I have been talking (probably too much) about the iPhone over on Gear Diary, because I am a gadget geek and it looks like a cool new gadget. But also because I think that “place shifting” is an important new trend. (Not that the national media–or indeed hardly anyone but my wife–cares what I think about new technology trends. And even she may just be being polite.)

This last Sunday, the Austin American-Statesman (free registration required) had an article on the iPhone and what it considered its competitors.

Here’s why I think the iPhone will be so huge, if we consider the iPhone the first of a long line of personal media players (PMPs) that allow you to do place shifting: the iPhone has a 3.5″, 480×320 pixel screen, and 4Gb (or 8Gb) of memory. All the “competitors” listed have screens that are about an inch smaller, have those itty keypads, and have less onboard memory (although several of them do have extra card slots, which is a plus that the iPhone–stupidly, in my view–doesn’t have).

Now, I’ve tried quite a few PMPs, phones with teeny keypads, and convergent devices, and I can say without hesitation that anything that gives you a chance to have keys that are approximately the same size as your fingers is a Good Thing (tm). I don’t know about you, but I get tired of trying to work those tiny Treo buttons, or tiny Blackberry buttons. Heck, I even have trouble with the buttons on my Motorola v180. I admit to some bias: a nerve injury years back means that I have no feeling in my left forefinger, and very little in my left thumb, so tiny keypads are a problem for me. But I still believe there are plenty of people out there who don’t like those wee bitty things.

But the bigger reason, I believe, that the iPhone is going to be a hit for place shifting your media content is the screen size. On a device that’s only a few inches in size, a screen that is 1″ larger is huge. That’s 50%. It would be like moving up from a 36″ to a 52″ television. I mean, that’s a big difference, wouldn’t you say?

It may very well be that when I get one of these things in my hand, I’m going to hate it. It may creak and groan from poor workmanship. It may be slow. The screen may smudge too easily because you have to use your fingers instead of a stylus. Trying to use it as a phone may make me nuts. Who can say. But I really do think that, as a PMP, it’s going to have a big impact.

But, you know, I’ve been wrong before.