June 14, 2010
As expected, Apple CEO Steve Jobs opened this year’s WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) with the introduction of a new iPhone. This is not just an update to Apple’s very popular smart phone. This new phone, iPhone 4, is the first true revision of the original with a new design and new software. Apple has also renamed iPhone OS 4 to iOS 4. The new iPhone 4 has the same approximate size as the last three iPhones. It is, however, slightly heavier but noticeably thinner. Apple states that it is now the thinnest smart phones. Instead of the smooth curved back of previous models, the front and back of the new iPhone is glass. Match this with a band of stainless steel that wraps the two pieced together and you have an elegant looking device. When you pick up and feel the new iPhone you get the sense of quality and craftsmanship. Jobs likened it to a fine Leica camera. The front and back glass pieces are coated with the same oleophobic layer that was introduced on the last iPhone, the 3GS. This coating is there to reduce fingerprints and smudges, or at least make them easier to wipe off. On the outside, there are a few new features. The one that will stand out the most is the front facing camera. This is something that users have been asking for. This camera is similar to the iSight camera built into all MacBooks. Pairing this new camera with new software in iOS 4, iPhone 4 can now be used to make video calls (for now just to another iPhone 4). Hopefully this camera will be available for developers to use in their own software, Skype is the first thing to come to mind. Instead of just one microphone there are two. The second one is used for noise cancellation. This should give the iPhone 4 improved sound quality, plus it will improve the quality of video calls, especially outdoors or in other noisy environments. On the back is a new still/video camera, which has a 5-megapixel sensor. Apple states it has the same physical sized pixels as the older 3MP chip. This and the fact that the chip uses backside illumination allow it to gather more light. Bottom line is that the new camera should produce excellent photos, for a phone. This chip also has the ability to shoot up to 720P HD video at a full 30 fps (frames per second). While I’m sure the quality will not be the same as a stand-alone video camera, but it should rival most any of the popular ‘flip’ type digital video cameras out there. To go along with this new camera, Apple has also created a version of iMovie, their powerful but easy to use non-linear video editing program, for iPhone 4. This will be available in the App Store for $5. Together you will be able to quickly shoot some SD or HD video, edit it on the iPhone, and upload it to your favorite sharing site, all in one portable device. Of course the biggest changes are on the inside. The iPhone 4 now has one of the highest resolution screens available on a smart phone. Apple calls the new display Retina. This display is the same approximate size as the 3GS, but instead of a measly 480 by 320 pixels, the Retina display shows 960 by 640. The Retina display has densely packed pixels, 326 pixels per inch. The display in the 3GS was only 163 ppi. With a display this sharp, text and graphics are said to look stunning, almost like a printed page. The new iPhone 4 uses the same processor as the iPad, the Apple designed A4 chip. The A4 processor is fast while still having low power requirements. This and a newer battery should give the iPhone 4 longer running times – more talking, browsing, music playing, video watching, etc. Just like previous models, this battery is not user replaceable. A new iPhone wouldn’t be complete without a new OS. What should have been called OS 4 is now called iOS 4.0. This is likely due to trademark or copyright problems. Whatever the reason, Apple spins this name change to go with the fact that they are now a mobile company with the iPad, iPod, and iPhones so why not iOS. While there are plenty of new features and technologies in the new iOS, the main feature that has everyone talking is multitasking, the ability to perform more than one task at a time. This is something that other smart phones are doing and Apple needed to get into the game. While multitasking can create stability issues, meaning crashes, Apple’s tight reigns on software available from the App Store and the new iOS 4.0 should make this much less of a problem. Another problem it can induce is battery drain. This is another piece that Apple supposedly has worked out, allowing background processes to work in a way as to not put a major strain on power management. The new iOS 4.0 has more enterprise support, touch camera functions, background wallpapers, built-in spell checker for most Apps (not all), ability to create playlists, and the ability to use Bluetooth wireless keyboards. Other software soon to be available for iOS 4.0 – the already mentioned iMovie, iBooks with access to the iBookstore, FaceTime – iPhone to iPhone video calls, and the ability to create folder on home screens – iPhone users will know what that’s all about. Other topics covered in the keynote were iAds – lets developers add in program advertising, PDFs now readable in iBooks, gyroscope added to the accelerometer – added together they read motion on six-axis, LED flash for camera, and tethering – the ability to share the iPhone’s Internet with your desktop and/or laptop. While there were no other major product or software announcements – no new AppleTV or Mac mini – Apple definitely wowed the crowd with the new iPhone 4. The speed, style, and display really do put it in the top spot among smartphones. Watch out Android, iPhone is here to stay.
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