I recently got my hands - for a few moments - on an iPhone, when it was demo'd to me by its proud owner, and the experience forced me to revise my opinion of the device.

I used to think it was just a toy for sad Jobs-worshippers who'd buy anything with an Apple logo on, no matter that it wasn't actually a terribly good phone and had been designed by control freaks who aimed to prevent you loading your own software.

Now, I still think it's mostly for Appleholics willing to pay the Jobs (and O2) tax - but I've also realised that it contains some very innovative features which could move the whole sector on considerably, once they're more widely and economically available.

The two key things that make the iPhone such a pleasure to use are its multi-touch user interface and the simple fact that it's fast. You tell it to do something and there's no delay - it just happens.

The multi-touch user interface means you can use more than one finger, moving two fingertips closer or further apart to zoom in and out, say.

And the lack of delay seems to be partly the result of some nifty programming, and partly that Apple hasn't been stingy on the memory front. That's unlike several other phone makers - some Symbian licensees in particular are only just realising that cutting back on RAM to save production cost simply produces devices that are annoyingly slug-like.

What I'm really looking forward to is when some of those other phone makers realise that they too can do stuff like multi-touch, and on a decently-fast tablet phone with a truly open operating system that doesn't need third-party unlocking every time.

Bill Gates hinted at CES that Microsoft already has plans to take the next version of Windows Mobile in that direction. The trouble is, based on past experience it'll probably take three more versions before Microsoft gets it right - if it ever does.

In the meantime, can the Symbian, UIQ and Series 60 teams get their collective heads around the issues involved? Here's hoping.