Jun 8, 2010

Apple Debuts iPhone 4, Available on June 24


As we all expected, Apple today unveiled the latest generation iPhone, simply dubbed the iPhone 4. The iPhone 4 is exactly the same device that leaked back in April, but don't think just because a few prototypes made it into the hands of tech-bloggers through some shady avenues there are no surprises left in store. In fact, even that attractive outer-shell has some impressive hidden functionality. 

A New Design

The most conspicuous change with the iPhone 4 is the body design. Gone is the chrome bezel. Instead, the device has been flattened and slimmed down by 24-percent as compared to the 3GS, making it the thinnest smartphone on the planet (according to Steve Jobs at least). The steel banding now surrounds the entire edge of the iPhone 4, but it's not just a functionless aesthetic choice -- it's actually three different parts that act as antennas for the GPS, Wi-Fi and 3G radios. The front-facing camera and LED flash obvious on the leaked handsets were confirmed, as was the second microphone at the top of the device that will be used for noise cancellation.

The "Retina Display"

We're not sure where the term "retina display" came from, but when a display looks this beautiful, Steve Jobs can call it whatever he wants. The new screen is the same size as the iPhone 3GS, 3.5-inches, but packs four times as many pixels for an astounding 960x640 resolution (Google's Nexus One, for example, is 800x480). That's 326 pixels per square inch. Jobs claims that when held 10 to 12-inches from your face it's indistinguishable from a printed book.

The Guts

The iPhone 4's guts are nothing like preceding devices. The A4 chip that first made its way into the iPad is now found in the latest iPhone. While no mention of clock speed was given, we're sure it offers a tangible bump over the 3GS, and to compliment this improvement, both the Wi-Fi and 3G radios have been given a boost. The iPhone 4 adds 802.11n support and HSUPA, for 4.8 Mbps uploads, to the support for 7.2 Mbps downloads that the 3GS added. (Though it should be noted that these are, for the moment, useless in the U.S. until AT&T upgrades its network.)

The internals have received a few other upgrades, including a much improved 5-megapixel, rear-facing camera that doesn't just cram in more pixels, but increases the sensor size for better image quality. The new camera can even record 720p HD video at a full 30 fps, and you can then use iMovie to edit on the phone (more on that below). Also brand new is a gyroscope for full multi-axis motion control far beyond what is possible with the accelerometer. Instead of simply tilting, the gyroscope lets you move through three dimensional space turning around objects.

iMovie, iBooks, iOS, iAd

Where Jobs's first four announcements highlighted the iPhone 4's brand new hardware, the last five are heavy on the software and operating system side of things. Aside from a name change, iOS 4 (formerly iPhone OS 4) is pretty much what we saw earlier this year, as is iAd.

A mobile version of iMovie has been a no-brainer since the iPhone first gained video shooting capabilities. Jobs showed off the new iPhone-ready iMovie, which shoots 720p video, lets you edit on your phone (complete with transitions, themes and the ability to add geolocation data) and upload straight to the Web. The Ken Burns effect is here in full force, just begging to be added to all your cat photos.

iBooks, announced earlier this year, lets you sync your books across all of your devices. If you download an iBook on your iPhone, you'll be able to add it on your iPad at no extra cost (and your bookmarks, notes and your current reading spot will be ported).


For the first time in a long while we were treated to a real "One more thing..." from Jobs. That front-facing camera, which received very little attention during the course of the keynote, was eventually given its due when FaceTime, an integrated video-chat app, was demoed onstage for the WWDC crowd. Sadly, it only works over Wi-Fi (for 2010, at least, while Apple works with carriers) and only between iPhone 4 users (no chatting with your friends on iChat sitting at their iMacs).

The iPhone 4 will be available on June 24 (in white or black) for $199 for the 16GB model and $299 for the 32GB model. As was the case when the 3GS launched, the previous generation is getting a price cut. The new 8GB iPhone 3GS (previously only 16GB and 32GB) will now be available for only $99, and the 3G appears to have been retired. As far as the latest iPhone OS, now dubbed iOS4, you'll be able to upgrade for free on June 21st. And for the first time ever, that free upgrade includes iPod touch owners.


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