iPhone 4 is the most significant hardware revision to Apple’s
widescreen iPod, breakthrough internet communicator, and phone since
the original iPhone 2G was released in 2007. But how significant is it?
Apple CEO Steve Jobs said there were over 100 new features and singled
out 8 for special attention. We’ll take the most interesting of both
and see just how important they are, after the break.
In typical Apple hyperbolic fashion, they introduce iPhone as changing
everything, and they have a video to prove it. Beyond the hyperbole,
the thought they place into every detail of what they make is
impressive. New mixes of stainless steal. New technologies for battery
life. Manufacturing procedures that create unmatched build quality. And
consider this: how many companies have a Senior Vice President of
iPhone 4 preview: FaceTime
FaceTime got the Steve Jobs “one more thing” bump at this year’s WWDC
so it’s a fitting place to start the feature discussion. Now Apple
didn’t invent video calling, of course, but once again they’re taking
what has been a niche technology and making it mainstream. There are a
couple of huge challenges this time: at the moment it’s Wi-Fi only and
iPhone 4 only. “At this time” because Apple indicated they were trying
to push it out to the carriers and their 3G (and upcoming 4G) networks
next year, and they’ve built it out of — and are releasing the
resulting work back to — open standards so it can be implemented into
other clients and devices. (If you’re curious as to which standards,
Apple lists them as H.264 video codec, AAC audio codec, SIP signaling
protocol, STUN and ICE for NAT traversal, TURN for TCP/UDP data
receipt, RTP and SRTP for audio and video packet delivery.)
In typical Apple fashion, however, the end user isn’t supposed to worry
one bit about all those acronyms mean or how hard it is to do what
they’re doing — the end user is simply supposed to press the FaceTime
icon and talk to their parents or grandparents, see their children and
grandchildren, or tap the switch button to flip from front-facing to
rear camera to watch the first footsteps or see the winning goal.
That’s how Apple is marketing it and they’re usually very good at
Yes, on Wi-Fi you could just use your laptop webcam or MacBook iSight,
but iPhone 4 will be infinitely more portable. You won’t be (or at
least you shouldn’t be) chasing your 2 year old around the garden with
a 5 lbs pound computer. And we won’t even get into what it could do for
long distance romances…
Apple should add FaceTime to their Mac iChat app eventually (though
with their current iOS focus, the resources may not be there at this
point). Skype might just be looking at supporting it as well, which
would be huge. As an open standard, Android and Palm apps might come
along for it as well. And if you paid attention during the keynote,
Steve Jobs said 10 million Apple devices — not just iPhones — would
support it by the end of the year. So yes, the iPod touch might finally
get a camera and get into the fun.
Now there’s no word from Apple about recording FaceTime calls so that
may not be available at launch (and hordes of impetuous young Hollywood
stars should stop and thank Jobs for that), but it’s something that’s
easy to see them adding in the future.
Maintreaming video calls, especially locked to Wi-Fi and a singe device
at launch, is a huge challenge and it could be called a gimmick if it
were anyone but Apple. (Their focus on small feature sets usually
prevents gimmicks from creeping into the roadmap). Unlike mobile web
browsing, apps, and video recording, there’s no guarantee FaceTime will
take off with the masses. But it’s so scifi you just have to love the
iPhone 4 preview: Retina Display
All previous generation iPhones shipped with 320×480 displays and with
Android increasingly going 480×800, conventional wisdom assumed Apple
would have to meet that resolution. They didn’t. To lift Apple Senior
Vice-President of iOS Software, Scott Forstall’s favorite line — they
blew it away. The new iPhone has a 640×960 display at 3.5″ diagonal
size and 3:2 aspect ratio for a whopping 326 pixel density per inch
(that’s 78 microns wide for pixel geeks). Topping it off is an 800:1
contrast ratio so whites are whiter and blacks are blacker.
That means, very literally, where last year’s iPhone had 1 pixel, this
year’s will have 4. For developers this is huge because older apps will
look the same as before, if not slightly better because Apple will
automatically re-render text and UI elements at the higher resolution.
New apps will just look phenomenally better.
Apple is calling this set of technologies “Retina Display” because they
day the pixel density is so high your retina can’t distinguish the dots
anymore — it looks like a photo or magazine page. There’s some debate
about wether or not the Retina Display claim is scientifically accurate
(it depends a great deal on how sharp your eyes are and how close you
hold it) but for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t matter. It’s
sharp enough that most people won’t notice the pixels — until they go
back to other displays.
Apple is also using the IPS (in-plane switching) technology they
mainstreamed in the iMac and iPad along with LED backlight to create an
incredibly wide viewing angle. Where other devices look pretty much
blank from the side, iPhone 4 is still legible. For those trying to
hide the documents they’re reading on planes, privacy films will no
doubt sell like hotcakes. For those who want to share a movie or
webpage with their family and friends, it’ll be hugely appreciated.
