iPhone 4 announced: so whats new?

Posted by Minnaar Pieters 09 Jun 2010

OK – we might be a little late on this one, but I am pretty sure any reader of this blog would have known about the iPhone 4 already. But to the uninformed/uninterested/android using reader, here are some of the things that stand out:

Hardware:
In typical Apple fashion, the new display is called the “Retina” display. First off it has a much higher resolution, about 4 times more in fact. So if you thought the current iPhone screen was good, I can only imagine what it will look like. Secondly, it uses IPS (In Plain Switching) technology which means that the display can be viewed at a much wider angle. The display is also fused with the glass, which means there is no space between the glass and the actual LCD panel. Apple decided to skip the OLED craze, and it seems the first impressions agree with this choice.

The iPhone is also sporting a new look. Yes, it still has the all-display front, but it now sports a stainless steel edge, very much in the same fashion as the current macbook pros and the iPad. True, in their case its aluminium. But with the iPhone, the casing frame is used as a antenna, so thats why its stainless steel. The rear of the device is glass this time round, getting rid of the cheaper feeling plastic of the iPhone 3G and 3GS. Glass – but a new type of glass, which supposedly the same type used by helicopters. Time will only tell if it is indeed scratch proof and can withstand a bit of torture. It sure looks more solid than the old one. Jobs mentioned at the announcement that it reminds him of old Leica cameras, and that is pretty spot on. It looks very classy.

On the inside things changed a lot as well. Apple is getting rid of the old Cortex processor and going with their own custom designed silicon, the Apple A4 chip. This is the same chip that is in the iPad, and its very brisk in there. This chip also gives better power efficiency, and the new iPhone also gets a slightly bigger battery, so it gets slightly better battery life. 7 hours of talk time on 3G, 10 hour video playback, 6 hours of browsing on 3G, and 300 hours of standby time.

The camera is also improved  – it gets a 5MP backside illuminated sensor, and finally also gets a flash, which will improve pictures at night. While 5MP does not sound a lot, any photographer will tell you its not about the number of megapixels, but the size of the sensor – and apparently the pixel density in the sensor is the same as the old 3GS, which means the sensor size has increased, which leads to better low light photography as well. The new camera is also capable of recording 720p HD video at 30 frames per second.

Apple is also pushing their own new method of video conferencing, called Facetime, with the a new front facing camera. While its pretty same old, same old, Apple is opening up the standard for use by other vendors and software designers. Only time will tell whether it will be used at all. Video calling has been available for a long time, and people still dont do it. You know why? Because people dont like to use their double chin. Really.

iOS4:
The iPhone 4 will ship with iOS4, which was previously known as iPhone OS. Now that its running on other devices than a phone, its an apt renaming. iOS4 gains a lot of new features, but the standout ones include multitasking, unified inbox, folders, iBooks, better camera controls, Faces in photos etc. But I want to focus on multitasking. Long the fuel of Android fanboys everywhere, the iPhone finally gets its own implementation of multitasking, where apps can access certain services that are allowed to run in the background, where the app itself is paused for use later.

I can actually not see where multitasking would make such a big difference, except with GPS apps and audio streaming apps. But thats the wonder of the Appstore – I am pretty sure someone will code an indispensible app that needs to run in the background.
Luckily for current users of iPhone in SA, iOS4 will be a free upgrade in afew weeks. Msot of the new features will be available to all users, but multitasking will not be available to iPhone 3G – apparently it needs a bit of horsepower.
I will be testing the iOS4 Golden Master seed in the next week, so come back later for my opinion on it.

PS: Vodacom has confirmed that iPhone 4 will come to SA, but has not confirmed a time. My bet is late August / September.
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I am a R&D Analyst in Stellenbosch South Africa who has a immense passion for all things tech related. I embrace technology, open source and web standards, and I participate and contribute to the social web.