Apple Apps Create Sci-Fi iPhone

Apple's new iPhone 3GS doesn't just want a pretty new case -- it wants your soul.

The new iPhone went on sale this morning. The $100 to $200 upgrade from its newly obsolete 3G cousin has changed neither the iPhone's dimensions (115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3mm, same as the original) nor its essential functions. Yet accessory makers including Belkin and iLuv are touting new 3GS "exclusive" window dressing, while app makers are changing their focus from Big Buck Hunter to Big Brother.

The RedEye turns the iPhone into an (almost) universal remote control.

Like the iPhone itself, Belkin's and iLuv's "new" cases are designed for those who value aesthetics more than application. Belkin's BodyGuard Cinema lets you prop up your iPhone 3GS and enjoy its claimed 10 hours of video life, but it's no more original than iLuv's windshield mount kit and power combo for the 3GS's GPS users. (TomTom's app for turn-by-turn directions isn't included.) When compared with an accessory that turns your iPhone into a universal remote and an app that can reduce your whole life to a bar code, such cases are like putting a miniskirt on a supercollider.

Matthew Eager, president and co-founder of the ThinkFlood technology group in Waltham, Massachusetts, and partner Adam Shapiro have been beta testing their Red Eye remote control for much of the past year. The device is a docking station that communicates with the iPhone via a WiFi-powered app and sends out infrared signals to flip through channels, turn up the volume or stop your Blu-ray disc just as Tony Montana introduces his little friend.

"My blue-sky scenario is whole-home automation," Eager says. "We've been talking about it since the 1950s, with Disney's House of the Future, but only the super-rich have really been able to do it."