For their next trick, Apple has used optical glass that’s not only been
treated for even greater scratch resistance, not only using their
oil-resistant coating, but is laminated directly onto the screen so
that there’s no longer a gap in the display. The pixels are right
underneath the glass, minimizing reflections and making it feel more
like you’re looking at it and not through something into it.
What this means for users is that the iPhone 4 will look better more
often, text will be easier to read in a wider variety of circumstances,
and apps will appear the same as before if they haven’t been updated,
and crisper and clearer than ever before if they have.
iPhone 4 preview: Multitasking
Steve Jobs highlighted multitasking as one of iPhone 4′s eight new
features but that’s software not hardware, and it will work on iPhone
3GS and iPod touch G3 as well, so I’m covering it in TiPb’s massive iOS
Still, it should look and work even better on the iPhone 4, and here’s
hoping a post-release teardown reveals Apple was good enough to go with
512MB of RAM this time to really keep it snappy.
iPhone 4 preview: cameras front and back (with LED flash)
The big news with iPhone 4 is that Apple introduced a front-facing
camera into the mix. It’s only VGA resolution — 640×480 — but for
self-protrait profile shots for social networks like Facebook and
Twitter, and FaceTime video calls, it should be more than enough for
The bigger news is the rear-facing camera, and that iPhone 4 feels like
Apple is finally taking digital imaging seriously. The first two
generations of iPhone camera were outstanding only in their
convenience, with low megapixel counts and serviceable if limited
software. Apple kept hiring engineers, however, and while the iPhone
3GS raised the bar to 3.2 megapixels and introduced tap-to-focus and
all manner of automagical white balancing, iPhone 4 is a leap beyond.
And not just in megapixels.
Sure, other devices already have 8 megapixels, but anyone who loves
photography already knows megapixels are meaningless after a certain
point (unless you’re shooting billboards, and then you have something
in the 23 range already, don’t you?) In the megapixel spec race, just
like with dedicated cameras before, hardware makers take the same lens
and cut it up ever-smaller, meaning the number of pixels goes up even
as the light captured by each one (i.e. the quality of those pixels)
goes down. Canon and Nikon are (thankfully) shifting away from
megapixels and racing now towards ISO/low-light performance and it
appears Apple is following suit.
iPhone 4 is getting a 5-megapixel camera, but instead of chopping the
iPhone 3GS lens up even more, they’ve increased the physical size of
the rear-facing lens and more than that — added a backside illuminated
sensor to really up the low-light levels. They’ve also added an
automatic LED flash, which is a good casual option. It’s not the dual
flash some other devices have, and its not the sun-like torches the big
boys of SLR carry shoe-mounted, but it harkens back to the original
iPhone camera — good enough given the convenience of having it built
in. (Speaking of which, there’s also a 5x digital zoom which is, eh, a
digital zoom — since they obviously can’t do optical given the narrow
depth of the phone — but it’s there if sneaker zoom isn’t possible).
iPhone 4 preview: 720p video recording and editing
The bigger 5 megapixel camera on the iPhone 4 means not only will it do
bigger stills but it can now capture 720p videos as well. Apple isn’t
specific on its tech spec page, but it looks like they’ve gone from the
iPhone 3GS’ 3:2 VGA aspect ratio to a full on 1280×720, 16×9 which will
be great news to casual videographers. (Everyone else is carrying
around a Mark II as well now for 1080p, right?)
The LED flash can be turned on to brighten dark moments, and while the
mic doesn’t seem improved, overall it’s a good upgrade and might even
make the iPhone 4 good enough to replace your Flip MinoHD.
Also worth noting, just like with iPhone OS 3.0, iOS 4 will let you
trim and share your clips right on device. Apple is also introducing
the $4.99 iMovie for iPhone app for more advanced video editing,
theming, transitions, and titling.
We’ll cover the built-in functionality in our iOS 4 walkthrough and as
soon as iMovie for iPhone ships, we’ll get you a full review. Suffice
it to say, if you don’t mind working on a 3.5″ screen, the demos look
iPhone 4 preview: folders
iOS 4 has the same 11 home screens as iPhone OS 3.0 but thanks to
Folders you aren’t limited to 180 apps anymore — you can shove 12 into
the space that previously took only 1, meaning 2160 is you new limit.
Strangely, only 9 apps are shown on folder icons instead of the 12 that
lurk inside, but thanks to the Retina Display those tiny 9 should look
incredibly sharp and clear enough to identify even without the smart
However, while Jobs again singled this out as an iPhone 4 feature, it
should work (if not as sharply) on all iOS 4 devices and so we’re
covering it in our iOS 4 walkthrough instead.
iPhone 4 preview: noise-canceling microphone
It turns out two microphones on the iPhone 4 are more than twice as
good as one. The reason is, like some other devices before it, iPhone 4
is using that second mic for noise cancelation. Whatever sounds it pics
up that aren’t picked up by the main mic at the bottom — the one you’re
talking into — get digitally removed from the audio meaning the person
at the other end has a far better chance of hearing more of what you’re
saying and less of the party, traffic, or other commotion going on
iPhone 4 preview: gyroscope
Being able to more precisely control position in 3D space on iPhone 4?
