Apple’s new iPhone 4: A4 CPU, HD video, high-res screen, video chat, 3-axis gyro for $199/299, June 24
Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the iPhone 4 at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) yesterday. The phone sports a high-resolution screen, thin new (though repeatedly leaked) design, front-facing camera for video chat, the iPad’s A4 processor, HD video capture and playback, a three-axis gyroscope, and the newly-renamed iOS 4.
The iPhone 4 will be available starting June 24 for $199 (16GB) / $299 (32GB) in either black or white, on a 2-year contract– and yes, it’s still tied to AT&T in the U.S.
Read on for our full coverage of Apple’s fourth-generation iPhone.
From the front, the iPhone 4 looks similar to earlier iPhones, with a screen, black glass construction, and home button. But where the 3G and 3GS had a rounded plastic body, the new model has a sleeker, sandwich-like construction with a flat back and a ring of stainless steel around the phone. The side volume rocker has been separated into buttons, and like the surface they’re part of, the phone’s volume, vibrate, and power/sleep buttons are made of metal.
Earlier speculation suggested that the back could be made of a radio-transparent ceramic material, but it’s actually just black glass finished similarly to the front of the phone. Apple claims the glass is “almost as strong as sapphire crystal” and 30 times stronger than plastic, but we’ll have to wait for independent durability tests before taking Apple’s word for it.
The overall design fits better with the rest of Apple’s current line-up, and perhaps the most noticeable change is the thickness. The new iPhone is just 9.3 mm thick, making it perhaps the thinnest smartphone in the world. Other dimensions are exactly what we reported earlier: 4.5 x 2.31 x 0.37 inches, and weight is 137 grams (vs. 135 for the 3GS).
Interestingly, the phone’s stainless steel rim has two seams because it serves as the phone’s antennas– one section for Bluetooth, Wifi, and GPS, and the other for the cellular radio.
The iPhone 4’s new “Retina” display measures 3.5 inches diagonally– the same as all prior iPhones. The big change is in the resolution, which, at 960 x 640 pixels, is four times higher than the current model’s 480 x 320 (HVGA). Boosting pixel count while keeping the same size, the iPhone 4 boasts 326 PPI (pixels per inch), making for an incredibly sharp image. The screen is also now an IPS LCD panel, with higher contrast (800:1) than the current iPhone’s display.
Most Windows Mobile and Android phones now use WVGA (800 x 480), so with the iPhone 4, Apple has finally responded. By doubling the iPhone’s pixel count in each direction, Apple gains the added benefit of being able to run current iPhone applications by simply scaling them up (showing four pixels for each pixel the application renders).
Cameras and Video
As we predicted, the new iPhone packs an improved 5-megapixel camera. The resolution doesn’t match the HTC EVO 4G (8 MP) and other new phones, the iPhone’s backside illumination and an LED flash should still allow for better low-light performance than the iPhone 3GS. The iPhone 4 also supports 720p HD (30 fps) video capture and on-device video editing.
The big news is the addition of a front-facing secondary camera for video chat. This is by no means a new feature (phones in Europe and Asia have had it for half a decade), and the iPhone’s front-facing camera has only VGA (640×480) resolution, but it could be interesting nonetheless.
Apple’s new FaceTime service for iPhone-to-iPhone video chat only works over Wifi (no 3G video calling at the moment) and is not connected to any existing IM networks, though Apple says it will be an “open” service (and Skype says it’s interested in working with Apple). By contrast, HTC’s EVO 4G on Sprint uses Fring for video chat (which is already compatible with Skype video), works over 4G and Wifi, and sports a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera (twice the new iPhone’s resolution).
Steve Jobs’ FaceTime demo call on stage (to Jonathan Ives) experienced some lag due to wireless interference from the multitude of WiFi devices around the room, but it should work fine under normal circumstances.
Apple also presented its new mobile iMovie app, which will cost $5 in the App Store. It’s a timeline-based movie editor and should be powerful enough to edit home movies and the like. You can easily stitch together clips shot on the phone’s camera, use Apple’s themes to spruce them up, and then export the result at up to 720p resolution.
The iPhone 4 supports HD video playback (up to 720p), but it’s of limited use, because while devices like the HTC EVO 4G offer HD video outputs like HDMI (so you can connect the phone to a big HDTV or projector, for instance), the iPhone is still limited to its old proprietary Apple dock connector, which maxes out at XGA (1024×768) output.
iPhone OS 4.0 has officially been renamed to iOS 4. Apple licensed the name from Cisco, whose operating system for routers and switches is named IOS. The OS now offers Bing as a browser search engine option (in addition to Google and Yahoo), but otherwise it’s the same OS 4.0 that we covered earlier.
The new iPhone 4 is powered by the iPad’s Apple A4 processor. We don’t have confirmation on the clock speed, but it’s most likely running at 1 GHz, just like the iPad. Keep in mind that the A4 is basically just a faster version of the iPhone 3GS’ 600 MHz processor, based on the ARM Cortex-A8 CPU. It was designed by Intrinsity (which Apple recently bought) for Samsung, which built all the previous iPhone processors and uses the same chip in its Wave phone.
A4 is competitive with the 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon chip used in many current Android and Windows Mobile phones (see here for more information about smartphone processors), but we’re probably going to see next-generation processors like ARM’s Cortex A9, Nvidia’s Tegra 2, and Qualcomm’s new dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon out in phones by the end of 2010 or early 2011, so Apple’s soon going to be a bit behind the curve on the processing end.
In terms of on-board storage, the iPhone 4 still offers 16 or 32GB of built-in flash memory, and as before, it lacks support for memory expansion via MicroSD or other means.
The new phone has a 16% larger battery (5.25 WHr vs. the 3GS’ 4.51 WHr unit), and combined with various power-saving features in the A4 processor, this leads to a nearly 40% improvement in claimed battery life. Jobs quoted 7 hours of 3G talk time, 6 hours of 3G browsing, 10 hours on WiFi, 10 hours of video playback, and 300 hours on standby. How these translate into real-world numbers remains to be seen.
The phone also sports a new 3-axis gyroscope (incidentally the first MEMS gyro of its sort), which gives the iPhone a 6-axis motion sensing suite. With the gyro, the new iPhone (like the MotionPlus accessory for the Nintendo Wii) will be able to track precise motion in space and should make for some interesting new games and apps.
The iPhone 4 will be on sale June 24th in the U.S., France, Germany, Japan, and the UK and should hit the rest of the world sometime in July.
Black and white models will be available, and with a 2-year AT&T contract, they will cost $199 (16GB) and $299 (32GB). AT&T is also extending this price to all customers who will be up for upgrade in 2010– for those eligible in 2011, the early upgrade price is $399 / $499. As usual, the no-contract price is exorbitant, at $599 / $699.
Apple is discontinuing the iPhone 3G, and the 3GS will drop down to $99 on a 2-year contract (or $299 early upgrade, $499 full price).
You can see Steve Jobs’ full iPhone 4 presentation here, and here’s Apple’s promotional design video: