Monday, June 7, 2010

iPhone 4 unveiled with video chat




Calling it the "biggest leap since the original iPhone," Apple chief exec Steve Jobs proudly unveiled the widely expected iPhone 4, which indeed looks pretty much like the lost iPhone prototype that Gizmodo got its hands on a couple of months ago.

"I don't know if you've ever seen this," Jobs joked, provoking a roar of laughter from the audience as he showed off the now-familiar redesign of the new iPhone, complete with a front-facing camera (good for video chat via the new "FaceTime" feature), the new rear camera with LED flash (yes!), and a 9.3mm profile that makes the new iPhone "the thinnest smartphone on the planet," Jobs bragged.

The flat, stainless-steel-rimmed iPhone 4 — and yes, that's the official name — will be available in black or white, and it'll go on sale June 24, Jobs said. Expect to pay $299 for the 32GB version (same price as last year's 32GB iPhone 3GS, provided you sign a two-year AT&T contract), or $199 for the 16GB model. Also: The iPhone 3G is being discontinued, and the old iPhone 3GS will now sell for $99. (Nope, no discussion of an iPhone for Verizon or any other carriers.)


Among the new (and mostly expected) features for iPhone 4: a revamped, higher-resolution (960 by 640) display, now boasting 326 pixels an inch (or 78 percent of the pixels on the iPad) — good for "really, really sharp text" that's virtually indistinguishable from "text in a fine printed book," Jobs claimed. The new 3.5-inch screen (same size as before, by the way) even gets its own new name: a "retina display."

Very catchy, but Jobs ran into a little hiccup during his demo when Web pages on the spiffy new iPhone 4 refused to load. An error pop-up that read "could not activate cellular network" provoked a knowing titter from the audience. Jobs asked audience members to turn off their Wi-Fi and even fished for suggestions, prompting one smart aleck to shout out, "Verizon!" Ouch. (Later during the keynote, Jobs even asked bloggers in the audience to turn off their mobile Wi-Fi hotspots ... a request greeted by a chorus of boos.)

After a few minutes, Jobs' demo was back on track, with the chief exec noting that the iPhone 4 runs on Apple's new custom-made "system-on-a-chip," the A4 processor that powers the iPad.

Jobs also promised more battery life thanks to the iPhone 4's bigger battery and improved power management on the A4 chip — to the tune of seven hours of talk over a 3G network, six hours of 3G Web browsing, 10 hours of video, or 40 hours of music. (That's Jobs' claim, of course; the proof is in the pudding, after we run some field tests.)

Also new on the iPhone 4: a three-axis gyroscope, which combined with the existing digital compass and GPS sensor should make for better tracking of the exact direction in which the iPhone is pointing — handy for games or finding your way in a confusing neighborhood with Google Maps.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 4's camera gets an upgrade to 5 megapixels (up from 3MP on the iPhone 3GS), a 5X digital zoom, and (at last) an LED flash. Another cool new feature: HD video recording, or 720p-quality video at 30 frames per second, to be precise, same as on the new HTC Evo 4G for Sprint (which, with its 8MP camera, still has the upper hand in terms of resolution). Even better, you'll be able to edit your videos directly on the iPhone, with a little help from the new iMovie for iPhone app (available now for $4.99).

'FaceTime' video chat
The big reveal in terms of the iPhone 4's camera (the "One more thing ... " at the keynote, incidentally), was FaceTime — two-way video chat, a feature that pretty much everyone in the blogosphere had predicted thanks to the front-facing camera on the lost iPhone prototype.

FaceTime gives you a full-screen view of the person you're chatting with, as well as your own video image in a smaller, inset window. Nifty, but FaceTime will work only over Wi-Fi, "in 2010," Jobs said, and only from one iPhone 4 handset to another. When will FaceTime work over 3G, you ask? No word on that, beyond the fact that it won't happen this year.

More iPhone OS details
We already got the biggest news about the latest version of the iPhone OS — support for multitasking — back in April, but Jobs filled in some of the blanks Monday, announcing support for searching via Bing on mobile Safari (in addition to the existing Google and Yahoo! options), as well as talking up the new OS's enterprise and security features. Oh, and iPhone OS 4.0 now has a new name: iOS 4.0. It'll be available for download in two weeks, on June 21.

Jobs also spent some time on iAds, Apple's new mobile advertising platform, including a demo of an ad from Nissan that lets you spin around the automaker's upcoming electric car with the swipe of a finger. The first iAd advertisement should start popping up on the iPhone starting in July, Jobs said, with Apple hoping to rake in a cool $60 million in ad revenue during the second half of 2010.

Netflix, Guitar Hero, iBooks apps
We've had Netflix for the iPad for more than two months now, but when will the killer app arrive for the iPhone? The answer: this summer.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings showed off the new Netflix for iPhone app (which Netflix reps had hinted at shortly after the release of Netflix for iPad) during Steve Jobs' WWDC keynote Monday, and it looks pretty much like a smaller, iPhone-sized version of the current Netflix for iPad app.

Features include full-length streaming of movies and TV shows directly on the iPhone, as well the ability to pause and pick up videos where you left off, either on the iPhone itself or on your other Netflix-enabled devices, such as PC, a Mac, a game console, or (of course) the iPad.

You'll also be able to rate and search for videos, as well as manage and add titles to your "instant" queue. Nice, but will Netflix for iPhone work over 3G networks, or only via Wi-Fi? Guess we'll find out later this summer.

[Five best gadget gifts for Father’s Day]

Meanwhile, we'll also be getting an official Guitar Hero game for the iPhone, complete with classic songs from Queen and the Rolling Stones. Poised to compete with two other popular iPhone-ized rhythm games — Tap Tap Revenge and Rock Band — the new Guitar Hero app boasts a new "strumming mechanic" developed specifically for the iPhone version of the game, according to an Activision exec at the keynote.

The graphics on the game itself (available today in the App Store) look pretty sweet, at least from what we've seen during the brief demo, and the price tag — $2.99 — is also hard to beat.

Finally, Jobs showed off an app we'd already seen back in April: iBooks for the iPhone, complete with the same features as on the iPad version of Apple's e-reader app (including note-taking, highlighting, in-app book purchasing, and the ability to tweak font sizes and background colors).

So, what do you think? Impressed or disappointed by Apple's announcements? Are you getting the iPhone 4? Did Gizmodo spoil Apple's party? Fire away below.