Terrific. Watching Steve Jobs play Jenga on the WWDC stage? Priceless.
Both come courtesy of the new gyroscope included in the iPhone 4, no
doubt at the behest of game developers. It will do for the iPhone what
Wii Motion Plus did for Nintendo — make good control much, much better.
With 3-axis detection, rotation around gravity, advanced motion sensing
is a reality. (If you’re not a gamer, that translates into augmented
reality apps, which should find fine use of it as well).
Even better, Apple has packaged it up along with the accelerometer to
create CoreMotion API for developers so it can be more easily
integrated into apps, and more elegantly degraded down to accelerometer
alone for previous generation devices that don’t have a gyro. (Just
like CoreLocation does if GPS isn’t present).
iPhone 4 preview: stainless steel antenna bands
When Apple says things like they created their own stainless steal
alloy for the iPhone 4 band, it just sounds like they’re showing off.
When they explain that not only does the band form the main structure
of the device (allowing for more room inside), but the gaps — as
complained about in earlier device leaks — are caused by it being part
of the antenna system of the phone, it’s exactly them showing off.
The structural part is a take-off of the unibody technology that
debuted with the MacBook Air in 2008 and has since spread across the
MacBook line and into the iMac and iPad. The antenna part? Well, we’ll
have to wait and see what difference if any it makes in the iPhone 4
reception — particularly on AT&T. If it improves that there likely
won’t be a single complaint about the gaps, not ever again.
iPhone 4 preview: Apple A4 processor
The Apple A4 system on a chip (SoC) debuted with the iPad. While Apple
isn’t making their own components (yet?), they are taking the ARM
Cortex A8, revving it up to 1GHz, and pairing it with an Imagination
PowerVR SGX to incredibly performant, even more incredibly power saving
Apple truly believes that people serious about software make their own
hardware, and with iPhone 4 they’re starting to take that down to the
iPhone 4 preview: battery life
Thanks to the Apple A4 and the larger battery crammed into the iPhone
4, battery stats look better than ever, and even match the iPad for
- Talk time: Up to 7 hours on 3G, 14 hours on 2G
- Standby time: Up to 300 hours
- Internet use: Up to 6 hours on 3G, 10 hours on Wi-Fi
- Video playback: Up to 10 hours
- Audio playback: Up to 40 hoursiPhone 4 preview: other specs
A few more iPhone 4 specs deserve mention.
- Height: 4.5 inches (115.2 mm)
- Width: 2.31 inches (58.6 mm)
- Depth: 0.37 inch (9.3 mm)
- Weight: 4.8 ounces (137 grams)
So, essentially the same size as previous iPhones, but 24% less width.
Which is crazy. There has to come a point where increasing the
components, and size of the components in the device becomes more
important than thinning it out. Right?
Like previous years, iPhone 4 comes in black and white. Unlike previous
years, iPhone 4′s white option isn’t back-only — even the glass front
plate comes in white.
Cellular and wireless
- UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz)
- GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
- 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi (802.11n 2.4GHz only)
- Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR wireless technology
Pentaband radio is almost as crazy, and certainly good news to people
in countries like New Zealand where the additional frequencies will be
most welcome. People hoping for the 1700 MHz band for T-Mobile 3G will
unfortunately remain disappointed.
TV and Video
It looks like iPhone 4 supports the same PCM stereo audio in .avi file
format as iPad, which I thought was for importing footage from older
video cameras via the Camera Kit USB dongle. If it is, then does that
mean the Camera Kit will work with iPhone 4? (It doesn’t with iPhone
3GS under iOS 4).
VGA cable support is listed, so apps that choose to make use of it can
be output through the dock to VGA adapter that was released alongside
the iPad. Carrying presentations around with the iPhone will be a great
ultra-mobile solution. (Hollywood probably won’t let too many of their
movies escape that way, however).
iPhone 4 preview: conclusion
Steve Jobs was right, iPhone 4 is Apple’s biggest leap forward since
the original iPhone 2G they rightly claim re-invented the smartphone
market. Is it big enough to re-re-invent it? That’s impossible to
answer until we’ve reviewed it but the odds are long — that type of
thing typically only happens once every decade or two, not year or
three. Still it’s one of the most significant pieces of engineering to
date and that’s saying a lot.
TiPb will have a complete iPhone 4 review as soon as Apple makes it
available and a buyers guide before it goes up for pre-order to help
you decide if and when to buy it or upgrade to it.
In the meantime check out TiPb’s iOS 4 preview to see the software
Apple’s bringing to bear on this amazing piece of hardware.
(And if I’ve missed anything in this preview, point it out in comments
so it can be added in).
iPhone 4 complete preview is a story by TiPb. This feed is sponsored by
The iPhone Blog Store.
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Posted By The Mogul Group to THE MOGUL GROUP at 6/14/2010 04:45:00 PM