iPHONE THREAD….I’m not much of a phone person, and I really hate cell phones in general, so my opinion of the iPhone should obviously be taken with a gigantic nugget of salt. But still, I have to ask: What’s the big deal?

Seriously. It’s a clunky phone. It’s an OK PDA. It’s a little bitty web browser connected to a slow, crappy network. And it’s a straightforward iPod. But there are other phones on the market that already do all those things, right? My friend Professor Marc was showing me his just last week.

Now, as near as I can tell, the user interface on the iPhone is pretty slick. So points for that. But does the iPhone do anything else that other phones can’t do — or, more to the point, things that other phones can’t copy pretty quickly if it turns out that Apple made better compromises in various areas than they did? (Screen size is the obvious candidate here.)

I’m tossing this out because I’m genuinely curious. Is the UI really so slick that it’s going to revolutionize the handheld gadget industry? Or is there something else I’m missing? I’m tempted to predict that a year from now we’re all going to be wondering what the fuss was about, but I guess that would be pretty foolish, wouldn’t it? Steve Jobs has a better track record than I do.

UPDATE: I almost forgot. I was originally mulling about this last week after I read this column from David Pogue. For my money (which is purely theoretical since I’m not going to spend any of my money on new phone technology anyway) this T-Mobile announcement actually sounds cooler than Apple’s latest piece of UI wizardry. But no one noticed. It was spectacularly bad timing from the T-Mobile folks.

And in case you’re all thinking that I’m obviously a telephone troglodyte, you’re right. But — I’ll have you know that while I was on vacation last week I managed to provide Marian with a new ringtone for her phone, which now plays the opening theme song to the BBC show Hustle. It was actually a remarkably complicated process since I had to create it myself instead of just buying it for a couple of bucks from the Verizon store. But thanks to Google and the internet, I eventually succeeded. We’re now part of the 21st century.