The iPhone 4
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about anything but life has been keeping me busy as of late. So, while my iPhone 3G spends a seemingly endless amount of time backing up, I thought I’d take the time to post about some recent events in the Apple universe… namely the announcement of the fourth generation iPhone, iPhone 4, and everything related to it.
This past Monday, June 7, Steve Jobs gave the keynote at the WWDC developer conference. After starting with his usual updates on other Apple products, namely the iPad, he finally unveiled what the entire world had seen on Gizmodo’s website almost two months ago: the iPhone 4. Personally, I made a calculated gamble and decided to skip the iPhone 3GS in favor of whatever would be in this model, as it would certainly have better specs than the 3GS. However, this thing seems to have been worth the wait and will be a huge leap from my current iPhone 3G.
So what does it have? The first thing that you notice is an all new form factor. It’s ultra slim and Apple claims it’s the thinnest smartphone on the planet. Based on the pictures, it’s a compelling argument. The next big thing is an all new display that has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of all previous iPhones (960 x 640 vs. 480 x 320) resulting in four times the number of pixels. This effectively doubles the dots per inch from the previous standard of 163 dpi to 326 dpi. Apple has labeled it the “Retina Display” and claims that the human eye cannot distinguish pixels when they are 300 dpi or higher. They even go so far as to compare it to holding a printed page in your hand. I’ll believe it when I see it.
The iPhone 4 also has an entirely new camera system. The most noticeable difference is that there is finally a front-facing camera! To go along with the front-facing camera, Apple has baked its own implementation of video chat into the software, dubbed FaceTime. Based on several “open” standards such as H.264, AAC, SIP, etc. (I don’t believe H.264 or AAC are open?), Apple is submitted it to the standards body as an open standard so other applications can also take advantage of it. The demo of it seemed fairly impressive, although it will be limited to iPhone 4 to iPhone 4 communication and will only work over Wi-Fi connections… or at least through 2010, according to Steve. His comments seemed to indicate that eventually it might be opened up to 3G. The rear-facing camera has also received a significant upgrade, being bumped up to 5 megapixels and it is now also capable of recording high-definition video! One of the only real surprise announcements of the show was that Apple had developed an iPhone version of the iMovie application, effectively turning the iPhone into a mobile high-definition video recorder, editor, and encoder. And the best part? It will be available on the App Store soon for only $4.99! However, the language used did make it seem as if it was only going to made available on the iPhone 4.
Another surprise inclusion was a new sensor: a gyroscope. Steve Jobs played a Jenga-style game that demonstrated the gyroscope’s capability. As Steve turned around in a circle, the tower of blocks rotated around as well. From what I can tell, it seems to mainly augment the accelerometer sensors and provides much more accurate motion detection.
Also, Steve announced that they are renaming the iPhone OS platform since it is now running on several products other than the iPhone (iPads and iPod Touch’s). They dropped the “Phone” part and are now simply calling it iOS 4. Several new features of iOS 4 were demonstrated but nothing new from its unveiling back in March was shown.
On a side note, Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, announced that Netflix for the iPhone is coming this summer and will allow instant streaming using Apple’s adaptive HTTP technology over Wi-Fi and 3G! This brings me to AT&T’s recent data plan changes. Previously, there was only a single $30 a month unlimited data plan for iPhone users. New iPhone users now have to choose between the DataPlus plan that gives you 200 MB for $15 or the DataPro plan that gives you 2 GB for $25. Fortunately, existing AT&T customers can choose to have their unlimited plans grandfathered and keep paying the same $30 a month price. The catch is if and when want to use the tethering feature for your iPhone, which AT&T is finally making available with the iOS 4 update. If you want to use this feature, you’ll have to give up your unlimited data plan and then you lose it forever. So, you really have a choice to make: do you want to keep unlimited data for as long as possible or do you want tethering bad enough to downgrade to the DataPro plan and never look back? I’ve already made my decision: I’m sticking with my unlimited data plan. As the iPhone becomes more and more capable, I see fewer times in the future when I will need to have my iPhone and a laptop with me. And with bandwidth-intensive apps like Netflix in the pipeline, that unlimited plan is going to be worth the extra $5 a month over the 2 GB plan.
My two cents.