that automatically detects if the device is portrait or landscape and switches the screen modes by 90 degrees. On top of that, the iPod part of the iPhone can hold over a thousand songs and includes video playback. While the phone and the iPod are cool features, what really excites me is the Internet communicator. The iPhone includes a fully functional web browser that lets you see what you would normally see on your computer. Other features of the iPhone include push e-mail, which lets you view e-mails the moment you receive them, and integration with Google services, including Google Maps.

While the iPhone will clearly be the ultimate cell phone, there are many critics, even among the Apple fans. The biggest complaint is the high price. What most people don’t realize, though, is that a “smart phone” and an iPod each cost around $200 separately. If someone were to buy both, the cost would be about the same as an iPhone, and the person would still have to carry around two devices. Thus, the iPhone allows me to finally ditch my iPod and now aging Treo. There are others who complain that the iPhone is only on the AT&T/Cingular networks. However, Apple is clearly trying to reach the largest market by teaming with the biggest cell phone network.

Using business sense based on history, every sign points to the failure of the iPhone, with its high price tag, lack of physical keyboard and low battery life. However, Apple is led by the marketing genius that is Steve Jobs – expect to see many people showing off their shiny new Apple iPhones.

If for some ungodly reason the iPhone does become a failure like the Newton in the ’90s, Apple is going to feel the pain. They have sacrificed so much, including delaying their next generation operating system from June to October, in order to deliver the iPhone on time. Obviously, Apple is relying on the iPhone’s success as the first step to becoming the modern Sony. While many – again including myself – have enjoyed being a part of the underdog, times are a-changin’ for Apple.