iPhone 4: What's Under the Hood

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was hard for Apple CEO Steve Jobs to surprise the audience here, given that prototypes of the iPhone 4 had leaked out in the months prior to today's announcement at the company's Worldwide Developer Conference here, but he still managed a few revelations.

Jobs saved the biggest new feature of the phone for last: videoconferencing, which Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) calls FaceTime. There are two cameras in the iPhone 4, one on the front and one on the back. Setting up a videoconference is as simple as making a call. When a call is placed, a user selects video conference, and the cameras kick in, with no setup at all required, Jobs said. The only thing required is an iPhone 4 on both ends of the conversation.

With the two cameras, the other person can either see the caller or what they are seeing. Apple showed off a very effective advertisement to attendees of the WWDC keynote that featured children saying hello to their father while he was traveling, and another showed a pregnant woman showing her ultrasound to her husband, sitting in a military barracks.

The one caveat to the whole thing is it requires a Wi-Fi connection. The cellular providers "need to work on this," he said.

Jobs said the newest iPhone represented the biggest change since the company introduced the iPhone in 2007, and sports more than 100 new features. He focused on just eight, plus FaceTime. The design was feature number one. iPhone 4 is the thinnest smartphone on the market (for now) at just 9.3 millimeters thick, but still has room for a larger battery that can mean up to 40 percent more battery life under a best case scenario.

The phone also features a Micro SIM slot for expansion and an LED flash for the camera, which can stay on when the camera is used for video recording. The stainless steel framing around the camera body acts as an antenna to amplify Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 3G.

The new Retina Display screen was so named because it features four times the pixel density of the old display for 326 pixels per inch, and the human eye can only perceive up to 300 pixels per inch, making it sharper than even the human eye can see. Text would be so smooth with this display that e-books will look as sharp as a printed font, Jobs said.

The 3.5 inch screen has 960x640 resolution, almost 78 percent of the 9.7 inch iPad's screen resolution, and an 800:1 contrast ratio. IPS technology allows for brighter color and a wider viewing angle.

Apple also coded OS 4 to improve the appearance of apps on the iPhone 4. All text and app controls will automatically be rendered in the higher resolution, so apps will look better just for upgrading the hardware and OS. All developers will need to add is the high resolution artwork to go with it.

The third feature is the A4 processor, the same as found in the iPad. With its improved power management coupled with a larger battery in the iPhone 4, Apple projects 40 percent more talk time, five to seven hours of 3G use and up to 300 hours of standby time. The iPhone 4 supports quad-band HSDPA/HSUPA for 7.2 megabits downlink and 5.8 megabits of uplink speed, and it comes with full 802.11n support, an improvement over the 2.4GHz 802.11n in the 3GS.

The fourth feature is the gyroscope that adds true six degrees of rotation. Jobs showed a demo where an old accelerometer-powered application could not tell he was rotating in place, but when the gyroscope was activated and Jobs turned in place, the phone recognized it and rotated an image in a circle, just as Jobs was doing. This will be used in GPS and location-based apps, and gamers will likely have a field day with it as well.

The new camera system was the fifth feature, with 5x digital zoom and high-definition video recording. It can record video streams in up to 720p resolution at 30 frames-per-second. An Apple-written app called iMovie for iPhone is a complete video editor, letting people assemble clips, insert pictures, transitions and overlays.

Overcoming glitches to show off Web browsing speed

Demo six provided a moment of comedy and showed that Jobs, for all the stories of his legendary temper, is a cool customer in public. He attempted to show the Web browsing speed and the whole thing stalled, coming to a complete crawl. Jobs responded to catcalls in the audience by saying it wasn't AT&T's fault because he was using wireless.

Later, he came back to announce there were 570 wireless base stations in the audience that were messing up the demo. Apple traditionally does not provide any wireless access in its shows, and there was none at all in the Moscone Center, but people brought their own Mi-Fi networks that wireless providers offer.

So, he asked the audience to shut down their base stations, and once that was done, the demo went smoothly. Instead of not loading, Web pages loaded in the blink of an eye, which led to more laughter. Demo number six was for the iPhone's iOS 4 operating system. It will come with 1,500 new developer APIs and 100 new features, the biggest being multitasking support.

Jobs also showed the new unified mailbox, where one mail app can be used to handle multiple mailboxes from Exchange, Google and other sources. E-mail threads are now grouped into one thread rather than all showing up as individual letters.

iOS also has a folder option to reduce icon clutter. Drag one app icon onto another and a folder is automatically created. You can drag icons in and out of the folder just as you've always been able to move them around on the screen.

New features for enterprise and mobile IT

For enterprise users, Jobs said Apple has added data protection, device management so IT administrators can wirelessly distribute apps, support for multiple Exchange accounts, Exchange Server 2010 support and VPN support.

Finally, as rumored, Apple is adding Microsoft Bing search as the third option along with Google and Yahoo, with Google remaining the default search provider.

Developers at the show were told they would get the golden master release of iOS today, which is the final release candidate.

Jobs then announced iBooks would come to the iPhone, and that iTunes would support sharing between all three portable devices. This new sharing capability will let a user download an e-book once and be able to read it on their iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

Finally, Jobs showed off iAds, which launches July 1 and features advertisements from Best Buy, AT&T and other big firms. "We're doing it for one simple reason: to help our developers earn money so they continue to develop free and low-cost apps," he said.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


iPhone, Apple, mobile IT, IOS, iBook