Well, it’s here. Apple has a new baby: iPhone 4 goes on sale today. (iPad must be jealous.) Well, pre-sale. You’ll still have to wait until the 24th to actually get one in your hands.
Keep in mind that no one has actually reviewed it yet, so what we’re explaining here is what Apple has told the world. When we have one to try out, we’ll let you know what we think!
Before we dive into the hardware, let’s talk about software. All sophisticated computing devices — including mobile phones, DVR’s, GPS navigation systems, etc — have some form of operating system, even a minimal one, that makes them go. The OS that drives the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is based on Mac OS X, and is now being called iOS. (Before now, it was called iPhone OS, and before that, it wasn’t called anything.) iPhone 4 is going to have iOS version 4, which will offer many of its cool features.
But the good news here is that most iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad users will also get to take advantage of iOS 4: Apple will offer a free software update, providing many (but certainly not all) of the capabilities that the new iPhone will. Users of the first generation iPhone and iPod Touch, with the aluminum back, will not be able to update to iOS 4.
So what can iOS 4 do? A lot. If you have multiple mail accounts, you’ll be able to see all of your mail in a single inbox. You can organize your apps into folders, rather than just on separate screens. You’ll be able to buy and read Apple iBooks, as you can on an iPad. You’ll be able to switch between apps without having to quit back to the home screen. A bunch of the included apps such as as the camera, photo viewer, and media player (iPod mode) have been given new capabilities. One thing we’re excited about is bluetooth keyboard support; this should provide developers the opportunity to make a cool portable keyboard for those users who dislike typing on the glass. Anyway, there are a pile of other features, and they’ll soon be available not only on iPhone 4, but also most of the older devices.
But if iOS can do that, what’s so great about iPhone 4? If you liked previous iPhones, just about everything.
First off, the hardware is all new. It’s the same basic shape and the same buttons are in the same places, but everything looks sleeker. In fact, it is sleeker — the new iPhone is thinner, and the entire surface is a special superstrong glass. Except for the metal edge, which is a special superstrong stainless steel. No, we’re not making this up. Apple is boasting about this.
Next, the screen is a much higher resolution. Basically, in the space of every pixel (dot) on the previous iPhones, there are now four. This means that text and images can be extremely detailed and sharp. It is, to our knowledge, the highest resolution mobile device currently available. Apple calls this the Retina display, and claims the individual pixels are so small that the human eye can’t see them. We noticed that at 326 dots per inch, the resolution is actually slightly higher than the first laser printers. (However, it’s still considerably less than magazines and newspapers. For now.)
The camera on the back is now 5 megapixels, and now has a flash — which can stay lit if you are shooting video, or, perhaps, are trying to navigate your bedroom without waking your partner. Your videos can have awesome quality — Apple claims the quality is 720p HD, which is technically true, but we must note that at 30 frames per second, it’s really “half-HDTV.” But that ain’t a complaint about the phone’s ability — being able to shoot that kind of quality from a device you carry around with you is phenomenal. It’s just a minor quibble with the description. But forget that — you’ll also be able to edit movies right on the phone using the new iMovie app. That is super cool.
There’s also a camera on the front. Why? So you can do face-to-face chat, of course! Apple calls this FaceTime. The person you’re talking to will also need an iPhone 4, and you’ll both need to be connected via WiFi. (You’ll notice Apple’s ads show FaceTime users in their homes, not walking around on the street.) It does not appear, yet anyway, that you can use FaceTime with an iChat user, which is disappointing, but hopefully that will change.
Anyway, there’s plenty more, but that’s the splashiest news. Apple’s web site is dripping with more details for you to soak up. If you have a first generation iPhone, you’ll want one. If you have an iPhone 3G or 3GS, maybe try out iOS 4 and then see how your desire levels are after you’ve seen it.
If you have any questions, of course please ask us — that’s what we’re here for!