Apple iPhone 4 (preview)

The Apple iPhone 4 will be 24 percent thinner than its predecessor at 9.3mm thick, contain a front-facing camera, and offer greatly improved battery performance.

The Apple iPhone 4, announced today by Steve Jobs at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, will be 24 percent thinner than its predecessor at 9.3mm thick, contain a front-facing camera, and offer greatly improved battery performance (up to 40 percent more talk time, according to Jobs).

Jobs described the phone as, "beyond a doubt, the most precise thing and one of the most beautiful things we've ever made" before highlighting a number of its new features.

The iPhone 4 will be priced at US$199 for a 16GB model and US$299 for a 32GB model, and it will go on sale June 24 in the US. iPhone 4 will go on sale in Australia in "late July", with no date confirmed. Australian pricing has also yet to be announced.

Jobs also announced a new operating system for both iPhones and the iPad: Called iOS4, it will have 100 new features and 1500 application programming interfaces or APIs.

Other iPhone 4 features

The new iPhone 4 will have 32 gigabytes of storage, a gyroscope (which will allow for more precise motion detection), and HD video recording capability.

The phone will also have a improved screen resolution: 326 pixels per inch with heightened contrast. Jobs told the crowd that 300 pixels per inch is the limit of the ability of the human retina to view images.

It also will have three antennae built into the structure of the phone's body that will provide the iPhone 4 with the ability to work with Bluetooth; WI-Fi and GPS; and UMTS and GSM.

In my opinion, the display difference in the example Jobs shows is striking. While I've been dissatisfied by the fuzziness on the iPhone 3GS's text--something I liken to the difference between standard definition TV vs. HDTV--the text on the iPhone 4G looks sharp and crisp, with no pixelation. Additionally, the colors are more vibrant, and edges are smoother and sharper.

There are new volume buttons, a mute button, plus a second microphone on the top for noise cancellation. Just like the iPad, it now incorporates a micro-SIM tray.

Camera and screen details

The iPhone 4 comes with two cameras: One on the front for video conferencing, and one on the rear for photos and video. The rear-facing camera has been upgraded to 5 megapixels--up from 3 megapixels on the iPhone 3GS--and it can record 720p high-definition video.

Also included is an iPhone version of iMovie, which will let you edit video clips on the phone, splice them together, add titles to your videos, and so forth. (The app will set you back US$4.99 from the App Store).

The iPhone 4 screen will have In-plane switching. Known as IPS, this is a high-end LCD technology that has better color and a better viewing angle than lower-end LCD screens. Apple currently uses an IPS screen in its iPad.

Jobs also said that the new phone's 800:1 contrast ratio was four times better than the current iPhone 3GS, with better color and a wide viewing angle that Jobs claimed was better than you can get with OLED display technology.

Jobs also announced FaceTime, a video chat app that makes use of the iPhone 4's new front-facing camera. FaceTime works over Wi-FI, and works between any two iPhone 4s. Jobs did note that FaceTime will not yet work if you're connected to a cellular data network--apparently there are a few kinks left to work out.

E-Book reading capabilities

As an e-reading platform, iBook has been greatly enhanced with the addition of a separate PDF library, and the ability to sync between iPad and iPhone.

These additions, coupled with the high-resolution display, make the iPhone more viable as an e-reader (its relatively small screen notwithstanding). And, overall, it makes Apple a bigger threat to in the e-reader space, period.

With an LCD screen that, theoretically (and from what we saw in the demo at the keynote today) can better approximate the text on a printed page, an E-Ink screen's usefulness may become redundant. This could be bad news for the Amazon Kindle e-book reader and others like it.

E-ink may continue to hold an advantage in its easy-on-the-eyes, paper-like background, but that will be one of its only advantages.

Additional reporting by Ross Catanzariti

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Melissa J. Perenson

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