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Apple iPhone 4

Apple iPhone 4

Earlier this spring, Gizmodo bought a supposed iPhone prototype that was “found” in a bar in Redwood City.  The device looked oddly square and not at all like something Apple would build, so many figured that while it may have been an iPhone prototype, the finished product would look very different. Last week at WWDC, Apple CEO Steve Jobs finally unveiled the latest revision of the iPhone, creatively titled “iPhone 4.” And it looks nearly identical to the phone Gizmodo showed off.  Apple calls the device “the biggest leap since the original iPhone,” and they may just be right.

About those odd cracks

One of the stranger looking aspects of that Gizmodo prototype were the strange slots in the metal band that went around the device. Well those slots are back on the iPhone 4 and it turns out they are a part of some brilliant engineering. The slots separate that metal band into two separate sections, each of which functions as an antenna. One of the bands works for WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS while the other is an antenna for UMTS and GSM. So these antennae are actually built into structure of the phone, which many hope will help with the iPhone’s often lamented coverage issues.

New Window into iOS

Another thing Gizmodo noted about that iPhone prototype was how sharp it’s display was.  It turns out that there’s a reason for that as well. The iPhone 4 features what Apple is calling a “retina display.”  This display has a much higher pixel density with 326 pixels per inch. Steve Jobs made the claim that at the threshold of about 300 pixels per inch, the human eye can no longer differentiate between pixels and actual curves, so iPhone 4 screen looks almost like fine print you’d see in a book.

This new display gives the iPhone 4 a resolution of 960 x 640 and a contrast ratio of 800:1, both of which are a 4x improvement from the iPhone 3GS. If you’re counting, which of course Steve was, that gives the new iPhone 78% of the pixels the iPad has, but in a much smaller screen.  The new device will automatically render text and controls in the new higher resolution, and once developers get a chance they can supply higher resolution graphics to their apps, providing for some beautiful visuals.

Improved Hardware

As expected, the iPhone 4 is now built with the A4 chip that Apple designed for the iPad. This chip, along with a somehow enlarged battery, has greatly improved the battery life from the 3GS.  The phone also has two microphones, one at the bottom for talking, and another at the top for noise canceling. Apple surely hopes that this will improve the complaints they’ve gotten about call voice quality (though most would attribute that to AT&T).

Another addition to the internal hardware is a 3 axis gyroscope, which will combine with the accelerometers, compass, and GPS to provide ridiculous accuracy for detecting the devices motion.  This will be a huge addition for games and AR apps.

Dueling Cameras

The latest trend in premium smart phones like the Evo and the Incredible has been 8 MegaPixel cameras.  Apple eschewed this idea by focusing not on numbers, but rather by looking to deliver an experience users will love.  With this in mind the bumped the camera up to a 5MP camera with an LED flash.  In addition they’ve included a backside illuminated sensor and kept the pixels the same size, which gets more light to the sensor.

The camera records video as well: HD video at 720p with 30 frames per second. It has tap for zoom and built in editing and sharing.  Impressively, Apple has built an iMovie for iPhone app that allows users to create rich videos right on their phone. This software, which will be $4.99, will only be available to iPhone 4 users because it needs the power of the A4 chip.

On the front side there is another camera made just for the most impressive announcement of the keynote: Facetime video calling. Facetime lets iPhone 4 users to video chat right from their phones with no setup. It works in both landscape and portrait mode and actually allows you to send video from either camera. Facetime will be WiFi only in 2010, but Apple hopes to bring it to cellular networks next year.  Apple also announced that they would be releasing Facetime as an open standard, though it’s unclear exactly what that means.

So that’s the breakdown of what’s new in the iPhone 4. As for pricing and availability, it will be available in both black and white on June 24th at $199 for a 16GB model and $299 for a 32 GB model (with a 2 year service agreement of course). The iPhone 3GS will be dropped down to an 8 GB model at $99

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